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NEGOTIATED SYLLABUS

By: Fauzi Miftakh

Introduction
In teaching English as a second or foreign language, syllabus has important roles
towards the process of teaching and learning. Syllabus consists of content that determines
how the process of teaching and learning runs and the learning objectives for students.
Thus, a good content in syllabus will affect a good result in the learning process. It is
supported by Krahnke (1987:9) that defines content is only one element of some actual
teaching syllabi that include behavioral or learning objectives for students, specifications
of how the content will be taught, and how it will be evaluated. In general, the content of
syllabus is determined and made by teacher including the materials and other parts of
syllabus. Then the syllabus is given to students in the first meeting of a class to be
learned as the preparation of whole study. However, in some moment, the students can
also involve in making the syllabus and decide the content that they want to study. Thus,
there is a syllabus that can be negotiated by the teacher and students to have the same
objectives of learning. This type of syllabus is called negotiated syllabus.
According to Nation and Macalister (2010:149), a negotiated syllabus involves
the teacher and the learners working together to make decisions at many of the parts of
the curriculum design process. In addition, Breen & Littlejohn (2000: 1) describes
negotiated syllabus as the discussion between all members of the classroom to decide
how learning and teaching are to be organized. Breen (1987) cited in Nation and
Macalister (2010: 149) also adds that negotiated syllabuses are also called process
syllabuses. He adds that the word process in the term process syllabus indicates that the
important feature of this type of syllabus is that it focuses on how the syllabus is made
rather than what should be in it. Therefore, it can be concluded that a syllabus is possibly
negotiated especially on how it is created, planned, and discussed by teacher and
students.
However, there are some situations that most possibly influence in applying
negotiated syllabus. Breen and Littlejohn (2000: 272-3) list the situations are as follows:
- Where the teacher and students have different backgrounds.
- Where time is short and the most useful choices must be made.
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- Where there is a very diverse group of students and there is a need to find common
ground.
- Where initial needs analysis is not possible.
- Where there is no course book.
- Where the students past experiences must be part of the course.
- Where the course is open-ended and exploratory.
Moreover, there is consideration that negotiated syllabus tends to make students
as the center of learning because they are actively give their opinion and suggestion to
the teacher in making syllabus. It is also stated by Clarke (1991) in Nation and Macalister
(2010: 149) that negotiated syllabuses arising from humanistic methodologies like
community language learning which are very learner-centred, from needs analysis which
focuses on learners needs, from work in individualisation and learner autonomy, and
from learner strategy research which sees the learner playing a central role in determining
how the language is learned. However, it is not easily decided in what parts a syllabus
can be negotiated because there are still some debate among people. Breen and Littlejohn
(2000: 3438) point out that a negotiated syllabus involves the steps of (1) negotiating
the goals, content, format and assessment of the course, (2) implementing these
negotiated decisions, (3) evaluating the effect of the implementation in terms of
outcomes and the way the implementation was done.
Furthermore, the discussion of this topic covers some materials related to the
negotiated syllabus that will be discussed in the next section. The coverage of the topic
can be seen in the following list:
1. Requirements for a Negotiated Syllabus
2. Syllabuses with Some Elements Negotiated
3. Negotiating Assessment
4. Disadvantages and Advantages of a Negotiated Syllabus
5. An Example of a Negotiated Syllabus

Developing Negotiated Syllabus

A. Requirements for a Negotiated Syllabus


Breen (1987) cited in Nation and Macalister (2010:152) describes the
decisions to be negotiated in a negotiated (process) syllabus and the materials needed
to make it work. The decisions include the following, and are made through
discussion by the teacher and the learners.
1. Negotiation procedure. Some questions arise when we firstly concern to the
negotiation procedure such as: How will the negotiation be carried out? When
will it be done? How often will it be done? Who has the responsibility for
organising it? Who has the responsibility for checking that what is negotiated is
actually done?
2. Course planning: participation. Secondly, the participant in the course planning
will cover a question that is: Who will work with whom? The range of answers to
this question includes individual work, pair work, groups working with the
teacher, and the teacher working with the whole class.
3. Course planning: procedure. Thirdly, the procedure of course planning has a
question to answer that is: What kinds of activity will be worked on? And the
range of answers is many and may include role play, information gap tasks,
guided writing, extensive reading, and oral drills.
4. Course planning: learning goals. Fourthly, the question arises from learning
goals of course planning is: What will be the focus of the work? And the range of
possible answers includes increasing speaking fluency, learning new vocabulary,
learning how to organise written assignments, and learning how to understand
and give directions.
5. Course evaluation. The fifth, critical step in the negotiated syllabus is continual
evaluation of the previous decisions and the learning resources. This evaluation
should then lead to re-negotiation. The range of decisions to evaluate includes the
kind of participation, the kinds of activities, the material used in the activities, and
the learning outcomes.
6. Resources and materials. A requirement of a negotiated syllabus is that there is
a large amount of resource material available to draw on or which the teacher and
learners can readily produce.
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B. Syllabuses with Some Elements Negotiated


