Design principles

Guiding Principles for Course Design

All teachers have ideas about how a course programme should be put together - or at least, they know what they have available. I have labelled these ideas 'design principles'.

All Language B programmes have an irreducible minimum, dictated by the Subject Guide -  the 'IB Core' :-

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

Exam processes:

* Orals

* Paper 1 Reading

* Paper 2 Writing

* Written Assignment 2015

Outside this very small core, teachers 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.

Design Principles explained 

Text-book based 

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

'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  Topics   ...  MasterSites   ... 


...  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  Core internet procedures   ...

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  Approach to the WA    ...  Orals advice to students   ...  Paper 1 Technique   ...  Paper 2 technique   ...


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

[see  Core topics   ...  Option topics   ...

Intellectual-development directed 

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

[see  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 language in class, teaching should acknowledge that the target language is embedded in, and interacts with, the student's first language

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   ... 

** Have a look at the document Design Principles  which summarises these ideas in graphic form.

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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