A P P R O A C H E S T O C O U R S E D E S I G N
WHAT IS A “COURSE DESIGN”? It is the process by which the raw data about a learning need is interpreted to produce an integrated series of teaching-learning experiences . WHAT IS ITS AIM? To lead the learners to a particular state of knowledge. This entails the use of the theoretical and empirical information available to produce a syllabus, to develop a methodology for teaching those materials and to establish evaluation procedures by which progress towards the specified goals will be measured. What learners need and want may conflict. We must remember that there are external constraints (classroom facilities/ time) that will restrict what is possible. We also have to take into account our own theoretical views and experiences of the classroom . There are many different approaches to ESP course design .
1. LG-CENTRED COURSE DESIGN It is the simplest and more familiar kind to English teachers (Ts). It aims to draw as direct a connection as possible between the analysis of the target situation and the content of the ESP course. It proceeds as follows:
However, it has a number of weaknesses: 1. It starts from the learner and their needs . It might be considered a learner-centred approach. The learner is simply used as a means of identifying the target situation. 2. It is a static and inflexible procedure, which can take little account of the conflicts and contradictions that are inherent in any human endeavour. 3. It appears to be systematic . 4. It gives no acknowledgement to factors which must inevitably play a part in the creation of any course. Data is not important in itself . 5. The lg-centred analysis of target situation data is only at the surface level . It reveals very little about the competence that underlies the performance. This course design fails to recognise the fact that, learners being people, learning is not a straightforward, logical process. A lg-centred approach says: ‘ This is the nature of the target situation performance and that will determine the ESP course.’
2. SKILLS-CENTRED COURSE DESIGN It is a reaction both to the idea of specific registers of English as a basis for ESP and to the practical constraints on learning imposed by limited time and resources. Its aim is not to provide a specified corpus of linguistic knowledge but to make the learners into better processors of information .
It is founded on 2 fundamental principles , one theoretical, the other pragmatic:
Underlying any lg behaviour are certain skills and strategies , which the learner uses to produce or comprehend discourse.
2. The pragmatic basis for the skills-centred approach derives from a distinction made by Widdowson (1981) between goal-oriented courses and process-oriented ones.
The emphasis in the ESP course in not on achieving a particular set of goals, but on enabling the learners to achieve what they can within the given constraint.
The role of needs analysis in this approach is twofold:
1. it provides a basis for discovering the underlying competence that enables people to perform in the target situation.
2. it enables the course designer to discover the potential knowledge and abilities that the learner bring to the ESP classroom.
This approach takes the learner more into account:
it reviews lg in terms of how the mind of the learner processes it rather that as an entity in itself
it tries to build on the positive factors that the learners bring to the course ( previous knowledge ), rather that just on the negative idea of ‘lacks’.
It frames its objectives in open-ended terms , so enabling learners to achieve at least sth.
This approach still approaches the learner as a user of lg rather than as a learner of lg. The processes it is concerned with are the processes of lg use not of lg learning.
A skills-centred approach says: ‘we must look behind the target performance data to discover what processes enable sb to perform. Those processes will determine the ESP course.’ Identify target situation Theoretical views of lg Theoretical views of learning Analyse skills/ strategies required to cope in target situation Select texts and write exercises to focus on skills/ strategies in syllabus Write syllabus Establish evaluation procedures which require the use of skills / strategies in syllabus
A learning-centred approach says: ‘we must look beyond the competence that enables sb to perform, because what we really want to discover is not the competence itself, but how sb acquires that competence.’ Identify target situation Analyse target situation Analyse learning situation Write syllabus Write materials Teach materials Evaluate learner achievements A lg- centred approach considers the learner to here. A skills- centred approach considers the learner to here. A learning- centred approach must consider the learner at every stage
Course design is a negotiated process . The ESP learning situation and the target situation will both influence the nature of the syllabus, materials, methodology and evaluation procedures.
2. Course design is a dynamic process . It doesn’t move in a linear fashion. Needs and resources vary with time. The course design, therefore, needs to have built-in feedback channels to enable the course to respond to developments.
If we took a learning-centred approach, we would need to ask further questions and consider other factors, before determining the content and methodology of the course:
What skills are necessary to be taught?
What are the implications for methodology of having a mono-skill focus?
How will the sts react to doing tasks involving other skills?
Do the resources in the classroom allow the use of other skills?
How will the learners react to discussing things in the mother tongue?
How will the sts’ attitudes vary through the course? Will thy feel motivated?
How do sts feel about reading as an activity?
The important point is that these questions must be asked and the results allowed to influence the course design.
The learning-centred course design process is shown in this diagram: Identify learners Theoretical views of learning Analyse learning situation Analyse target situation Theoretical view of lg Identify attitudes/ wants/ potential of learners dentify needs/ potential/ constraints of learning/ teaching situation Identify skills and knowledge needed to function in the target situation Write syllabus/ materials to exploit the potential of the learning situation in the acquisition of the skills and knowledge required by the target situation. Evaluation Evaluation