You are proficient in a language to the extent you possess it, make it your own, bend it to your will, assert yourself through it rather than simply submit to the dictates of its form.

Widdowson, H.G. (1994) ‘The Ownership of English’, Tesol Quarterly, 28/2, pg. 284

Natural order and Incidental Learning 

The acquisition of an L2 grammar follows a ‘natural order’ that is roughly the same for all learners, independent of age, L1, instructional approach, etc., although there is considerable variability in terms of the rate of acquisition and of ultimate achievement (Ellis 2008), and, moreover, ‘a good deal of SLA happens incidentally’ (VanPatten and Williams 2007).

The social basis of learning and the importance of the internal syllabus

Learning is a mediated, jointly-constructed process, enhanced when interventions are sensitive to, and aligned with, the learner’s current stage of development (Lantolf and Thorne 2006).

Language as subject; Coursebook as medium


Discreet items

Findings from corpus linguistics: “some relatively common linguistic constructions are overlooked, while some relatively rare constructions receive considerable attention” (Biber, et al. 1994, p. 171).

Language as a Tool for Communication 

Syllabus: Process vs. Product 

From Geoffrey Jordan’s blog (https://criticalelt.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/product-or-process-teachers-or-learners/):

In the Product Syllabus the teacher implements a syllabus which has been previously constructed by a syllabus designer who determines the objectives, and divides the content into what are considered to be manageable bits. The syllabus is thus external to the learner, determined by authority (the syllabus designer’s boss). The teacher’s job is to deliver the course, making all day-to-day decisions affecting its implementation. Assessment of success and failure is done in terms of achievement or mastery, using external tests and exams.

In the Process Syllabus the focus is on how the L2 is to be learned. It involves no artificial pre-selection or arrangement of items and allows objectives to be determined by a process of negotiation between teacher and learners after they meet, as a course evolves. The syllabus is thus internal to the learner, negotiated between learners and teacher as joint decision makers, emphasizes the process of learning rather than the subject matter, and assesses accomplishment in relationship to learner’s criteria of success.

A framework for scrutinizing syllabus types from Geoff Jordan’s blog ( https://criticalelt.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/iatefl-2016-plenary-scott-thornbury-the-entertainer/):

I think it would have been better to have used a framework like Breen’s (1984) to compare and contrast the syllabus types under scrutiny, asking of each one

  1. What knowledge does it focus on and prioritise?
  2. What capabilities does it focus on and prioritise?
  3. On what basis does it divide and sub-divide what is to be learned?
  4. How does it sequence what is to be learned?
  5. What is its rationale?


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