Sunteți pe pagina 1din 9


Adult Survival ESL Syllabus Design Stephen McClure & Naum Neskoski LING 583 Curriculum and Materials Design for TESOL Professor Xuehua Xiang University of Illinois at Chicago

ADULT SURVIVAL ESL NEEDS SYLLABUS DESIGN Introduction In this paper we present our syllabus design for a hypothetical 16-week adult survival (or "life skills") ESL course in a not-for-profit community center context. The syllabus design is based on the overall context and needs assessment plan defined in our previous papers, "Issues in Adult Survival ESL Course Design" and "Adult Survival ESL Needs Analysis Plan." This paper consists of two parts: the first is a course rationale; the second is a week-by-week course description in the form of a table, showing course

content and sequencing. (The table is in a separate document.) We begin our rationale by articulating our beliefs about teaching adult ESL, and by providing a framework of the course goals. We then go on to discuss our choices regarding textbook, content, sequencing, needs analysis, and assessment in light of these beliefs and goals. Beliefs about Teaching Adult ESL We share a view of second language acquisition (SLA) rooted in the concepts of interactionist theory (e.g., Long, 1996), communicative competence, authenticity, and task-based language teaching (e.g., Skehan, 2003). We believe that language instruction should take place as much as possible through interactions, often involving the accomplishment of near-authentic and authentic real-world tasks. In addition, we believe in a student-centered approach to learning, which

ADULT SURVIVAL ESL NEEDS SYLLABUS DESIGN emphasizes student needs and wants (Brown, 2007, p. 52), permits their input to and influence on course content, and considers their affective relationship with the target language, their interaction partners, and the target culture. We believe that the teacher's chief role is to be a

facilitator, advisor, or coach (Brown, 2007, pp. 214-216), and that adult students bear the primary responsibility for their L2 learning success. Furthermore, we believe that successful L2 acquisition includes the development of intercultural competence (Kramsch, 2010). Course Goals We have chosen a useful framework for setting the goals of our course, that of Stern (1992, cited in Graves, 2000, pp. 84-85). This framework organizes the course goals, or learning outcomes, into four categories: proficiency, cognitive, affective, and transfer. Proficiency goals define what the students will be able to do with the L2 (specific social functions). Cognitive goals include explicit, metalinguistic knowledge of the L2 (e.g., grammar), as well as cultural knowledge (rules of conduct, norms, values). Affective goals relate to students' attitudes toward the target language and culture, and to their own and their peers' learning process. Transfer goals involve the ability to apply what is learned in the classroom to the outside world, in order to further continued learning. The overarching purpose of this course (as


stated in our context and needs analysis papers) is to provide students with basic English "survival" skills they need to conduct their everyday lives. In direct support of this overarching goal, we can state one high-level goal, and a number of subordinate goals, (or objectives, or learning outcomes) for each of the four categories in our framework (see Table 1. below).

Proficiency Goals P0 Students will develop enough communicative and intercultural competence to enable them to successfully participate in various everyday, real-life interactive situations. Ask for help when do not understand. Ask how to say something in English. Introduce self to others. Ask others to introduce themselves. Write and tell their address and telephone number. Send mail, identify types of mail, understand post office services. Talk about family members and family history. Obtain a library card and check out books and other materials. Shop for food at a market. Shop for clothing at a mall. Complete an ID card or driver's license application. Read help-wanted ads and understand abbreviations therein. Cognitive Goals Students will acquire enough explicit linguistic and metalinguistic knowledge to understand and describe basic graphological and grammatical structures of English. Recite the English alphabet. Understand the concepts person, number, and tense for verbs. Understand the parts of speech. Know simple and continuous present tense, regular and high frequency irregular verbs. Know simple past tense for regular and high frequency irregular verbs. Understand cardinal numbers up to 1000 and ordinal numbers up to 10th. Understand dates on a calendar. Understand times of day. Know basic norms of politeness and register use. Affective Goals Students will develop a positive attitude toward learning English and learning about American culture, and will encourage and support each other both in and out of class. Express their goals in learning English.

