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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2010

Автор: Богун Анастасия Юрьевна

Curriculum activities provide a framework that helps teachers to accomplish whatever combination of teaching activities is most suitable in their professional judgment for a given situation, that is, a framework that helps the students to learn as efficiently and effectively as possible in the given situation. In a sense, the curriculum design process could be viewed as being made up of the people and the paper-moving operations that make the doing of teaching and learning possible.

Historically, models of language curriculum design have undergone considerable evolution reflected in the models and flow charts proposed by various authors to represent different curriculum design processes over the last 30 years.

Before describing the process of course development we need to describe its stages. The first thing you do as a course designer is you plan the course. This process is described further in this work. The second stage is teaching the course. After you have taught the course you will see strong and weak points of your course and you are able to make correction for the future. So the next stage is modifying the course and then reteaching the course. From here you get to modifying stage again and then again to reteaching. Thus the process of course development is an ongoing process that lasts as long as there is need for this course.

The following is a framework of planning of a course based on Kathleen Graves’ work. Having such a framework helps to see an organized way of mastering such a complex process. So the components of this process are:

1) Needs assessment. This process helps to find out what is needed to cover the gap between what the learners know and can do and what they need to learn to do. Thus needs assessment involves seeking and interpreting information about students’ needs so that the course will address them effectively. However there is not a universal matrix for defining these needs. The basic needs assessment cycle includes deciding what information to gather and why, deciding when, from whom and how to gather it, gathering the information, interpreting it, acting on it, evaluating the effect of the action. The result information represents the students’ needs for the course. Kathleen Graves suggests distinguishing between objective and subjective needs. Objective needs are based on facts about who the learners are, their language abilities, what they need the language for. Subjective needs are based on attitudes, expectations students have with the respect to what and how they will learn. As a result of this procedure you might want to learn the following information about your prospective students that will be helpful for you in designing the course and each class in particular: native culture, education, family, profession, age, languages spoken, learning preferences, goals and expectations of the course, which skills are needed, why students undertake the course, etc. Needs assessment may be held before the course begins, i.e. before the plan is developed, in the first class, and during the course, that is this is an on-going process. This part of the course planning may be held in the form of a questionnaire, interview, writing activities, group discussions, etc.;

2) Goals and objectives. Goals are general statements concerning attainable and desirable results based on perceived needs. Goals can be broad (learning how to learn) and specific (to enable learners to develop cognitive process and skills to understand and express values, attitudes, and feelings; think and respond creatively); cognitive (aimed at skills) and affective (aimed at up-brining).

Objectives are more specific statements that describe particular knowledge, behavior, skills that the learners will be able to demonstration at the end of the course. The formulation of objectives provides the check as to whether the goals will be addressed. Objectives may also be stated in terms of what students will do in the course;

3) Conceptualizing content. Basing on the results of needs assessment and goals stated one now is to answer a short, but not easy question: What will I include in my syllabus? Choices have to be made since it is impossible (for some exceptions) to cover all the aspects and issues of a subject, so the teacher must decide which categories make sense for a given course;

4) Materials development. Material can be pedagogically prepared, semi-authentic and authentic. Activities you plan to use should be of various types and purposes, allow to discover, analyze and solve problems, help students develop specific skills and strategies. Developing material may mean creation of new material when teaching a course for which there are no suitable materials, collecting variety of materials, or adapting existing materials. The most important factors in developing, choosing and adapting materials are their effectiveness in achieving the purposes of the course and their appropriateness for the students. Feasibility and availability are also important to consider. Some experienced teachers often develop a set of core materials and activities that they adapt each time they teach a course;

5) Assessment. Learning occurs most effectively when a student receives feedback, i.e. when they receive information on what they have (and have not) already learned. The process by which this information is generated is assessment, and it has three main forms:

a) Self assessment, through which a student learns to monitor and evaluate their own learning. This should be a significant element in the curriculum because we aim to produce graduates who are appropriately reflective and self-critical;

b) Peer assessment, in which students provide feedback on each other's learning. This can be viewed as an extension of self assessment and presupposes trust and mutual respect. Research suggests that students can learn to judge each other's work as reliably as staff;

c) Tutor assessment, in which a member of staff or teaching assistant provides commentary and feedback on the student's work.

