Sabri Bebawi

Masters Thesis



Curriculum by definition is a program (Dubin & Olshtain, 1986); it is a general plan, the materials to be presented, the outline, the syllabus, the goals, and the guidelines, (Eyring). Considering this, and other definitions by Johnson, and by Elliot Eisner, the attached continuum (Click Here) does not meet the criteria for a curriculum, it is a syllabus. The syllabus is designed in terms of expressive objectives: what the learner will be able to do, without observable behavior or criteria for evaluation as in the case of behavioral objectives. There is evident attention to the immediate needs of the target population. The orientation of the framework attempts to be a competency-based aiming to achieve proficiency in the basic-needs skills necessary for survival. However, the inconsistency and the switching between various types of syllabuses, from a situational-type syllabus as the leading objectives indicate, to a notional-functional to a structural jeopardize the workability of the continuum from a pedagogical perspective as there is no indication of integration.


Considering the guidelines set by the American Council on teaching of Foreign languages (ACTFL), and the California Intersegmental Statement on Competencies (SC) this syllabus meets the requirements for a group of students at the novice-high level (0 ) (Tussing, 1993). Evidently, because of the apparent attempt to create a competency-based framework, the content of the syllabus is circled around real-life context in the early part of the listening comprehension skill area. This however lacks continuity as the content is immediately switched to adapt a structural syllabus with organized grammatical strands without indicating any real-life tasks or functions to explain and enhance the objectives. It is thus apparent that the outline takes the shape of a linear format with discrete elements as content, which is inappropriate for notional or functional syllabuses (Eyring, 1993), and it also takes the shape of a modular format as well as a cyclical format. While the objectives are suitable for a novice-high level, the objectives within the four language skills lack unity and continuity. Furthermore, the skills and activities do not correspond well with the objectives which are vaguely stated in a much too general mode. For example, objective number 2 is vaguely stated and does not correspond well with the skills and activities 1-3. Objective number three suffers the same weakness while the skills and activities are listed in a linear order of objectives. Also objective number 4 "performance of skits" is not clear enough , hence, for a pedagogical purpose seems to be beyond this novice-level. Even though there is an attempt to connect the activities of the speaking skill area to the listening skill area, there is no precise suggestions as to how the objectives should be met. This indicates that the model is a product-oriented one not process oriented (Richards & Rogers, 1987). This further implies that the continuum assumes aural-oral, audio lingual, and direct methods instead of adapting an eclectic approach. Furthermore, the first objective in the speaking ability skill area is far too optimistic to assume that a novice learner should speak at a normal speed. In addition, reading aloud, which is indicated as objective number two, is not the best way to teach speaking (Richards, 1987). As for the writing skill area, the activities do not specify real-life situations to promote communicative competence, instead, the syllabus is organized with a product in mind instead of process (Johnson & Roen, 1989); in addition some of the skills and activities do not correspond effectively with the writing objective: i.e. skill number 2 "sounds and variant spelling. Finally, even though the time established for each skill area is more or less appropriate, structure is listed as a segment which is evidently repeated without any indication of the preference between inductive and deductive method of delivery. Furthermore, culture as a skill should have been integrated within the four skill areas as context, which is lacking in this outline.


In order to develop a context for this continuum, curriculum development stages ought to be implemented. For any program to succeed, good planning is essential. Hence, to improve this continuum in question, with the selection of a competency-based framework, a statement of goal must be established (Yalden, 1991). Once this is accomplished, the phases of curriculum development should take place. These stages are as follows: needs assessment, formulation of objectives, syllabus design, methodology, and evaluation (Nunan, 1988).

Theoretical Background:

The objectives in language teaching focus on communicative competency (McKay, 1983). Competency is defined as the ability to use language to accomplish real-world tasks in culturally appropriate ways. "Competency-based instruction is an experientially-based framework that provides a description of the development of language performance and a set of strategies to move learners to higher stages of performance" (Tussing, 1993). In considering that and in analyzing the continuum in question, it is evident that in its current form this syllabus does not meet the guidelines of a communicative syllabus. In designing such a program it must be taken into consideration the observation that adults' orientation to learning is experience centered. Adults begin by learning for and from situations (Cal/Eric, 1983). In this event competency should be task oriented goals written in terms of behavioral objectives. Also in suggesting a competency based curriculum as an improvement to the current continuum is in itself freedom to choose the most appropriate approach since there is no perspective methodology inherent in this type of curriculum.

