Posted in EFL

Approaches to Course Design


I am back! After deciding to move over to blogger for my creative writing module, I’ve decided that I miss my WordPress blog 😦 So, I’m going to continue but this time I will be focussing on digital technologies for course design.

The first 3 weeks have been quite intense as we’ve looked at a wide range of approaches. Here were my initial reflections on my context and my impressions/understanding of the approaches we were about to focus on.

My current context

Most of my courses are aimed at Cambridge exams. KET, PET, FCE, CAE and CPE. Ielts is also becoming popular for EFL learners. The syllabus is usually dictated by the course book. However recently I have just found out that all non-exam adult classes in my school will be using MyClass, which appears to involve the use of prescribed lesson plans and materials for modular-type drop-in language courses. These will inevitably come with some form of pedagogy built into them and restrict the teacher’s freedom to adapt his/her approach to their context. more on this when I get more information. 

Traditional or discipline-based approach

Most course book syllabi also divide courses into topics based around important concepts, usually grammar points of increasing complexity. Also, topics are pre-selected and not necessarily related to students’ interests. However, unlike this approach, in EFL practical skills are considered important and are practised during a course.

Performance or systems-based approach

The communicative approach (karina’s slideshare), an approach on which most course books claim to adhere to, also stresses the importance of purposeful or meaningful activities. At the same time, some course books could be seen as being teacher-proof and providing a type of quality control, i.e. English File, like a systems-based approach. Adding to this, EFL courses also involve a process of practice and feedback with recommended remedial action. It would seem that this approach is very similar to my context if I have understood it properly.

The cognitive approach

Like the cognitive approach learners in EFL are often encouraged to work things out for themselves. This is achieved by using an inductive approach to grammar rules or guided discovery and opportunities to deduce meaning of lexis from context rather than explicit instruction. Also, learning strategies or study skills are often included alongside unit content. However, there is little emphasis on critical thinking and becoming lifelong learners in EFL course books.

Experiential or personal relevance approach

This is my favourite so far 🙂 And it is how I would like my classes to be. In reality, I have to make a compromise between prescribed course book content and personalisation. I have recently introduced PbWorks to my adult classes to give more power to the students. I often ask the students to delve deeper into topics from the course book. That said, participation has been low so far, I need to look into why this is.

The socially critical approach

I must say that most of my students come from fairly affluent families and I have felt the need to engage in activities and debates that might help raise feelings of empathy in my learners. I feel that I have a sense of responsibility to encourage discussion and reflection on social issues but at the same time I avoid explicitly expressing my opinion. Like the socially critical view of knowledge (p64), there is no doubt to my mind that EFL course books that we use are also historically, socially, economically and politically conditioned.