Assessment may be formative (providing feedback to help the student learn more) or summative (expressing a judgment on the student's achievement by reference to stated criteria). Many assessment tasks involve an element of both, e.g. assignment that is marked and returned to the student with detailed comments. Summative assessment usually involves the allocation of marks or grades. These help staff to make decisions about the progression of students through a programme and the award of degrees but they have limited educational value. Students usually learn more by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their work than by knowing the mark or grade given to it. For this reason summative assessment tasks (including unseen examinations) should include an element of formative feedback if at all possible.

1. Teaching. It is important to decide who will teach the course and how. Teachers need support and also need to be intimately involved in the process of curriculum development and revision. If the teacher is given a high level of support, s/he can be left alone to teaching itself. To do their best at teaching teachers need some information. Here are some questions the answers to which teachers will find helpful. To what extent is the program consistent with government policies? Is there a generally felt need for this kind of program, or is it imposed from above? What kinds of external tests and examinations are teachers required to administer or learners required to take and how do these tests affect the curriculum? What kind of curriculum support is possible for the program? What are the results of the needs analysis? What are the learners’ responsibilities within the program? What is the place of the teacher in the classroom – as counselors, facilitators, directors, or all three? Where do teachers fit into the program as a whole – are they needs analysts, objective setters, test developers, material creators, program evaluators as well as classroom teachers? How are they expected to teach in the program? What would be regarded as good teaching? What provisions are made for teachers training or retraining? How are teachers monitored and evaluated? How are teachers assigned duties and responsibilities? Does the program have a particular emphasis? What kinds of learning outcomes are expected? Under what circumstances is the program being taught? What kinds of classroom equipment are necessary? Of course things will be different if we talk about tertiary education system in Kazakhstan. Very often teachers are the course developers themselves. They have to determine the exact content of the course, to find or develop materials, adapt/adopt/develop testing materials, etc. Not surprisingly, some components are missed out.

2. Program evaluation is the on-going process of information gathering, analysis, and synthesis, the entire purpose of which is to constantly improve each element of the curriculum on the basis of what is known about all of the other elements. Such continuing process of evaluation makes possible the assessment of the quality of the curriculum once it is out in place as well as its maintenance on an on-going basis. This part of curriculum design is meant to answer two main questions: How will I assess what students have learned? How will I assess the effectiveness of the course? The first one may be answered with the help of assessment tools throughout the course, self student evaluation and test results. Evaluation can be formative (takes place during the development and implementation of the curriculum for purposes of modifying it as it is being developed) and summative (takes place after the curriculum has been implemented for the sake of evaluating its success and improving it for future implementation). Since evaluation is an on-going part of the entire process, it can occur in the planning and teaching stages of the course, after it is over, and when it is replanned or retaught. How does one evaluate? A variety if ways are available. A teacher’s most important means is close observation of what students do in class and how they do. Informal conversations with students can often provide as much information as responses to formal questionnaire. The results of the evaluation can be represented in the form of quantitative (those bits of information that are countable and are gathered using measures that produce results in the form of numbers) or qualitative (information that is more holistic than quantitative data, they are often based on observation and do not readily lend themselves to conversion into quantities or numbers) data.

Curriculum that is viewed as a product is inflexible once finished. Curriculum that is viewed as a process can change and adapt to new conditions, whether those conditions be new types of students, changes in language theory, new political exigencies within the institution, or something else. This process is known as systematic curriculum development.

The Process of Writing a Syllabus

Etymologically syllabus means a "label" or "table of contents." The American Heritage Dictionary defines syllabus as outline of a course of study. We agree that a syllabus should contain an outline, and a schedule of topics, and many more items of information. However, we suggest that the primary purpose of a syllabus is to communicate to one's students what the course is about, why the course is taught, where it is going, and what will be required of the students for them to complete the course with a passing grade.

