Approaches to Foreign Language Syllabus Design.
This "Digest" is based on the ERIC/CLL "Language in Education" series monograph entitled "Approaches to Syllabus Design for Foreign Language Teaching" by Karl Krahnke, available from Prentice-Hall/Regents for $11.33. To order, write to: Book Distribution Center, Route 59 at Brook Hill Dr., West Nyack, NY 10994 or call:1-800-223-1360.
THE PLACE OF THE SYLLABUS
A language teaching syllabus involves the integration of subject matter (what to talk about) and linguistic matter (how to talk about it); that is, the actual matter that makes up teaching. Choices of syllabi can range from the more or less purely linguistic, where the content of instruction is the grammatical and lexical forms of the language, to thepurely semantic or informational, where the content of instruction is some skill or information and only incidentally the form of the language. To design a syllabus is to decide what gets taught and in what order. For this reason, the theory of language explicitly or implicitly underlying the language teaching method will play a major role in determining what syllabus is adopted. Theory of learningalso plays an important part in determining the kind of syllabus used. For example, a syllabus based on the theory of learning espoused by cognitive code teaching would emphasize language forms and whatever explicit descriptive knowledge about those forms was presently available. A syllabus based on an acquisition theory of learning, however, would emphasize unanalyzed, though possibly carefullyselected experiences of the new language in an appropriate variety of discourse types.
The choice of a syllabus is a major decision in language teaching, and it should be made as consciously and with as much information as possible.There has been much confusion over the years as to what different types of content are possible in language teaching syllabi and as to whether the differences are insyllabus or method. Several distinct types of language teaching syllabi exist, and these different types may be implemented in various teaching situations.
SIX TYPES OF SYLLABI
Although six different types of language teaching syllabi are treated here as though each occurred "purely," in practice, these types rarely occur independently of each other. Almost all actual language teaching syllabi arecombinations of two or more of the types defined here. For a given course, one type of syllabus usually dominates, while other types of content may be combined with it. Furthermore, the six types of syllabi are not entirely distinct from each other. For example, the distinction between skill-based and task-based syllabi may be minimal. In such cases, the distinguishing factor is often the way inwhich the instructional content is used in the actual teaching procedure. The characteristics, differences, strengths, and weaknesses of individual syllabi are defined as follows:
1. "A structural (formal) syllabus." The content of language teaching is a collection of the forms and structures, usually grammatical, of the language being taught. Examples include nouns, verbs, adjectives,statements, questions, subordinate clauses, and so on.
2. "A notional/functional syllabus." The content of the language teaching is a collection of the functions that are performed when language is used, or of the notions that language is used to express. Examples of functions include: informing, agreeing, apologizing, requesting; examples of notions include size, age, color, comparison, time, and so on.3. "A situational syllabus." The content of language teaching is a collection of real or imaginary situations in which language occurs or is used. A situation usually involves several participants who are engaged in some activity in a specific setting. The language occurring in the situation involves a number of functions, combined into a plausible segment of discourse. The primary purpose of...