Breens description of a negotiated syllabus is at one end of the scale.
According to Clarke (1980) in Nation and Macalister (2010: 152), it is possible to
have a syllabus within which some parts or some aspects are negotiated while others
are left under the control of the teacher or curriculum designer. There are several
ways of dividing up the syllabus. Here are some possibilities of ways in dividing up
the syllabus.
1. A fixed lesson or time of the day is set aside for negotiated activities. For
example, an hour each Friday afternoon is used for activities that the learners and
teacher have negotiated.
2. One or more of the four types of decisions described above (participation,
procedure, learning goals, evaluation) is open for negotiation.
3. The classes for one or more language skills, such as free-speaking activities, are
planned through negotiation. For example, the learners negotiate the types of
reading activities that they will do.
4. One or more parts of the inner circle of the curriculum design diagram is open to
negotiation. For example, the ideas content of the lessons can be negotiated, while
the teacher retains control of language focus, presentation and assessment.

C. Negotiating Assessment
Negotiation of assessment and evaluation has direct effects on goals and
ways of achieving these goals. Breen and Littlejohn (2000: 40) point out that there
are four major factors affecting feedback through assessment:
1. The extent to which students are aware of the criteria being used.
2. The relative emphasis given to what they have achieved as compared with what
they have failed to achieve.
3. The coincidence between what the feedback focuses upon and what the students
themselves have recognised as particularly difficult for them.
4. Whether or not they believe they can act on the basis of the feedback in a way
that solves a recognised problem.

This negotiated assessment very effectively takes account of the four factors
described above by including awareness of the criteria for assessment, and a positive,
relevant, and formative focus. This informed and involved approach to assessment
will clearly have positive effects on learning.
Smith (2000) in Breen and Littlejohn (2000: 55) describes a very effective
way of negotiating assessment. The assessment is seen as including not only the
results of tests and assigned tasks, but also participation in class, homework, and
class projects. There are two ways of sample assessment form that can be negotiated:
1) The components and percentage weightings of the components of assessment were
negotiated with the class, and 2) Each individual negotiated their particular marks
with the teacher. The assessment negotiation can be seen in the following table.

Component

Weight

Pupils

Teacher

(%)

mark

s mark

Doing homework

10

Level of homework

20

16

17

Participation in class

10

Individual progress

10

Projects

30

26

27

Test results

20

15

15

100

79

80

(not negotiated)
Total

D. Disadvantages and Advantages of a Negotiated Syllabus


Every variant of syllabus must have disadvantages and advantages including
negotiated syllabus. Nation and Macalister (2010:155) point out the disadvantages of
a negotiated syllabus that are divided into two major types. The first is the result of a
lack of knowledge or experience with such a syllabus. Learners may be reluctant to
negotiate or to let their classmates negotiate because they feel it should be the
teachers expertise guiding the course. The second major disadvantage is that a fully
negotiated syllabus requires considerable teacher skill and time in accessing and
producing resources. Where there are several teachers with similar classes, this load
can be partly shared.
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Here are the problems in implementing a negotiated syllabus. The problems


are divided to learners and teachers factors.
Table of Problems in implementing a negotiated syllabus
Learner factors

Teacher factors

- The learners have limited awareness of the possible


activities.
- The learners are perfectly happy to let the teacher
teach.
- The learners need training in negotiation.
- With no course book learners do not feel a sense of
progress.
- Learners wants are only a small part of learners
needs.
- The needs of the learners are too diverse to reach
agreement.
- Cultural expectations make learners reluctant to
negotiate with the teacher.
- The learners lack confidence in negotiating with the
teacher.
- Negotiation will have a negative effect on students
attitudes to the course because the teacher is not
taking control of the course.

- Negotiation uses valuable class time.


- The teachers workload is less if the
teacher teaches exactly the same lessons to
- several different classes.
- The school expects all learners in different
classes to follow the same course.
- What is done in your class needs to be
similar to what is done in the rest of the
school.
- There are not a lot of teaching resources to
draw on.
- The teacher is not skilful enough to cope
with short-term planning.

In the other hand, the advantages of a negotiated syllabus come largely from
its responsiveness to the wants of the learners and the involvement of the learners.
Breen (1987) cited in Nation and Macalister (2010:166) argues strongly that all
courses have to adjust in some way to the reality of the teaching situation and the
negotiated syllabus gives clear recognition to this. In addition, Nation and Macalister
(2010:166) mention that involving the learners in shaping the syllabus has a strong
effect on motivation, satisfaction and commitment to the course. It changes from
being the teachers course to the learners course. The actual negotiation process has
its benefits. If the negotiation is carried out in English, then this may be some of the
most involving meaning-focused activity in the programme. The negotiation also
develops learners awareness of the goals of language-learning activities and how
these goals can be achieved. This understanding may then make them better learners.