Statement of Goals

The purpose of this program is to provide the learners of ESL with the skills necessary to function fully, effectively, and successfully in society. An essential goal of this program is the integration of language acquisition with the relevant life experiences. Furthermore, an integral part of the set objectives is the development of culture awareness as well as the enhancement of self-esteem (Eyring, 1993). In order to enhance the current continuum even further, two main areas will characterize the curriculum: basic communication skills, and basic life skills. These areas are meant to be relevant to the lives and the immediate needs of the learners. Within the general goal of integrating language function and forms with informational sources, communicative competence will be acquired.

Needs Assessment

In order to produce a proto-syllabus, using the provided continuum as a reference, needs assessment must be carried out to identify the target population's needs. Two types of assessments may be used: subjective and objective (Yalden, 1991). Methods which could assess objective needs include characteristics, abilities and limitations; and methods which could assess subjective needs include expectations, attitudes, and motivations (Richterich, 1972). These methods could include classroom observations, checklists, interviews, surveys, target situations and level of competence (Eyring, 1993). Based upon such needs analysis a type of syllabus would be selected, and finally the content of teaching objectives would be specified. It is crucial at this point to indicate that before writing a syllabus, various phonological, grammatical, and vocabulary lists should be explored. A selection and organization should be based on frequency, range, availability, coverage, and learnability (Eyring, 1993). Also it is equally important to consider logistic matters such as administrative characteristics, staff and space information, as well as the compliance with State and Federal legislation all of which will be discussed under separate headings.

Improving the Continuum

A major weakness in the continuum provided is the lack of contexts. Contexts which are the circumstances or settings in which an individual uses language (Federal Government, 1992) are essential to the process of language learning (Tussing, 1993). Since the focus ought to be on communicative competence, learning must center around life roles and the outcome will hence be the ability to use language effectively in real life situations. The following suggested improvement represents a more formalized approach stressing the use of eclectic methods, emphasizing listening and speaking, inducing cultural concepts, and expanding and reinforcing the basic linguistic concepts. Using the California Department of Education model standard for adult education programs, and following the suggestions stated above, the content should be relevant to the lives of the students and should integrate language functions and forms with informational sources, skills, and topics, which in regard to this provided syllabus would be:

Listening: simple words of immediate use, non-face-to-face speech in familiar contexts, words that signal tenses, short emergency warnings;
Speaking: answer simple questions, make intelligible statements, ask questions pertaining to immediate needs;
Reading: isolated words and phrases in familiar contexts, interpret necessary terms on forms, scan for numerical information, phonetic decoding, short simplified narrative paragraphs in familiar contexts, and identify sequences;
Writing: copy meaningful material, write short lists, fill out applications and forms;
Culture: cultural topics of immediate use, cultural taboos, and behaviors.
As for Structure, it is recommended to be induced using the three stages of presentation, practice, and production.


A pedagogical syllabus should depict an exploration of the "inter-organism" aspects of the language development in the classroom which accommodates concern with language as communication (Yalden, 1991). The underlying approach to these suggested ideas is eclectic in nature. Recognizing the target population characteristics, a need for thepar consideration of individual differences is essential; hence the eclectic approach is most suitable. With awareness of this approach' shortcomings, such as the lack of consistency and the different assessment strategies, it is selected for its wide range and flexibility.
The overall notion is that the syllabus is student-oriented. Students will be observed working individually, in pairs, or in small groups on distinct tasks. This allows for greater individualization of learning objectives, increased student opportunity to perform both receptively and productively with the target language, and increased sense of relevance and achievement. Fewer teacher-dominated activities should be developed (Celce-Murica, 1991). It is desirable to create a classroom in which students feel comfortable and confident, feel free to take risks, and have sufficient opportunity to speak. Student-centered interactive material lessen students' anxiety about performing and lower their 'affective filter', thus facilitating learning (Doughty & Pica, 1986).
A single text book would not be sufficient in fulfilling the curriculumpar objectives. Several materials from various appropriate sources ought to be improvised to meet the goals.
As indicated previously, for this competency-based design, a communicative approach employing cooperative learning is desired (Kagan, 1985). Also individual tasks, and pair work should not be ignored. The teacher must be flexible.


