An Evaluation of Grammar and Vocabulary Consciousness-Raising Activities in Current ELT Materials

Document Type: Original Article

10.22132/tel.2015.53736

Abstract

The present study evaluated five current international ELT series regarding inclusion of grammar and vocabulary consciousness raising activities. Drawing upon Willis and Willis (1996) and Graves and Taffe (2007), a Likert-scale questionnaire was developed and validated which was completed by 90 Iranian EFL teachers and 170 Iranian EFL students, forty of whom (20 teachers and 20 students) also sat an interview. The results of inferential statistics (i.e. Independent Samples t-test and Chi-square analysis) revealed there was no significant difference between the responses of the teachers and students in this respect. That is, the results of the questionnaire combined with content analysis of the interviews and subjective evaluation of the researchers indicated although the ELT series incorporated different kinds of grammar and vocabulary activities, they did not include some of the major grammar and vocabulary consciousness raising activities (e.g., making generalizations, cross-referencing, reconstructing, discussing word choices, researching about vocabularies, etc.).

Keywords


1. Introduction

It is generally believed that the mastery of grammar and vocabulary, as building blocks of the (English) language, might ease the burden of the leaning process for the students. Thus, grammar and vocabulary studies have received due attention by the experts in the field. Krashen (1982) maintains that grammar is synonymous with conscious learning and it has two possible roles in second language teaching including grammar as "monitor" and grammar as "language appreciation". Highlighting the crucial role of vocabulary, Deccarico (2001) maintains vocabulary learning is at the heart of first or second language learning. However, vocabulary teaching and learning has been affected by the changing winds and shifting sands of second language research theories. Vocabulary teaching was given secondary status only after the advent of computer and corpus-based studies which led to the resurgence of interest on the part of researchers in this vast area.

Consciousness-raising activities can be put into effect by both teachers and foreign language teaching/learning materials. Nevertheless, of paramount importance here is the role of materials in general and coursebooks in particular which provide a blueprint of activities to be done by both teachers and students. However, no coursebook or set of materials is likely to be perfect including all different types of consciousness-raising activities. Hence, the present study investigated the presence of different grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in five current ELT series which are widely used in Iran. These series include American English File, English Result, Four Corners, Interchange and Total English.

2. Review of the related literature

2.1 Definition of consciousness-raising

Some researchers advocate form-focused approaches in language teaching, arguing that approaches that solely emphasize on message fail to develop an adequate knowledge of the language. Hence, a large number of research studies (e.g., Lee, 2003, Marzaban and Mokhberi, 2012) propose that some kind of form-focused activities be incorporated in language classrooms or textbooks.  Several methods have consequently been suggested to integrate formal instruction in language classrooms or textbooks like that of negative feedback, input enhancement and consciousness-raising. On the role of consciousness-raising in second language learning, Rutherford and Sharwood Smith (1985) stress that raising learners' consciousness towards the formal features of the language expedites second language learning. Schmidt (1990, 1995) claims that learning a language is largely a conscious process and noticing is important in learning process. Within the same line of reasoning, Fotos (1998) points out that consciousness-raising is a useful approach in EFL settings where the focus is on the formal aspects of the language rather than communication. Richards and Schmidt (2002) define consciousness-raising as the techniques that encourage learners to pay attention to form which results in language acquisition. They compare consciousness raising approach with traditional approaches in grammar teaching like that of drilling, sentence practice and sentence combining and hold that while in the former awareness of forms will indirectly result in acquisition,  direct instilment of a grammatical form will be established in the latter.

2.2 Word consciousness activities

Scott and Scott (2010) hold that word consciousness is knowledge that words are fundamental elements of communication and the ability to think about words as the elements of the language. Besides, Graves and Taffe (2002) maintain word consciousness refers to an awareness of and interest in words and their meanings.

Graves and Taffe (2002, p.1) suggest five approaches to encourage word consciousness including: "modeling, recognizing and encouraging adept diction", "promoting word play", "providing intensive and expressive instruction", "involving students in original investigations" and "teaching students about the words", each of which will be explained briefly next.

In the first approach, unfamiliar words are used instead of familiar words to make learners curious about the words. In the second approach (i.e. promoting word play), learners are encouraged to use and learn the use of homophones, homographs, idioms, clichés and puns. As for the third approach, the learners are required to be engrossed in a rich, exact, interesting and intensive use of vocabulary (e.g., using children's literature, writing extensive essays, discussions about word choices and working extensively and intensively with words). The next approach (i.e. involving students in original investigations) needs learners to do some kind of research to probe different data sources. Finally, the last approach (i.e. teaching students about the words) includes the knowledge of words which the teachers must possess to instruct their learners.

2.3 Grammar consciousness activities

Willis and Willis (1996, p.71) suggest different grammar consciousness-raising activities including: "identifying/consolidating", "classifying (semantic; structural)", "hypothesis building/checking", "cross-language exploration", "reconstruction/deconstruction", "recalling" and "reference training". In identifying and consolidating, learners are required to search a set of data to identify a particular pattern or usage and the language forms associated with it. In the second type of activity, learners are required to classify data according to similarities and differences based on formal or semantic criteria. In hypotheses building, learners are presented with (or asked to make) a generalization about language and check this against more language data. Cross language exploration activities encourage learners to find similarities and differences between forms in their L1 and English.

