As tutors, we all struggle with the age-old question: What am I to teach? However, from my experience I have learned to turn this question on it’s head, and ask: What do my learners need to know? What language areas need improving?
In order to answer these important questions, a needs analysis is called for. This will determine what the learner will use English for. In turn this will inform what language areas will be covered, to what extent and to what level of accuracy and fluency.
However it is also very important to determine a learner’s level of English before the start of a course. Therefore a level assessment is also to be completed.
Once the initial level assessment and needs analysis are dealt with, it is up to the trainer to devise a course based on these results.
At Elite Learning, we have lessened the time that this process normally takes by creating one pre-course assessment that focuses on what the learner needs English for, as well as the learner’s strengths and weaknesses.
Finding the appropriate material to build a course from, is then the next step. I have found that it is very effective to have the controlled environment, that is the training room, mirror the real world. Many times it is pointless to devise a course that is divorced from the reality of the learners’ lives. Therefore it is very useful to make use of authentic materials – texts or contexts – and use this as the basis for language-learning tasks.
At Elite Learning we stress the importance of learners going away from a course feeling that they have not only improved their level of English by learning new words or forms, but also feeling that they can do their “English” tasks better and more confidently.
This is achieved by putting the learner at the centre of the course from the very outset. The pre-course assessment is devised to show the trainer what the learner wants and needs. The course design is then built around this information. It is very disheartening, not to say outright negative, to focus on a learner’s weak points. It is the learner’s strengths that will help improve their overall linguistic level. Therefore a pre-course assessment should give the learner an opportunity to show what they know, as well as what they need.
In conclusion, therefore one pre-course assessment, carefully devised and focussing on learners’ strengths and needs, should be the basis of a tailor-made course.