Dueling Coursebooks: The Headway/Cutting Edge Debate

droid1.jpgFeatured at the right is my favorite EFL teacher holding a copy of New Headway Elementary. Which book do you prefer and why?

TEFL Logue readers, help me out and leave me some comments. I really can’t nominate you to speak from here (and if I could I wouldn’t keep doing it, I’d nominate the first reader and then ask him or her to nominate the next reader in order to be less loguer-centered).

At my first job, the school used the Headway series for Beginners, Elementary, and Pre-Intermediate, and the Cutting Edge series for Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate (this was back in the day before Cutting Edge Advanced). This probably led me to believe that there was more of a dichotomy than there really is; the fact is, Headway rules the EFL world. Or something like that. In some places, people (EFL teachers at that!) claim never to have heard of Cutting Edge.

These are relatively similar books, I’ll give you that. I’m not a straight-from-the-book teacher either: I adapt things and use supplementary materials and activities from my own extensive mental library. But if the students are required to buy a book and are tested on it, I think it’s only fair to base much around the book.

I find Headway okay for the lower levels – having the grammar laid out plain and simple is fine. But I am in love with Cutting Edge for higher levels. The contexts are more interesting and motivating and just altogether better in my view. Neither book is perfect, but I have come to resent Headway Upper Intermediate for the major adapting I feel I have to do to make it communicative and engaging.

I don’t feel a huge difference between the Advanced level books, but I must admit that I am not always enthusiastic about talking to students about Iris Murdoch’s developing Alzheimer’s, whether they have found their soul mate, or an interview with Liza Minelli. Overall, I think Cutting Edge does a better job with the supplementary material as well.

What do you think? Are you hooked on Headway or are you a convert to Cutting Edge?