Why Course Structure and Development in a Business English Setting Is Important
The Business English Teacher needs to consider how to structure and develop a course for students. Because students in a Business English setting are working professionals, they typically will have specific needs and learning objectives that a teacher will have to cater to.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jan S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Steps for creating a course structure
Understanding students’ motivation and language level
Knowing how to structure and develop an ESL class for adult, Business-English students involves first finding out what motivates the students to learn English, and also what their English ability is upon entering the course. This involves two steps that can be undertaken simultaneously. First, the teacher must administer some sort of General English level test to gauge the students’ proficiency in English. Additionally, the teacher must undertake a needs analysis. The needs analysis will inform the teacher about how to structure and develop the course in such a way that the students’ objectives for being in the class (i.e., “needs”) are met.
Once the students have been grouped according to their English ability level, and a needs analysis has been undertaken to determine why the students are studying English and what motivates them to learn, the structure of the course and its development can commence.
Content and syllabus
A Business English Teacher can organize course content around a syllabus. There are several syllabi that a teacher might select based on student needs. For students who wish to focus on studying grammar, the structural syllabus might be best suited to their needs, wherein the course is sequenced based on the complexity of the grammar. Some students request practice with specific communicative purposes such as business dealings, or travel situations. For these students, the teacher might create a functional, or notional syllabus that reflects the purpose of the communication that students wish to learn. If students are particularly high levels in English, a teacher might open up the course design to direct input from the students and create a learner-led syllabus where students actively create the structure of the course and consider how the course will develop over time.
Whether the teacher creates the course content single-handedly, or if there is input from students about the syllabus, consideration must be given to the skills that will be targeted as learning objectives for the students’ development. Does the course require the development of writing skills? How will those skills be practiced? What will the structure of learning new writing skills look like? The same questions can be asked for a communication-centered lesson. What is the target language structure that students need to practice learning? How will the teacher engage the students with the new language structures that they need to produce? How will the students study new structures? What worksheets or other practice materials need to be created to practice new language structures in the Study phase of a lesson? How will students produce the target language structures during the Activate stage of the lesson? The teacher must consider all of these questions as he/she is developing a new course in general, and each new lesson in particular.
Tracking the progress
Finally, how will success in this course be measured? Consideration must be given to how a teacher will conduct both formative and summative assessments. Ideally, the teacher should build them into the course and use regular, formative assessments (or progress tests) as a means of gauging how students are progressing towards the overall goals of the course. Larger, more high-stakes assessments (i.e., summative assessments) should occur as a culmination of learning a new set of language structures, or language skills. In some cases, the particular needs of students are that they practice for a specific high-stakes examination such as a CEIBT or LCCI exam. In those cases, the course can be designed to capture the experience of test-taking, as well as the language structures (both vocabulary and grammar) that are covered on the test.
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To recap, the Business English Teacher must work with the adult students in the course, to best develop a course structure that most closely meets the needs of the students. By conducting a good level test, as well as a good needs analysis at the outset of a course, a teacher will be best able to cater to the specific needs of those students.
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