(1) STAFF:
Instructors must be all trained in the field of teaching ESL/EFL. They should have access to in-service training as well as resources.
In order to be funded, any program must comply with all guidelines set by both the State and Federal government. Standards are specified and certain criteria must be met (Cal. Dept. of Education, 1989).
These need to be specified before implementation. No information in the current continuum in this regard.
Continuous assessment of progress. Also a progress achievement test should be developed. Both summative and formative evaluation should be implemented to provide for the collection of qualitative and qualitative data (Eyring, 1993).
In addition to being practical and appropriate, a good test must enjoy a satisfactory level of reliability and validity. Also it must provide a positive backwash on both teaching and learning. A test must always be reliable before it can be valid; this is not to underestimate the importance of validity, but to stress the significance of reliability for the consistency of tests. There are several types of validity that ought to be observed in constructing a test: content, criterion-related, concurrent, predictive, face, and construct validity. All are significant for a test to be an accurate measure of what it is suppose to measure, and to produce a positive, not harmful, backwash effect. In addition to validity, reliability is an essential quality. A test is said to be reliable if scores obtained on a particular occasion show close similarity to scores of the same test administered to the same students with the same abilities but at a different time; the more similar are the scores, the more reliable is the test. There are many ways to estimate reliability: test-retest, equivalent forms, internal consistency (split-half method), interrater reliability and interrater reliability (Hughes, 1989). In order to make tests more reliable, test writers must take enough samples of behavior, write unambiguous items, provide clear instruction, write well laid out tests, use objective scoring, and use multiple independent scoring. Backwash effect, in addition to the above qualities, must not be harmful. An appropriate test can exert a beneficial backwash effect on poor and inappropriate teaching. Tests could be supportive of good teaching, and could have corrective influence on bad teaching (Henning, 1987).
A good test for this level (indicated in the continuum provided) must be communicative. Since language is learned in chunks, tests must represent all the language modalities (Tussing, 1993)&(Eyring, 1993). A communicative assessment must test grammatical, discourse, sociolinguistic, and illocutionary competence as well as strategic competence; it has to be pragmatic in that it requires the learner to use language naturally for genuine communication (Lowe & Stansfield, 1988).
As indicated in part I (curriculum), this competency-based program aims at utilizing materials that are student-oriented so that students participate actively in class which will, in turn, give teachers the opportunity to evaluate performance on an ongoing basis. In addition to this continuous assessment, a progress-achievement test should be administered before exiting. The following are possible testing options for each of the four modalities:
A. Listening: 1) Listening to a short paragraph (relevant context) for comprehension 2) Listening to a phone conversation and take a message
B. Speaking: 1) Call a doctor for appointment 2) Answer relevant personal questions (i.e. job interview setting)
C. Reading: 1) Reading for comprehension (relevant context: i.e. want ads) 2) Reading labels and scanning for quick information.
D. Writing: 1) Modified cloze (relevant context)par 2) Write a note to the landlord asking for assistance.
Before composing a test, a table of specifications which outline the parameter by which the test will be constructed must be laid out.
1) Purpose: This communicative test is to assess students' achievement at the end of a given unit. The test is also a direct-type one in that it requires the candidates to perform precisely the skills wished to be measured.
2) Target Population: Based on the provided continuum, the target population is assumed to be adult at the novice-high level. The objectives are of basic-communication skills and basic-life skills nature. Ages are assumed to range from 18 to 65.
3) Components of Administration: Test Format: Students will use provided test and response papers. Students must be previously informed of the test date and time, and must be made familiar with test format (Hughes, 1989). Time Frame: The test would be a power-type test, enough time would be allowed for the students to show knowledge without the constraints of time. A possible period of two hours may be granted.
4) Content Design: This communicative test is an achievement one designed to measure whether the goals and requirements of the programs are being met. The content of the test could be as follows:
Part I. Listening Comprehension: Students would listen to one short paragraph (authentic and with real life relevance) then students would answer five questions assessing their comprehension.
Part II. Reading: Students would read a dialogue resembling a real life situation (authentic task: looking for a job) then respond to five true and false questions as well as five write-in-answers questions. A second authentic reading task would be to read newspaper want ads and match them with given descriptions.
Part III. Writing: In this section, candidates would be requested to write a short authentic note to their landlord asking him/her to fix something broken in the apartment.
Part IV. Structure: Candidates would be asked to complete a cloze exercise. The tasks are of authentic nature and with real life characteristics. A letter with blank discrete points, and a fill in the blank narrative passage.
5) Rating and Scoring: This achievement test would be holistically scored whereby the separate parts would be graded and added. Except for the writing section, the test would be objectively scored. Also the test would be a criterion reference whereby students would be rated against a criterion set standard regardless of how other students do on the test. The listening portion is to be 20 points, the reading 30, the structure part 30, and the writing is to be subjectively scored at 20 points; hence to bring the total possible points at a 100. Criteria A version of the standard American grading system would be implemented in the interpretation of the test scores whereby: A = 90-100 - B = 80-89 - C = 70-79. No grade below 'C' would be accepted for a satisfactory performance
INTRODUCTION: Learning a second language involves to a great degree external sociological and psychological variables (Schumann, 1986). Such variables include, but not limited to, the learner's motivation and attitude about the new culture. Whether the learner identifies with another ethno linguistic group (integrative motivation), or the learner acquires L2 for utilitarian purposes (instrumental motivation) influences language acquisitions in both rate and level. In his research on the acculturation model, Schumann argues that the degree of acculturation controls the degree of language acquisition.