Reconstruction/deconstruction activities require the learners to manipulate language in ways which reveal underlying patterns. Recalling activities encourage learners to recall and reconstruct elements of a text. Finally, learners learn to use reference works (i.e., dictionaries, grammar and study guides) through reference training activities.

2. 4. Materials evaluation

Tomlinson (2003, p. 15) defines materials evaluation as "a procedure that involves measuring the value (or potential value) of a set of learning materials", which might be carried out for various reasons and purposes. McDonough and Shaw (1993), for instance, argue that for teachers who have the authority to choose the coursebook, writing their coursebook is a time-consuming and not necessarily cost-effective decision.

2.4.1. Materials evaluated in the present study

There is a variety of current ELT series widely used in Iranian private language centres. However, five of these series were selected for the purpose of the study mainly because they are used more frequently than their rival counterparts in EFL teaching and learning in Iran. They have also been published and produced by such reliable and internationally famous publishers as OUP, CUP and Pearson Education. These series include: Total English (Wilson, 2006), English Result (Hancock & McDonald, 2008), American English File, (Oxenden, Latham-Coeing, & Seligson, 2009), Four Corners, (Richards & Bohlke, 2012), and Interchange (3rd edition) (Richards, Hull, & Proctor, 2006).

2.5 Research Questions

Considering the issues discussed hitherto, the present study was an attempt to answer the following research questions:

2.5.1. Are there any grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the five current international ELT series widely used in Iran?

2.5.2. Are the total number of grammar and vocabulary tasks and grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising tasks significantly different in the five current international ELT series widely used in Iran?

2.5.3. Are Iranian ELT teachers aware of the existence of different grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the five current international ELT series widely used in Iran?   

2.5.4. Are Iranian EFL learners aware of the existence of different grammar and vocabulary consciousness- raising activities in the five current international ELT series widely used in Iran?

2.5.5. Overall, is there any significant difference between the perceptions of students and teachers with regard to the incorporation of grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the five current international ELT series widely used in Iran?

2.5.6. Are the Iranian ELT teachers and Iranian EFL learners' perceptions significantly different with regard to the incorporation of individual grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the five current international ELT series widely used in Iran?

3. Methodology

3.1. Participants

The participants of the present study included 90 EFL teachers, teaching one of the five already-mentioned ELT series in private ELT centres of Hamedan, Iran.. The participants also included 170 male and female EFL learners studying one of the five series in private ELT centres of Hamedan, Iran. 20 EFL teachers and 20 EFL students, selected randomly from among the participants of the study, also sat a semi-structured interview.

3.2. Instruments

To the best of the researchers' knowledge, no systematic and well-validated grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising questionnaire for the evaluation of the ELT series was available by the time of the conduct of the present study. Thus, the researchers attempted to construct a five-point Likert-scale grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activity questionnaire to be filled out by both EFL teachers and EFL learners. To construct this questionnaire, a number of items were firstly drawn from the models for grammar and word consciousness-raising activities suggested by Willis and Willis (1996) and Graves and Taffe (2002) respectively. Second, an open-ended questionnaire including briefing and debriefing sections which were concerned with the notions of grammar and word consciousness-raising activities suggested by Willis and Willis (1996) and Graves and Taffe (2002) respectively   was administered to 20 EFL teachers. The recurring themes and patterns in teachers' responses were extracted, organized and were incorporated in the grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activity questionnaire. The questionnaire thus constructed was viewed by two experts in the field holding Ph.D.s in Applied Linguistics. To further ensure the validity of the questionnaire, it was pilot tested with 30 EFL teachers other than the participants of the present study. Finally, KMO and Bartlett's test of sphericity and principal component factor analysis with varimax rotation were run to estimate the construct validity of the questionnaire. The results of KMO and Bartlett's test are presented in Table 1.

Table 1

KMO and Bartlett's Test

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin   Measure of Sampling Adequacy.

.730

Bartlett's   Test of Sphericity

Approx.   Chi-Square

1042.34

df

351

Sig.

.000

As shown in Table 1, the questionnaire enjoys KMO index of 0.73 which is adequate. Bartlett's test shows that the set of variables are adequately related to each other. Furthermore, using Coronbach's Alpha consistency index, the questionnaire was found to enjoy a reliability index of 0.76. As mentioned earlier, a principal component factor analysis with varimax rotation was run to explore the structure of the factors and their loadings, the results of which are summarized and presented in Appendix 1.

As inferred from Appendix 1, the analysis yielded three factors accounting for 35 percent of total variance for the entire set of variables. The first factor explained 22.95 % of total variance and the second and the third factors accounted for 9.31% and 2.75% of the total variance respectively. Also, the overall communalities of the items were rather high with only one item having a rather small amount of communality (.43).

The questionnaire thus constructed was then translated into Persian to be easily comprehensible by the student participants. It was back translated and viewed by an expert in the field holding Ph.D. to ensure the validity of the translation. The English and Persian versions of the questionnaire are provided in Appendices 2 and 3 respectively. Finally, for the purposes of data triangulation and validity, a semi-structured interview was conducted with 20 ELT teachers and 20 EFL learners selected randomly from among the participants of the study whose informed consent was also obtained. A copy of the questions of the semi-structured interview is also provided in Appendix 4.