Here is a list of suggestions from the literature about what information might be included in the course syllabus. It is extremely unlikely that you will include every listed. We suggest two criteria in deciding what information to include. First, include all information that students need to have at the beginning of the course; second, include all information that students need to have in writing. We believe that any really important information about the course should be in writing. However, it may be better to introduce some information later in the term, e.g., the details of a required project. To attempt to include every single item of importance in your syllabus is to insure that the student will not read much of it.

To the experienced teacher, probably few of the items listed here are likely to come as a surprise. However, Brown, J found in their interviews with faculty and in their examinations of syllabi that "obvious" items were often omitted. There was surprising agreement about the major areas of information to be included in a syllabus.

Major Content Areas of a Syllabus:

Course Information. The first items of information in a syllabus should give course information: course title, course number, and credit hours. Also, are there any prerequisites? Is the permission of the instructor required? Include the location of classroom, and the days and hours class/lab/studio/etc. meets.

Instructor Information. Second, the students need information about the instructor: full name, title; office location (and where to leave assignments), office phone number; office hours. Depending on the size of the class (and other factors), it may be desirable to include an emergency phone number; quite often this can be the number of the department office. Many instructors give the students their home telephone number. If you do, it is well to also list restrictions, e.g., "No calls between 10:30 pm and 8:30 am please." If you are helped by teaching assistants or other instructors, their names, locations, and phone numbers should also be listed.

Text, Readings, Materials. College-level instruction - at least in the United States - is heavily dependent upon the use of print material, if not a required textbook, then a variety of readings. These are becoming increasingly costly. The syllabus should provide the students with detailed information about the following:

Textbook(s) - include the title, author, date (and edition), publisher, cost, where available, (often it is appropriate to indicate why the particular text was chosen and/or how extensively it will be used).

Supplementary reading(s) - in addition to the detailed bibliographic information about the readings, the syllabus should indicate whether the readings are required or only recommended, and whether the readings are on reserve in the library or available for purchase in the bookstore. Sometimes instructors make their own books available to students. If this is the case for the given course, that information might be included in the syllabus along with whatever conditions apply to their use.

Materials - although many courses use only print material, there are a myriad of courses that require additional - something expensive - materials, e.g., lab or safety equipment, art supplies, special calculators or even computers, etc.

Course Descriptions/ Objectives. The treatment of this area variously called course description, content, goals, objectives differ more than any other in the publications we reviewed.

The bare minimum would be to repeat the description in the college catalog - assuming that it describes the course with some accuracy. Certainly a paragraph describing the general content of the course - would not be excessive. Information about instructional methods, e.g., large lecture with small discussion sections, may also be included here.

Some instructors, who have developed detailed instructional objectives, include them in their syllabi. Such inclusion may result in information of general course goals (e.g., the learning and application of the general principles of..., or the development of the skill..., or the development of a more positive attitude toward...) can help orient the student to the purpose of the course, the instructor's expectations, etc.

Course Calendar/Schedule. Some instructors are concerned that, if they include a daily - or weekly - schedule of topics to be covered, they can be held legally liable if they depart from it. One remedy for this is to state that the schedule is tentative and subject to change depending upon the progress of the class. In many cases the instructor has only limited flexibility about scheduling anyway, e.g., in a multi-section course where departmental exams are administered on specific dates, or in a course which is a prerequisite for another course (the material has to be covered by the end of the course). If we expect students to meet our deadlines, to plan their work, we must give them the information needed for such planning.

The calendar or schedule should also include the dates for exams, quizzes, or other means of assessment. We are not implying that all evaluation of students must be in groups and at the same time. The calendar should also include due dates for major assignments. For example, when is a paper due; if the topic has to be approved, when; if an outline or draft is an interim step, when it is due.

