EET n°1 is a technical state-run school in Grand Bourg that offers two course orientations, Computer Studies and Electronics. The department of English has been able to design special booklets for the teaching of English for computer studies in all levels. However, no booklet could be developed for the electronics orientation because of unavailability of materials and coursebooks related to electronics, leading teachers to work with isolated vocabulary activities and not relevant materials.
In general terms, this materials development project attempts to cover school needs as regards materials design for the teaching of English for Electronics and students' academic needs focused not only on language and content learning, but also on the development of learning strategies and study techniques, critical thinking, collaborative skills and the use of technological tools which may help them to succeed in any academic setting.
To explore school and students' needs as regards English for Electronics.
To design a booklet for the teaching of English for electronics based on the requirements of the National Law of Education and the needs analysis results.
To develop web-based and multimedia tools to complement this booklet.
This project will be developed in two phases. The first phase has been completed and a needs analysis process was carried out for the selection of content and the design of materials.
A.1. Results of needs analysis.
The needs analysis used open interviews and questionnaires to obtain qualitative information from students about their interests and expectations and from teachers of Electronics, the head of the English department and the headmaster about the relevant content, curricula requirements and language level of the new materials. This analysis facilitated a better understanding of the specific needs of students of electronics and this technical school needs as regards curricula.
Setting : EET n°1, a state-run Technical High School in Grand Bourg, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Sample: teachers (the headmaster, the head of the English department, two teachers of Electronics) and 10 volunteer students from forth and fifth year of Electronics.
The questionnaires completed by students showed their main concern about the learning of English as a foreign language. Most of their answers showed their lack of interest on the subject as they considered it useless for their future professions or useful but only to understand video games and songs. As regards this course in particular, they expected to have practice on grammar, translation and vocabulary in order to pass their exams as they had failed most of them. They suggested outdoor activities such as going to the theatre or working with songs and films in the auditorium. Finally when they had to answer questions about their knowledge and use of internet and basic software most of them revealed that they did not use their e-mails and they only use their computers to chat and check and their Facebook accounts. They did not know much about wikis, blogs, uploading and downloading videos or participating in forums and most of them had a very basic knowledge on Word and Powerpoint software as they did not use computers for study purposes.
Interviews with the headmaster, the head of the English department and the teachers of Electronics showed their concern about the teaching of general English in a technical oriented school. They expected a higher integration with the rest of the subjects, especially with Electronics and most of their suggestions were related to the use of technology and the teaching of English through the subject matter texts. They thought that activities in the classroom should include articles and manuals about tools and topics developed in the electronic lessons, use of dictionary for translations, practice on grammar and vocabulary, use of internet to find information and activities with YouTube videos, e-mails, uploading and downloading information, use of the head projector and presentations in PowerPoint. Some of the topics suggested by the subject matter teachers were 'introduction to Electronics, analogical devices and tools, electric circuits, measuring devices, alternative signal, Zener diodes, electronic symbols and semiconductors'.
In conclusion, students did not find the study of English as meaningful and necessary for their future and they had almost no experience with computers for study purposes. Furthermore, they associated the study of a foreign language with the practice of grammar and vocabulary with no other purpose than passing an exam. That is why school teachers were concerned about the teaching of general English based which was not related to the school orientations due to the lack of materials for Electronics. It was clear that new materials should cater for school and students' needs by integrating the teaching of English with Electronics content and the use of Technology for study purposes.
A.2. Materials Design
In the second phase, a booklet and multimedia materials were designed taking into account the needs analysis results and the National Law of Education requirements.
Authentic materials were collected from different sources so activities were developed following different approaches to design an eleven-unit booklet.
Finally, a wiki and a blog were activated and a DVD was recorded to provide students with videos and articles from specialized magazines for revision and further practice.
B. Theoretical justification
In Argentinean high schools, National curriculum requirements are to be met in the development of any course design, especially in Elementary, Middle and High school education. Argentinean National Law of Education n° 26.061 establishes that Middle and High school's main objective is to prepare youngsters for citizenship, work and academic studies. It is the school's objective to:
guarantee ethic instruction to students in order to allow them to act as individuals who acknowledge their rights and duties, who practise cooperation and solidarity, who respect human rights and reject any kind of discrimination; individuals who act as democratic citizens and preserve the natural and cultural patrimony.
Help individuals to develop as responsible human beings who will be able to use knowledge as a tool to understand and transform their social, economic, environmental and cultural surroundings constructively and actively.
Help students develop and consolidate study, learning and research skills, cooperative/collaborative and individual work skills, effort, initiative and responsibility as necessary conditions to have access to the work world, higher education and lifelong education.
Promote access to an integral knowledge through different areas and disciplines and their main problems, content and methods.
Help students develop the necessary skills to understand and use the new languages produced in the field of information technology and communication.
Stimulate artistic creation, free expression, aesthetic appraisal and understanding of different manifestations of culture.