4. Results

Data analysis

The results obtained from the teachers' questionnaire and those obtained from the students' questionnaire were compared using chi-square analyses to see whether there existed any significant difference between teachers and students' responses to individual items of the questionnaire. An Independent Samples t-test was also run to compare the teachers and students' responses overall to see whether there was any significant difference between the perceptions of the two groups in general. Furthermore, the semi-structured interviews which were audio recorded, transcribed and coded by the researchers were then "quantitized" and frequency analyzed.

4.1. The results obtained from Likert-scale questionnaire

First, the researchers scrutinized the series based on the checklist which was prepared by the researchers according to the definitions suggested by Willis and Willis (1996) and Graves and Taffe (2002) for grammar and word consciousness-raising activities respectively and evaluated the results against the findings of the questionnaire. Furthermore, to answer the first research question, (i.e. Are there any grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the five current international ELT series used in Iran?), frequencies of incidences of the items in the series were calculated. Descriptive statistics (i.e. frequencies, percentages, etc) for the total number of tasks in all five series and those for the total number of grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising tasks are presented in Tables 2 and 3 respectively.

Table 2

 Number of Grammar and Vocabulary Tasks in the Series

Total

Vocabulary

Grammar

Book

512

128

384

Interchange

432

240

192

Four Corners

864

384

480

American English File

1200

624

576

English Result

760

320

440

Total English

3768

1694

2072

Total

Table 3

 Number of Grammar and Vocabulary Consciousness-Raising Tasks in the series

Total

Vocabulary

Grammar

Book

224

77

147

Interchange

249

72

177

Four Corners

305

114

191

American English File

408

241

167

English Result

321

37

284

Total English

1507

541

966

Total

Next, to see whether there was any statistically significant differences between grammar tasks and vocabulary tasks in the series and grammar consciousness-raising and vocabulary consciousness-raising tasks in the series (i.e. to answer the second research question), Chi-Square analyses were run, the results of which are tabulated in Table 4.

Table 4

 Chi-Square Tests for Comparing grammar and Vocabulary Tasks and Grammar and Vocabulary Consciousness-Raising Tasks in the Series

 

Value

           df

Asymp.   Sig. (2-sided)

Grammar

10.00a

9

.350

Vocabulary

10.00a

9

.350

Total

10.00a

9

.350

As the results of Chi-Square analyses in Table 4  show, no statistically significant differences were found betweengrammar tasks and vocabulary tasks on the one hand,  and grammar consciousness-raising and vocabulary consciousness-raising tasks in the series on the other. The frequency of occurrence of grammar tasks and vocabulary tasks and the frequency of occurrence of grammar consciousness-raising and vocabulary consciousness-raising tasks were also compared which were not significantly different (p = .35). It can thus be concluded a reasonable number of grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising tasks have been incorporated in the series. However, as the results of the subjective evaluation for individual grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising tasks reported in detail in the next section of the study show, some of the major tasks are lacking in the series.

Second, the researchers aimed at investigating EFL teachers' perceptions of the incorporation of grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the series. Table 5 shows the descriptive statistics of teachers' responses to the questionnaire.

Table 5

Descriptive Statistics for Teachers' Responses

 

Item   number

 Number of   respondents

       Mean

        Std.             Deviation

Item1

90

3.67

.90

Item   2

89

3.48

.95

item3

89

3.73

.93

Item4

86

3.81

.77

item5

90

3.10

1.09

Item6

89

3.61

.88

Item7

90

4.03

.81

Item8

89

3.96

.73

Item9

90

2.00

.97

Item10

90

4.23

1.02

Item11

90

3.66

1.14

Item12

90

3.78

.97

Item13

90

3.87

1.01

Item14

90

3.44

1.08

Item15

90

3.63

1.17

Item16

90

3.38

1.06

Item17

90

3.62

1.00

Item18

90

3.65

.96

Item19

90

3.81

.89

Item20

90

3.92

1.04

Item21

87

3.51

.96

Item22

90

3.56

.76

Item23

90

3.47

.95

Item24

90

3.76

.79

Item25

90

3.60

.90

Item26

89

3.68

.71

Item27

89

3.94

.75

As Table 5 indicates, although the items differ in their means and standard deviations, none of the items gained the highest mean (five) or the lowest mean (1). The highest mean was for item 10 (M = 4.23) which asked the participants' idea of conscious emphasis on different grammar learning techniques, strategies and activities. However, the lowest mean was for item 9 which was about whether the series encouraged students to use other references and data sources.

     Third, learners' viewpoints on the inclusion of different grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the five current international ELT series taught in Iran were explored. The results for this question (i.e. the fourth research question of the study) are presented in Table 6.

Table 6

 Descriptive Statistics for Students' Responses

Item   number

Number   of respondents

Mean

Std.   Deviation

             Item1

169

3.74

1.12

Item2

170

3.60

1.02

Item3

168

3.77

.91

Item4

168

3.61

1.12

Item5

168

3.29

1.31

Item6

167

3.32

.99

Item7

170

3.86

1.02

Item8

166

3.81

1.01

Item9

169

3.31

1.01

Item10

169

3.92

.97

Item11

169

3.95

1.10

Item12

166

3.83

.94

item13

169

4.06

.87

Item14

169

3.82

1.17

Item15

170

3.95

.96

Item16

170

4.04

1.08

Item17

170

3.87

.94

Item18

170

3.81

1.00

Item19

164

3.39

1.21

Item20

170

4.14

1.20

Item21

164

3.62

1.12

Item22

170

3.57

.82

Item23

170

3.81

.78

Item24

170

3.82

.95

Item25

168

3.79

1.06

Item26

167

3.88

.81

     Item27

168

3.69

.86

 

 

 

 

As Table 6 reveals, most of the students' responses fall somewhere in the middle of the scale (neither agree, nor disagree). However, the highest mean reported was for item 20 (M= 4.14) which elicited students' perceptions about being encouraged to write extensive essays using the words they knew. In addition, the lowest mean was for item 5 (M = 3.29) which dealt with encouraging the students to compare the patterns in their first language and English.

