a twenty-hour course
by Scott Shelton
objectives for the group
Nunan (1988:63) defines performance objectives as, what learners
should be able to do as a result of instruction, and states:
syllabus planners who advocate the use of performance objectives
suggest that they should contain three components. The first
of these, the performance component, describes what the learner
is to be able to do, the second, the conditions component,
specifies the conditions under which the learner will perform,
and the final component, the standards component, indicates
how well the learner is to perform".
(1981 in Nunan 1988:65) argues in favor of specifying objectives:
effort to specify objectives in performance terms forces us
to be realistic about what it is feasible to achieve, and
they greatly facilitate student assessment".
In relation to this course plan for advanced learners, the
ideas behind these two statements can be clearly linked to
the goal of passing an official exam and are reflected in
the content of their coursework laid out in the timetable
in part two of this paper.
performance component is broken down into the specific tasks
they are expected to do, such as in writing a transactional
letter or completing a set of notes after listening to a related
conditions are in a classroom situation and are practiced
in such a way to prepare for a future exam situation.
standard expected, as well as being at Cambridge Level Four,
also falls within Level four of the Association of Language
Testers in Europe (ALTE).
A description of a "competent user" at this
level, (although not being a specification for the examination
content but referring to language activities in real-world,
non-examination contexts) is found in Appendix D (Cambridge
CAE handbook: 2001:6).
performance sub-goals within the classroom can be stated from
a success-in-the-task perspective; its desired outcome being
continued motivation. In my experience, sustaining motivation,
especially on the Cambridge examination preparation courses,
is clearly important as the courses are quite intensive, the
standard is high, and the learners are continually being challenged.
As Dr. Littlejohn (2001) points out:
both teachers and school systems have drawn on both intrinsic
satisfaction and extrinsic reward as sources of motivation
in learning, the third source, success in the task: the combination
of satisfaction and reward, is perhaps under exploited in
teaching. This is the simple fact of success, and the effect
that it has on our view of what we do. As human beings, we
generally like what we do well, and are therefore more likely
to do it again and put in more effort. If we put in more effort,
we generally get better, and so this sustains our motivation".
this on board when designing a syllabus necessarily has as
much or more to do with grading tasks, as selecting and sequencing
content. This course is pitched at the advanced level throughout
although there is an appreciable progression in the exam tasks
leading to fuller exam-type tasks as the course progresses.
This is especially evident in the tasks leading up to and
forming part of a mock exam and the subsequent tasks, which
make up the lessons coming afterwards.
summary, it should be evident that this particular syllabus
has been designed with very specific goals in mind. However,
in achieving these goals, it has been taken into consideration
that maintaining motivation throughout the learning process,
though grading and projected success in the inherent tasks,
is of great importance.
Selecting a syllabus framework
(2001:152) describes a syllabus as:
major elements that will be used in planning a language course
and which provides the basis for its instructional focus and
(1988) lists six types of syllabi (see appendix E for a full
and goes on to say this about choosing and integrating syllabi:
the six types of syllabus content are defined here in isolated
contexts, it is rare for one type of syllabus or content to
be used exclusively in actual teaching settings. Syllabi or
content types are usually combined in more or less integrated
ways, with one type as the organizing basis around with the
others are arranged and related. In discussing syllabus choice
and design, it should be kept in mind that the issue is not
which type to choose but which types, and how to relate them
to each other."
In designing this course, my point of departure was the course
book that is set for this group of learners by the larger
curriculum of the school (CAE Masterclass 1999), the students'
needs collected by means of a needs analysis survey, and the
performance objectives set out above.
materials are also used throughout the course and come in
several forms. Some example are news articles from 'The Independent'
(A British daily broadsheet) which are relevant to the current
classroom theme and adapted to practice exam related skills
such as reading for gist and detail, or for work on noticing
and recording lexis and structures. Authentic video from the
BBC with worksheets adapted to practice listening comprehension
skills, and adapted transcripts to work on system related
skills are used as well. Published Cambridge practice exams
are also included for exam practice specifically under 'real'
overall organizing principle is largely skills-based, concentrating
on the four basic skills of reading, writing, listening and
speaking with structure being integrated as an internal element
of the tasks set, which in turn practice each skill. Discrete
grammar points are also revised and practiced.
Evaluation and conclusion
evaluation of this course is based primarily on student feedback,
through counseling, mock examination results and reflection
on the part of the teacher and students.
the student needs analysis it was apparent that although some
individually perceived needs were not fully being met, overall
- the general collective class needs were largely being met.
The teacher and the course were seen in a positive light,
the students perceived class time being used wisely and felt
they were being provided appropriate materials for their present
level and goals.
mock exam was administered over two days and included representative
sampling of all areas of the Advanced Certificate Exam including;
reading, listening, use of English, and writing. All were
subject to an appropriate time limit.
of the nine students in class did well enough to warrant a
pass while two others did not. A full class feedback session
was held after the exams, as well as individual counseling,
in order to get an authentic response from each student on
their progress and the course, and to give any necessary advice
to the student.
majority of the responses were favorable in that everyone
felt they were improving although many felt they did not have
enough time to spend outside of class on their studies. In
the exam results it was clear, however, that everyone could
benefit from more work on proof-reading and syntactical grammar
exercises. The need to practice with exam level listening
exercises was evident, while reading was a strong point for
all and writing was generally good. The necessary changes
will be implemented in the rest of the course to follow, to
adjust to these results.
exam results and the outcome of teacher-student counseling,
I feel that the course planned was quite successful in reaching
its objectives. The students are positive about their time
spent and their progress. While it is apparent that changes
in emphasis will be implemented in the future, a well balanced
course focusing on the different skills and exercise types
needed in the exam has been largely successful for the majority
of the class.
J.C. (2001) Curriculum Development in Language Teaching, CUP
Nunan, D. (1988) Syllabus Design, OUP
D. (1991) Language Teaching Methodology, Prentice Hall International,
Breen, M.P. (1987) Contemporary Paradigms in Syllabus Design,
Language Teaching, 20/3 1987
Reilly, T. (1988) Approaches to Foreign Language Syllabus
Design, Eric Digests 1988
A. (2001) Motivation: Where does it come from? Where does
it go?. English Teaching Professional issue 19 April 2001.
J. C. (1990)The Language Teaching Matrix, CUP
Gray, K. (1990) "Syllabus design for the general class:
what happens to theory when you apply it. ELT Journal Volume
44 October, 1990
Richards, J.C. & Rodgers, T. S. (1986) Approaches and
Methods in Language Teaching , CUP
Shelton has been involved in
EFL teaching since 1991 and has taught adults from all
over the world. Currently residing and teaching in New
Zealand, Scott has also taught multilingual groups at
St. Giles College in San Francisco and Spanish speaking
learners at International House Madrid, Spain. He was
awarded the Cambridge Diploma (DELTA) in 2002, having
followed the course at the British Language Centre in
Madrid, and earned his CELTA from St. Giles College International
a very long time ago.
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