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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

INTRODUCTION

When a teacher is designing a course, one of the most important elements to consider is the goals and objectives. Goals and objectives are related to each other in that objectives are normally set to ensure the achievement of the goals. Graves (2000) claims that goals and objectives have a cause and effect relationship. In other words, the goal of a course may be achieved (the effect) if objectives are formulated to support the goal (the cause). At the end of a course, it is important to determine whether the goals and objectives have been achieved and this is when evaluation takes place. According to Kiely & Rea-Dickins (2005) evaluation is part of a process to determine students learning achievements which are related to a courses goals and objectives. If the students manage to achieve the goals and objectives set for them, it can be suggested that the course is a successful one. However, in course design, achieving the goals and objectives may not be possible if the designers do not take into consideration other factors that play very important roles in ensuring the success of a course. Graves (2000) proposes that developing and designing a course, involves several components which are these: a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. assessing needs; formulating goals and objectives; developing materials; articulating beliefs; defining the context; organizing the course; conceptualizing content; designing an assessment plan.

Graves (2000) stresses that the process is unhierarchical and unsequential. This means that designers can start developing their course with any of these components depending on beliefs and understandings. However, Graves also claims that each of these components is important and therefore designers must pay attention to some of them, if not all, very carefully when developing and designing a course.
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

This paper discusses a course aimed at helping a group of students perform better on their examination. The focus of the discussion is on how the goals and objectives of the course were achieved as the designers paid careful attention to some components listed in Graves framework. THE COURSE In June 2009, a two-day course was conducted for sixty Form Five students of a school in the state of Perak. These students were to sit for their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) at the end of the year. The course participants can read and write simple sentences. They were categorized as students who had the potential to pass English and would directly improve the percentage of passes of this subject. Hence, the school authorities with the cooperation of the school English Language Panel conducted a two-day course for them in hopes to equip them with techniques for answering English Language 1119 Paper 2. This paper was chosen because it has four sections which with guidance, the chosen students could be trained to answer. Section A has 15 multiple-choice questions, Section B requires students to transfer information, Section C requires students to read a comprehension passage, answer comprehension questions and write a summary. Section D is the Literature component. The SPM English Language 1119 Paper consists of Paper 1 and Paper 2. For Paper 1 students are required to write one directed writing essay and one continuous writing essay. Paper 2 on the other hand, has four sections and with proper guidance, students can be taught to write appropriately. These students were chosen for the course because they obtained between 20% to 35% marks for their mid-term English Language examination paper. With these marks, the students actually failed their English Language 1119 Paper 2. Graves (2000:77) states that goals are more general and objectives more specific. Brown (1995), too, is of the opinion that goals are general statements that usually focus on what the course hopes to accomplish in the future. The main goal of this two-day course was to equip the participants with
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

techniques and skills that would enable them to answer English Language 1119 Paper 2. It was suggested by Stanford University (2004) that every knowledge-based learning goal should be followed by a skilled-based goal. When considering the course objectives, the designers of this course wanted to provide participants with input (knowledge) and a followup with activities that would allow them to apply the knowledge. Woodward (2000) points out that it is essential for students to keep learning not only for an examination but also for real life. Hence, students needed to be shown that exam preparation can be good general learning, and general learning can be useful for the exam (Woodward, 2000: 223). This concept by Woodward is the belief that actually shapes the design of this course. According to Graves (2000) articulating ones belief is one of the components that may determine the success of a course. The panel set three objectives for the course. The first objective was that these students should be exposed to the skill of locating key words/phrases of the question and to achieve this goal, participants were given highlighters to be used during the activities. The second objective was being able to locate the main ideas of a reading text. The third objective was to obtain at least 40 marks out of 75 marks for Paper 2 in the revised paper at the end of the course. The course participants were required to retake the mid-year English Paper 2. Woodward (2000) proposes that the learner styles should be taken into consideration in the planning of a course. She suggests that the methods and materials chosen should fit the students learning styles. In a survey conducted before this course, the students chosen indicated that they needed more time in comprehending what was taught. According to Woodward (2000:21), these students fall into the category of dominant sensory channel (learning best by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, moving). Hence, when the panel sat together to plan the schedule of this course, it was decided that more time would be allocated for handson activities which, according to freedictionary.com involves active participation; an applied, as opposed to theoretical
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

approach. Here active participation would involve the sensory channel such as seeing visual presentations, hearing the explanations, and systematic instruction in completing a written exercise. The decision to conduct this course in this manner was made based on the results gathered when the students needs were assessed. This decision is in line with Graves framework which lists assessing needs as one of the components to consider when designing a course. This two-day course had six two-hour sessions. The course commenced on 26th June 2009 at 7.30 am and ended on 27th June 2009 at 4.30 pm. The schedule was as follows: 26th June 2009 07.30 am 08.00 am u Course participants assembled in the hall and the attendance was taken. u Session One (Section A and B ) u Tea-break u Session Two (Section C Reading Comprehension ) u Lunch-break, Friday prayers u Session Three (Section C Summary Writing )