To answer the fifth research question of the study as to whether, overall, there was any significant difference between the perception of students and that of teachers with regard to the incorporation of grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the five current international ELT series used in Iran, an Independent Samples t-test was run, the results are presented in Table 7.

Table 7

Independent Sample t-test

        Levene's Test   for Equality of Variances                         t-test for Equality of Means

 

F

Sig

t

df

Sig. (2-tailed)

Mean Difference

Std. Error Difference

95% Confidence Interval of the   Difference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

Equal Variances assumed

4.08

0.06

1.27

258

.204

1.85

1.45

-1.01

4.71

Equal Variances not assumed

 

 

1.34

211.08

.180

1.85

1.37

-.86

4.56

                       

As Table 7 indicates, there is no statistically significant difference between students and teachers' perceptions of the inclusion of different grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the series.

Finally, to answer the sixth research question of the study (i.e. to compare students and teachers' responses to individual items of the questionnaire), Chi-square analyses were run, the results of which are summarized and presented in Table 8.

Table 8

Chi-Square Analyses Comparing Students and Teachers' Responses to Individual Items of the Questionnaire

Item

Students' Perceptions (percent)

Teachers' Perceptions (percent)

Pearson Chi-Square

Df

Asym Sig. (2-tailed)

1

40.4% disagreed

47.4% disagreed

10.82

16

.820

2

43.5 disagreed

54.4%disagreed

10.16

16

.858

3

39.2%disagreed

36.7%disagreed

21.01

12

.178

4

45.4%disagreed

52.2%disagreed

5.09

16

.955

5

24.2%agreed

30%disagreed

16.73

16

.403

6

40.4%neither

45.6%disgreed

10.95

16

.812

7

50%neither

66.4%disgreed

21.29

12

.168

8

45.8%disgareed

56.7%disagreed

17.17

16

.143

9

40%strongly agreed

29%neither

12.57

16

.704

10

38.5%strongly disagreed

54.5%strongly disagreed

16.58

16

.386

11

41.5%disagreed

48.9%disagreed

13.50

16

.635

12

41.2%disagreed

37.8%disagreed

20.54

16

.197

13

35.4%strongly disagreed

42.2%disagreed

10.17

12

.601

14

40.8%disagreed

40%disagreed

22.12

16

.139

15

33.8%disagreed

26.7%disagreed

17.69

16

.342

16

33.5%disgareed

38.9%disagreed

18.44

16

.299

17

44.2%disagreed

37.8%disagreed

13.55

16

.632

18

46.5%disagreed

54.4%disgareed

14.31

16

.575

19

43.1%disagreed

52.2%disagreed

8.98

16

.914

20

45.8%strongly disagreed

43.3%disagreed

17.00

16

.386

21

31.5%neither

35.6%neither

13.54

16

.633

22

47.3%disgareed

46.7%disagreed

25.9

12

.011

23

51.9%disagreed

51.1%disagreed

20.84

12

.053

24

46.9%disagreed

52.2%disagreed

4.12

12

.981

25

35%disagreed

42.4%disagreed

10.21

12

.597

26

48.8%disagreed

62.2%disagreed

2.96

9

.966

     27

37.7%disagreed

52.2%disagreed

10.66

12

.558

 

As the results of the Chi-square analyses in Table 8 indicate, none of the items differed significantly in students and teachers' responses except for item 22 which was about involving students in systematic efforts to investigate different data sources to learn new vocabulary items.

As stated earlier, the researchers also interviewed 20 students and 20 teachers (selected randomly from among the participants of the study whose informed consent was also obtained) for data triangulation purposes. To this end, using Sack's (1984, cited in Lazaraton, 2002) "motivated looking approach", the researchers coded the interview transcriptions into three templates including "grammar consciousness-raising tasks", "word consciousness-raising tasks" and "activity, technique/ strategy type". The code frequencies of the interviews are tabulated and presented in Table 9.

Table 9 

 Code frequencies in students and teachers interviews

Total

Teachers

Students

Code

58

36

22

Grammar consciousness-raising   tasks

41

28

13

Word consciousness-raising   tasks

81

47

33

Activity/technique/   strategy type

Code frequencies presented in Table 9 suggest that teachers were more aware of the inclusion of different grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities in the series. Awareness of word consciousness-raising activities was the least frequently mentioned by both students and teachers (N = 51). Furthermore, awareness of different activity/technique/strategy types was most frequently reported by both groups (N = 81). However, to see whether there was any statistically significant difference between students and teachers' answers to interview questions, a Chi-Square analysis was run, the results of which are presented and tabulated in Table 10.

Table 10

Chi-Square Analyses Comparing Students and Teachers' Responses to Interview   Questions

 

Value

df

Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)

     Pearson Chi-Square

6.00a

5

.306

Likelihood Ratio

8.31

5

.140

Linear-by-Linear Association

2.23

1

.135

N of Valid Cases

6

 

 

 

As it can be seen in Table 11, no significant difference was found between students and teachers' responses to the interview questions (p= .30 > .05).

