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Course Planning - a process
by Emma Worrell
- 2

Determining goals and objectives

Nunan (1988: 61) describes goals as general statements about the long term purposes of a course. These can be achieved by asking the students why they are learning the language. Objectives are more short term, concrete ideas of how we can achieve the goals. These can be achieved the syllabus designer "through a process of introspecting on the sorts of communicative purposes for which language is used" (Nunan 1988: 79) Breen (1987: 167) describes the process syllabus as involving "teachers and learners in a cycle of decision-making through which their own preferred ways of working, their own on-going content syllabus, and their choices of appropriate activities and tasks are realised in the classroom". The main objective for this course is to describe the goals (as objectives are connected to what happens in class). The goals I propose are meant only as the purpose of the planned short term course. However, they will be extended as the students' course progresses until June.

Nunan (1988: 25) describes four areas of necessary goals:

Affective goals:
Encouraging learners to develop confidence in using the target language by; maintaining their motivation and interest; ensuring that the students feel that they are making progress; creating a supportive and comfortable atmosphere in the class.

Learning goals:
Developing the ability to assess their learning styles. Training the students in skill areas, learning lexis and recording new lexis, grammar concepts and phrasal verbs. Developing strategies for the FCE. Developing students' ability to notice discourse features and later apply them to their work. Introducing peer correction activities in the class to encourage reflection of their work.

Communicative goals:
Establishing and maintaining relationships through exchanging information, ideas, opinions, attitudes, feelings, experiences, and plans by; giving students the opportunity to develop their oral fluency and accuracy; giving plenty of listening practice; developing students' writing competence.

Cognitive goals:
Developing skills in monitoring performance in spoken language by; making the students aware of their interlanguage and the reformulation of fossilised language; expanding the students' lexical knowledge (especially with colloquial language).

I have tried to incorporate all of these concepts in my syllabus design. it should be noted that most of these are incorporated in the FCE book as exercises but there is little information aimed at teachers in the teacher's book on how to achieve these concepts which means that the teacher has to be careful to train the students systematically and not overload them with to many techniques from the beginning.


Conceptualising Content

It is important to remember that, as the course book limits flexibility with the choice of materials (not so much the sequencing of materials), a course of this kind needs a good balance between work on exam practice and strategies and more general work on developing communicative competence and other general learning strategies. Also, we must consider students preferred requests over material they want to cover and material which is less popular but still necessary. Finally, a comprehensive syllabus should contain a balance between "product" and "process" (Nunan 1988: 71). 'Product' means "what learners will be able to do as a result of instruction" ("the ends") or what students will be able to do at the end of the course which they could not do before. 'Process' means " activities designed to develop the skills needed to carry out the product objectives" ("the means") or the way learning is organised (Nunan 1988: 70-71). With this course the processes can be seen as the content of the course book, subject to modification, the use of extra, authentic materials and covering areas such as pronunciation, and includes the atmosphere of the class which will help achieve many of the goals. The product can be seen as the students goal to sit the exam and pass the five papers required ( see appendix 7). However, we must remember that there is a limit to the extent the syllabus can achieve its goals. Breen (1987: 159) says

"A syllabus can only have, at best, an indirect influence upon actual
language learning. It is meditated by teaching and the encircling
classroom content within which instruction is only one element. And
it is further mediated by learners' participation in classroom work
and by their own interpretation of appropriate objectives and content
for language learning."

While Breen's process based syllabus, where the content and methodology are negotiated, is prohibited by the final goals of the course (the exam) certain elements can be incorporated. The learners' lesson comments facilitated negotiation by enabling the students to reflect on what was really necessary for them to study and to decide the weight needed for the activities (this was further enhanced by peer correction and group activities where students could compare and learn from each others' work).


Selecting and developing materials

The FCE Gold course book was inevitably the main source of content, an attempt was made to include other materials, such as writing exercises from other sources, authentic listenings such as radio news reports, and speaking activities from conversation files related to topics and themes in the course book to keep student interest and maintain motivation.

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