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Curriculum Development

What is it?

A comprehensive, ongoing, cyclical process “to determine the needs of a group of learners; to develop aims or objectives for a program to address those needs; to determine an appropriate syllabus, course structure, teaching methods, and materials; and to carry out an evaluation of the language program that results from these processes” (Richards, 2001, p.2). The curriculum development process should reflect needs analyses and ideologies about language, language teaching and language learning.

What needs to be done?

Needs analysis: A cyclical process – that takes place prior to, during, and after courses have been taught – that involves the collection of information that can be used to develop a profile of the needs of a group of learners in order to be able to make decisions about the goals and contents of a language curriculum (and its courses). 

  • Determination of who students are (e.g., educational background, prior experiences with English, attitudes toward English and English needs)
  • Determination of students’ language abilities (e.g., communicative abilities, pragmatic competence, strategic competence, formal knowledge of English)
  • Determination of which language skills, language strategies, content, and experiences students need and for what purposes
  • Identification of gap between what students are able to do and what they need to be able to do

Identification of perceived and present needs as well as potential and unrecognized needs

Situation analysis: A continual/cyclical process----that takes place prior to, during, and after courses have been taught—that involves the collection of information about the broader context in which instruction is given in order to be able to make decisions about the goals and contents of a language curriculum (and its courses). 

  • Identification of stakeholders (e.g., higher administration, program administrators, teachers, parents, educational and other governmental officials) and their attitudes toward English language instruction
  • Examination of societal factors in relation to language education
  • Examination of institutional factors that may facilitate or hinder change and innovation at the curricular level
  • Examination of teacher factors (e.g., language proficiency, teaching experience and skills, qualifications, morale, motivation, beliefs about language teaching and language learning)  

Specification of goals, objectives, and outcomes: Specification of goals (general purposes of a curriculum), objectives (more specific and concrete description of purposes/goals) and learning outcomes (what students will have learned/ be able to do) based on needs and situation analyses and ideologies about language, language learning, and language teaching. The goals and objectives statements should provide guidelines for teachers, materials writers, test writers, and learners. They should provide a focus for instruction and evaluation. Goals and objectives often focus on these learning areas: Language, strategies, content, and experiences. 

Syllabus Design and course planning: Translation of goals, objectives, and targeted outcomes into a decision about the structure of courses within the curriculum, the distribution of course content, breadth and depth of content coverage at different levels, adaptation of different syllabus frameworks (e.g., grammatical, skills-based, task based, content-based, situational) to meet goals and objectives. Course syllabi will identify what is to be taught, when it is to be taught, and how it is to be taught (thereby providing additional guidance for teachers, materials, writers, test writers, and learners). 

Materials selection and development: Evaluation of commercial materials to determine their appropriacy to previous steps in the curriculum development process. Decisions about what commercial materials to adopt, what in-house materials should be created, and how primary materials might be adapted and/or supplemented to accomplish goals, objectives, and targeted outcomes. 

Course “piloting” : Implementation of courses, with ongoing evaluation (thereby making almost all courses pilot courses) and fine-tuning in response to evolving student needs, teacher abilities, institutional goals and objectives, etc. 

Curriculum evaluation: Ongoing cycle of (formative and summative) evaluation of all aspects of the curriculum in order to understand how the program works, how successfully it works, and whether it, in all its complexity, is responding to students’ needs, teachers’ abilities, etc. from a seminar on curriculum development conducted on October 10, 2003 by Bill Snyder & Fredricka L. Stoller, Bilkent University. 

To remain vibrant and responsive to the evolving needs of students, faculty, and home institutions, every language teacher and administrator needs to be engaged in the ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction and revise accordingly.  Because there are many ways in which instruction can be improved and fine tuned,  every class in fact should probably be viewed as a pilot class. 

In the 2002-2003 year, the Office of English Language Programs has supported major curriculum renewal efforts at two universities in Ankara: Middle East Technical University and Hacettepe University.  Both universities conducted detailed needs analyses that involved asking students at different levels, professors, graduates, and employers of graduates about needs of the program.   Based on the academic language and study skill needs that were identified by these different stakeholders, the universities were able to engage in ongoing curriculum renewal projects with the goal of a more effective and responsive overall curriculum for English language teaching at their institutions. 

Middle East Technical University Curriculum Development Project:  In June of 2002 and during the 2002/2003 academic year academic specialists Susan Johnston  and William Grabe  worked with the Department of Basic English and the Department of Modern Languages to revise the curriculum, moving away from a focus on discrete grammatical points to a focus on academic language and critical thinking. 

Hacettepe University:  In June of 2002 and 2003 academic specialist Susan Johnston worked with the Basic English Program to develop a curriculum, write a mission statement, and design a curriculum and revise assessments and administrative practices to ensure successful language and non-language outcomes.  The objectives of the curriculum development project were to:

  • clarify for the multi-dimensional curriculum development process that should take place in language programs including needs analysis, the establishment of goals and objectives, syllabus design, materials and test development, teacher development, implementation, and on-going evaluation);
  • evaluate and confirm the process within the educational setting of the Basic English Program at Hacettepe University;
  • assist in finding ways to involve as many program participants as possible in the process
  • suggest alternative approaches to program issues;
  • support the curriculum team members in their efforts to develop a sound and outstanding curriculum for their program.

The English language office has also worked with INGED and with Hacettepe University to conduct three national programs on curriculum development. 

Anadolu University: At Anadolu University Dr. Johnston worked with all teachers of English in addition to teachers of other departments to revamp the program and to revise the administration and examinations accordingly. The 100 teachers drew detailed goals and objectives with a focus on critical thinking. 

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