The role of instructional materials

The last component of design concerns the role of instructional materials within the instructional system.

The syllabus defines linguistic content in terms of language elements – structures, topics, notions, and functions. It also defines the goals of language learning in terms of speaking, listening, reading or writing skills.

The instructional materials in their turn further specify subject matter content, define or suggest the intensity of coverage for syllabus items, the amount of time, attention and detail particular items or tasks require. Instructional materials also define the day – to - day learning objectives.

Materials, design for learning under the teacher’s instruction meet quite different requirements from those designed for student self-instruction or for peer tutoring.

Some methods require the instructional use of existing materials, extra materials, and realia. Some assume teacher-proof materials that even poorly trained teachers with imperfect knowledge of language can teach with. Some materials require specially trained teachers with near-native competence in the target language. Some are designed to replace the teacher, so that learning can take place independently etc.

The role of instructional materials within the instructional system will reflect decisions concerning the primary goal of materials. For example, to present content, to practice content, to facilitate communication between learners, or to enable learners to practice content without the teacher’s help. The role of instructional materials will also reflect decisions concerning the form of materials (e.g. text book, audiovisuals, computer software), the relation of materials to other sources of input, the abilities of teachers.

For example, the role of instructional materials within a functional/communicative methodology might be specified in the following terms:

1. Materials will focus on the communicative abilities of interpretation, expression, and negotiation.

2. Materials will focus on understandable, relevant, and interesting exchanges of information, rather than on the presentation of grammatical form.

3. Materials will involve different kinds of texts and different media.

By comparison, the role of instructional materials within an individualized instructional system might include the following specifications:

1. Materials will allow learners to progress at their own rates of learning.

2. Materials will allow for different styles of learning.

3. Materials will provide opportunities for independent study and use.

4. Materials will provide opportunities for self-evaluation and progress in learning.