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Designing a twenty-hour course
by Emma Metcalf
- 2


2. Determining goals and objectives

Firstly it is necessary to specify the difference between 'goal' and 'objective.' Graves, (1996, pp.16-7) defines goals as 'general statements of the overall, long-term purpose of the course' and objectives as 'specific ways in which the goals will be achieved.' (See appendix H for further specification of objectives.) Therefore the goals I have outlined below are what we wanted to achieve by the end of the twenty hours of the course. The objectives consisted of the various activities and tasks that took place in class (as stated in the course plan.) Though specific goals and objectives may be criticised (see appendix I) I would agree with Graves that 'clear goals and objectives give the teacher a basis for determining which content and activities are appropriate for the course.' Nunan also argues that, 'it is undemocratic not to let the learner know what he is going to get of of the educational system.' (1988,p.54) During the course the students were informed about what they were going to do in each class (one teacher wrote a 'menu' on the whiteboard and the students were given explanations as to why they were asked to complete each task/activity (objective). Stern (1992) lays out four 'types' of goals that the syllabus intended to cover. (See appendix J for a more detailed explanation of the different types of goals.) The goals were as follows:

 

PROFICIENCY · To improve oral , functional communication skills.
· To improve listening skills using authentic texts.
· To improve writing skills focusing on process.
COGNITIVE · To give a general upgrade of language mainly through vocabulary and expressions.
· To tackle 'tricky' areas of grammar and revise and recycle assumed knowledge of grammar.
AFFECTIVE · To make the classes as enjoyable as possible
· To give feedback (error correction/ positive comments/advice) to boost confidence and maintain motivation.
TRANSER · To promote learner autonomy.
· To develop reading strategies.

This is a general outline and I will now go on to specify some of the objectives when discussing what was be included in the syllabus.


3. Conceptualising content

This was a difficult area. Some of the objectives were easy to establish:

- Most of the students used English on the telephone so a lesson focusing on telephone language was appropriate.

- Most of the students used the internet and received and sent emails in English, so a lesson on writing emails was appropriate.
- Most students wanted to improve their writing skills so a lesson was devised for writing a formal letter.

- All the students wanted to expand their vocabulary, so several vocabulary lessons were devised. Those lessons that were not specifically vocabulary focused, contained, at least, some new language input.

- The majority of the students were interested in current affairs, therefore a lesson on newspapers and the news was devised.

Other objectives were more difficult to negotiate. One particularly difficult area was grammar. Some students wanted to 'do' grammar in class, whilst others were not too interested. It was decided that the syllabus would not be structurally based mainly because at advanced level it is extremely difficult to predict which grammar areas should be covered. There is always a sense that all the grammar has been 'done' before. Therefore it was agreed that the main areas to be covered were:

- The four skills (the main focus being on speaking and listening.)

- Functional language (situations that would be transferable to the real-world and covered the areas stated by Clark 1997. (See appendix K)

- Vocabulary (often colloquial and under various topics.)

One last area we wanted to cover throughout the course was learner autonomy. With reference to the travel vocabulary lesson, students were given suggestions on how to record vocabulary. (See appendix L) Learner diaries were also introduced in the first week to help students identify their own 'lacks' and to give us information on how they thought the course was going. (See appendix M)

This course could be described as 'multi-layered' yet paying particular attention to the points mentioned above. The next task was to decide on which materials to include.


4. Selecting and developing materials and activities

Though it may have been easier to follow a course book in terms of selecting materials and organising them, none of the course books catered well enough for our students´needs. Some materials were taken from In Advance (1994) and Streamline Departures (1985). These were mainly used for their content (vocabulary and a listening.) Many of the materials were authentic: newspapers, books, short stories downloaded from the internet, radio news bulletins and videos. The rest of the materials were designed by the teachers, specifically to meet the objectives in each class, which in turn, attempted to meet the students´needs. Though some of the activities were designed for the classroom, an attempt was made to make the objectives transferable to real world situations.

The goals and objectives were intended to be as relevant to the students as possible, but as Hutchinson et al. point out: 'The medicine of relevance may…need to be sweetened with the sugar of enjoyment, fun, creativity and a sense of achievement.' (1987, p. 48) The students needed to enjoy the process of learning and therefore we tried to choose interesting topics and texts, design fun activities and vary the pace and dynamics of the classroom by doing lots of pair and group work. The organisation of these materials was the next matter to consider.

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