Materials Use in Language Education

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Materials Use in Language Education



Pedagogical materials—such as textbooks, digital technologies, teacher-created resources and more—are a critical component of the language classrooms worldwide. Our Research Network (ReN) on materials use in language education exists to promote scholarship on how pedagogical materials affect language classrooms. The burgeoning area of materials use research within the field of Applied Linguistics helps language teachers, language teacher educators, language learners, and materials developers understand how pedagogical materials impact and are used in language teaching/learning environments.

Despite the ubiquity of materials in language teaching/learning, much Applied Linguistics scholarship has typically ignored the ways they affect  classrooms dynamics, language use, and language acquisition itself. Leading scholars such as Diane Larsen-Freeman and Elaine Tarone have urgently called for increased research in this area (Larsen-Freeman, 2014; Tarone, 2014).

Moreover, a small body of recent research on materials use has shown that language teaching/learning materials have major and complex impacts on language classrooms, which the field has only just begun to understand. For example, materials can organize – and sometimes constrain – the language learning curriculum (Guerrettaz & Johnston, 2013). Other recent studies have shown that materials shape classroom discourse and  interaction in varied and often “multimodal” ways (Jakonen, 2015; Mathieu, 2021; Mathieu et al., 2021; Matsumoto, 2019). Also, language teachers engage in a participatory relationship with materials during lesson planning and enactment (Li, 2020). Additionally, recent collaborative publications from ReN members haveoffered the first empirically-based definitions of materials and materials use (Guerrettaz et al., 2021) and set an agenda for future language teaching/learning materials use research (Guerrettaz et al., in press). Importantly, while this ReN acknowledges the valuable  intersections between materials development and materials use research, the scope of the network is to focus mainly on the latter, examining materials “live” and in play in the language learning environment.

This ReN continues this inquiry by drawing together an international group of researchers with diverse research backgrounds and methodologies to  facilitate dialogue around individual and collaborative research endeavors. Materials use research draws upon diverse realms of applied linguistics, including multimodality studies, second language acquisition, and sociomaterialism, among others. Applied linguists with various types of research  paradigms will have a home in this ReN and rapidly expanding research area.

Many of the initial members of this ReN are members of an informal network called MUSE International, which was developed in 2015 to bring together emergent scholars who were interested in materials use in language classrooms. By expanding MUSE into an AILA ReN, we will (1) enhance and formalize this network by increasing our membership and the international connections therein; and (2) strengthen the focus on producing quality materials use research, whereas MUSE meetings have previously focused on group discussion of previously published literature.

Recently, several of us co-convenors of this proposed ReN organized and presented a successful AILA 2021 symposium, entitled “What Do We Know and Where Do We Go?: Emergent Definitions of ‘Materials’ and ‘Materials Use’ in Language Teaching and Learning.”

Thus, there is established interest from AILA members more broadly in research on this topic.

This AILA ReN builds on all of these successful past efforts.