4.2. The results obtained from the subjective evaluation  

As mentioned earlier, the researchers also meticulously weighed the series against the items of the structured questionnaire of the study. The interrater reliability of .891 empirically confirmed the consistency of the subjective evaluations of the two researchers of the study of each individual item in the series, the results of which are summarized and tabulated in Table 11.

Table 11

The Results of Subjective Evaluation of the Researchers of Individual

Item Number

Interchange

Four Corners

English Result

Total English

American English File

1

32

24

0

0

61

2

20

25

13

48

11

3

0

0

13

14

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

5

0

0

0

0

0

6

0

0

0

0

0

7

9

16

0

0

7

8

28

34

51

42

47

9

0

0

0

0

0

10

86

22

126

180

85

11

291

108

300

234

170

12

93

84

276

206

310

13

110

55

215

163

137

14

0

0

132

0

48

15,16

0

0

34

6

21

17

5

11

0

4

0

18

0

0

0

0

0

19

0

0

0

0

0

20

64

48

48

0

28

21

0

0

5

7

0

22

0

0

0

0

0

23

0

0

0

0

0

24

8

13

22

0

17

25

120

212

456

205

345

26

8

28

168

115

39

27

30

57

176

94

95

5. Discussion

In this section, the results of the Likert-scale questionnaire are discussed and the findings of the semi-structured interview are dealt with in the light of the researchers' subjective scrutiny.

  1. 1.    Do the series make students search a set of data to identify a particular pattern or usage and the language forms associated with it?

Schmitt (1990) argues that noticing and conscious attention to language forms and the patterns connected with them is necessary in learning grammar.

The results of the researchers’ evaluation indicated that American English FileFour Corners and Interchange required the students sixty-one, twenty-four and thirty-two  times to seek for a particular structure among a data pool tasks. However, Total English and English Result did not seem to provide students with such kind of data to work with. The results of the questionnaire also showed that both students (M = 3.67) and EFL teachers (M=3.74) neither agreed nor disagreed with this item. The possible reason for the lack of conscious attention to language forms in the series might be the perception by the authors that language forms must be taught and acquired subconsciously.

  1. 2.    Do the Series make students work with a set of data and sort it according to similarities and differences based on formal criteria?

Experts in the field (e.g., Long, 1991; Norris and Ortega, 2002) support the inclusion of instruction of formal grammatical criteria. They believe that formal grammatical deficiency may result in breakdown in communication. A glance through the series shows that Four Corners and Interchange look for formal criteria. Most of the tasks (f= 25, f = 20 respectively) that work with the input data, ask the students to distinguish formal criteria or underline them. In addition, forty-eight activities incorporated in Total English and eleven activities in American English File and thirteen activities in English Result require the students to find out formal criteria. However, the results of the questionnaire showed that both students and teachers had no idea regarding this item (M=3.60, M=3.48).

  1. 3.     Do the series make students work with a set of data and sort it according to similarities and differences based on semantic criteria?

Krashen (2003) holds that formal grammar instruction has no role in language teaching due to the fact that humans learn to produce their first language with no formal instruction of the grammatical patterns.  Thus, both formal criteria and semantic criteria should be incorporated in the ELT series.

Total English also includes a type of activity in which the students are asked to find the meaning difference among a set of sentences. This type of activity was found to be adopted fourteen times (3.18%) throughout Total English. English Result makes use of tables, signs, charts and diagrams in grammar activities which require the students to interpret them while acquiring the grammatical pattern (f= 13). Besides, questionnaire results indicated both students and teachers neither agreed nor disagreed with this item. (M = 3.77, M = 3.73 respectively).

  1. 4.     Do the series make students give a generalization about language and check this against more language data?

The subjective scrutiny of the series indicated no use of this activity in all five series (f=0). This kind of activity presumes a more inductive approach toward grammar presentation. In other words, all the series present the grammatical rules overtly, whether before or after the grammar activities. The questionnaire results also show that students and teachers' ideas are relatively the same in this regard.

  1. 5.     Do the series encourage students to find similarities and differences between patternings in the first language and patternings in English?

Several studies have advocated the role of first language in learning English as a second language. Brown (1998) for instance, examined the role of L1 grammar in English segmental structure. She proposed comparing and contrasting L1 with L2 English facilitates learning segmental structure of English. However, the investigation of the series revealed that none of them encouraged resorting to the students' first language and comparing it with L2 English in teaching grammar (f=0), something which seems inevitable in some EFL contexts like that of the present study in which the students frequently pick on the teachers to switch into Persian (their L1) in teaching grammatical points most plausibly because they are mostly used to deductive teaching of grammar in their L1 (i.e. Persian) in the (junior and senior) secondary school education of English. The mean for the students' responses was the least for this item (M = 3.29). Furthermore, teachers' responses also gained a relatively lower mean for this item in comparison to other items (M = 3.1).

6. Do the series make students manipulate language in ways which reveal underlying patterns?

The researchers' subjective scrutiny indicated none of the series (f = 0) tried to involve the students in exploring the underlying grammatical patterns. Teachers and students' responses to this item also proved lack of such activities in the series. (M= 3.61, M = 3.32 respectively).

  1. 7.     Do the series make students recall elements of a text?

