Example: my Swedish teaching context
The Swedish language classes I was to teach were part of undergraduate degree programmes at a US university. The same modular system is used university-wide with predetermined modules, length, credits and grade system. The university is organised on a trimester system with three 10-week terms, across which language modules are taught in 4 credit modules (Swedish 101, 102, 103 and Swedish 201, 202, 203), meeting four days a week for 50 minutes each class.
Eugene, or is a small city with a high student population. Students tend to be in the 18-23 age bracket and full-time, but members of the public can sign up to take modules on a one-off basis if they choose, like a short courses, meaning there can be a wider range of ages and backgrounds. Students taking language modules are usually doing so because it’s a requirement of their degree programme or out of interest in language learning, or sometimes because they have never had an opportunity to learn a foreign language. Spanish however is different in that there is a sizeable proportion of Spanish speakers living both in Edugene and the wider US, making Spanish is by far the most popular language to take at this institution and one that can be learnt for professional reasons and used regularly outside of the classroom, whereas Swedish speakers are few and far between in the area.
The campus is quite old; rooms are usually bright and large enough, but basic, with movable chair-desks, a blackboard and an overhead projector. Tape and CD players can be borrowed from the department or the Yamada language Centre, which has language learning facilities and resources for a number of languages, though with few Swedish resources. There is a large library and some Swedish language and language learning resources in the US.
I was to be the only teacher, though there was also a Norwegian teacher, a Finnish teacher and several German teachers in my department, as well as a range of teachers of other languages, particularly French and Spanish. My fees, earnings and visa status in the US depended on my succeeding in my job; my students’ grade point averages (GPA) and eventual graduation could be affected by their performance in their language classes and eventual grades.
2. An introductory section that (a) situates the course design process within the models and frameworks we have considered, and within the larger context of curriculum/programme and project planning in general, (b) discusses the role of principles/beliefs about learning and teaching language in the design process and what key principles/beliefs have driven your own process, and (c) briefly introduces the three elements of C&SD you have chosen to focus on and complete for you portfolio in sections 3-5. (1000).
3.In this section, you may want to briefly present on or more of the overall curricular, course and or programme models we have looked at or you have read about; discuss the scope of your own course design project within one or more of these models; and show from your discussion which elements of which frameworks have guided you in this course design process. Treat it like an introduction to the course design process and how your portfolio of work relates to the models, frameworks and theories of curriculum, course and syllabus design as well as the principles guiding your design.
4. a section on each of: environment analysis, needs analysis, goals/aims/objectives, syllabus selection and sequencing of content, format and presentation, assessment and evaluation. Each section should show which principles have guided your decisions for that stage and why/how and the relationships between different elements of the design process.
Example: my Swedish teaching environment
A table presenting an analysis of your context (one or more elements such as learners, teachers, situation or people, time, resources, institution).
People Physical setting Nature of course and institution
Students- 15, mostly 18-23yrs, mix of genders, mainly white native US English speaking and ethnic background, some with exposure to Spanish but little or no other language learning experience, one or two with some exposure to Swedish tough family or travel, intrinsic purpose or requirement depending on programme. Other stakeholders-see table 3 below Location/setting- most students don’t live far from campus, the classrooms are a good size and have movable furniture though little in the way of resources. Not always the same room- differs from term to term. There isn’t too much noise from outside or from other rooms nearby. Type/purpose of course simply academic/arts and sciences subject. Can be taken as a minor but not as a major. Otherwise can be taken to satisfy language requirement of programme or simply for credits to fulfil optional credit requirements of degrees.
