The Success of NorthStar: Enduring, Evolving, Engaging

2014_FrancesFrances Boyd

The prize-winning academic English series NorthStar continues to meet the needs of students and teachers all over the world. In its fourth edition, the series endures by retaining its essential qualities. Yet NorthStar also evolves with updated content and expanded online tools. And the books continue to engage and challenge the hearts and minds of learners.

Why have secondary and tertiary institutions all over the world continued to rely on NorthStar to help students reach their academic goals? What qualities have endured in the fast-changing textbook landscape?

The NorthStar series takes high-beginners to an advanced level in carefully scaffolded units. The series pioneered the two-strand design, offering both a listening & speaking and a reading & writing volume on each proficiency level. Students work with authentic or semi-authentic listening and reading material that respects their intellect and feeds their curiosity. Exercises and activities constantly integrate skills and recycle language. In addition, students engage in critical thinking on virtually every page of every book. This seamless blending of intelligent content and rigorous language study has been a hallmark of the NorthStar series from the start.

How is NorthStar responding to new trends in language learning and in education? How does the series take into account changing needs of teachers and students?

MyEnglishLab, the online component for NorthStar, is richer and more accessible. All of the audio, video, and student book pages are available for in-class or at-home use. For each unit, students can review classwork online. For those who need or want more, there is additional skill practice on new but related material. Instructors have their choice of online answer keys, assessments, homework delivery systems, and course management tools.

Recent research in our field underlines the value of explicit skill instruction. As a result, we have highlighted the skills that have always been a part of NorthStar. For all four skills, learners now find explanations, stepped-out examples, and practice items.

What does cognitive science tell us about engagement and attention? How does NorthStar build on brain-based learning principles?

Distraction and information overload have educators competing for the attention of students. NorthStar meets this challenge head on.

To start, there is the clean, colorful, and attractive design of the books. Once you open the books, the topics for language study engage emotions and curiosity. It’s not just the topic but the particular angle on the topic that grabs and sustains the attention of learners.

Additionally, the very structure of the units is designed to add challenge and interest as students move through them. The dynamic recycling of language and skills is paired with the addition of new, related content. To put it another way, different and unexpected angles of a topic are revealed in subsequent exercises and activities. Moreover, the structure of the units is designed to help students make connections of all kinds: from prior knowledge to new knowledge, from text to text, from word to idea, and so on. NorthStar offers engaging learning at all proficiency levels and for all skills.