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7 approaches to course design

Course design is the process by which the raw data about a learning need is interpreted in
order to produce an integrated series of teaching-learning experience, whose ultimate aim is to
lead the learners to a particular sate of knowledge. There are probably as many different
approaches to ESP course design as there are course designers. We can, howevwer, identify three
main types : language-centred, skills-centerd and learning centred.
1. Language-centred course design
This is the simplest kind of course design process and is probably the one most familiar
to English teacher. It is particularly prevalent in ESP.
The language-centerd course design a connection as possible between the analysis of the
target situation and the content of the ESP course. It proceeds as follows:
At the first sight, this many seem to be very logical procedure. However logical and
straightforward as it may seem, it has a number of weaknesses :
a. It start from the learners and their needs, and thus it might be considered a learner-centred
approach, but it is, in fact not learner-centredin any meaningful sence of the term.
Language centered
course design
The simple one
The weaknesses

Skill centered
course design

Need to read subject text in English


2 fundamental, 1 theoretical, the other pragmatic:
The basic theorotical hypothesis
Widdowson(1981) Holmes (1982)
Goal - oriented
Process - oriented

SKILLS CENTERED COURSE DESIGN


The skills-centered approach is founded on two fundamental principles, one theoretical,
and one pragmatic:
a) The basic theoretical hypothesis is that underlying any language behavior are certain skills and
strategies, which the learner uses in order to produce or comprehend discourse. A skills-centered
approach aims to get away from the surface performance data and look at the competence that
underlies the performance. A skills-centered course, therefore, will present its learning objectives
(though probably not explicitly) in terms of both performance and competence.
This example from a Brazilian ESP syllabus for Library science students is given in Maciel et al.
(1983):
General objective (performance level):
The student will able to catalogue books written in English.
Specific objectives (competence level):
The student will able to:

Extract the gist of a text by skimming thorough it.


Extract relevant information from the main parts of a book.
b) The pragmatic basis for the skills-centered approach derives from a distinction made by
Widdowson (1981) between goal-oriented courses and process-oriented courses. Holmes (1982)
points out that:
In ESP the main problem is usually one of time available and student experience.
First, the aims may be defined in terms of what is desirable, for example to able to read in the
literature of the students specialism, but there may be nowhere near enough time to reach this
aim during the period of the course.
Secondly, the students may be in their first year of studies with little experience of the literature
of their specialism.
In experience it sees the ESP course as helping learners to develop after ESP course itself.
It is not provide a specific corpus of linguistic knowledge but to take the learners into better
processors of information. The role of need analysis in a skills centered approach is twofold.
Firstly it provides a basis for discovering the underlying competence that enables people to
perform in the target situation.
Secondly, it enables the course designer to discover the potential knowledge and abilities that the
learners bring to the ESP classroom.
The skills-centered approach, therefore, can certainly claim to take the learner more into
account than the language-centered approach:
It views language in terms of how the mind of the learner processes it rather than as an entity in
itself.
It tries to build on the positive factors that the learners bring to the course, rather than just on the
negative idea of lacks.
It frames its objectives in open-ended terms, so enabling learners to achieve at least something.

THE DIAGRAM OF A SKILLS-CENTERED APPROACH TO


COURSE DESIGN
IDENTIFY
TARGET SITUATION
ANALYSE SKILLS/ STRATEGIES REQUIRED TO COPE IN TARGET SITUATION
THEORETICAL VIEWS
OF LANGUAGE
THEORETICAL VIEWS
OF LEARNING
WRITE SYLLABUS
SELECT TEXTS AND WRITE EXERCISES TO FOCUS ON SKILLS/ STRATEGIES IN
SYLLABUS

ESTABLISH EVALUATION PROCEDURES WHICH REQUIRE THE USE OF SKILLS/


STRATEGIES IN SYLLABUS

Learner centered
Learning
Target situation
Influence
Maximize learning

A Learning Centered Approach

Course design as negotiated process


Course design as dynamic process

2 implications

Conclusion
The course design process should be more dynamic and interactive
A learning- centered approach: an approach with the avowed aim of maximizing the potential of
the learning situation
Recognition of the complexity of the learning process
Look at how the approach can be applied to the construction of a syllabus and to the evaluations,
design and teaching materials.