This Law of Education establishes that students have the right to an integral education as regards quality and quantity, an education that contributes to the development of their personality and that makes the acquisition of knowledge, skills, social responsibility and solidarity possible. National Curricular designs are coherent with the National Law requirements and promote the teaching of English with the intention of encouraging new learning, making new technologies discourse configurations understandable and making the creative production through internet and chat possible. In English lessons, usual discourse practices in technological media should be developed so students will be able to have access to realities and knowledge easily obtained via this media.
EET n°1, a technical school with two orientations, developed special materials for the teaching of English for computer studies following some of the National Law requirements. However, the department of English was not able to develop materials for the teaching of English for Electronics.
Then, the purpose of this project was the development of materials for the teaching of English for Electronics by covering school needs, National Educational requirements and students' academic needs focused not only on language and content learning but also on the development of learning strategies and study techniques, critical thinking, collaborative skills and the use of technological tools which may help them succeed in any academic setting. In order to reach this aim, different methods in language teaching were taken into account such as English for Specific Academic Purposes projects developed at Universities in United States, Content-based Instruction programs and methodologies, and Reconstructionist educational approaches to work on learning skills as well as cooperative learning and critical thinking theories and techniques.
(I'm not sure if I have to develop each of the approaches and theories I had taken into account to develop the materials…but I have included them just in case)
English for Specific Academic Purposes
English for Academic purposes (EAP) has sometimes been seen as one movement within English for Specific Purposes (ESP) focusing on the language of academic disciplines and the specific study skills required during students academic course. English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) refers to the teaching of skills and language that are common to all disciplines, it isolates the skills associated with the study activities such as listening to lectures, participating in seminars and tutorials, carrying out practicals, reading textbooks, articles and other reading material; and writing essays, examination answers and reports. There are particular skills associated with these for example understanding main ideas, distinguishing between main idea and supporting detail, making notes on the main ideas, evaluating the writer's point of view, etc. English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) integrates the skills work of EGAP with the help of students in their actual subject tasks. This kind of work generally involves some cooperation with the actual subject department. For subject-specific work, Dudley-Evans and St John (2007) suggest there are three levels of cooperation:
Cooperation is the first stage and involves the language teachers taking the initiative in asking questions and gathering information about the students' subject course, how English fits into their course and what the department and students see as priorities and this is part of Target Situation analysis.
Collaboration involves more direct working together of the language teacher and the subject teacher to prepare students particular tasks or courses. In collaboration the language and subject teacher work together outside the classroom. There are three options for collaborative work: the planning of a series of classes where the language class prepares the students for a subsequent subject class taught in English; the running of a class on a specific task where the subject department has a specific input to the topics and the North American adjunct model, in which the adjunct acts as a back-up class to the subject, helping students with difficulties with that class.
Team teaching is the final level of subject matter integration and it represents the actual working together in the classroom of the subject and the language specialist.
Even when team teaching was not possible, there was certain agreement on the topics which were to be developed in the language classroom as a back up of the theory studied in Electronics lessons in Spanish.
Content-Based Instruction (CBI)
CBI represents a change in foreign language methodology by shifting the focus of instruction from the learning of language per se to the learning of language through the study of the subject matter. According to Striker and Leaver (1997) a CBI curriculum is based on a subject matter, uses authentic language and texts and is appropriate to the needs of specific groups of students. This means that the fundamental organization of the curriculum is derived from the subject matter rather than from forms, functions, situations or skills. Communicative competence is acquired during the learning process of learning about specific topics. The core material such as texts, videotapes, audio recordings and visual aids, are selected primarily from those produced from native speakers of the language. Learning activities focus on understanding and conveying meaningful messages and accomplishing realistic tasks using authentic language.
The content and learning activities correspond to the linguistic, cognitive and affective needs of the students and are appropriate to their professional needs and personal interests. Brinton , Snow and Wesche (1989) describe three models for CBI:
Theme-based courses are organized as a series of modules in which the language teacher teaches both subject matter and language.
Sheltered instruction is specially designed subject matter teaching given to a group of second language learners by a content specialist.
Adjunct instruction requires the students be enrolled concurrently in a language course and a content course that are linked through collaboration between two teachers.
This project took into account aspects from the three models to develop the English for Electronics Booklet.
Language Learning Strategies
Language learning strategies are specific thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to help them comprehend, learn or retain new information such as grouping words, holding mental conversations with themselves, getting someone to read aloud to them, watching TV. According to Oxford (1990) language learning strategies are divided into two major classes direct and indirect. The direct class requires mental process of the language and is composed of memory strategies for remembering and retrieving new information, cognitive strategies for understanding and producing the language, and compensation strategies for using the language despite knowledge gaps. Indirect strategies are used for general management of learning an this class is made up of metacognitive strategies for coordinating the learning process, affective strategies for regulating emotions and social strategies for learning through interaction with others. Chamot and O'Malley (1995) claim that some learning strategies are often thought of as Study Skills. Study skills describes overt behavior, such as taking notes, writing summaries or using reference materials, while learning strategies generally pertain to unobservable mental processes. Students need to learn study skills and they also need to learn to use unobservable strategies such as monitoring for comprehension, elaboration of prior knowledge and inferencing…Oxford (1990) stresses the importance of an integrated skill approach and there are two forms of instruction that are clearly oriented toward integrating the skills: content-based instruction and task-based instruction but there are combined cases too. The integrated skill approach exposes English language learners to authentic language and challenges them to interact naturally in the language. Moreover, this approach stresses that English is not just an object of academic interest or a key to passing an examination but a real means of interaction and sharing among people and it promotes the learning of real content not just the dissection of language forms. Chin (2004), Squires (2003), Donald and Kneale (2001) and Ellis and Sinclair (1991) develop different useful activities to help students to become aware of the importance of study techniques and their own way of learning a foreign language and any other subject.
