Review of a Syllabus and Educational Development

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Curriculum is one of the main educational processes, the well -built approach is characterized by the quality of goals and achieving its competent and also ensuring attainment of its goals, classification of knowledge, skills, values , trends and others .

Curriculum is a good way through which learners can learn how to communicate with the inside and outside environment; therefore, the curricula of English should be developed to achieve the objectives of education in order for the textbooks to be related to the learners' real environment, this is one side; the other side is to be socially appropriate communicators when they come to the external environment. This could be achieved through developing activities based on the communicative principles among students.

The English curricula represent a special necessity in Jordan since Jordan confirms the importance of achieving the requirements of cultural change, and this in turn contributes to the development of the curriculum of English textbooks. Therefore, curriculum in general and the English textbook in particular should be evaluated in any stage of the teaching - learning process in order to show the weaknesses and the strengths in there.

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The methods of teaching English in Jordan were generally similar to the current ones in other parts of the world. These methods have undergone three major stages: the grammar translation method, the audio lingual or the structural and the communicative approach. Firstly, there was a heavy emphasis on the grammar translation method. Most of the class period was given to the explanation of grammar rules and grammar terms. Lists of vocabulary were memorized with their equivalents in the native language. Texts of literature were translated. Arabic was frequently resorted to in explanations and students were expected to understand grammar rules and give translations and memorize meanings of words. Students were treated as if they were machines. They had to repeat, memorize, drill …etc. They were not given the chance to communicate using the foreign language but only they were passive recipients to the teacher's instructions; the teaching - learning process was a habit formation one.

The rapid development is one the most important characteristics which can be observed in all fields of knowledge and also the revolution of communication and technology. Therefore, it was incumbent for every nation to cope with the change in the development of curricula in line with the growth of knowledge. However, the process of building and development is not an easy process; it needs sustained, nonstop actions and also experimentations with meaningful and inclusive to as many as possible involved in the processes of teaching and education.

Action pack textbook

Action Pack is twelve level courses for Jordanian students, leading them from the basic to the secondary stage; it is based on the most modern methods of teaching language such as direct method, communicative language teaching, cooperative learning and others. Combining a topic -based approach with functional language practice, careful attention to grammar and vocabulary a comprehensive skill syllabus.

Action Pack is a real outcome of the recommendations that resulted from the conferences of Education development in Amman. It was introduced to Jordanian schools to be taught from grade one until eleventh grade, and it depends mainly on the communicative approach which aims at providing students with activities which are based on group work on the one hand, and creative thinking on the other hand.

The ministry of education has decided to adopt this book for Jordanian Six grade students in accordance with the approval of the board of education decision No.2/2010 dated o3/05/2010 for the 2010 -2011 academic year.

Action pack 6 is the sixth level of a twelve - level course for Jordanian learners of English .the course aims to introduce English gradually and efficiently through a variety of activities ,exercise types and songs .

Action Pack 6 builds upon the vocabulary and a structure introduced in the previous levels, and provides further practice in all four skills……… listening, reading, writing and speaking . Action pack's activities not only enable pupils to understand and communicate in English ,but also promote a positive attitude toward language learning in general and the learning of English as a foreign language in particular (ministry of education).

Components of Action pack

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Action book is made up of five components:

Pupil's book: the pupil's book consists of twenty units. This level focuses again on the family in levels four and five, and in particular the brother and sister characters Saleem and Fatima. New language is presented in the contexts of themes that will be familiar to the age group, for example computers; weekend trips; plans; Health; famous places in Jordan such as Jerash, Petra, Amman, Salt and others. This book has clearly numbered activities each with a simple rubric.

Activity book: the activity book is also made up of twenty units, allowing learners to consolidate their understanding.

The teacher's book

The cassette

Flashcards and wall charts

Action Pack is

Summary

As you know, selecting a syllabus in the trend of teaching and learning is not an easy way but it's a difficult and overwhelming process and also is not as clear and straightforward as you hoped or assumed. On the other side of the coin, selecting the syllabus is important and plays a significant role in student's achievements. For this reason, this review will focus on the status of speaking in the action pack 6 to be evaluated initially. Then the attention will be drawn on the scope and this will be followed by the critical review. Finally, the attention shall shed light on the recommendations.

