A web site for the developing language teacher

Designing a twenty-hour course
by Emma Metcalf
- 6


Appendix A

Day 1 - Tuesday 3 · Getting to know you: Find someone who. Topic bubbles.
· Needs assessment.Informal chat to students.
Day 2 - Wednesay 4 · Learning stategies: Comparison of learning to ride a bike with language learning.
· What makes a good learner: A definition.
· Listening: Difficulties in language learning: Linguaphone from Advanced Masterclass, Unit 6, p. 62.
· Setting of learner diaries.
Day 3 - Thursday 5 · Writing an informal letter to a friend.
· Speaking: Functional - how to show interest in a conversation.

Appendix B

Nunan looks at various attitudes towards syllabuses:

Yalden (1984): '[The syllabus] replaces the concept of "method," and the syllabus is now seen as an instrument by which the techer, with the help of the syllabus designer, can achieve a degree of "fit" between the needs and aims of the learner (as the social being and as individual) and the activities which will take place in the classroom.'

In my course plan I have taken 'syllabus' to mean the content, the materials, tasks and activities and the organisation of the materials. For simplicity I have not made a clear distinction between 'syllabus' and 'methodology,' although the distinction should be noted.

Widdowson (1984): 'It only becomes a threat to pedagogy when it is regarded as absolute rules for determining what is to be learned rather than points of reference from which bearings can be taken.'

Widdowson highlights the need to be flexible. Syllabuses have to adapt to different needs that may appear during the course. Just as a text book is adapted, so should the syllabus.

Breen (1984): 'Any syllabus will express - however indirectly - certain assumptions about language, about the psychological process of learning, and about the pedagogic and social processes within a classroom.'

This is inevitable. The advantage with working on a syllabus with a group of teachers is that everybody brings different assumptions that can then be negotiated to design a syllabus that is believed to be effective. Of course, different teachers and course designers have different priorities. That is why there is such a wide variety of syllabuses to choose from. The teacher can then select (and of course adapt) the syllabus s/he thinks is most appropriate for his/her students´needs.

NB: All the above were quoted in David Nunan´s Syllabus Design, (Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1988) pp.5-6.

Hutchinson et al. (1987) points out some of the advantages of a syllabus:

'Language is a complex entity. It cannot be learnt in one go. We have to have some way of breaking down the complex into manageable units. The syllabus, in defining the constituent parts of language knowledge, thus provides a practical basis for the division of assessement, textbooks and learning time.' (p.83)

It is also pointed out that a syllabus, 'gives moral support to the teacher and the learner, in that it makes the language learning task appear manageable.' (p.83)

Hutchinson et al. still point out that syllabuses still have to be used with care and should not be followed 'to the letter.'

Appendix C

Nunan (1988) gives a brief history of syllabus design. He states how syllabuses started with a bottom-up approach with lists of grammatical, phonological and vocabulary lists. In the seventies the communicative approach came popular with more emphasis on meaning rather than form. English for Specific Purposes also became popular, recognising the fact that 'general English' did not meet many students specific needs particularly in a work situation. Nowadays a top-down approach is more popular with the influence of task-based learning.

Hutchinson et al. (1987) also discuss various types of syllabus which include:
· Evaluation
· Organisational
· Materials
· Teacher
· Classroom

For a more detailed explantion see English for Specific Purposes ( CUP.p.80.) I would argue that most syllabues incorporate all of these elements.

Appendix D

The positive learning cycle - ultimately, what every teacher wants to achieve. Appears in Gardner, R.C., and Lambert, W.E., Attitudes and Motivation in Second Language Learning, (Newbury House, 1972.)

