Monday, June 28, 2010

Article 4

June 27

Chapter 4 was entitled "Designing a seventh-grade social studies course for ESL students at an international school"- the experience of Pat Fisher, a chairperson of the English Department of an international school in Japan. This chapter fascinates me because I had similar experiences to what Fisher experienced in regards to the development of conversational, everyday English and academic English, and how vastly different the two are.
I came to the United States in second-grade, and although I had some difficulties in first understanding academic language, but because I was young, I transitioned quite smoothly from my first language to English. However, it was being an instructor that I realized how different- and difficult- it is to acquire conversational language from academic language.
Fisher had the same dilemma in which the students in the middle school where she was teaching were fluent in communicative language but were struggling in their classes. Being enrolled in the academic programs at the international school put higher demands on the students' use and understanding of the English language. Therefore, Fisher, who was a social studies teacher, had to teach both the English language and the social studies content in order for her students to learn and work independently with the schoolwork (64).
Fisher started with proposed goals, addressing the students' learning needs. Going back to the second chapter, "A framework of course development processes," Fisher addressed the first and second steps- assessing needs and determining goals and objectives, respectively. Although her proposal was accepted, she realized that she did not fully address the second step because the goals and objectives were written vaguely, not specifically stating what it is to be learned by students in both content and language.
Therefore, she re-develops her goals and objectives through research of methods done by other teachers and with the reflections of her own experiences, and she mapped them out until she came up with a specific and workable set of objectives in order to attain her goal which is to develop learners who are "competent autonomous functioning in the mainstream" (70). Also, in adherence to the fourth step in developing a course, Fisher also addressed the roles of her students on "Appendix A: Pilot-year proposal" on page 75. With the final pages of her experience, she includes tools that she incorporated in her teaching in the attempts to her class goal; these included a "student contract"- a list of assignments and tests, a "correction worksheet"- developing not only knowledge of the content but competency in the language, a "map-around group"- rubric type, a checklist for peer editing, and "information sharing"- a group activity.
I admire her development of lessons in which teachers and students can clearly see the objectives, and students would see what is expected of them through an organized and explicitly stated set of criteria. She addresses the needs of her students, which is to develop content knowledge and to develop academic language.
Going back to my experiences as an instructor- I was a part-time tutor to some middle-school and high-school ESL students who were attending private schools here on Guam. The schools did not have an ESL curriculum, and the students were given the exact same materials as their classmates and were expected to perform in just about the same level. The "elephant in the face" problem was that the students had just come from Korea and were not only lacking in using academic language, but were also struggling with English conversational language. Overtime, although they developed communicative skills with English, academic language was much more difficult to develop. So, did they enjoy school? I would guess not because their learning needs were not met.

Chu, Andrea. Teenage female student (12-14) reading book on floor in library. [Photograph]. Retrieved from
J-Bridges. Image of Shibuya, Japan. [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Monday, June 21, 2010

Article 2

June 21

Chapter 2, "A framework of course development processes," brings us to the steps of course development along with questions of concern for each step, important key words that the author clarifies, and issues that she addresses. This is the longest chapter of the book as it addresses seven important steps with much details.
The first step is Needs assessment- this is to answer the questions, "What are the students' needs and how can the teacher assess and address them?" First of all the term needs assessment refers to obtaining data in order for the teacher to learn what the students already know and what they need to know, and to bridge the gap between the two. In finding out the needs, the teacher should take into account the students' current proficiencies and difficulties and also, their
backgrounds, which have effects on how they learn.
These factors help determine the differences of needs varying from student to student. It is not only highly beneficial for teachers to conduct needs assessment (by a variety of methods such as questionnaires, interviews, observations, and samples of previous work), but involving students with their own needs assessment is also greatly beneficial because it helps students "become more aware and more purposeful in their learning" (14).
The second step is Determining goals and objectives, to answer questions, "What are the purposes and intended outcomes of the course? What will my students need to do or learn to achieve these goals?" The author differentiates the terms goals and objectives, in which goals is defined as the "overall, long-term purposes of the course" (seeing the big picture) and objectives as "express[ing] the specific ways in which the goals will be achieved" (seeing details and chunking them in order to achieve the goal) (17).
The importance of setting goals and objectives is to give direction and coherence for the instructor in planning the course he/she will teach. Furthermore, in choosing goals and objectives, there are several things to be considered, such as the student's needs, district standards and curriculums, school policies, among many other factors. The goals can involve proficiency goals, cognitive goals, affective goals, and transfer goals. Details of these are found on page 17 of the textbook.
The third step is Conceptualizing content- "What will be the backbone of what I teach? What will I include in my syllabus?" In accordance to language teaching, the contents that the teacher will include, emphasize, and integrate are different aspects of language and language learning. In the recent years, language teaching has moved away from a "one-size-fits-all" program to being more context-dependent and specific needs, interests, goals, and so forth of the students are taken to consider. The traditional way of conceptualizing content includes grammar structures, patterns, and vocabulary, and are very much systematic and governed by rules (20). There are several ways of teaching the contents above through pronunciation, communicative situations, and other contextual and practical applications. There is also the exploration of culture.
The fourth step, Selecting and developing materials and activities, describes and attempts to answer the questions "How and with what will I teach the course? What is my role as the teacher? What are my students' role?" For many instructions, teachers consider activities and materials as the backbone because they are something concrete that students will use and have focus on for the class (26). In gathering materials and activities, it is important to note their feasibility and availability (26). Last week, I had related questions to this topic, and Dr. Rivera said that a network is very important such as joining professional organizations, like the IRA, in helping me obtain materials, and another option is exploring online, which has a great collection of activities used and tested my many teachers.
The fifth step, Organization of content and activities- "How will I organize the content and activities? What systems will I develop?" The author explains that there is a system in organizing content and activities, and the two general principle to follow is building and recycling. This is developed through simple to open-ended ideas, or concrete to abstract. This is the principle of building. Recycling means "encountering new materials in new ways: in a new skill area, in a different type of activity, or with a new focus" (28). This makes new encounters challenging and thus keep interest and motivation. The great upside of recycling is that prior knowledge is used and further developed through connections of new and different channels.
Evaluation is the sixth step and addresses the questions "How will I asses what students have learned? How will I assess the effectiveness of the course?" Teachers can use both formal and informal, formative and summative methods of assessment in order to find what students have learned and how effective was the teacher in teaching the course. This describes that teachers are not only to assess the cognitive and proficiency content within the course but also the effectiveness of the course- "Was the course effective? In what ways? Where did I fall short?" (30). Students can provide feedback through assessments. The purpose of evaluation is for promoting and improving effectiveness, with the teacher and students as the principal evaluators of the course.
Lastly, the seventh step is Consideration of resources and constraints, and answers the question, "What are the givens of my situation?" Different teachers will look at different circumstances as either resources or constraints. In either case, the teacher will still plan, develop a course, and teach in fulfilling such constraints or making use of such resources. The given situation are factors in the decisions made- a principle of problematizing.
I learned a great deal of things in course development just with this chapter alone. I have already learned much of the information given here, especially on the topic of assessment and evaluation, in previous classes. And I hope that this would deem invaluable to my coming years of teaching- the application of my knowledge gained from my classes.