It is becoming more apparent that teaching ESL from an intercultural perspective helps in various ways:

(1) help understand how people of different cultures attempt to communicate;

(2) help learn to distinguish the characteristics of the host culture; and

(3) help acquire understanding of one's own culture (Cordova, 1994). In understanding the preceding concept, integrating culture into an ESL curriculum is necessary. However, curriculum developers as well as classroom teachers ought to seriously consider that cultural instruction must be purposeful with a clear and specific reason behind each cultural activity (Seelye, 1993).


In evaluating the Level I. continuum provided, it should be commended for recognizing the value of cultural instruction by assigning a special section for cultural "talks" and indicating the student's role. Furthermore, activities number 'G' and 'J' in objective number 1 are also indication that the developer does not deviate from the norm of the importance of cultural awareness in SLA. However, the goals are not precise enough, and the objectives do not indicate how to make culture instruction communicative and meaningful. In addition, it is implied that the only cultural issues to be discussed are of the host culture; there are no references to the target population's own various cultures, which are of equal importance and significance in establishing cross-cultural competence (Lynch & Hanson, 1992).


Level II. At the completion of Level I, students will most likely be familiar with basic cultural concepts which have immediate use such as kinesics (body movements, gestures, postures, etc. as means of communication), proximics (space between individual interacting), and paralanguage (the non-words oral language such as pauses and stumbling). Assuming that the above is accomplished, the next level, intermediate (based on the ACTFL guidelines), will be exposed to more cultural instructions integrated in the course work.  In designing this intermediate level (level II.), culture should be considered as a fifth modality not in any way less important than listening, speaking, reading, or writing. In fact culture should be fully integrated in every context used in the other language modalities. In writing the cultural goals, one must bear in mind the usefulness of the goal considering Seelye's six organizing goals: interest, who, what, where and when, why, and the exploration of the target culture (Seelye 1993). By the end of this course students will:

(1) be able to understand that language cannot be translated word for word and that the context, the tone of voice, and kinesics are all part of the meaning. smiling; eye movements; nodding

(2) be able to understand that each language use different grammatical elements for describing events, distance, and time, the plural form: two book(s); here vs. there; come vs. go; and eight-thirty vs. eight and half

(3) be able to understand that all cultures have taboo topics. talking freely or not about sanitation ; touching; personal matters; female- male relations, and (4) be able to realize that the terms for addressing people in personal relationships vary considerably among languages. addressing family members; work personnel; different age groups


There are two different ways through which the content of instruction integrates cultural themes: 1) exploiting opportunities to illustrate existing objectives with examples of cultural knowledge, or 2) develop new objectives as needed (Hilliard, 1975). In any event, before deciding on which approaches to use, it is highly desirable that the cultural themes presented in class be authentic and not contrived; the dialogue setting and language must be realistic and extracted from actual language used by native speakers (Benevento, 1984). There are several approaches and methods to achieve the cultural goals stated above. Conventional academic approach, observational approach, media approach, and cognitive approaches are possible teaching techniques. These could be implemented either through prles, cultural asides, or cultural capsules, or just as a context for already existing objectives. This writer, however, identifies with the eclectic approach (combining various methods together considering the situation at hand), Kagan's cooperative learning approach (communicative activities proved highly beneficial for a competency-based syllabus), and the experiential approach which encourages activities that are natural, contextualized, real, and holistic (Eyring, 1989). All approaches must be considered with the individual student in mind; cultural instruction must be sensitive toward the individual as well as the group. Cultural issues are best introduced in a contextualized form. Role plays, group-shared experiences, realistic dialogues, and activities that require more participation from the students are all desirable techniques to achieve the assigned goals. Whether the activities are student-centered or teacher-centered, objectives should be designed in terms of behavior with the five parts of: purpose, content, behavior, condition, and criteria in mind.


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