a twenty-hour course
by Emma Metcalf
assignment consists of designing a syllabus for a group of
advanced learners. It is divided into two parts: Part One
will look at the considerations which were taken into account
when designing the syllabus; it will include explanation and
justification of why particular choices were made and criticisms
of these decisions with solutions that may be considered for
future syllabus design. Part Two will include the course outline
and the course plan.
course lasted a total of four weeks (seventy-eight hours.)
The students attended the course for two hours a day, from
Monday to Thursday. The syllabus has been designed for a total
of twenty hours, starting from week two up to the first two
days of week four. (For a list of what was covered in week
one see appendix A.)
syllabus was designed specifically for a group of advanced
learners (though levels of proficiency did vary,) mainly young
professionals who worked in different companies. Their level
was tested by means of an oral interview.
a syllabus is a difficult task. Syllabuses have their advantages
and disadvantages (See appendix B) and have gone through various
'fashions.' (See appendix C.) Moreover, designing an effective
syllabus for a group of advanced learners becomes even more
complicated. (See Conceptualising Content.) Gardner and Lambert
(1972) point to a 'positive learning cycle' that ultimately
any EFL teacher wants to achieve. (See appendix D). Bearing
in mind that the students were professionals and, consequently,
tired after coming straight from work, our (*1) aim was to
design a syllabus that promoted learning but was also enjoyable
and not too 'heavy going.'
a course: Considerations
Graves (1996, p.13) asks the questions that need to answered
when planning a course. These are the questions I have attempted
to answer when designing this particular syllabus. The components
to consider are the following:
Needs assessment: What are my students´needs?
How can I assess them so that I
can address them?
2. Determining goals and objectives: What are the purposes
and intended outcomes of
course? What will my students need to do or learn to achieve
3. Conceptualising content: What will be the backbone
of what I teach? What will I include in my syllabus?
4. Selecting and developing materials and activities: How
and with what will I teach the course? What is my role? What
are my students´roles?
5. Organisation and content of activities: How will
I organise the content of activities?
What systems will I develop?
Evaluation: How will I assess what students have learned?
How will I assess the effectiveness of the course?
7. Consideration of resources and constraints: What
are the givens of my situation?
are the questions I will now address.
1. Needs assessment
needs assessment was carried out on the first day of class
(week one.) It was taken from The English Teaching Professional
and asked students to rank in preference various points under
the areas of topics, methods, language areas, out of class
and assessment. (See appendix E). It was felt that the needs
analysis did not cover the area of when students actually
used English so an extra part was added to the back of the
sheet. Graves points out a disadvantage of using a questionnaire
for needs assessment since, '
one of the challenges in
designing a questionnaire is choosing questions that will
be interpreted correctly.' (1996, p.15) Therefore, after completion,
the group was divided into pairs and each teacher chatted
informally about what the students had commented on the sheet.
(See note on Appendix E for problems with the needs assessment.)
The informal chat was a great opportunity to not only 'get
to know' the students but also to find out about their attitudes
and preferences. (See appendix F for language learning theories.)
analysing the data it became clear that there were points
that the majority of the group shared in common. For example,
under the assessment heading, every student wanted to see
if they could use the language learnt in class in real-life
situations. On the other hand, only one student was interested
in how to give a presentation. (See appendix G for a summary
of what areas each student was interested in.) One aspect
that all the group shared in common was their motivation.
The majority of the group´s motivation was instrumental,
(the students wanted to improve their English generally in
a work situation) though one of the student´s motivation
was integrative (she was planning to live in England) and
many of the students commented that they used their English
whilst travelling (English as an international language.)
Therefore the syllabus needed to provide language that would
cater for all these needs. Firstly, however, it was necessary
to define the term 'need.'
et.al split needs into two types: target needs (what the learner
needs to do in a target situation (*2)) and learning needs
(what the learner needs to do in order to learn). (1987, p.54)
Target needs are then sub-divided into necessities - the type
of need determined by the demands of the target situation;
lacks-what the learner knows already and from that, decide
what the learner lacks; and wants-what the students perceive
to be important for their language development. (*3)) Both
target and learning needs were taken into account when determining
the goals and objectives of the syllabus.
*1 Whenever I refer to 'us ,' 'we' or 'our,' I am referring
to the teachers on my teaching team who all collaborated in
the syllabus design.
I am taking 'situation' to mean any area that may be covered
in class (grammar/vocabulary etc.). I do not mean English
for specific situations such as in a bank or going shopping.
*3 As Davies and Currie (1971) suggest: 'A method which frustrates
the predictions of the learner is patently bad
of the satisfaction of learners will come when they feel that
the hurdles they themselves have predicted have been cleared.'
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