One of the activities enhancing text recall is "knowledge mapping training" suggested by Chmielewski and Dansereau (1998). Knowledge maps are node-link concepts in which the ideas are connected to other ideas through a series of labeled links. Knowledge maps facilitate recalling concepts, ideas and elements in a body of text in an inter-related structure (Chmielewski & Dansereau, 1998).

American English File includes an activity which requires the students to cover a text and recall a story using the knowledge mapping to recall the correct grammatical structures (book 3, p.33), (f = 7). Four Corners and Interchange include a kind of pair work in which the students are asked to recall and retell the sentences and ask and answer them (f = 16, f = 9 respectively). The other two series lack such kind of activity (f = 0). However, the results obtained from students and teachers' questionnaire with regard to this item indicated that both teachers and students rated this item relatively higher than the other items. (M=3.86, M=4.03). Thus, it could be inferred that recalling is one of the most useful activities to encourage students consciously use the grammatical patterns and words.

  1. 8.     Do the series make students reconstruct elements of a text?

Thornbury (1997) maintains that reformulation and reconstruction tasks promote noticing. He also argues that these types of activities have the potential to draw the learners' attention to both meaning and form (noticing elements which are present and absent).

Reconstruction activities were found to be one of the most prevalent types of grammar consciousness-raising activities in the series evaluated and two hundred and two incidences of such activities were found in all five series. American English File incorporates an activity which requires the students to construct a meaningful sentence with some of the elements of the sentence given to the students (f=18). The activities which require the students to fill in the blanks with correct grammatical form are rampant in all the five series. American English File asks the students twenty-nine times, Total English thirty-four times, English Result forty-six times, Four Corners thirty-four times and Interchange twenty-eight times to fill in the blanks with the correct grammatical form. English Result involves an activity in which the students are required to read a written text and retell or rewrite it using the correct elements (f=5). Total English asks the students to reconstruct a text using the four choices given to them (f=8).

Although the students and teachers' responses did not significantly differ regarding this item, teachers rated this item relatively higher (M=3.96) than the students. (M= 3.81).

  1. 9.     Do the series make students use reference works - dictionaries, grammars and study guides?

Tomlinson (2011) holds that referring to references including dictionaries can be regarded as a criterion to evaluate a textbook. This shows the critical role of referring students to dictionaries and other reference works of the ilk. However, the subjective evaluation of the series showed that no incidences of reference training was found in the series (f=0). Furthermore, this item obtained the lowest mean among teachers' responses (M=2) and also a rather low mean among students' responses (M= 3.31), showing that current ELT series are in pressing need of incorporating material guiding.

  1.  Do the series emphasize the conscious use of different techniques/ strategies and activities of grammar learning?

Ever since Naiman, Frohlich, Stern and Todesco (1976) stated that good language learners use a wider range of strategies in comparison to their poor counterparts, the concept of strategy use has received increasing attention. The descriptive statistics for the item showed a rather high mean for both students and teachers' responses (M=3.92, M=4.23 respectively). The perceptions of the students and teachers suggest that the series try to make students conscious of different grammar techniques, strategies and activities. Different incidences of grammar techniques, strategies and activities were found in the five series (Interchange= 86, Four Corners= 22, English Result=126, American English File= 85, Total English= 180).

  1. 12. 13. Do the series use an explicit, implicit or a combination of both approaches in presenting grammar?

Ellis (2002) believes that the main goal of consciousness-raising is developing explicit knowledge of grammar. Furthermore, association for language awareness (ALA) maintains that language awareness is explicit knowledge of language. However, Cohen (2003) holds that course contents intending to train students in strategies require incorporating both implicit and explicit contents. The researchers' subjective evaluation revealed that American English File adopted an approach more implicit in nature in teaching grammatical patterns (f= 310).

On the contrary, Interchange and Four Corners adopt a more explicit approach in teaching grammar (f= 291, f=108 respectively).

Total English and English Result follow a combination of both approaches in presenting grammar. Total English names the grammatical rule. However, the book warms up the students with implicit pre-tasks. The "Active Grammar" box is the explicit part of grammar in which a brief explanation of the structure is provided. It was also found that two-hundred and six (47%) of the tasks in Total English were implicit in nature, showing that the series have stricken a balance between using implicit and explicit approaches to grammar presentation. 

English Result has also incorporated a "grammar box" into the grammar section in which some examples of the pattern are included, followed by questions on the usage of the pattern. Different grammar activities are then provided. Likewise, no pattern is explicitly presented throughout the book (f=300).    

Finally, the results of descriptive analysis for item thirteen indicated that both students (M= 4.06) and teachers (M=3.87) perceived the series to follow a mixture of both approaches in presenting grammar, although students did more so.

  1.  Do the series use unfamiliar words to describe the concepts the students are familiar with to make them curious about the world of words?

A good example of this item is asking the students to close the door because it is ajar, instead of asking the students to close the door because it is not completely closed. However, very few instances of this activity were found in the series (American English File =48, English Result =132). In addition, the means for this item in students and teachers' responses were relatively low (M=3.82, M=3.44 respectively). This might be due to the fact that both students and teachers do not consciously use these activities.

  1. 16. Do the series use words that sound alike and look alike (i.e. homophones and homographs)?

Zhou, McBride-Chang, Fong, Wong, and Cheung (2012) found that Chinese students who were trained in homophones improved significantly in vocabulary knowledge. Total English makes use of minimal pairs in vocabulary sections (i.e. hair, heir; seat, sit) (f=6).

