Curriculum Architecture and Syllabus Design: What Is Involved?

Curriculum Architecture and Syllabus Design: What Is Involved?

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8220-5.ch005
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The development of a language learning syllabus and the organization of a language education curriculum require an integrated model in which all the aspects covered in the course are interrelated. A syllabus is actually to be a well-founded model that provably corresponds to the real parameters of language learning. With all the correct wording and terminology used, some programs include discrete and internally unrelated formal statements which are of little instructional value. Binary predication units being efficient tools of the invariant approach, a syllabus structured on their basis acquires a functionally balanced representation. A classification of syllabus-related predicative composites is considered, alongside examples of content presentation and inceptive introduction practice. The main issues considered include the notions of curriculum and syllabus, syllabus design peculiarities, the invariant approach inventory in syllabus design projections, and examples of invariant predicative layouts on the advanced level of learning English at university.
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Language learning procedure is hard to imagine without a syllabus. The main purpose of the syllabus product development that simulates the entire instruction is to understand how a single picture of the subject field is generated from the separate aspects of language and individual learning activities. Before one starts working on a syllabus, one should make sure whether the document to be composed is termed properly. There is often some kind of disagreement among researchers about the terms used to denote linguodidactic notions. The idea of a syllabus, i.e. course program, is no exception. According to D Nunan, there is some confusion between the terms ‘syllabus’ and ‘curriculum’ within the literature. The author recommends giving some indications at the outset of what is meant by the terms (Nunan, 1996, p. 3). That being very wise advice to be taken, we will dwell on the point.

By the definition given in Webster’s Dictionary the word ‘curriculum’ has no relation to language study whatsoever. It is applies exclusively to the whole or particular body of courses offered or set by a particular institution for various majors (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, 1993, p. 557). No particular discipline is embraced by this definition unless it is a major.

Another definition reports that “curriculum, in the briefest meaning of the term, is a course of studies, or what is to be taught, or what knowledge is most worthwhile. It is also mentioned that “curriculum development often follows a systematic technological model and in that sense parallels instructional development and instructional design” (Hlynka, 2013, p. 74).

D. Nunan expounds on the idea saying that “it is possible to study ‘the curriculum’ of an educational institution from a number of different perspectives”. The researcher distinguishes between two different perspectives the idea is to be studied from and specifies the following.

In the first instance we can look at curriculum planning, that is at decision making, in relation to identifying learner’s needs and purposes; establishing goals and objectives; selecting and grading content; organizing appropriate learning arrangements and learner groupings; selecting, adapting, or developing appropriate materials, learning tasks, and assessment and evaluation tools.

Alternatively, we can study the curriculum ‘in action’, as it were. This second perspective takes us into the classroom itself. Here we can observe the teaching/learning process and study the ways in which the intentions of the curriculum planners … are translated into action. (Nunan, 1996, p. 3).

In view of the multiplicity and versatility of curriculum aspects it is premature for us to discuss the invariant approach curriculum within this book because the analysis given is focused predominantly on the content issues. The key problem of this research is that of adapting the field of language knowledge for the language learning purposes. The complexity of the task is stipulated by material selection and presentation issues against a background of their systematized organization and introduction techniques. Therefore, we would rather focus on “what distinguishes syllabus design from curriculum development”. At the outset, D. Nunan identifies not just types of syllabus design but approaches to it which are basically broad and narrow.

A narrow view draws a clear distinction between syllabus design and methodology. Syllabus design is seen as being concerned essentially with the selection and grading content, while methodology is concerned with the selection of learning tasks and activities. Those who adopt a broader view question this strict separation, arguing that with the advent of communicative language teaching the distinction between content and tasks is difficult to sustain. (Nunan, 1996, p. 5).

For the reasons mentioned above, we have been sticking to the narrow interpretation of syllabus design throughout the present research. The excerpts of the working program materials produced are of an illustrative character and reflect the content items, presentation techniques and inceptive introduction practice implicitly related to learning objectives and study outcome competence requirements. Further methodological development is to be proceeded with.

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