Appendix E

Problems with the needs assessment:

·Though the needs assessment referred to methodology, it did not identify the students´previous learning experience. This obviously affects their attitudes towards learning since previous learning experience forms opinions on what is considered to be a 'good' or 'bad' methodology.
· Some of the questions were misinterpreted. For example, many students did not really understand question one. Many of the students thought it referred to speaking solely about themselves rather than expressing their opinions on a variety of different issues. The video question was also misunderstood. This perhaps reflects previous teaching experience as many students thought it would be a waste of time to 'just watch a video in class' as this could be done at home. Obviously, they had never had a lesson where a video was used to actually 'teach' something, rather than an aid to listen for gist. That is why I was personally interested in using the video for my Resources and Materials lesson.

Appendix F

Hutchinson et al. (1987, p.42) gives a brief summary of some of the learning theories that appeared in the twentieth century. He outlines the following:

· Behaviourism: The Audio-lingual method which advocated the stimulus-response idea.
Some of the criteria was 1. never translate
2. the sequence was always the same (hear, speak, read, write)
3. frequent repetition (drilling)
4. all errors received immediate correction

· Mentalism: Main influence was Chomsky (1964) who argued that learning conists of acquiring rules, not forming habits. This acquirement of rules is not conscious, but more instictive.

· Cognitive Code: Views learners as thinking beings. Learning is defined as the learner actively making sense of data.

It could be said that all these theories appear actively in the classroom. Drilling still plays a very important part in the classroom, even in advanced groups. Mentalism perhaps plays its part when, as teachers, we encourage students to rely on instinct, to rely on what 'sounds right' for them. Finally, tasks performed in the classroom often problem -solving which reflects the cognitive side of learning. Interestingly enough, many of the students on the needs assessment stated that problem-solving tasks was an area of methodology that interested them the most.

Appendix G

These results are taken from the beginning of the course. (They refer to when students had most contact with English and areas they were interested in.) Some of the students left the course and other students joined. Unfortunately, I do not have information about the new students as they joined in the last week of the course.

CORINA Telephone, translation, speaking to friends, memos, notes and songs.
BEATRIZ Travel, internet and emails, telephone, work.
AFRICA Work, phone, talking to friends, travel, Business English.
PABLO Work, reading, internet, talking to friends.
LORENA Work, speaking to foreign colleagues, meeting friends.
TROYANO Films, news, TV, novels, documents at work, travel, meetings abroad.
YOLANDA Work, telephone and customers, reading, TV, travel.
MONTSE Travel and work, some translation.

Appendix H

Saphier and Gower (1987) define objectives more specifically:

1. Coverage objectives: What will be covered?
2. Activity objectives: What will students do?
3. Involvement objectives: How will student involvement and interest be maximised?
4. Mastery objectives: What will students be able to do?
5. Critical thinking objectives: What learning skills will students develop?

So, taking my literature lesson as an example (Monday 23 July) my objectives were the following:

1. Coverage objectives: Two different reading texts, problem vocabulary that appears in both texts.
2. Activity objectives: Discussion of New Year´s Resolutions and diaries
Scan reading for specific data on protagonists.
Indentifying meaning of vocabulary in paris.
Information exchange/peer teaching of vocabulary.
3. Involvement objectives: The texts were entertaining and Bridget Jones is extremely topical at the moment due to the film.
4. Mastery objectives: Reading skills (scan)
Inferring meaning of words from context.
5. Critical thinking objectives: Training students to infer difficult meaning from context by highlighting the need to ask questions about text.

Appendix I

Objectives can be criticised because teaching cannot be equated with learning. The teacher may have certain objectives for a class but there is no guarantee that the student will learn specifically what the teacher had planned. As Allwright (1984) states: 'What is planned and what actually happens in the lesson are two different things.' One way to combat this is to keep the objectives open-ended, so learners can achieve at least something.

Appendix J

Stern (1992) describes goals under the following headings:

1. Proficiency goals: Competency/mastery of the four skills/specific language behaviours.
2. Cognitive goals: Mastery of linguistic knowledge and cultural knowledge.
3. Affective goals: Achieving positive attitudes and feelings about language and getting confident.
4. Transfer goals: Learning how to learn.