According to Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (as cited in McCafferty, Jacobs and DaSilva Iddings, 2006) cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning. Within cooperative learning groups students are given two responsibilities: To learn the assigned material and make sure that all other members of their group do likewise. In cooperative learning situations, students perceive that they can reach their learning goals only if the other students in the learning group also do so. The values inherent in cooperative efforts are (1) Commitment to the common good, (2) Success depends on the joint efforts of everyone to achieve mutual goals, (3) Facilitating, promoting, and encouraging the success of others is a natural way of life, (4) The pleasure of succeeding is associated with others' happiness in their success, (5) Other people are potential contributors to one's success, (6) Other people's worth is unconditional. Because there are so many diverse ways that a person may contribute to a joint effort, Cooperation places value on a wide range of diverse qualities that facilitate joint success. Thus, everyone has value, (7) Self-worth is unconditional. A person never loses value. Cooperative experiences result in individuals believing in themselves and their worth,(8) Cooperators value intrinsic motivation based on striving to learn, grow, develop, and succeed. Learning is the goal, not winning and (9) People who are different from oneself are to be valued. The diverse contributions of members results in the realization that, in the long run, everyone is of equal value and equally deserving, regardless of their gender, ethnic membership, culture, social class, or ability.
Furthermore, Research has shown that cooperative learning techniques:
Promote student learning and academic achievement
Increase student retention
Enhance student satisfaction with their learning experience
Help students develop skills in oral communication
Develop students' social skills working on leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication and conflict management skills.
Promote student self-esteem
Help to promote positive race relations.
Activities in this booklet aimed to explain the use of cooperative techniques and encourage their use in daily lessons based on Barkley's models (2007).
Critical thinking is the ability to interpret, analyze and evaluate ideas and arguments. The reasons we have for believing something and the implications of our beliefs are what really matters. That is why skilful reasoning is highlighted. Ennies (as cited in Fisher, 2001) defines critical thinking as a reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do. Almost everyone who ahs worked on critical thinking tradition has produced a list of thinking skills which they see as basic to critical thinking, Fisher (2001) focuses on the development of some of the fundamental critical skills: identifying the elements in a reasoned case, identifying and evaluating assumptions, clarifying and interpreting expressions and ideas, judging the acceptability and credibility of claims, evaluating arguments of different kinds, analyzing, evaluating and producing explanations, analyzing, evaluating and making decisions, drawing inferences and producing arguments.
Technology in Language Teaching
As access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become more widespread, so CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) has moved beyond the use of computer programs to embrace the use of the internet and web based tools. The term TELL (Technology Enhanced Language Learning) is response to the growing possibilities offered by the internet and communication technology. Videos and tapes have been replaced by mp3, IPods, DVDs, Mp4, etc. Furthermore, now internet offers new opportunities for authentic tasks and materials, as well as excellent opportunities for collaboration and communication between learners for example the use of wikis, blogs, etc. There are plenty of technological tools that may help teachers enrich language lessons and give learners exposure to and practice in all of the four main language macro-skills.
This project focused on the development of internet tools such as blogs, wikis, search engines and the use of softwares such as Word and Powerpoint for study purposes.
According to Tomlinson (2007) materials development refers to anything which is done by writers, teachers or learners to provide sources of language input and to exploit those sources in ways that maximize the likehood of intake: the supplying of information about and/or experience of the language in ways designed to promote language learning. Dubin and Olshtain (2000) claim that it is the job of the materials developers to write in harmony with the existing curriculum and to take into account school-leaving or national examinations. However, knowing the audience well does not mean that the writers can overlook defining the scope of the project in terms of combining and emphasizing language skills, language content and the processes in which skills and the content are used. Tomlinson (2007) suggests that materials should:
Achieve impact through novelty (unusual topics, illustrations and activities, variety, attractive presentations and appealing content).
Help learners to feel at ease and to develop confidence.
Be perceived by learners as relevant and useful.
Require and facilitate learners' self-investment (materials that require learners to make discoveries for themselves)
Provide the learners with opportunities to use the target language to achieve communicative purposes.
Take into account that learners differ in learning styles and affective attitudes.
Maximize learning potential by encouraging intellectual, aesthetic and emotional involvement which stimulates both right and left brain activities.