Design principles

All teachers will have some ideas about how an English B course programme should be put together. I have labelled these ideas 'design principles'. These ideas will include their own preferred ways of running a language class... what they think thier particular students can handle... or at least what resources they have available.

But how should we sort out which of these ideas are most appropriate for an IB English B course?

To start with...

All Language B programmes need to have an irreducible minimum of content, as required by the Subject Guide -  we can call this the 'IB Core'. You can find these under the section  Subject Guide overview , and I list the main specific elements below:-

(Click on each to reach the relevant section of the site.)

Concepts & skills

In addition, students need to be prepared for the assessment components:-

Exam processes:

In covering these core requirements, teachers can choose whatever materials and teaching procedures they decide are relevant to their students' needs and abilities. Simply put, they can teach whatever they like, in whatever way they like.

However, discussions in dozens of workshops, with hundreds of teachers, have convinced me that the range of possibilities is not infinite, and that actual practice involves a blend of a limited number of design principles. Let us review the range of possible principles in a little more detail...

Design Principles explained 

(Links are provided to relevant sections of this site, for further exploration.)

Text-book based 

... get an appropriate text book, and work through it

[ see  New OUP Course Book ... New CUP Course Book ...

'Realia' + availability of materials 

... build course around real texts, culled from real life - influenced, of course, by what you can find, but the internet has made life much easier in that respect ...

[ see   Themes, 2018 onwards for examples of this


...  you select stimulus texts and subject matter according to what you think will interest your students

Student chosen & provided  

...  the students agree what they want to study, then divide the topics between them and (in pairs or small groups) find materials, present them, and run the classes

Target-based (grammar) 

... you devise a plan of selected, necessary grammar points, then select materials & activities intended to teach and practise each grammar point in turn 

[see  Key Language Issues    ...

Target-based (skills) 

... you select significant skills (e.g. thinking skills, writing skills) and then devise activities to practise these

[see  Approaches...   ... 


... Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening - good practice is that there should be a balanced blend of these at all points in the teaching programme. A new factor here is 'Internet skills' - the way that accessing and exploiting Internet sources can be combined with the more traditional skills.

[ see   Approach to internet research    ...

Support-directed (TELI) 

... teaching English as the language of instruction: course elements are devised to support the use of English in other subjects

[see  Language of Instruction    ...


... learning and practising exam technique

[see   Orals: what's expected?   ... Paper 1 advice to students ... Paper 2 Listening ... Paper 2 Reading 


... texts and activities selected to explore a broad subject area in some depth

[see  Themes, 2018 onwards ...

Intellectual-development directed 

...  emphasis placed on developing a grasp of careful analysis, lucid argument, informed judgement ...

[see  Thinking   ... Critical thinking ... Tasks & activities   ...

Literary-text centred

...  the work of the class, usually over long periods, is centred on the careful, detailed study of literary works

[see  Literature    ...

Multi-lingual experience & the L1  

... in contrast to the orthodox view of only using the target languagein class, teaching that acknowledges that the target language is embedded in, and interacts with, the student's first language

[ see  Language & culture  ... Bilingual experience 

Computer based & enabled 

...  information technology, particularly word-processing and the internet, are used as the fundamental means for finding source material and for deciding tasks and activities  

[see   Research ... Computer verbs   ...

Design Principles : self-assessment

You will probably recognise many of these principles, in your own or in other people's teaching style. As I have suggested, nobody's teaching is defined exclusively by just one of these design principles - we all employ a blend of several principles. But what blend, exactly? And is that blend the best of all possible blends?

You might like to try this sequence of thought experiments :-

Which of these design principles inform your own teaching, in rough percentage terms?

How happy are you with that blend of percentages?

How might you change and/or add to your present blend of design principles - considering the range of options given above? 


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