This chapter presents research into the types of questions and tasks that accompany the reading texts in global EFL textbooks. In essence, the rationale for undertaking such an investigation is the crucial role reading and questions play both in learning per se and language learning in particular and the still dominant place textbooks hold in many classrooms.
I have identified the different types of comprehension questions and tasks in textbooks and created a taxonomy which consists of two tiers: the first tier represents pre-reading question-types and is composed of five different types and the second tier, which will be the focus of this chapter, represents post-reading comprehension and task question-types (comp-qs). The latter, the comp-q-types, comprises eight different question types and these are grouped into three categories, Content, comprising three question-types spanning lower to higher order thinking; Language, comprising three question-types, not hierarchical; and Affect, two question-types, one lower order and the other higher order. I then apply this taxonomy to the questions and tasks accompanying the readings in four series of global intermediate-level EFL textbooks, each of which has undergone at least one revised edition: Cutting Edge (Cunningham & Moor 1998, 2005) English File (Oxenden & Latham-Koenig 1999, 2006), Headway (Soars & Soars 1986, 1996, 2003, 2009) and Inside Out (Kay & Jones 2000, 2009). I have considered the distribution of the question-types in terms of frequency, which measures how many of each question-type is asked; in terms of their occurrence, which measures which question-types are present or not in a given reading, regardless of how many times they appear; and their range, which measures how many different question-types there are in any given text, edition or series: that is, how many out of the eight possible comprehension question-types are used, irrespective of how many of each type, or which type.
The results contain a combination of the expected – the existence of very basic, lower order questions – and the perhaps less anticipated – the proportion of questions that promote higher order thinking and linguistic skills. Across all ten textbooks in the study, the most widely used comprehension question-types are those that require inferential comprehension, although different series demonstrate their own preferences.
In order to provide an informed discussion regarding these results, I held semi-structured interviews with the writers and editors of the series in this study. This has allowed me to gain an insight into the approaches and priorities these writers have when they are creating the reading skills elements of their textbooks.
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