Contemporary Paradigms in Syllabus Design Part II

Language Teaching (Impact Factor: 0.62). 06/1987; 20(03):157 - 174. DOI: 10.1017/S026144480000450X


Michael P. Breen is a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and Modern English Language at the University of Lancaster. He has been a teacher for 28 years in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. He has worked with teachers in over a dozen overseas countries. At Lancaster, he has directed the M.A. in Linguistics for ELT, been Director of the Institute for English Language Education, and currently coordinates the many research students in the department.

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    • "Such variables or 'connec tivities' are interactive and co-dependent. motivation, attitudes, anxiety, stress, etc.), utility (reasons for studying), learning styles, the learning environment (its conduciveness for learning in terms of the teacher, the curriculum, the state of the room, the level of competitiveness, and other variables) (Fraser, 1984), and the subjective interpretation of the syllabus by the teacher (Breen, 1987). It is also rare to find a teacher-training program or a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) text that acknowledges the multiplicity and complexity of variables involved in language teaching, the essentially human nature of language teachers, their subjectivity (and even confusion) in terms of the teaching philosophies they subscribe to, and the way in which they apply these principles in the classroom. "
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    ABSTRACT: Finch, Andrew. (2012). Language teaching and researching: Principled practice or webs of beliefs? Modern English Education, 13(4), 109-133. The topic of student beliefs and perceptions has been the subject of significant research. However, there has been less attention to the important topic of teacher and researcher beliefs, perhaps due to practical and ethical problems involved in researching these beliefs and the efficacy of the language teachers and researchers who hold them. This study therefore attempts to describe the 'webs of beliefs' that determine the thoughts and actions of human beings in general and discusses how teacher-held webs of beliefs can affect the learning environment of their students and how researcher-held beliefs can affect the objectivity of their findings. The relationship between beliefs and actions is not always straightforward however, and the second focus of attention is on the conscious and unconscious gaps between beliefs, teaching theory, and classroom practice which can occur, despite the fact that courses on teaching philosophy, psychology and methodology are standard in teacher training institutions. In conclusion, it is suggested that teachers need to be aware of their own webs of beliefs and the 'dispositions' of their students and that ELT researchers need to clearly state their philosophical standpoint before presenting research findings, so that the reader might be informed of their webs of beliefs and make appropriate conclusions.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012
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    • "As a result, negotiation of meaning will be more likely to occur. However, tasks should also present requisites of authenticity, that is, they should resemble as closely as possible "actual tasks which a person may undertake when communicating through the target language" (Breen, 1987, p. 162). Task authenticity promotes meaningful interaction, which encourages the production of comprehensible output and provides purpose and personal involvement (Nunan, 1993). "
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    ABSTRACT: This article reports on the process of design and development of two language courses for university students at beginning levels of competence. Following a preliminary experience in a low-tech environment for distance language learning and teaching, and a thorough review of the available literature, we identified two major challenges that would need to be addressed in our design: (1) a necessity to build sufficient flexibility into the materials to cater to a variety of learners' styles, interests and skill levels, therefore sustaining learners' motivation; and (2) a need to design materials that would present the necessary requisites of authenticity and interactivity identified in the examined literature, in spite of the reduced opportunities for face-to-face communication. In response to these considerations, we designed and developed learning materials and tasks to be distributed on CD-ROM, complemented by a WebCT component for added interactivity and task authenticity. Although only part of the original design was implemented, and further research is needed to assess the impact of our environment on learning outcomes, the results of preliminary evaluations are encouraging.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2003 · Language, Learning and Technology
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this project is the development of a new design template for P-12 syllabi for Queensland schools. The project consists of an international literature review, a series of commissioned expert papers, and a review of recent developments in Queensland curriculum. The project reviews international and national literature on curriculum, school reform and improvement, and comparative policy contexts. The focus of this review is on the technical features of syllabus documents that contribute to "high quality/high equity" outcomes. It does not comment on ongoing debates over curriculum content in specific subject areas. Key issues discussed in this report include: • The technical form of the curriculum – the formal definitions, categories and taxonomies of the syllabus – have direct and indirect impacts upon teacher professionalism and student outcomes. • The syllabus offers a 'map' of the curriculum, but cannot prescribe the sum total of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment in the school or classroom. • School subjects are distinctive purpose-built and targeted units of study, constructed in response to different demands and challenges and towards educative ends. School subjects are the operational units for syllabi. • School subjects can have different and variable relationships to disciplinary knowledge and applied fields, depending on their aims, contents and developmental phases. • High quality/high equity education systems are characterised by a balance of "informed prescription" and "informed professionalism". • Informed prescription entails an economical syllabus that maps out essential knowledges, competences, skills, processes and experiences, parsimonious and appropriate testing systems for diagnostic and developmental purposes and systems’ accountability, and a strong systemic equity focus on the potential of all learners to meet high expectations and standards. Informed professionalism involves teacher autonomy to interpret the syllabus, with opportunities for local curriculum planning, rich professional resources and development activities, school and classroom-based assessment capacity, and professional capacity to adopt curriculum for teaching and learning of identified equity groups. • Each syllabus for a school subject can span the early, middle or senior learning phase, and thus be aligned with the distinctive educational philosophy of each phase. • Each syllabus would have guiding statements of philosophy, aims, recognition of distinctive learner cohorts and their needs, brief statements of essential expected learnings, related standards, and some details of approaches to assessment. It would be in language accessible to teachers, and it would be as brief and to the point as is possible and appropriate. • Essentials could be stated as blends of knowledge, behaviours, skills, competences, capacities, processes and experiences, depending on the subject, phase and field orientation that they relate to. • Standards, using a common nomenclature, would provide a vocabulary for teachers, students and parents to describe and discuss student achievement and results. • Syllabuses can include brief notes of assessment practices and strategies, appropriate to the subject and phase, to guide the development of systemic, school and classroom assessment and moderation (where appropriate). They indicate where systemic standardised testing programs and mandated moderated assessment are linked to essential learnings. • Foundational discipline and field knowledges, specific pedagogic strategies, curriculum and instructional adaptations for specific cohorts of students would be provided in adjunct, on-line resources - and not be part of the publicly accessible syllabus. A key axiom in all studies of policy, curriculum and instruction is that the official syllabus document cannot in itself change classroom practices and student achievement. The success and effectiveness of the proposed design in improving quality and equity will depend upon other settings of policy and practice at the system and school level. The proposed syllabus design will require various specific 'delivery standards' to effectively improve quality and equity of outcomes. These policy alignments will include: an inclusive, consultative and research-based syllabus development process; alignment with curriculum methods subjects in preservice education; teacher and administrative professional development in curriculum; rich and quality assured professional resources, available from multiple sources, as a way to support teachers in interpreting and developing local curriculum in relation to the syllabus.
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