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October 21, 2017

Skill-Based Syllabi

Skill-based Syllabi

Introduction

The concept “skill” in language teaching is used as a specific way of using

language that combines structural and functional ability but exists independently

of specific settings or situations. In the other hand, skill is the ability that people

must be able to competent enough in language, rather independently of the

situation or context in which the language use can occur. The ability to use

language in specific ways is partially dependent on general language ability, but

partly based on experience and the need for specific skills. Efficiency and

relevance of instruction are major strengths of skill-based syllabus (Brown,

1998).

Skills are abilities that people must be able to do to be competent enough

in a language, rather independently of the situation or context in which the

language use can occur. In this syllabus, the content of the language teaching

involves a collection of particular skills that may play a role in using language.

Although situational syllabuses combine functions together into specific settings

of language use, skill-based syllabi combine linguistic competencies

(pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and discourse) together into generalized


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types of behavior, such as listening to spoken language for the main idea, writing

well-formed paragraphs, giving effective lectures, and so on. The logic behind

skill-based instruction is to learn the specific language skill. Another less

important objective might be to develop more general competence in the

language, learning only incidentally any information that may be available while

utilizing the language skills (Richards, 2001).

Skill-based Syllabus

The skills-based approach drew its theoretical roots from

behavioral psychology and structural linguistics. Specifically, it is based on

the following principles (Railley, 1988);

(a) The whole is equal to the sum of its parts;

(b) There are differences between spoken and written language;

(c) Oral language acquisition precedes the development of literacy;

(d) Language learning is teacher-directed and fact-oriented;

(e) Student errors are just like ‘sins’ which should be eliminated at all cost

According to Richards (2001), “skill-based syllabus is organized around

different underlying abilities that are involved in using a language for purposes

such as reading, writing, listening or speaking. Learning language through skills

is based on the assumption that learning complex activity such as "listening


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lectures" leads to mastery of a number of individual or sub-skills or micro skills

that makes up the activity together”(p. ).

He makes an example of skills related to different types of language use as

follows:

 Writing: making a topic sequence, distinguishing between topic sentences

and supporting sentences, and self-editing.

 Listening: recognizing key information and applying discourse markers.

 Speaking: recognizing run-taking signals, introducing a topic, and using

communication strategies.

 Reading: reading for gist, guessing words from context, and making

inferences.

According to Richards (2001), Skills have been emphasized as a central

issue in language teaching and attempts have been made to identify the micro-

skills which underlie the use of four macro-skills of reading, writing, listening,

and speaking, as the basis for the design of syllabus.

In skill-based syllabus, the content of the language teaching involves a

collection skill-based syllabus of particular skills that may play a role in using

language. The primary purpose of skill-based instruction is to teach the specific

language skill. In skill-based syllabus, it may be useful or necessary in using

language. Skills are things that people must be able to do to be competent in a


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language. Unlike situational syllabi where content of the language and functions

are grouped together into specific language use settings, skill-based syllabi group

linguistic competencies (pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and discourse)

together into generalized types of behavior, such as listening to spoken teaching

involves a collection language for the main idea, writing well-formed paragraphs,

specific purpose writing, and the particular skills that may play a role in using

language.

According to Yalden (1983), the following examples of a skill syllabus for

the teaching of study skills are as follows;

a) Understanding the use of

 Graphic presentation

 Index and table of contents

 Cross-referencing

 Card catalog

 Phonetic transcription

 Bibliography

 Dictionaries

b) Skimming to obtain

 The gist of the text


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 A general impression of the text

c) Scanning to locate specifically required information on

 A single point

 More than one point

 A whole point

d) Transcoding information presented in diagrammatic display,

involving

 Completing a diagram

 Constructing one or more diagram

e) Note taking skills

 Completing note-frames

 Deletions

 Use of diagrams

In this regard, Skills are the abilities that people must be able to do in order

to be competent enough in a language, rather independently of the situation or

context where language can occur (Mohseni, 2008). In skill-based syllabi, the

content of the language to be taught involves a set of particular skills that may

play a role in using the language. The main rationale behind skill-based syllabi is
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learning specific language skills, and another minor objective is to develop more

general competence in the language.

Sewell (2004) argues, “Like any other syllabus type, a skills syllabus still

consists of a graded selection of skills to be learned, “and thus Type A syllabus”

(p. 4). In the same line, Rahimpour (2010) notes that a skill-based syllabus is the

syllabus where the content of the language is a collection of specific abilities that

may play a role in using the language.

Katsara (2008) states that the primary purpose of skill-based instruction

is to teach the specific language skills which may be have use or necessity in

using the foreign language. Skills are defined as the things to be more competent

in a language. Katsara (2008) differentiates between situational syllabi and skill-

based syllabi by arguing that “unlike situational syllabi where functions are

grouped together into specific language use settings, skill-based syllabi group

linguistic competencies (pronunciations, vocabulary, grammar and discourse)

together into generalized types of behavior, such as listening to spoken language

for the main idea, writing well-formed paragraphs, specific purpose writing, and

so forth” (p. 23).