Bobbyperux. February 2010. [Photograph]. DevianArt. Retrieved from
Book image. [Photograph]. Retrieved from
Gutter. [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Article 1

June 16, 2010
A couple of days ago, I talked about my philosophy on teaching with the emphasis of theory and experience going hand-in-hand in order to develop a course, curriculum, syllabus, and lesson plan that work. The same ideas and principles are established in the first chapter, "Teachers as course developers," in Kathleen Grave's textbook of the same namesake. Theory, both theories in the general and the personal sense, and experience provide coherence and direction for the teacher (2). I like her description that teachers in the field are learners too, in which they incorporate their own experiences and prior understandings into new contexts, and continue to modify them into their teaching craft in order to develop a course that benefits the teachers and their students (2). Although curriculum development comes with guidelines, models, and principles that can greatly help a teacher, experience is highly important too because the teacher is the one who knows her situations in relation to her students. I like how the author words this idea: "experience... enables teachers to make sense of the theories and expertise of others because it gives them opportunities to clarify their understanding of theory and make it concrete" (6).
Another valuable insight that I learned from the reading is the stages of course development. Stage 1 is the planning of the course (in which goals and priorities are identified); Stage 2 is the actual teaching of the course; Stage 3 is modifying/replanning the course; and lastly, Stage 4 is the reteaching of the course.
The process does not end with the last stage however, as modifications and reteaching can occur several times in order to improve on the lesson or meet the needs of the learners (4). Throughout this entire process is the cyclical, ongoing assessment and decision making process. Part of the decision making is problematizing- the teacher defines the problem in a concrete situation and find a workable solution for it (5, 6). This active process' purpose, according to one of my professors, is for the improvement and maximizing of learning of the students. This is the purpose of teaching and the duty of teachers.

Rodrigues, Andres. Image of planning. [Photograph]. Retrieved from
JIU. Image of a teacher. [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Monday, June 14, 2010

ED 480 First Day

June 14, 2010

For the past several weeks, I felt that I have been running around like a headless chicken trying to find an instructor who would take me for an ED 480 class. Thank goodness, Dr. Rivera had the kind heart to teach me this course. I am deeply, deeply thankful that she is not only kind enough to provide this support, but that she was also amiable when I first met her. :-)
I met with Dr. Rivera for a briefing of the course earlier today, and at first I felt a bit overwhelmed because of all the assignments that have to be turned in and my concern that when I'm in Korea, would I be too busy to work? But I concluded that, sure, with a little bit more push, everything should come through. This is one of my very last Education courses, I ought to get as much out of it as I can, and prepare for a lifetime career of teaching, or at least get through with student teaching first. There are still a great deal to learn with becoming a teacher, although I know that I have improved over the years through experiences of being a tutor and Sunday School teacher and being a student of the University. My philosophy about being a teacher is that in order to develop the art and science of teaching, theory must be experienced and experience must be incorporated in theory. Yet, since I feel that I am still at the ultimately basic stages of both, I feel very anxious of the unknown.
When I read the first chapter of Kathleen Graves' Teachers as Course Developers, the author expressed the questions that I've thought and felt in approaching the task of becoming a course developer.
"Where do I start?" Although I have had experiences of developing lesson plans, assessments, and even a mini-curriculum, I trust that this course and this textbook would broaden my views and knowledge, deepen my understanding, guide my craft, and open my eyes to the art and science of teaching- in which I do not have to blindly feel through with my first experiences of student teaching, or teaching in general. And thus, yes, I am anticipating a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. ^^

Munch, Edvard. Painter. The Scream. [Painting]. Norway. Retrieved from
Valentin, Nicolas. Image of a rainbow. [Photograph]. Retrieved from photography.jpg.