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TESOL -Planning a course


TESOL -Planning a course

Planning a course


Teachers are often asked to work with a course plan that already exists. This may be an explicit document generated within the institution, or a more implicit statement such as a prescribed coursebook. But, sometimes, individual teachers or groups of colleagues need to plan a course themselves. These suggestions should help you to plan a coherent learning experience for your students.

1 Know your learners. A prerequisite for course planning is an analysis of learners’ needs, in terms of both language content and skills and learning processes. Good needs analysis involves a process of research—we provide ideas on how to carry it out in 2, Assessing learners’ language needs, and 6, Responding to learning needs in the classroom.

2 Formulate aims and objectives. On the basis of your research, what do you want the learners to be able to do by the end of the course? What do you want them to have read and listened to? How can these objectives be broken down into manageable steps?

3 Name the strands of the learning experience. These are the means whereby the objectives might be reached. You should consider processes (eg, the tasks learners might do), topics and text types as well as language content. Having named the strands, you can then consider each one in detail

—examples are below.

4 Consider the language content. You may well be required to specify the main structures, lexis and language functions that learners will experience and work with during the course. You should link these features to the overall aims and objectives of your course. In addition to their experience of these explicitly stated language features, learners need a general variety of exposure—to give them opportunities to acquire features which are not being explicitly taught. So don’t overlook the importance of language and texts that do not relate directly to course objectives.

5 Think about topics and text types. Do the course objectives imply a concentration on particular topics and written or spoken text types? Are some topics particularly relevant and interesting for the learners? Which text types might most easily support the language content objectives, as well as contributing to a wide exposure?

6 Think about processes. Is familiarity with certain processes—for example, negotiating in a group, or writing a summary from various source texts—part

of the course objectives? Perhaps your learners can already identify some of the activities they need to perform in English. Which processes do you think will best support your language content objectives? Which will best support the students’ general language learning?

7 Decide on a sequence for the course elements. You need a rationale that will help you to determine which aspects will come first, which later, and how aspects will be recycled. You might think of immediate need, relevance, or difficulty. The concept of difficulty here is, of course, a complex one, and begs questions about what can be meant by ‘mastery’ of a course element.

8 Get feedback on your draft course. Especially where one person or a small group is planning a course that will also be used by others, it is essential to get feedback from those others before the course plan is finalized. Colleagues can spot problems, from gaps in course coverage to ambiguous or difficult formulations. And the process of consultation makes it more likely that all the team will understand the philosophy of the course and engage with it.

9 Develop a formal, public document. The ‘finished’ course document or course description can be made available not only to teachers using it, but also to other colleagues, learners, sponsors and parents. Writing for so many different audiences is a challenge, but a document that successfully addresses all stakeholders can be a powerful unifying force.

Remain open to change. As the course is taught, experiences of teachers and learners will no doubt start to reveal ways in which it could be improved. You need to set up a system to channel these developing insights back to you. It could well be impractical, as well as inappropriate, to radically change the course plan every year; but do remain open to feedback and modifications.




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