Here are the slides and handouts from my presentation, Materials Development & Language Learning Theory: A literature review, of sorts. This presentation was part of the panel discussion on Academic Theory and Classroom Materials: What’s the Connection?, presented at TESOL 2017 in Seattle. I discuss some of the ways the literature suggests research can play a role in materials development.


Here are Eric Roth’s slides as well:

He argues that research is not the only concern a teacher has when developing or selecting materials. He also puts forth some reasons to question the applicability of research to the classroom.

Video of my presentation:

I also prepared some discussion questions along with a list of references, which you can read here or download: References and Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

1) Which of the following four quotes best reflects your view of the role of research in materials development and academic theory?

“If teachers are the mediators between materials and learners, then materials writers … are the mediators between ‘theorists’ and teachers/learners”
(McGrath 2016 citing Fraida Dubin)

“My contention is then that Materials Writing is more of an art than a science.”
– Alan Maley (Hidalgo et al, 1995)

“Anyone who sets out to write instructional materials for language teaching will start out with some implicit or better still, explicit … theory of language and of language learning”
– Jack C. Richards (Richards, 2005)

“It is true that we should not expect definitive answers from SLA…But this should not stop us from applying what we do know…”
– Brian Tomlinson (Tomlinson, 1998)

2) What is one principle which you feel strongly about and which underpins the materials that you write? Do you feel it is supported by research, teacher experience, or both?
3) How often do you reflect on your view of language and language learning as you create or evaluate materials?
4) When you start creating materials, do you begin with a list of principles, a list of features, the process of creation, or the logistics of writing?
5) What is one feature you would love to see in a textbook that would be difficult to apply in the current situation of publishing and classroom logistics?
6) What is one feature of your classroom that makes using most materials difficult?

Examples of Principled Frameworks

• Brian Tomlinson, Introduction (Tomlinson 2010)
• Jack C. Richards (Richards 2005)
• Jolly and Bolitho (Tomlinson 1998)
• Chris Mares (Tomlinson 2003)
• Bell and Gower (Tomlinson 2010)
• Jill Hadfield
• Flores (Hidalgo et al 1995)
• Penaflorida (Hidalgo et al 1995)
• Richards (Hidalgo et al 1995)
• Hutchinson and Waters (in McGrath 2016)
• IAFTEL MaWSIG day: Katherine Bilsborough, ‘ELT Materials Writing: Emerging Principles’


Bilsborough, K. (5 October 2016) Emerging principles for ELT materials writers [Blog post] Retrieved from
Block, D. (1991). Some thoughts on DIY materials design. ELT journal, 45(3), 211-217.
Harwood, N. (2010). English Language Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice. Cambridge University Press.
Hidalgo, A. C., Hall, D., & Jacobs, G. M. (Eds.). (1995). Getting started: Materials writers on materials writing. SEAMEO Regional Language Centre.
Littlejohn, A. (1992). Why are English Language Teaching materials the way they are? (Doctoral dissertation, University of Lancaster). Retrieved from:
Kanda, M., & Beglar, D. (2004). Applying pedagogical principles to grammar instruction. RELC Journal, 35(1), 105-119.
Maley, A. (2016). ‘More Research is Needed’–A Mantra Too Far?. Humanising Language Teaching, 18(3). Retrieved from:
McGrath, I. (2002). Materials evaluation and design for language teaching. (2nd ed.) Edinburgh University Press.
Millin, Sandy (27 April 2015) IATEFL Manchester 2015: Materials writing [Blog post] Retrieved
Richards, J. C. Materials Development and Research-Making the Connection. Retrieved from:
Scrivener J., Cardoso W., Medgyes P., Saraceni M., Bao D., Farrell T. (2016). Responses to the Chapter: ‘More Research is Needed’ – A Mantra Too Far?. Humanising Language Teaching, 18(3). Retrieved from:
Tomlinson, B. (Ed.) (1998). Materials development in language teaching. Cambridge University Press.
Tomlinson, B. (Ed.) (2003). Developing materials for language teaching. Bloomsbury Academic.
Tomlinson, B. (2009). Principles and procedures of materials development for language learning. Metodologias e Materiais para o ensino do Português como Língua Não Materna, 45-54.
Tomlinson, B. (Ed.) (2011). Materials development in language teaching. (2nd ed.) Cambridge University Press.
Tomlinson, B. (2012). Materials development for language learning and teaching. Language Teaching, 45(02), 143-179.
Tomlinson, B. (Ed.) (2013). Applied linguistics and materials development. Bloomsbury Academic
Tomlinson, B., & Masuhara, H. (Eds.). (2013). Research for materials development in language learning. Bloomsbury Academic.

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