08.00 am 10.00 am 10.00 am 10.30 am 10.30 am 12.30 pm 12. 30 am 03.00 pm 03.00 pm 05.00 pm 27th June 2009 07.30 am 08.00 am

u Course participants assembled in the hall and the attendance was taken. u Session Four (Section D Form Four Literature)

08.00 am 10.00 am

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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

10.00 am 10.30 am 10.30 am 12.30 pm 12. 30 am 02.30 pm 02.30 pm 04.30 pm

u Tea-break u Session Five (Section D Form Five Literature) u Lunch-break, prayers u Session Six (Resitting Mid-year English 1119 Paper 2)

The rationale behind the two-hour session was that, one hour was needed for content presentation and the second hour was needed for a workshop. During the workshop, the participants were given hands-on activities to complete individually and in pairs. The instructors stood by to assist when needed. The sixty course participants were divided into groups of ten students each. Ten students seemed ideal as instructors could give individual attention to the students which is very lacking in a classroom scenario of thirty-five students. The rationale behind this move was to gain an explanatoryunderstanding level of teaching. Bigge and Shermis (1999:253) define this level as:
Explanatory-understanding level teaching seeks to give students patterns of general ideas and supporting facts in such a way that they will see the relationships between the generalizations and the particulars or facts that support them and how the generalizations may be used; it is giving students rules.

The course instructors were English Language teachers of the school who attended a course at the beginning of the year on examination techniques. Hence, these teachers were equipped with the knowledge of techniques in answering English Language 1119 Paper 2. Some of the course instructors were Form Five English teachers. Materials prepared based on the objectives should help students achieve functional understanding (Bigge
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

& Shermis, 1999:249). According to Bigge and Shermis (1999:249), functional understanding is much more likely to occur if a learner, in learning generalizations and the specific facts pertinent to them, sees how some purpose is served thereby. The materials prepared would help the course instructors to describe and explain answers to the participants in the form of rules, relationships or generalizations. According to Brown (1995), materials should be adopted, developed, or adapted to suit the languages overall orientation. The key in developing sound materials is to ensure that they are described and organized well enough so that teachers can use them with no confusion and with a minimum of preparation time (Brown, 1995:139). The level of the language used in these materials should reflect the participants proficiency level and enable them to achieve functional understanding (Bigge & Shermis, 1999: 249). This approach conforms to Graves proposal that developing materials for a course must take into consideration students needs and opportunities to achieve the goals and objectives of the course.
DISCUSSION

Yalden (1987) states that setting up a new course involves a skillful blending of known knowledge of language teaching and learning that is blended with new elements brought by learners into the classroom. In Stanford Universitys (2004) winter newsletter, in designing a course, the key question was how will the course most likely make a difference for my students? On the other hand, Sysoyev (2000) proposes that the course-developing process should start with an analysis of the intended group of students. He believes that problems in L2 class are a result of teachers not paying attention to learners interests and ignoring students as a source of essential information (para 2). Willis and Garton (n.d.) are also of the same opinion that the focus should be on the learners. This courses participants reflected this. As these students tended to be slower in understanding, they needed more time to comprehend and grasp the concepts presented;
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

hence, the focus of learning should occur at their rate. In the normal classroom setting, the English teacher tends to follow the beat of the majority. As a result the slow learners are left behind. Hence, the panel who planned for this course, decided to conduct a two-hour session with hands-on activities. Sysoyev (2000) emphasizes the importance of analyzing the target group and applying Vygotskys concept of the Zone of the Proximal Development (ZPD). Sysoyev incorporates the role of mentor as suggested by Vygotsky to help students achieve what they cannot do on their own. Through this course the participants were provided with guidance to achieve what they could not do on their own. The longer session, with an instructor for ten students was ideal. Graves (2000:5), too, believes that teachers are the best people to design the courses they teach. Ornstein (1995:85) claims that,
good teaching is really about caring and sharing; the capacity to accept, understand, and appreciated students on their terms and through their world; making students feel good about themselves; having positive attitudes and setting realistic achievement goals; and getting all fired up with enthusiasm and a cheerful presence.

The students chosen for this course failed their English paper. The underlying objective was to show them that they were appreciated and that they needed to have a more positive attitude towards the learning of English so that they can fare better in their English examination. Through the planned activities, the instructors provided realistic achievements for them. Getting them to pass the paper was not an easy task but as Ornstein (1995) suggests, we need to get them all fired up to do better. The students were motivated as the course instructors showed that they really cared for them. These students were not the A-list students of the school; hence most of the time what they needed was for teachers to accept them and help them achieve their best. It might not be an A, but it would be their best grade. It would be considered a success if 70% of the course participants achieved 40 marks and above for their resit paper at the end of the course. Graves (2000) points out that in a good lesson, the
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