Appendix K

This was referenced in Nunan´s Syllabus Design (1988) p.86.

Clark (1987) in ALL PROJECT referred to the following fuctions that seem most applicable to our syllabus:

· Establishing and maintaining relationships and discussing topicsof interest. (Our syllabus covered various topics and looking at agreeing/disagreeing/expressing interest/hesitation fuctions.)
· Problem solving. (There were a variety of problem-solving tasks during the course for example: design an activity to promote team-building taking into consideration a variety of different colleagues and therefore personalities.)
· Listening to, reading, viewing and responding to a stimulus. (Video and literary texts as examples.)

Appendix L

This is the format of the lexibase that helped students to record vocabulary.

Appendix M

An example of the learner diary - in the bottom half of the coursebook page.

Appendix N

Graves (1996, p.29) outlines the difference between the a cyclicar and a matrix syllabus:

A cyclicar framework puts emphasis on the regular cycle of activities, following a consistent sequence. It therefore highlights the need to focus not only on a lesson but also on a course level. This principle of recycling material (students encounter previous materials in news ways i.e. a different skill, a different activity or a different focus) is one we have tried to incorporate in our syllabus.

A Matrix framework consists of a course of material and learned activities to be conducted within a given time frame. The one disadvantage of the Matrix is that it is difficult to establish how long the learning process will take.

Appendix O

At the end of the course we asked the students to complete a questionnaire. The questions were as follows:

1. How do you feel about the course?
2. Which lessons did you enjoy most? Why?
3. Which lessons did you find the most/least useful?
4. What areas do you think you´ve most improved on?
5. What topics/language areas would you have like to do more on?

I have included two of the feedback forms from students who continued with the course for the whole month.

1. How do you feel about the course?
I think it's been a nice experience that I'm sure I'll repeat next year if you let me.

2. Which lessons did you enjoy most? Why?
The one about news on the TV. I think it was very interesting. Also the one about the internet because is an actual subject.

3. Which lessons did you find the most/least useful?
The ones in which we watched TV and then we had to discussed what we understood. Also the listenings with the tape.

4. What areas do you think you´ve most improved on?
Vocabulary, speaking.

5. What topics/language areas would you have like to do more on?
I think this classes are focus on speaking and I've learnt practising! But also we have done writing for homework, grammar. I liked the topics.

Montse de Lucas

1. How do you feel about the course?
I am quite satisfied. In appreciate the work that teacher have done for us. They have corrected all my homework, and they have paid much attention to all our needs.

2. Which lessons did you enjoy most? Why?
The one about woman/men because I like the topic.

3. Which lessons did you find the most/least useful?
I found very useful the lessons about linkers, and the one about teenage expressions.

4. What areas do you think you´ve most improved on?
I think I have learned quite a lot of vocabulary and useful linkers (for structure a text).

5. What topics/language areas would you have like to do more on?
Business English, Grammar.


Appendix P

Some solutions:

1. In terms of catering for specific student needs it would have been a good idea to give 'tailor-made' homework. For example, in the case of Africa who wanted to do Business English, a self-access pack could have been prepared so that she could study at home. She was very motivated and did all her homework so I think she would have been pleased to receive some extra help.
2. Become more a ware of individual learning processes by doing more experiments in class. A questionnaire on multiple intelligences would help decide on what type of activities to do in class.
3. Organise tutorials where 'conferencing' can take place. (For a description of what conferencing is see Ardnt and White, Process Writing, p. 131)
4. Negotiate the syllabus more with the students throughout the course, rather than just basing the whole syllabus around what was said at the very beginning of the course.
5. More specific pronunciation work should have been covered on the course as this was an area the students were interested in.
6. Understand that a syllabus is not a fixed entity and that updates will constantly have to be made. This is an absolute must if the teacher wants to teach a course that can meet his or her students´needs to the best of his/her ability. Graves (1996) depicts this clearly with her diagram.

syllabus flow chart

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