Analyzing the Process of Course Development

Barbara Fujiwara went through a very contemplative, deliberate and introspective process to develop her advanced listening course for second-year EFL students in Japan. Her approach to developing the course began with an analysis of her students’ needs (to become, as she put it, “independent listening learners”) and the institutional limitations imposed by the Japanese educational system (limited contact hours). Next, she made the decision to use a content-based curriculum to provide as deep and meaningful a learning context as possible, including a substantial cultural component, while fashioning a course that would be structurally different from the students’ first-year course in the same area. Her third major consideration was student retention, since the course was an elective and students would be free to drop the course without harming their academic status. In her attempt to prevent a high level of student attrition from the course, she decided to give students a choice of materials to be used, which she hoped would lead to higher levels of student involvement. Although she initially feared that this strategy might not work (she stated that she reached the idea in desperation), it turned out well as most students selected culturally-meaningful materials.

This teacher spent as much time researching appropriate teaching methodologies and course materials as possible, given the time constraints imposed on her (she had a relatively short amount of time to research and develop the course due to a last-minute change in faculty assignments). She determined and wrote the course content mainly drawing upon her prior teaching and educational experiences, especially the research she conducted for her master’s degree thesis, which was directly relevant to the course content. She also sought input from colleagues, who stressed the need for a variety of curricular content for this type of course, which ultimately led her to select one of the main sets of materials (a British television series). During and at the end of the course, her students reported enjoying these authentic materials much more than the course textbook, and the teacher took these opinions into account when she revised the course (she decided to drop the textbook since most students thought it was too boring).

The teacher stated that her approach to course design emphasized process more than content; this reflection appears to be consistent with her description of the course, as it focused on group project-based learning and learner responsibility. Her beliefs and values, including the need for a “rich and deep context for learning” and an emphasis on “inference and discovery” over spoon-feeding information to her students, also played an important role in how she developed and structured the course.

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