According to Richards and Rogers (2001), “Skills-based approach is

characterized by a focus on a specific academic skill area that is, “linked to

concurrent study of specific subject matter in one or more academic disciplines”


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(Shih, 1986; cited in Richards & Rogers, 2001, p. 217). This may advocates the

idea that learners write about materials they are currently studying in an academic

course or that the language being learned or composition itself stimulates the

academic process.

Nunan (2001) elaborates the term ‘skill-based theory’ and defines it as

originating in an explicit form and gradually being proceduralized into an implicit

Form by means of practice.

Dinçay (2011) affirms “a skill-based syllabus is a collection of specific

abilities that may play a part in using language. The primary purpose of skill-

based instruction is to learn the specific language skills and to develop more

general competence in the language.” (p.242). Because of that, it is important for

this basic course to include the four basic skills for learning a language: writing,

reading, speaking and listening in English; considering that they need to practice

general topics of the language in a period of time of one academic semester,

Although the idea is to develop and practice the communicative skills in a more

complete way; the four skills of the language are going to be practiced but not as

hard as communicative, it means that sometimes it is very difficult to reach the

same efficiency in the four abilities, involving all skills cannot be perfectly

acquired and create balance among them because of time, intensity or resources

that are available, for the teacher and for the learners.
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But all the skills need to be covered but not with the same rate in the design

of the syllabus in order to learners achieve a better learning through

communication and interaction in the English language and leads to success in

the complete process of the course. Furthermore, a sub-components that can

provide extra support to the development of the syllabus design.

Advantages of Skill-based Syllabi

According to Richards (2001), Skills-based syllabi focused on performance

in relation to specific tasks, and thus, provides a practical framework for course

design and teaching materials, and may be appropriate to situations where

learners have very specific and identifiable needs.

Skill-based content is most useful when learners need to master specific types

of language uses.

1. Skill-based content is most useful when learners need to master specific types

of language uses.

2. It is possible to predict at least what material that students really need.

3. Relevance on student-felt needs or wants.

Criticisms of Skills-based Syllabi

According to Richards (2001), skills-based syllabi have been criticized on

the following issues:


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a) There is no serious basis

b) They have their focus on discrete aspects of performance rather than on

developing more global and integrated communicative abilities.

c) Regarding the circumstance, the skill based syllabi suffers from some

drawbacks. Firstly, there is a theoretical question about this kind of syllabus. That

is about the whether the degree to which ability to perform specific in language is

dependent overall language proficiency or not. Secondly, there are different

opinions about this syllabus related to the relationship between skill instruction

and general language proficiency. One view believes that skill based syllabus will

be helpful because someone learns language specifically. But other one believes

that this syllabus will limit someone’s general language proficiency.

d) Regarding social and philosophical aspects, the social values that are

contained in many skill instructional based program is raised a question. Skill

based instruction that is too limited in scope can prepare students for particular

kinds of behavior or isolated them from achievements and ambition that the

competencies do not prepare them for education (Railley, 1988).

Concluding Remarks

Skill-based instruction is most appropriate when learners need specific

skills, and especially when these skills are well-defined and the learners have little

need for global language ability. Skill-based instruction is probably more


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appropriate for adults that for children, for whom emphasis on concrete content

is more appropriate. Skill-based instruction is not appropriate at least for general

purpose or beginning level language programs in which the need of the learners

are broad or yet to be defined. In such case, focusing on narrow skill-based

applications will take instructional time away from content that is more likely to

address their need for overall language proficiency (Railley, 1988).

References

Brown, J.D. (1998). The search for self-knowledge. The Self (pp. 49-81). New

York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Dinçay, T. (2011). Designing a learner-centered ESP course for adults and

incorporating the learners’ aims into a situational-based syllabus. Ekev

Academic Review, 15(49), 235–247.

Katsara, K. (2008). Syllabus writing: What is, what for, and how to go about it.

ISSUE, 22, 22-24.

Mohsenifar, M. (2008). An overview of syllabuses in English language

teaching. Retrieved from www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/syllabi.

Nation, I. S. P., & Macalister, J. (2010).Language curriculum design. New

York: Routledge.

Nunan, D. (2001).Syllabus design. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rahimpour, M. (2010). Current trends on syllabus design in foreign language

instruction. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2, 1660-1664.


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Richards, J. C. (2001).Curriculum development in language teaching.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richards, J. C., & Rogers, T. S. (2001).Approaches and methods in language

teaching (2nd Ed.). Cambridge: CUP.

Shih, M. (1986). Content based approach to teaching academic writing. TESOL

Quarterly, 20(4), 617-647.

Sewell, H. D. (2004).Syllabus types in a Korean context: Syllabus and

materials. Birmingham: University of Birmingham.

Yalden, J. (1983).The communicative syllabus evolution, design, and

implementation. Oxford: Pergamum Press.