Planning and Designing Stuff (Lessons and Courses)

Why is it, I ask myself, that when you are asked to do something you do on a regular basis, officially, suddenly you feel totally incapable of going ahead with it?

There are all these ideas whizzing round in your head but they just don’t seem to get from there to your word document or piece of paper! Weird, isn’t it? Or you are overcome by inspiration at the oddest times… don’t know about you but I have started carrying a notebook (with a cat on the cover) and a pen with me so as to jot down any ideas that creep up on me when I am least expecting them to.

Seriously, though, course planning is something that has never seemed difficult to me. I can ‘see’ the connections between the topics, skills, etc, however, I am finding it extremely challenging to write what it is I ‘see’. Good luck to me!

Useful reading on the topic- from my personal experience, feel free to disagree-

Graves, K. (1996). Teachers as Course Developers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Hedge, T. (2000). Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. Oxford: Oxford University Press

North, B., Angelova, M., Jarosz, E. & Rossner, R. (2018). Language Course Planning. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Nunan, D. (1988). Syllabus Design. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Richards, J.C. (2017) Curriculum Development in Language Teaching 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

2 thoughts on “Planning and Designing Stuff (Lessons and Courses)

  1. Dear Gemma,

    May I suggest that course planning should start with the question “What are the course objectives?”.

    IMO, this question is not best answered by appeal to the CEFR list of reified “can do” statements as recommended by North et al (2018) and endorsed by Richards (2017) and Nunan (1988). The CEFR “can do” statements adopt a “One size fits all” approach to L2 learning, assume that the statements are interpreted in the same way by everybody, assume that ticking off a list of “can do” statements equates with making progress towards L2 proficiency, and further assume that these “can do” objectives will be reached by designing a course where the teacher leads students through a sequence of lessons based on presenting and practicing a pre-determined list of chopped up bits of the L2. All of these assumptions have been seriously qchallenged by scholars, and it behoves us to examine these challenges.

    An alternative view is that course planning should start with a needs analysis to find out what the participants in the course need to do in the L2. It should also take into account what we know about instructed SLA, namely that learners follow their own route of interlanguage development and that language learning is essentially a process of learning by doing. One learner-centred approach to course design which respects these research findings is based on designing a number of relevant communicative tasks where the language is treated holistically, and where the teacher guides students through the tasks, providing help with various aspects of L2 – grammar, vocabulary, lexical chunks, pron., etc., – as and when the needs arise.

    For those interested in this alternative approach, I recommend the following reading:

    Breen, M. (1987) Contemporary paradigms in syllabus design Parts 1 & 2
    Eun Yung Kang, Sarah Sok, Zhao Hong (2018) Thirty-five years of ISLA research on form-focused instruction: A meta-analysis. Language Teaching Research
    Long, M. (2015) SLA and Task-based language teaching. Wiley.
    Meddings, L. & Thornbury, S. (2009) Teaching Unplugged. Delta.

    Liked by 2 people

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