An Intercultural Approach to Textbook Evaluation: A Case of Top Notch and Summit Series

Maryam Homayounzadeh, Rahman Sahragard


This study investigated the representation of sociocultural identities in six textbooks selected from Top Notch and Summit series, to assess their potential to promote intercultural communicative competence in the learners. Ting-Toomey’s identity negotiation theory and Scollon and Scollon’s (2001) discourse system structure were used to assess the identity representations and the structure of discourses in the books. Identity representations were analyzed in terms of the four primary elements of cultural, ethnic, gender and personal identities, to determine the extent to which the books could foster communication between members of various identity groups. In the analysis of discourse structures, the study investigated primarily the politeness and face strategies used in the conversations and further the particular ideology they perpetuated, as a clue to their potential to promote the learners’ pragmatic competence for intercultural communication. Concerning identity representations in the books, different results were found for the two series. Top Notch, addressing beginner to intermediate level students, proved considerate of diversity in the sociocultural identities it presented and providing information about the values of different cultures and the customs and traditions of various nations it tried to set the bases of interculturality within its audience. Summit, on the other hand, addressing higher intermediate and advanced learners, had a unilateral approach in its identity presentations, depicting principally European and American nationalities and the cultural values of individualism typically associated with them. Nevertheless, where the discourse structures in the books were concerned, both the two series were identical in their exclusive focus upon the utilitarian ideology of discourse and its related politeness and face strategies. This was found as a pitfall in the books, limiting the students’ range of discursive resources, which they require for successful intercultural communication in different contexts. The study concluded with subsequent recommendations for improving the content of the textbooks as well as some implications for further research.



Textbook Evaluation, Intercultural competence, Intercultural communication, Culture, Identity, Discourse system, Utilitarianism, Politeness strategies

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