American English File and English Result have incorporated tasks related to both homophones and homographs at the pre-intermediate levels (f = 21 and f = 34 respectively). In the researchers' idea, the incorporation of this type of activity in the series at the pre-intermediate level might be justified by the necessity for consciously familiarizing them with and establishing the sound-symbol relationship at the beginning levels.    

Students perceived the series used a rather high number of homophones and homographs (M=3.95, M=4.04 respectively). However, teachers' responses showed that homophones and homographs were not frequently used in the series (M=3.63, M=3.38 respectively). These findings show that material developers need to reconsider using these two types of activities in the series.

17. Do the series use words that look nothing like what they mean (i.e. idioms, clichés and puns)?

According to Nation (2001), idioms can be added to vocabulary being learned by including them in dialogues and stories which are used in regular ELT materials. Besides, the findings of De Caro (2009) indicated that by learning and using idioms, the learners were able to increase their knowledge about idioms, they learned new vocabulary and improved their communicative skills.

Interchange has incorporated different idioms and puns into the headings and sub-headings of the book (i.e. once in a blue moon, life is like a game) (f = 5). Likewise, Four Corners has made attempts in incorporating idioms, clichés and puns in headings, sub-headings, conversations and readings. In addition, a number of vocabulary activities (f =11) have consciously focused on puns in Four Corners 3.

Total English high intermediate includes vocabulary activities which require the learners to classify a set of idioms according to their concepts (i.e. time, money, food, etc.). However, only four incidences of such activities were found in the series.

Although American English File has not explicitly included the use of idioms and proverbs in the vocabulary sections, the reading sections contain idioms, clichés and puns. Within the same lines, English Result has not incorporated activities which focus on the use of idioms and clichés (f = 0).   

18. Do the series immerse students in a rich, precise, interesting and intensive use of vocabulary (e.g., using children's literature)?

In a study, Chang (2007) found that literature designed for young language learners in Taiwan had little positive impact and suggesting that children's literature to be included in the materials.

However, the subjective scrutiny of the researchers indicated no signs of children's literature were found in the series (f = 0). The descriptive statistics of the questionnaire also revealed that the means for this item were relatively lower in comparison with those for the other items (M = 3.81, M = 3.65 for students and teachers respectively). The reason for lack of children's literature might be the nature of the series and their intended audience. That is, the series have been developed for the teenager and mainly adult EFL learners.

  1.  Do the series require students to work extensively and intensively with words?

Baumann and Kameenui (2003) maintain that word consciousness depends on the in-depth knowledge of words. Therefore, direct, explicit and intensive practice is needed for the in-depth development of new concepts so that the student knows why he/she must announce versus proclaim in a given sentence.

Although intensive use of new vocabulary items have been stressed in the literature, no tasks have been designed to train students in an in-depth knowledge of new vocabulary items. The low mean for teachers' perception of this item (M=3.39) expresses that such activities are not incorporated in the series and are thus needed to be included.

  1.  Do the series require students to write extensive essays using most of the words they have learned?

By the term "extensive'", Graves and Taffe (2002) mean, provoking students to write extensive essays with as many as words they know. Interchange requires the students to write essays on a given topic in sixty four "writing tasks". Similarly, Four Corners urges the students to write forty-eight essays within the given framework.

English Result starts writing sections with a vocabulary activity for review purposes. It goes on with a short reading to activate or provide background schemata and a paragraph structure. Finally, the book asks the students to put all these together and compose another paragraph. This activity requires an extensive use of known vocabulary (f = 48).

Although Total English provides the students with a "writing bank" which includes twenty-four writing tasks, it is not of extensive type and a strict framework is given to the students.

American English File also starts the writing sections with a reading in which the students are asked to correct the grammatical mistakes and also fill in the blanks with appropriate words. The students are then asked to write an essay within the same topic with the words they know (f = 28).

The descriptive statistics for this item revealed that although the series have incorporated different extensive writing activities, students (M = 3.39) and teachers (M = 3.65) are not so much satisfied with them. This might be due to the reason that the series have tried to provide the students with a certain framework or a "guided" writing task. This framework may confine the students with a given set of vocabularies and prevent them to write extensively.

  1. Do the series involve students in discussions about the word choices they make, why they make those choices, and how skillful use of words makes speech and writing more precise, more memorable and more interesting?

The subjective scrutiny revealed that only few instances of this activity were incorporated in the series (f= 12 in total). English Result has incorporated activities in which the students are asked to discuss the semantic differences of the words (i.e. the difference between road and path or turn and bend). Likewise, Total English has incorporated seven semantic differentiation tasks throughout the whole series.

The other series have not included semantic differentiation activities. The descriptive analyses showed that the teachers ranked this item with a relatively low mean and a high standard deviation (M = 3.51, SD = 0.96) implying that the teachers' ideas were widely different in this regard. This finding suggests that students and teachers should pay much more attention to the potential benefit of these activities in the series.

  1.  Do the series involve students in systematic efforts (research done by the students themselves) to investigate different data sources including both written and spoken ones?

Although none of the series has incorporated an activity which consciously requires the students to do research about words (f = 0), the Chi-square analyses revealed that the only item in which the students' perceptions were significantly different from those of the teachers was this item .The students ranked this item significantly higher than the teachers indicating that the students are interested in doing research about new vocabulary items in spoken and written data sources. However, teachers seem not to be interested in making the students do research in this respect. The finding implies that teachers can adapt or adopt different activities in which the students are asked to do a piece of research on the new words.