teacher should negotiate decisions with the students and as a result, students were shown that learning involved taking responsibility of what they choose to learn. Nunan (1988) is also of the opinion that learners themselves should be asked why they are learning the language. When asked that question, the chosen participants answered that they wanted to pass English, but they also stated the fact that they did not really understand what they had read in class. Here the students sincere plea helped teachers to conceptualize the content of this course. Conceptualizing content is knowing explicitly what to teach, what to emphasize during the course and knowing why those choices were made (Graves, 2000). Hence, in planning the course, the skills of locating key words/phrases and main points were taught to the students. The students were taught to ask Wh questions as they read the passage. They were not bombarded with the theory of summary writing but were shown step by step how to locate the main points, and since the explanation was accompanied by a power point presentation, this method appealed to the students dominant sensory channel. During the workshop session, participants were made to locate main ideas and to jot them down. They were also guided to write the summary. The participants were provided the scaffolding, which according to Wood, Brunner, and Ross (as cited in Schunk, 2004) is how learning environments are structured. The Literature component does not appeal to the slow learners as they are required to plough through pages and pages of text. Hence, during the Literature session of this course, participants were shown power point presentation slides of the poem, Monsoon History and the short story, The Necklace. They were also shown teaching course CDs of this poem and short story. This approach was used as it appealed to the participants dominant sensory channel. With nonlinear representation like pictures and graphics, instead of the linear text, the participants were able to grasp the main ideas of the poem and short story. In the presentation of the Literature component, the instructors decided to apply the deductive process. learning can be perceived as the process of applying received knowledge (Graves, 2000: 30).
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

This was based on the instructors beliefs that these students needed to be guided to become internalizers of knowledge. According to Ornstein and Hunkins (1999), deduction is the process of inferring the given conclusions from a combination of premises put forth. Logical sequences are constructed by employing deduction process of thinking. This process proceeds from the general to the specific. The instruction when delivering the content of the Literature component is through direct instruction which is based the pattern of teaching that consists of the teachers explaining a new concept or skill to a large group of students, (Joyce, Weil & Calhoun, 2000). The students understanding during the course was tested through a controlled practice prepared and conducted by the course instructors. The instructors believed that by appealing to the participants dominant sensory channel, presenting and explaining the new material directly, students should grasp the elements of Literature more efficiently. The plan for the last session of the course was for the participants to resit the Mid-year English Language 1119 Paper 2. The course instructors evaluated Paper 2 and the scores were tabulated. Out of the sixty course participants, forty-five scored 40/75 and above for Paper 2. The remainder fifteen participants scored above 30/75. This means that 75% of the course participants passed their Paper 2 after attending the course. Even though fifteen (25%) of the students scored below 40 marks (the passing mark) their marks had improved. Based on the students marks, it may be suggested that the courses goal and objectives had been achieved.
CONCLUSION

In relation to Graves (2000) framework of course development processes, the course conducted was a success. It was successful as at the end of the course, the course goal and objectives were achieved. More than half of the course participants achieved 40% and above marks for the resit test. In planning and developing the materials, the instructors chose to present the content in a manner that appealed to
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

the participants dominant sensory channel. Presenting the content was straight forward as these students needed to be guided in their thought process (Joyce, Weil & Calhoun, 2000:98). Hunt (as cited in Joyce, Weil & Calhoun, 2000: 98) asserts that when a teaching strategy which is tailored to the learners conceptual level is used, more learning will take place This was shown when the majority of the students managed to pass Paper 2 (scored 40 marks and above) when they retook the paper at the end of the course. All 60 participants of this course failed their Paper 2 when they sat for it prior to the course. During normal classroom hours, due to time constraints, teachers of these weaker students had no choice but to present concepts in class within a thirty-five-minute period or seventy-minute period. They had to deal with a class of thirty students, so they could not afford to give these students individual attention. This course enabled instructors to pay more attention to the participants and help them to have a greater appreciation and acceptance of the learning experience (Nunan, 1988). The purpose of the course was to present concepts to the participants that would appeal to their senses and hence help the learning process. In a normal class scenario, these students tended to be disruptive when they were bored. The course was planned with hands-on activities that kept the students occupied and their minds on the tasks they had to complete. The panel who designed the course also believed that the concept of zone of proximal development (ZPD) which is defined as the distance between the actual development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Vygotsky, as cited in Schunk, 2004: 295) would help the participants to attain functional understanding (Bigge & Shermis, 1999: 249). The participants and the instructors worked together in the ZPD on a task that they could not perform independently because of the level of difficulty suc as locating main/content points for summary writing. The participants feedback after the course reinforced the idea that it was a success. Students were no longer as disruptive as before in class as they now came to realize that
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English Language Journal Vol 4, (2011) 114-125 ISSN 1823 6820

they can pass English if they put in some effort. Even though not all sixty participants managed to get 40 and above for Paper 2, the change in attitude may have ensured that these students would attempt to answer the paper and not leave it blank. It is hoped that when these students sit for the English Language 1119 Paper during the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia at the end of the year, this course would have equipped them to answer Paper 2.

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