Finally, any required special events need to be included in the calendar, e.g., a lecture by a visiting speaker, a dramatic or musical performance, a field trip.

Course Policies. We suggest the following topics:

Attendance, lateness - at least for freshman and sophomore classes, and perhaps for all undergraduate classes, the syllabus should include some statement about attendance (is it required, will students who attend regularly be given a break if the grade is borderline?) and about lateness, at least if it is penalized. (Students who arrive late disturb the class, but on some campuses it is not possible for a student to get from one part of the campus to another within the allotted time; sometimes our colleagues do not let students leave promptly).

Class participation - in the medieval lecture hall, class participation was not an issue, but if students are to learn to apply, analyze, synthesize, etc, they need to be active. Such approaches are contrary to the experiences - and preferences - of many students. If active participation is expected, the syllabus needs to say so. It also needs to to explain if/ how participation will be graded.

Missed exams or assignments - since these affect grades, they are of interest to students. Syllabuses should inform the students whether exams and assignments can be made up; statements regarding earning extra credit should also be included if that is an option.

Lab safety/health - in some courses these issues can literally be a matter of life or death. Even is detailed materials are handed out early in the course, the syllabus should include a short statement about the importance of these issues and indicate that more detailed information will follow.

Academic dishonesty - in some syllabi this is treated as a separate area. The syllabus should address questions related to cheating and plagiarism. On campuses where these topics are treated in detail in a student handbook, it is sufficient for the syllabus to simply refer the students to that handbook. In the absence of such a resource, details in the syllabus are necessary. Many students actually do not know what constitutes plagiarism. We owe it to the students to explain what is considered to be plagiarism or cheating.

Grading - this topic, even more that academic dishonesty, is often treated as a separate area. Given the students' interest in graded, such treatment is certainly defensible. Each syllabus should include details about how the students will be evaluated - what factors will be included, how they will be weighted, and how they will be translated into grades. Information about the appeals procedures, often included in a student handbook, is also appropriate at least for freshman and sophomore classes.

Available Support Services. Most college courses have available to the students a considerable variety of instructional support services. We often bemoan the fact that the students do not avail themselves of these services. Perhaps this is because we do not draw their attention to the possibilities. The library is probably the oldest resource, and perhaps still the richest. Include a brief statement in the syllabus identifying collections, journals, abstracts, audio or video tapes, etc. which the library has which are relevant to the course would be appropriate. If the institution has a learning center, making the students aware of its services can be of real benefit to students. In today's world computers are becoming almost a necessity. Most campuses have some terminals, if not personal computers, available for student use. Many courses have other support services unique to them. Briefly describe what is available in the syllabus, or tell the students where they can get detailed information.

It's important to have the syllabus typed and ready to hand out on the first day of class and to have extras for the students who will join your class in the first few weeks of the term. It's helpful to have the syllabus duplicated on colored paper; students are less likely to lose pink or green sheets in the welter of paper they accumulate at the beginning of the semester. A few students may be intimidated by all this information, but most are grateful to know what to expect; to them it is evidence of your professionalism. Your department, too, will appreciate having your policies laid out in case of a later grade appeal or problem. Now, with syllabus in hand, we can consider how to teach the course.

REFERENCES

1. Colin, P.H. (1996). American Business Dictionary. Middlesex: Peter Collin Publishing.

2. Chamot, W., Malley, O. (2002). Learning strategies in second language acquisition.

3. Emig, J. (1971). The composing processes of twelfth graders. Research Report No.13. Urbana, III: National Council of Teachers of English. p. 48

4. Ferris, D. (1995). Teaching ESL. Composition. Purpose, Process and Practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

5. Hollet, V. (1991). Business objectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

6. Johnson, K. (1981). Communicate in writing. London: Longman.

7. Nunan, D. (2001). The learner-centered curriculum. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

8. Richards, J. C. (2002). Methods and research in teaching writing. Boston, Mass achusetts: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.



К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2010


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