  1.  Do the series make teachers explicitly instruct students in the knowledge of words?

Teachers did not agree the series made them explicitly instruct the words (M=3.44). Furthermore, as the researchers' subjective scrutiny shows, the series require the students to do the vocabulary activities independently without direct involvement of the teacher. However, the students' mean (M=3.81) was relatively higher than that of the teachers. The finding suggests that students need to be more independent in vocabulary learning and the amount of teacher involvement should be reduced.

  1.  Do the series emphasize the conscious use of different techniques/ strategies and activities of vocabulary learning?

Although the means for this item were not so much higher than those for the other items, this item obtained one of the highest means among the others. The findings imply that different techniques, strategies and activities of vocabulary learning have been consciously focused on in the series. Thus, it can be concluded that the series have been relatively successful in promoting the students' consciousness toward vocabulary learning strategies and activities. The subjective evaluation of the series revealed that Interchange stressed the use of eight different vocabulary learning strategies in one-hundred and twenty-eight different tasks. Four Corners incorporated the use of thirteen different strategies in two-hundred and forty different tasks. Additionally, American English File and English Result were found to have adopted a wider range of strategies (f =17 and f = 22 respectively)

  1. 26.27. Do the series use an explicit, implicit or a combination of both approaches in presenting vocabulary items?

The implicit approach to vocabulary learning holds that meaning of a new word is learned totally subconsciously as a result of abstraction from repeated exposures in different contexts (Krashen, 1987). On the other end of the continuum of implicit-explicit vocabulary acquisition is explicit vocabulary acquisition which holds that a certain amount of consciousness is needed to notice new vocabulary items and use strategies to infer and keep them (Gass, 1999; Schmidt, 1990).

The subjective evaluation of the series indicated that eighty-one percent (f = 120) of the vocabulary activities in Interchange Series were explicit in nature. Furthermore, Four Corners adopted two hundred and twelve (88%) explicit vocabulary activities. It was also found that seventy three percent (f = 456) of the activities in the English Result adopted the explicit approach in teaching vocabulary. Two hundred and five activities (64%) of different task types in Total English were explicit in nature. Finally, 345 tasks (90%) in American English File instructed vocabulary explicitly.

The results of the Independent Samples t-test indicated that the teachers' perceptions were not significantly different from those of the students in this respect (p = .064). The finding could suggest that the students and the teachers' perceptions and awareness of grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities are, overall, almost similar.

Finally, frequency analysis of the students and teachers' interviews indicated that the teachers mentioned the three templates of the interview more than the students (f =111 and f = 68 respectively). Although, this difference was not statistically significant, it could suggest that teachers were more aware of the different consciousness-raising tasks and agreed with their inclusion in the five ELT series. In the researchers' view, students might not be so much aware of and familiar with consciousness-raising tasks, which might be the possible reason for the existence of lower frequency of the codes in the students' interviews.

  1.  Conclusion and implications of the study

The present study sought to investigate the crucial role of consciousness-raising in current ELT materials. The results of the study indicated that although the current series enjoyed incorporation of different vocabulary and grammar consciousness-raising activities, they lacked some major ones. The results of the scrutiny showed that activities like making generalizations, cross-referencing, manipulating language to find the underlying patterns, discussing word choices, researching about vocabularies and using children's literature were lacking in the series. The reason might be due to the nature of the language teaching theories behind the series. The results of the chi-square analyses indicated that although some of the items were answered differently by the teachers and the students, their opinions did not significantly differ except for one item (e.g., involving students in systematic efforts to investigate different data sources including both written and spoken ones). Finally, the results of the semi-structured interview also corroborated, to large extent, the teachers and students' opinions. It can thus be concluded that both teachers and students might not be so much aware of the potential value of the grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities included in the series.  The findings of the study show that the series follow constant task types irrespective of the grammatical points or the vocabulary items incorporated in the series. A notable exception was American English File which needs further consideration and detailed analysis to support its appropriacy with regard to consciousness-raising activities. However, as Fairclough (2014) rightly points out, since the efficacy of consciousness-raising tasks has been supported by empirical evidence, they should thus occupy an essential place and play their role in ELT curricula, syllabi and materials. Thus, the findings of the present study might prove fruitful for material developers. That is, they might suggest the authors of the series that although the series are rich in different aspects, the vocabulary and grammar sections of the series should be reconsidered with respect to the incorporation of a wider range and different types of vocabulary and grammar consciousness-raising activities. Teachers might also find the results of the present study useful. EFL teachers teaching the aforementioned series can adapt some consciousness-raising activities from other sources to improve the process of English language learning in their classrooms. Besides, various task types could be adopted in the series which might prove fruitful in tapping different learning styles of the learners based on the nature and sequence of the tasks.  The findings allow teachers to identify the gaps in the series and whether to adopt additional task types. Students can also adapt and practice more grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising activities using other data sources (i.e. Internet, the teacher, and other EFL series available in the market).

     Last but not least, since no validated consciousness-raising questionnaire was already available for the evaluation of ELT series, the researchers developed and validated the Likert scale questionnaire through various painstaking and rigorous procedures mentioned in detail earlier. The present questionnaire can thus provide a valid and dependable instrument to be adopted by other researchers interested in grammar and vocabulary consciousness-raising research.

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