E. Example of a Negotiated Syllabus


This section provides an example of a negotiated syllabus. There are some
differences in the example such as in choosing the time for beginning the
negotiation. In nation and Macalister (2010:151), there are some explanations about
the example of negotiated syllabus. Boon (2005) began on the first day because his
fee-paying students were enrolled on a short course. Macalister (2007) was
concerned with quickly meeting the ESP wants of engineering students, and used
ranking and consensus-building activities in the first class to find out what their
wants were. After much trial and error, Irujo (2000) decided that negotiation of an
MA teaching methodology course was best done by presenting course members with
a draft syllabus in which some items were non-negotiable, but in which there were
many items and procedures (methods of learning, assignments, etc.) that were
negotiable.
Here is the example of negotiated syllabus in a class that consists of a group
of adult graduate students preparing for post-graduate university study through the
medium of English. They come from a wide variety of countries and will do their
post-graduate study in a wide range of disciplines.
1. For the first two weeks of class the teacher follows a set programme involving a
large variety of activities.
2. At the end of the two-week period the teacher tells the class, Now that you have
settled in and have experienced some typical classes, it is time for you to take an
active part in deciding what we will do for the next two weeks.
3. The teacher and the class members list the activities and parts of the course on the
board, and then working in small groups discuss what should be removed from
the list, and what should be added to it. The groups report back and the list on the
board is revised. If the learners wish they can discuss the list some more.
4. The next step is to rank the items in the list and fit them into the class timetable.
This again is done in small groups and then with the class as a whole. During this
discussion the learners negotiate with each other and with the teacher.
5. The resulting timetable with its activities then becomes the timetable for the next
one or two weeks, when it is then renegotiated. The teacher sometimes calls on
some of the learners to help with preparation and material for the class in order to

cope with the short class preparation time that such negotiation sometimes results
in.
The example of negotiated syllabus above can be categorized as a conservative or
cautious example of a negotiated syllabus. It is because the class did not start with a
negotiated syllabus from the very first day of class. It was caused by dome factors that is;
1) many of the learners came from backgrounds where teachers are highly respected and
would feel very uncomfortable telling the teacher what to do, 2) most of the learners had
not experienced a pre-university course before and so the teacher wanted to show them
some of the range of goals and activities available, several of which might be new to
them, 3) the teacher wanted to show what he saw as important for the learners and what
he taught well. 4) The teacher wanted todevelop credibility with the class before passing
much of the control to them.

CONCLUSION
Boomer et. al. (1992) have shown that classroom negotiation makes the teaching
program more appropriate for learners needs, encourage students and increase their selfconfidence, develop learner-centeredness and autonomy. It also includes the negotiated
syllabus that most probably concern to the learners need rather than teachers wants.
Therefore, negotiated syllabus somehow is important to be used in teaching and learning
process both for learners and teachers.

For learners, it will develop their goals of

language-learning and make them better learners. For teachers, it will help to decide
appropriate materials to provide to learners especially for a new teacher that does not
know very well the situation of the environment and the background of students which
are different
However, this variant of syllabus cannot be applied in all situations. Teachers
have to look into the conditions that the syllabus may appropriate to use as stated in the
previous section. Teachers also must carefully understand the requirements and elements
of negotiated syllabus because they have strong influence to the successful of applying a
negotiated syllabus. It is supported by a research conducted by Ozturk (2013:39), he
suggests that the implementation of a negotiated syllabus should be open to discussion by
scholars and curriculum designers. Therefore, teachers and the other stake holders must
understand what negotiated syllabus is and their decision in choosing this kind of
syllabus are essential since there are also some disadvantages of this syllabus. If there are
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too many disadvantages of syllabus may come up, it is better not to apply it. In addition,
negotiated syllabus is more appropriate to apply in level of university rather than
elementary or high school since the learners must have negotiation skill that is not owned
by young learners.

REFERENCES
Breen, M.P. and Littlejohn, A.

(2000). Classroom Decision-Making. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.


Boomer, G., Lester, N., Onore, C., & Cook, J. (1992). Negotiating the curriculum:
Educating for the 21st century. London: Falmer.
Krahnke, K. 1987. Approaches to Syllabus Design for Foreign Language Teaching.
Englewood Cliffs: New Jersey.
Nation, I. S. P. and Macalister, J. (2010). Language Curriculum Design. New York:
Routledge.
Ozturk, G. (2013). A Negotiated Syllabus: Potential Advantages and Drawbacks in
English Preparatory Programs at Universities. International Journal on New
Trends in Education and Their Implications 4, 2: 35-40