Substantiation—Contents—Form: On Writing a New Textbook of a New Generation

Marina Anikina, Moscow State University of International Relations

Finding fresh ideas for a new textbook can safely be assumed the thorniest problem of today’s methodology. Writing a new book is not merely recasting, enlarging or improving the old version – the situation prevailing presently in the market of educational literature. A new textbook should be based on a new concept and offer a solid grounding of new work. What we mean are not only (still less solely) new approaches taken to the description and representation of the grammatical material that has to be learnt. The textbook must first of all be comprehended from the philosophical and psychological aspects which, in turn, will dictate the shape, contents and methodological principles of the book. We should like to share with others our own view of the problem, our hands-on experience in preparing and writing a new textbook. Schematically the suggested type of a new textbook can be founded on the following theoretical grounds: egocognition (teaching + individual) → system of interrelationships (horizontal) → contents (teaching + subject-matter) → shape (manual + book) → methodical apparatus (principles, consistency, ways of introduction, scope of material, system of assignments).

Let us make it explicit what each element of the system means. Philosophically ego is the point of reference. What is meant by ego is concrete individuality in all the diversified variety of its manifestations. There are at least two egos—a student and a teacher—in the process of teaching. The textbook is addressed not to a group of users (by age, nationality) but rather to a concrete person whose aim is either to learn or teach language.

Striving to cognition is immanent to each ego, such cognition being bilateral: on the one hand, it is the cognition aimed at educational cognizing (the wish to learn the subject under study); and on the other hand, it is the cognition aimed at personal knowledge (the wish to learn the Weltanschauung, views, experience of the other ego). Hence, the textbook has to become the source of such bilateral cognition. Its contents must meet the requirements of educational and personal cognition.

Intercognition is possible only if horizontal (in other words, individually-oriented) system of interrelationships between all the participants of teaching process (including those in-between the teacher and student) have been established.

In principle, the educational content is invariant. It is determined by the objectives and tasks of educational stage (in our case—primary). Proceeding from the above, the subject-matter content must be interesting to both participants of the educational process since personal cognition is immanent to both of them. We have resorted to polling to find out those problems and topics that are interesting to all people regardless of their objective and subjective traits and found out that such topics include love, work (career, money), interrelationships (within the family, between people), health (sport, pernicious habits), travel and some other. All of them fall within a broad notion: Me and the life around me.

A denominated subject-matter field is an inherent feature of a fiction book which more often than not is built with a plot principle. This is why we suggest that a new form of a textbook should be developed that would combine all typical traits of traditional textbook and yet be built around the principles of a fiction book.

Changing the form will, in turn, dictate a consequent alteration of the methodical apparatus.