At the outset, a syllabus is a plan that is used to reflex what students at a school or college should learn in a particular subject. However, syllabus is not only about what students should learn or knowledge that has to be gained. But syllabus helps students to meet the desired expectations which make them feel secure.

As discussed above, I can say that a well -designed course syllabus is a piece of written document of the assignments, reading, activities which serves a verity of purposes: as an agreement between the teacher and the student and also as a device for communication (Matejka & Kurke, 1994).

Breen(2001) states that any syllabus designed by any teacher should provide the following: A clear framework of knowledge and capabilities selected to be appropriate to overall aims; continuity and a sense of direction in classroom work.

The purpose of the syllabus is to drive the content of the textbook. There are three main rules that syllabus might serve. They are as follows: the purpose of the syllabus as a contract between the teacher and the student where the syllabus demarcate or define the responsibility of students and teachers for a variety of tasks such as examinations, assignments and others. A number of implications should be taken into account in case of designing a syllabus such as a clear and accurate timeline should be provided explicitly to show what is expected from the student to do inside the classroom and also what is supposed to bring for each class. Kinds of assessments should be included in the syllabus. Learning needs and students learning style preferences should be taken into account in case of designing a syllabus because some students are visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and auditory while other students are individual and group students. The function of the syllabus as a permanent record is to show evidence of effectiveness and ineffectiveness of an instructor and academic unit. By providing what was covered in the classroom, what the role of students in the classroom, and how outcomes and performances have been evaluated or assessed. Review committee focus on whether teachers or instructors are aware of the level of students or not, and also they take into account the syllabus as proof or indication of teachers' clarity of writing, attitudes toward students' knowledge or performance, fairness in evaluation.

Finally, if the syllabus is obviously written, well- organized, helpful, suitably humorous, and thoughtful and also has a perfect style and grammar then it serves students as a model of professional thinking and writing. However, a syllabus that is contradictory, sloppy, misleading and others will have a lack of respect (Parkes & Harris, 2002).

Scope

This review will basically focus on speaking as a basic element in the chosen syllabus. The interest is done to some reasons such as the lack of systematical order in teaching speaking. In this part, a lot of aspects will be reviewed and discussed in relation to speaking. Although, these aspects are significant, we cannot overlook the role of teacher, approaches and students as well. Since speaking is our target, defining it is an important point. Broadly defined, speaking is the most important skill in learning English as a foreign language or as a second language through focusing on communicative activities and expressive abilities and the goal is to speak English fluently. Speaking lesson is the bridge for a learner between the classroom and the outside world so in the given syllabus the teacher linked the students between the classroom and the outside world such as talking about Karak, Salt, the old English hospital in Karak and others. The teacher gave the student the chance to practice opportunities for purposeful communication in meaningful situation. I can say that when developing the speaking skill of lower level students as the given syllabus for sixth grade the teacher has spent much time through practicing the following: using the language in the real time, talking about topics related to the outside world and others.

Critical review

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As mentioned above, action pack focuses on both receptive and productive skills. However, some teachers in Jordan concentrate in designing their syllabuses on skills and ignore other skills. Fareh (2010) states that there are many challenges in teaching Action pack textbook in Jordan as follows:

The level of teaching material is higher than the level of the student.

Textbooks are written by native speakers who don't have sufficient background about the learners and their needs and their linguistic background.

Size of the book is usually large and can't be covered in a semester or during a year.

In a review of a syllabus, it can be found that there is no contradiction between the goal of the learners to communicate or to speak and outside the classroom because as you see in the given syllabus the teacher distributed speaking skill well in all units. I think that students are satisfied with that because what they need and what the society needs is that they should be able to communicate effectively and successfully so the teacher was successful in linking the classroom with the Jordanian culture and also places like Salt, Amman, Karak and others see pictures taken from the textbook about Salt in the 19 century, the old town of Karak and the old English hospital in Karak.

