Dimensions of course development (Richards 2001):
- developing a course rationale
- describing entry and exit levels
- choosing course content
- sequencing course content
- planning the course content (syllabus and instructional blocks)
A. The course rationale
A starting point in course development is a description of the course rationale. This is a brief written description of the reasons for the course and the nature of it. The course rationale seeks to answer the following questions:
- Who is this course for?
- What is the course about?
- What kind of teaching and learning will take place in the course?
The course rationale answers these questions by describing the beliefs, values, and goals that underlie the course. It would normally be a two- or three-paragraph statement that has been developed by those planning and teaching a course and that serves to provide the justification for the type of teaching and learning that will take place in the course.
Developing a rationale also helps provide focus and direction to some of the deliberations involved in course planning. The rationale thus serves the purposes of (Posner and Rudnitsky 1986):
- guiding the planning of the various components of the course
- emphasizing the kinds of teaching and learning the course should exemplify
- providing a check on the consistency of the various course components in terms of the course values and goals
B. Describing entry and exit levels
In order to plan a language course, it is necessary to know the level at which the program will start and the level learners may be expected to reach at the end of the course. Language programs and commercial materials typically distinguish between elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels, but these categories are too broad for the kind of detailed planning that program and materials development involves. For these purposes, more detailed descriptions are needed of students’ proficiency levels before they enter a program and targeted proficiency levels at the end of it.
Information may be available on students’ entry-level from their results on international proficiency tests such as TOEFL or IELTS or specially designed tests may be needed to determine the level of the students’ language skills.