One factor to consider in planning a curriculum is the target situation. There are many aspects of the target situation that the curriculum developer must consider. These aspects include societal factors, project factors, institutional factors, teacher factors, learner factors, and adoption factors. In analyzing all of the various factors, a curriculum developer may get a clearer understanding of how the project will progress. Additionally, in assessing the factors, the curriculum developer can predict the potential impact that these factors will have on the project. I will illustrate this by discussing the learner factor and the societal factor.
First, I will describe the students for which this course has been designed. Learners in this situation are international students in the Program in Intensive English at Northern Arizona University. The Drama ELI course is a multi-level, multi-skill course. Therefore, students in the class are from all levels of ability in the program. Most of the students’ classes are academic based—reading and writing, listening and speaking, Core (content- and project- based instruction), and computer applications. However, the ELI courses are different, in that they focus on different skills and abilities. Students’ perception of the applicability of this course to their goals (passing the TOEFL, passing the PIE exam) may lead students to question its effectiveness. This might lead some students to not support the elective courses. Hence, student initial attitudes towards electives may be mixed, or slightly negative.
Because many of the students in PIE were taught in teacher-centered classrooms, they may be skeptical of learner-centered, communicative teaching (as this course is). This may decrease motivation because they feel that they are not “learning” anything, when in actuality, they may be. However, when students see the applicability of communicative language teaching, and how it can help them achieve their goals, they may become more motivated. Additionally, students can see the applicability of learning the skills taught in ELIs to other contexts of their life. This will have a positive impact. It is up to the instructors to convey the importance of the goals in this ELI class.
Many students desire to learn how to use English in social settings. One benefit of this Drama ELI class is that it uses real (or hypothesized) situations in which students are asked to dramatize, or act out. Students can “play” with the language, practice dramatizing social situations, learn some pragmatics skills, and become more confident in their abilities to carry out a conversation with a native speaker. This is a clear positive impact on the learner.
Societal factors influence the elective in other ways. As this class was designed to be taught in the United States, there may be some effects of the society on this program. The PIE has proposed that these ELI classes be implemented to give students projects, fluency practice, and motivate them to use English in real situations. Many, if not all, professionals in the TESL program support these electives classes. When it was offered previously, a Drama class similar to the one proposed here got many positive remarks on behalf of the professors and instructors in the TESL program at NAU. They believed that it was a good way to get students to take more risks in language, effectively communicate with others, and apply their knowledge of English to various situations (real or hypothesized).
Because this class is highly supported by instructors and the department, people may start talking about it. Although Drama courses for English language improvement are not commonplace, many supporters of communicative language teaching would possibly adopt it into their curriculum. If it becomes more widespread, the effects will be clearer. Nonetheless, it appears that in acting, students use all skills, and use English in authentic ways. This should have a positive impact on the learners and on society when learners are more able to attempt communication without fear.
The following list of questions hypothesizes both the societal and learner factors to consider when creating the situation analysis. The situation analysis seeks to hypothesize these factors by hypothesizing the potential internal strengths, internal weaknesses, external opportunities, and external threats.
You may create your own situation analysis by answering the following questions:
• Do students support this elective?
• What is their attitude towards this elective?
• What language learning experiences do they have that influence their attitude?
• How motivated are the students to participate in this class?
• What are their expectations of the class?
• How do they view language teaching?
• What type of content do they prefer?
• How much time can they be expected to put into the class?
• What current language teaching policies exist and how are they viewed?
• What are the underlying reasons for the elective and who supports it?
• What impact will this elective have on the program?
• What language teaching experience and traditions exist in the PIE?
• How do members of the public view second languages and second language teaching?
• What community resources are available to support the Drama performance, such as radio, TV, and the media?