A combined approach to the evaluation of language learning materials
: what can we learn from the design and use of English M1?

  • Alessandra Belletti Figueira Mulling

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research set out to evaluate the self-access English learning material English M1, which was developed in Brazil by local teachers (including myself) for beginner level students. Many studies have evaluated English learning materials. However, relatively little research has been carried out after use of materials and even less drawing on learners' reports about how they engaged with self-access course material. In this sense, this research aimed at addressing the end-users: the learners.
Four aspects of English M1 were chosen for evaluation: the reading section, the animated episodes, the use of learners' first language (L1) and the predominance of the standard American English variety. Each component evaluated was considered from two perspectives. One of these was based on the relevant research literature and the other was through gathering the opinions of learners who had used the material.
This study adopted a qualitative research design. The learners-based evaluation drew on the perspective of twenty-four users of English M1, addressed through semi-structured interviews about how they engaged with English M1 and their reasons for doing things in the way they did. Participants' comments were probed in order to provide enhanced clarity and detail. Data collected in the interviews revealed insights into the material that could not have been gained from the literature alone. The combination of the two perspectives resulted in principled criteria by which self-access materials for low level learners can be both evaluated and designed.
This research makes a contribution to knowledge in two ways. One contribution is based on the substantive findings from research. This includes that self-access learners value learning that has clear learning outcomes. Also, self-access materials for low level learners need to contain a component of learner training in regards to the affordances of the materials delivered and how learners should best interact with them. In addition, self-access materials for beginners must recommend additional learning strategies and information about the way learners can interact with the materials provided so learners can make choices based on their needs and preferences.
The second contribution to knowledge is procedural in nature. This research developed and applied a post-use methodology for the evaluation of materials and set out opportunities for further research. It made evident that a self-access material should be evaluated after use for a more accurate account of how learners engaged with it and that learners can be addressed via a qualitative approach. As far as I know, this is the first systematic evaluation of a self-access English learning material for beginner level that drew on the actual experiences of Brazilian learners.
Date of AwardAug 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPeter Watkins (Supervisor), Glenn Hadikin (Supervisor) & Alessandro Benati (Supervisor)

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