In the given syllabus, the teacher ignored including and introducing the IPA pronunciation system as well as taking students to a specific place to practice the new words such as a small laboratory with some computers to practice APA pronunciations. He concentrated on memorizing or recognizing the new words without mentioning anything about how students can pronounce the words correctly. So the teacher should take into account objectives like to use and spell correctly learned vocabulary, to pronounce the English words correctly, to demonstrate familiarity with English sounds in words, to use the correct intonation for questions and statements and others.

In the given syllabus, the teacher also didn't mention any educational resources such as pupil's book, activity book, cassette, flashcards, wall chart and others. For example, in the first unit under the title what does the computer do? The teacher didn't mention any educational recourse related to the computer such as laptop, mouse, and battery.

There is a contradiction between sharing out speaking skill and that of testing. The general purpose of speaking is to enable student communicate effectively through communicative tasks such as role play, interview, language exchange and games while the testing items mainly focus on work sheets and work paper. Testing is a part of the syllabus, and should serve the purpose of the syllabus for which it is developed so as you see in the given syllabus the teacher concentrated on work sheets and work papers as a way of evaluation and ignored speaking assessment such as performance -based assessment and presentation. By focusing on work sheets and work papers students could achieve rather high score but they couldn't use the language effectively and also teaching and learning will be effective by overuse of the subjective testing items. So I can say that the evaluation of the syllabus has not given due importance and not well carried out see pictures taken from the text book about different communicative tasks.

Cooperative learning is the way in which students learn from each other effectively. The role of the teacher is to help students work collaboratively or socially. However, in the given syllabus, the teacher didn't mention any instructional strategies such as collaborative learning so how student can make active use of the language through communicative tasks such as telephone's conversation, dialogue, interview, and role play (see pictures taken from the textbook).

Regarding to the given syllabus, the teacher concentrated on three skills (speaking, writing, and reading) and ignored the other skill (listening) although there are many lessons and songs in the textbook see the pictures below taken from the text book.

Recommendation

After reviewing this syllabus specifically speaking skill and approaches and techniques adopted by the teacher in teaching speaking, it is considered important to show some recommendations that enable the curriculum developers, course and syllabus designers and also educational policy makers to make use of such recommendations when they start modifying and developing the curriculum. Following these recommendations and other recommendations given by other students, researchers, and teachers will make the teaching process easier to help students progress in learning and delimit their impediments they encounter during their learning by the simplified teaching processes teachers follow.

I recommend making some modification in the distribution of the units and topics that represent the speaking skill specifically the kind of evaluation and the pronunciation. Another thing which may be considered the most significant part is to focus on all skills. Moreover, including and introducing the IPA pronunciation system through taking student to a specific place to practice the new words such as a small laboratory with some computers to practice pronouncing new words. Lastly, it is considered important to take students to the old historical places in Jordan such as Petra, Jerash, Karak, and Aqaba to give them the chance to make active use of the language through communicating with tourists and also self confidence.

In conclusion

This review aims at evaluating the syllabus of Jordanian Six grade students from one basic aspect which is the speaking skill and pronunciation. This review also took into account the strengths and weakness points of the speaking skill in the syllabus. The positive of the action pack is as a real outcome resulted from the conferences of Education development to be introduced to Jordanian schools to be taught from grade one until eleventh grade, and to suit students needs and preferences. It also helps students to communicate effectively through group work and creative thinking.

This review also took into account the methods and approach used in the educational system in Jordan.

Regarding to the syllabus from the speaking skill side, I found that that syllabus needs some modifications to be suitable for students needs and preferences and also that syllabus needs some changes in the evaluation system although the action pack is designed to be suitable for students needs and preferences through adopting the communicative language approach.

In summary, I have mentioned some recommendations in the review in the hope of giving a positive effect for syllabus designers and educational policy makers.