Teaching Resources Time Few materials available, text already decided in advance of module start but with room for change in further presentations. Teacher’s responsibility to develop syllabus and all materials and assessment. Equipment: one or two tapes/CDs, some photocopying allwoed, OHP 4×50 minutes per week for 10 week; 3× terms a year. Monday to Thursday 9am Students’ timeliness unknown. Teacher’s contract is for 21 hours of work per week but also with full-time postgraduate student workload on top Table 2: environment Analysis following Graves (2000)
Aspect of situation Analysis
Institutional interests and policies: Swedish programme very smal-only 15 students first year, and 10 in second
Old tradition of Scand. Dept at the uni- set up due to high numbers of Scandinavians who migrated to OR+ Pacific NW
Quality requirements for modules at each level
By no means official in fact, a less commonly taught language
Paid programme- so expectations of both students and often parents coughing up the money to support them
Language setting Very few speakers Of Swedish in the WORLD outside of Sweden and to a lesser extent, Finland
Patterns of language use Very few opportunities to use language outside of classroom
Group/ individual attitudes Unlikely to be considered of professional use outside of classroom unless intend to travel or move to Sweden or in e.g. business
Swedish relatives, boyfriends etc.
Table 3: wider Analysis of Situation following Dubin & Olshtain (1987)
A sample questionnaire designed to elicit information about a particular aspect or aspects of context
Thank you for agreeing to complete this questionnaire about language teaching at this institution. My aim is to find out about the environmental constraints within which we work as language teachers here and consider how this might impact on the design of other language modules. Your responses are completely anonymous, and you have the right to withdraw at any time if you wish, which you can do by emailing me.
Once again, thank you for your time.
By completing this questionnaire, you are agreeing to participate.
Please answer the following questions in as much detail as you can.
When you have completed the questionnaire, please email it to me at:
1) which language do you teach, which modules, and at which level(s)?
2)are you a native speaker of the language you teach?
3)how many years have you been teaching at this institution?
4)is there a required textbook for the module(s) you teach or do you get to choose a textbook?
5) do you have to develop own materials? If so, how much time do you spend on materials development?
6) are there any resources that you would like to have access to for teaching that you currently do not? For example, textbooks, audio-visual materials, coloured paper.
7)what proportion of your time do you need to devote to administrative tasks such as recording grades writing exams, making photocopies, administering evaluations etc ?
8)what day(s) and time (s) does your class meet?
9)how long is each class?
10) how would you describe student participation and interaction in your classes?
11) how would you describe the motivation of the learners you meet in your classes?
12) do you think the time of the class affects student attendance, timeliness or active participation?
Figure 1: questionnaire to survey other teachers in Germanic Department regarding situational constraints, resources and the learners.
A list/table of ranked major constraints and solutions/effects on course design.
Ranked major constraint Solution/effect on course design
1. lack of exposure to, access to and possibility of using language outside of the classroom, including lack of audio and video and other resources for language practice (language resources, use and setting constraint) Expectations need to be low for amount of content to be covered
Repetition and in-class practise built in and ranked above number of syllabus items covered, within constraints of institutional quality assurance
Set and incorporate tasks for students to access Swedish outside of the classroom for extra credit.
Look for avenues to obtain or get access to CALL and other audio, video and visual materials
2. time and resources for materials development (time constraint, materials constraint) As much as possible, recycle activity and task types with different types of content to reduce time
Use OHP to present syllabus content rather than handoutsRe-use/adapt old materials and textbooks from my own Swedish classes
Look for avenues to obtain or get access to a range of textbooks
3. motivation factor in 9am classes Classes need to be lively and include warm-up activities
Make attendance and participation part of grade
Classes need to be interesting and fun
Table 4: ranked major constraints and solutions/effects on course design.
Your discussion section will then explain which models/frameworks you used, what you chose to find out more through the questionnaire and why, summarise the main points you have drawn from your findings and show how you came to your final list of constraints, making reference to the literature, your principles and your example products as required to support your points. For example ,I chose to focus for my questionnaire on other teachers in the department and about (1) the time needed outside of the classroom for materials development and admin, to get a better idea of overall workload and how much time it would take to develop materials and lessons(teacher orientation); (2) about student motivation and participation, particularly in relation to whether time of class affects motivation, to find out how the 9am time slot might affect learning and to better understand the types of activities that students might respond to best (learner orientation); (3) to find out if lack of resources was am major issue throughout the department and could be used to lobby for more resources to be provided (institution/resources orientation). I chose these also because details about these aspects of the situation were unknown to me but could be accessed by surveying experienced staff members in the department. This then led to one of my major chosen constraints being motivation of the learners for 9am classes in an environment where there is little access to the language outside the classroom.