ESL and curriculum planning

Language learning has been seen as a linguistic, rather than an educational, matter, and there has been a tendency to overlook research and development as well as planning processes related to general educational principles in favors of linguistic principles and, in recent years, second years acquisition research. recent empirical research into learn ability and speech processing constraints has demonstrated that there is not always a direct correlation between linguistic prediction of difficulty and what learners do find difficult, and only recently has attention focused on selection and grading of input on the basis of what is actually learnable at any given stage.
Clark (1985a), borrowing from a framework developed by Skilbeck, relates developments in language teaching to a number of dominant mainstream educational ideologies. These are Classical Humanism, Reconstructionism and Progressivism. According Clark suggests the key elements of the curriculum objectives, content, and methodology. Clark attributes many of the problems currently besetting language teaching to a failure on the part of language teachers to take a broader perspective. Classical humanism is the educational philosophy underpinning the subject-centred view of learning.
According to Clark, Reconstructionism is the philosophy underpinning the ends-means, or objectives, approach to curriculum design. This is the model which was the first articulated by Tyler, and later sophisticated by people such as Taba (1962). The ends-means model, according to Clark, is the philosophy driving force behind much of the work of the Council of Europe. Clark documents a number of criticisms of this approach, suggesting, in particular, that it reduces the teacher to the role of a mere implementator of someone else’s curriculum. In raising this particular objection, Clark cites Stenhouse, who asserts that is the unpredictable rather than the predictable outcomes of student behavior which make education worthwhile. The major to the ends-means model seems to be that it concentrates exclusively on the products rather than the processes of learning, and assumes that specifying the end points of learning is all that the curriculum designers needs to do.
Progressivism, the third educational ideology, finds expression in the process syllabus. Proponents of the process approach are Breen and Candlin (1980), Prabhu (1983), Long (1985), Loñg and Crookes (1986). Process curricula are less concerned with specifying content or output than with the sorts of learning activities in which learners should engage. One of the most widely-reported experiments in the use of process curricula is Prabu’s Bangalore project. Clark’s analysis shows that while language teaching may have escaped the educational mainstream it has been inevitably influenced by trends, developments and philosophies within that mainstream. Recent writings by Richards (1984), ands Nunan (1985a), indicate that applied linguist is beginning to recognize the need to set language teaching within a broader educational context. It is to the models developed by these two writers that we now turn.
Richards (1984) begins his survey of the field by pointing to the narrow conception of curriculum development that exist within language teaching, where the focus has been almost exclusively on language syllabuses, that is, on the specification of content and input, to the exclusion of other crucially important aspects of the curriculum development process such as needs analysis, methodology, and evaluation. The essential elements in the model are needs analysis, objective setting content and methodology, and evaluation. Richard suggests that needs analysis allows for greater numbers of people to be involved in curriculum development, it also enables goals and objectives to be indentified, and provides data for evaluation and accountability.
Richards suggests that there are two different orientations that the curriculum designers can take. The first of these is to look at language input specification as the fundamental basis for methodology. The other is to focus on instructional processes and not bother with an explicit specification of language content. And he suggests that regardless of orientation there are three underlying components. These are: a) A linguistic dimension which justifies what aspects of language will be taught, b) A psycholinguistic dimension which includes an account of the processes underlying learning, c) A teaching dimension, which relates to learning experience activities and task and to the role of teachers learners and materials in the learning system.
Richard’s comments on the general lack of evaluation procedures in language teaching, attributing this to the relatively short life span of most teaching methods and also to the absence of the sort of systematic approach to curriculum development that is advocating. He suggests that the purpose of evaluation is to determine whether the objectives of a program me have been attained and, where they have not been attained, to suggest procedures for improvement. He descries a comprehensive evaluation model taken from Omaggio et al. (1979) which contains eight steps. These are as follows:
1. Identify a set of program me goals and objectives to e evaluated.
2. Identify program me factors relevant to the attainment of these objectives.
3. For each factor in Step 2, develop a set of criteria that would indicate that the objectives are being successfully attained.
4. Design appropriate instruments to assess each factor according to the criteria outlined
5. Collect the data that is needed
6. Compare data with desired result.
7. Match your discrepancy.
8. Prepare an evaluation report.
The course design model developed by Nunan (1985a) is similar in many respects to that devised by Richards. The essential elements in this model include needs analysis, goal identification, objective setting, and materials development, learning activities, learning mode and environment and evaluation. The model differs from that proposed by Richards, however, in that apart, from initial ad hoc needs analysis for the purposes of grouping learners, curriculum development activities occur during the process of teaching and learning. The curriculum development process in cyclical and is thus similar to that developed by Wheeler (1967). It is also interactive, recognizing that the impetus for curriculum development can begin with any of the elements in the model and that a change in one element will affect other elements.


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