Hello everyone. Welcome to the final issue of Between the Keys in 2015. Temporarily, I’m taking over the editor chair for this special issue on gender bias in EFL materials. James Essex will be back next year with our regular line up. In the meantime, if you have an idea for an article, please feel free to contact James via our website and discuss your ideas with him.

The JALT International Conference just past focussed on the learner. This provided a very useful framework for materials writers to consider how the learner develops their voice in the second language through the materials we create. No voice can exist without models: just as the baby copies the parent, the student utilises the language of the textbook. If that language contains bias, writers consciously or unconsciously promote that bias in the output of students, even if that is bias that the students don’t accept in their own native speaker voice.

Such biases are often subtle and some are blatant. Simply being aware of the issues will go a long way to rectifying the amount of gender bias in EFL textbooks, but some issues may be missed by the casual reader. I urge close reading of the articles in this special issue.

In this issue, Melodie Cook describes a longitudinal change between the textbooks by the same author separated by a decade. Cook finds that gender bias is still prevalent in EFL materials even though the situation is ameliorated to some extent. She concludes her paper with some useful recommendations for writers about how to prepare more bias-free texts.

Brien Datzman presents an analysis of a commonly-used textbook in Japan. He uses Lakoff’s 10-item framework as the base for the analysis in which he concludes that the work is relatively bias free. Although Datzman’s article will be of use as a case study in authoring modern texts, he does point out some more subtle examples of bias. The wider question regarding the role that EFL materials have in mimicking native speaker discourse or as instruments of critical change becomes an important one for writers.

Jim Smiley applies the Bechdel Test to EFL materials. He uses this test to present a short overview of the main themes in gender studies in EFL.

The final ‘piece’ is a paid-for infomerical from an independent publishing house offering its wares to our members.

Richard Walker and Loran Edwards write about the trials and tribulations of writing a textbook. Loran takes us on her personal journey of publishing her own textbook with a major publisher, something I am sure many members of this SIG have thought about as they search for a ‘best fit’ for their own classes.

Likewise, Richard’s article looks at the writing of an in-house textbook for an academic speaking class in his university, perhaps also suggesting that if the ‘best fit’ cannot be found, create it.

If you too have not yet found the best fit, and you have yet to embark upon the writing of your own textbook, then Jim Smiley’s article, which introduces us to differentiated instruction through tiered rubrics will no doubt provide food for thought as we embark upon the new academic year, entering into the unknown when it comes to unstreamed classes.