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The Common Sense Approach—Advanced EFL
Steve Schackne
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For students who are not comfortable voluntarily bringing their personal lives into a course, a more guided set of topics/projects can be proposed.


[Create A 5 Year Sustainable Development Plan For Sichuan Province]

--define “sustainable development”—

--enumerate the benefits to China—

--identify the problems and how to overcome them--

[Develop An Exit Strategy For Iraq]

--define “exit strategy”—

--develop a plan to remove foreign troops, while safeguarding Iraq’s security—

--describe the problems in developing such a plan--

[Develop A Plan For A Palestinian State Which Safeguards Israel’s Survival]

--inform your audience of the historical background of this controversy—

--describe (with visuals) the geographical problems associated with a solution--

[Develop A Permanent Solution For The “Taiwan Issue”]

--what does Taiwan want?—

--What does China want?—

--what compromise can you propose?--

[Develop A Plan To De-Nuclearize North Korea and Bring It Into the World Community]

--describe the problem from North Korea’s point of view—

--describe the problem from China’s point of view—

--describe the problem from America’s point of view—

--describe the problem from South Korea’s point of view—

--what has already been proposed in the 6-party talks?—

--what new proposal(s) would you make?--

[Develop An Initiative To Help New Orleans To Recover From Hurricane Katrina]

--why has this disaster caused so much destruction?—

--why could it have negative economic repercussions?—

--how could you safeguard the city in the future?--

[Develop A Reform Plan For The UN]

--why do most people feel the UN needs reform?—what are the problems?—

--what reforms would you suggest?—

--why is it hard to implement reforms?--

[Describe the State of the Chinese Health System and Prescribe a Plan For Improvement]

--what are the system’s strong points?—

--what are it’s weak points?—

--how would you strengthen it?—

[Macau is at a crossroads—it can turn into an Asian Las Vegas (good case scenario) or

it can turn into an Asian Atlantic City (bad case scenario)]

--why is Las Vegas considered a good case scenario?—

--why is Atlantic City considered a bad case scenario?—

--do you think Macau will become Las Vegas or Atlantic City?--

A 16-week semester involves three to five projects, with durations of three to six weeks each. Projects are divided into three separate sections—research, conference, presentation. These are group projects with, ideally, three students per group. Three seems to be an optimal number, as two creates a difficult workload for the students, and four allows an opportunity for weaker students to over-rely on stronger students. Research involves the teacher meeting the groups, questioning them about their information sources and data collection methods, and guiding them to appropriate resources, if necessary. This stage often revolves around clarifying the organizational structure of the project. Is it going to be descriptive? If so, where will the data be collected? The internet? Print media? Interviews? Is it going to be quantitative? If so, how will the data be collected? Interviews? Polls? Surveys and questionnaires? Do the students know where to collect the data and do they know how to develop and administer a questionnaire. Can they justify their choice of a project; that is, do they know why it would be interesting and/or informative for their audience, and do they know what questions they want to answer for their audience?

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