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3.4. Literature review: EFL syllabus design. 3.4.1.

Introduction Having identified and acknowledged the vital importance of autonomy (section 3.2) and affect (section 3.3) in the language classroom, it is equally vital that these considerations be built into language programmes, curricula, syllabi, lesson plans (Reid 1999:298) and teacher-training programmes. This section therefore investigates syllabus design from the perspective of identifying an appropriate vehicle for language learning in a student centred, self-directed, non-threatening, holistic, cooperative learning situation, and proposes the task-based process syllabus as suitable for this role. Practical implementation of any educational infrastructure, however, must rely on the teachers, for whom the language programme will need to provide appropriate training, professional support and development opportunities, in order to encourage the positive, trusting relationships in the classroom, which are indispensable for the promotion of student/ teacher confidence, motivation, and independence (section 3.3.7), and hence for language learning. Written thirteen years ago, Breen's article Contemporary paradigms in syllabus design (1987a) is still relevant at the beginning of the 21st century, and provides the basis for this review, subject to the observation that his 'main' classifications (formal, functional, task-based, and process) do not necessarily reflect relative importance in the EFL field. 3.4.1.1. Curriculum/syllabus Institutional curricula and syllabi, generally seen as indispensable units of second language programmes, can take various forms, can represent various theories of learning, and can be realised in various ways. Only recently, however, with the advent of the "Process Syllabus" (Breen 1984a & b; 1987a & b), has the all inclusive "defined curriculum" (Stern 1983:421) been challenged, mainly in terms of questioning who should make curricular decisions (course designers, teachers, students, parents, etc.), who should be responsible for finding ways and methods of implementing those decisions, and whether they are in reality carried out in the classroom (Allwright 1984b; Yule et al. 1992). Before reviewing language-syllabus design, however, it is necessary to address a confusion in the literature between the terms 'curriculum' and 'syllabus', since these can at times be very close in meaning, depending on the context in which they are used (Nunan 1988c:3). 3.4.1.2 Curriculum The concept of 'curriculum' has been important in second-language programmes throughout the history of EFL/ESL, though 'curriculum theory' as a field of educational studies is fairly new (Stern

1983:434). It is not surprising therefore, that as with other generally accepted and widely-used terms (e.g. 'autonomy', 'communicative'), there is little general agreement on actual form and function, though interpretations do fall into two main camps. In the first of these, the term 'curriculum' refers to the substance of a programme of studies of an educational system. Stenhouse (1975) describes the curriculum as "an attempt to communicate the essential properties and features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice" (Stenhouse 1975:4), and Allen (1984) proposes: ... [a] clear distinction, similar to that which has been prevalent in Europe, the curriculum being concerned with planning, implementation, evaluation, management, and administration of education programmes, and the syllabus focusing more narrowly on the selection and grading of content. (1984:61, cited in Nunan 1988c:8). In the second (and more recent) meaning, 'curriculum' includes the entire teaching/learning process, including materials, equipment, examinations, and the training of teachers. In this view, curriculum is concerned with "what can and should be taught to whom, when, and how" (Eisner & Vallance 1974:2). Thus Nunan adds to his curriculum "elements designated by the term syllabus along with considerations of methodology and evaluation" (Nunan 1988c:14), and White et al. see curriculum as "concerned with objectives and methods as well as content" (White et al. 1991:168). Such a definition involves consideration of the philosophical, social and administrative factors of a Programme. Despite these different perspectives, Stern (1983:436) identifies three major components recognised by curriculum philosophies, which are further amplified by Breen & Candlin (1980) and Stenhouse (1975) (table 26, below): TABLE 26: MAJOR CURRICULUM COMPONENTS OF SECOND LANGUAGE PROGRAMMES (STERN 1983:436) Stern (1983) i) purposes and content; Breen & Candlin (1980) i) language teaching (what is to be learned?); ii) methodology (how is the learning to be undertaken and achieved?); iii) evaluation (to what extent is i) appropriate and ii) effective?). Stenhouse (1975) i) planning; ii) empirical study;

ii) instruction;

iii) justification.

iii) evaluation.

3.4.1.3. Syllabus Definitions of 'syllabus' vary from Breen's very general definition (similar to some of the definitions of 'curriculum' already mentioned): the meeting point of a perspective upon language itself, upon using language, and upon teaching and learning which is a contemporary and commonly accepted interpretation of the harmonious links between theory, research, and classroom practice. (1987a:83) ... to Prabhu's more specific "specification of what is to be learnt" (1987:89). For Allen (1984), the syllabus is "... that subpart of curriculum which is concerned with a specification of what units will be taught" (Allen 1984:61), whereas for Yalden (1987), it is primarily a teacher's statement about objectives and content, with formal and functional components in a dual progression of linear and spiral learning (cf. Stern 1984:14). Brumfit (1984d) specifies content (linguistic, sociolinguistic, pragmatic, cultural, substantive), and also sequences the learning that takes place, while Nunan (1988c) takes a wider, non-specific view of "... a framework within which activities can be carried out: a teaching device to facilitate learning" (1988c:6), and Prabhu (1987) proposes "a form of support for the teaching activity that is planned in the classroom and a form of guidance in the construction of appropriate teaching materials" (1987:86). In contrast, Kumaravadivelu sees the syllabus as "a preplanned, preordained, presequenced inventory of linguistic specifications imposed in most cases on teachers and learners" and claims that this is a "widely recognized" perspective (1993b:72). A universal definition for "syllabus" therefore seems impractical, since different educational theories and approaches differ on syllabus goals and functions. What can be said is that syllabi tend to be representations, reflecting the originator's ideas about language learning: every syllabus is a particular representation of knowledge and capabilities. And this representation will be shaped by the designer's views concerning the nature of language, how the language may be most appropriately taught or presented to learners, and how the language may be productively worked upon during learning. (Breen, 1987a:83)