P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 P6 P7 P8 P9 C0 C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6 C7 C8 A0 A1


T0 T1 T2 T3 T4 T5

Identify good study skills and habits. Share them with classmates. Express what they like and don't like a bout American culture, and explain how it differs from their native culture. Transfer Goals Students will be able to apply the skills they learn in class to social situations outside of class, which are not necessarily identical to the situations described in class. Find a classmate who lives near you and does not share your native language. Meet outside class, and discuss what you like and dislike about your community. About America? Report back to class. Make a shopping list for food. Make shopping lists for other purposes. Go shopping with a friend, report what happened back to class. Make a neighborhood shopping guide. Plan an outing to a local landmark, make the outing, report back to class.

Table 1. Learning Outcomes by Goal Category (P,C,A,T) Organization The organizing principle that best supports the achievement of these goals and outcomes, we believe, is a topical one. Topics that pertain to accomplishing well-defined real-world tasks through interaction, tasks which occur in everyday social situations, are thus the main organizing principle of this course. Another common organizing principle seen for this context is one based on skills (the four macroskills, often with grammar added). While we will of course focus on helping students achieve a balance of these skills, we believe that using topics as the primary structuring element allows us to be more responsive to students' needs, giving them more influence and autonomy, and thus contributing to their motivation and commitment to learning. Content and Sequencing The syllabus is based largely on a textbook (Lynn & Long,

ADULT SURVIVAL ESL NEEDS SYLLABUS DESIGN 2010), one of a series of popular topic-based and corpusinformed texts. We have omitted certain topics and added our own, and we have resequenced some topics to conform to the

following general sequencing principle. We begin with personal and family-related topics, and then move outside the home into the community, to social settings such as malls, libraries and places of employment. We have added specific activities to support the affective and transfer goals. Our in-class needs assessment activity and other similar activities serve to introduce class members to each other and give them opportunities to find commonalities and explore differences is a positive way. We have planned field trips with specific tasks in mind to ensure that students have the opportunity to transfer knowledge presented in class to real-world interactive settings with native speakers. The syllabus presented here is to be seen as a starting point for a class schedule, and as a flexible set of resources. We expect the needs analysis activities conducted during the first week to drive changes to this syllabus in response to students' needs. Unless a needs analysis can be performed prior to the first class (and this is highly unusual in our context), teachers should expect and plan their time to have to rework the syllabus after the initial needs analysis. Assessment

ADULT SURVIVAL ESL NEEDS SYLLABUS DESIGN As this is a free community-based class, formal assessments will be kept to a minimum. Homework and small bi-

weekly quizzes will serve to check learners' progress and help teachers see who needs help in what area, and only two tests will be given, one in mid-course and a final comprehensive exam. As noted in our context paper, community-based organizations are required to administer standardized tests to receive continued government funding. In our case this is the CELSA, which will be given at the end of the course. Since the textbook we have chosen is written for these kinds of contexts, its content is also based on several major content standards (e.g., CASAS), which gives us some degree of confidence that we are preparing our students properly for this test. Conclusion In this syllabus design, we have tried to plan a course that helps adult ESL learners efficiently acquire the knowledge, skills, confidence and attitudes that will contribute to their success and happiness in the United States, based on our beliefs about SLA and the context and goals of the course. We have based our design on accepted SLA theory and practice, and on a student-centered framework of specific pedagogic goals. Keeping in mind that a syllabus design is always a work in progress, to be adapted to the specific needs of every new group of learners, we feel

ADULT SURVIVAL ESL NEEDS SYLLABUS DESIGN confident that we could conduct a successful first course for adult survival ESL students with this syllabus in hand.

ADULT SURVIVAL ESL NEEDS SYLLABUS DESIGN References Brown, H. D. (2007). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy (3rd Ed.). White Plains, NY: Pearson Longman. Graves, K. (2000). Designing language courses: A guide for teachers. Boston, MA: Heinle. Kramsch, C. (2010). The symbolic dimensions of the intercultural. Language Teaching 44(3), 354-367. Long, M. H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in

second language acquisition. In: Ritchie, W. C. & Bhatia, T. K. (Eds.). Handbook of second language acquisition. New York, NY: Academic Press. Lynn, S., & Long, W. P. (2010). Future: English for results 2. White Plains, NY: Pearson Longman. Skehan, P. (2003). Task-based instruction. Language Teaching 36, 1-14. Stern, H. H. (1992). Issues and options in language teaching. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.