3. Content Selection and Priority Setting
In a student-centred curriculum clear criteria for content selection give guidance on the selection of materials and learning activities and assist in assessment and evaluation.
By making explicit the content objectives of a course and, eventually, by training learners to set their own objectives, the following benefits can be accrued:
- Students come to have a more realistic idea of what can be achieved in a given course.
- Learning comes to be seen as a process of gradually reaching achievable goals.
- Students develop greater sensitivity to their role as learners, and their rather vague notions of what it is to be a learner can become much sharper.
- Self-evaluation becomes more feasible.
- Classroom activities can be seen to relate to the learners’ real-life needs.
- The development of competences can be seen as a gradual, rather than an all-or-nothing process.
A crucial distinction between traditional and student-centred curriculum development is that, in the latter, the structure is fluid and open to adaptations. It is, therefore, important that the contents selected at the beginning of a course are not seen as definite; they will vary, and will probably have to be modified as students experience different kinds of learning activities and as teachers obtain more information about the students’ subjective needs.
As most learners find it difficult to articulate their needs and preferences, the initial stages of a course can be spent in providing a range of learning experiences. Additionally, with low-level language learners, developing critical self-awareness can best be facilitated by the use of resources in the mother tongue. In some cases the use of bilingual assistants may be useful.
Since contact hours often are limited, class time has to be used as effectively and productively as possible to achieve the following aims:
- To provide students with effective learning strategies;
- To assist students to identify their preferred ways of learning;
- To develop skills needed to negotiate the curriculum;
- To encourage students to set their own objectives;
- To encourage students to adopt realistic goals and time frames;
- To develop the students’ skills of/by self-evaluation.