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Professional Development

Originated by Birmingham MA TEFL/TESL students

February 25, 2009

A Negotiated Syllabus: Company Classes with a Twist

Asuka Publishing Company, where most students are beginners, has had in-house weekly English classes for a few years now. Sachiko Onoda (pictured third from left), an editor of language books (and the class coordinator), generously agreed to be interviewed for this project even though it was her first time to have an interview in English. Asuka1.JPG

Interview with Sachiko Onoda

I am also grateful to Terry Yearley and Colin Skeates who kindly shared their insightful comments and provided invaluable feedback, prompting me to address the following 3 questions:

1. What aspects of the interview may be potentially interesting and useful for other teachers, as well as myself?

A key consideration is students’ reactions to having a negotiated syllabus, and the views of the institution may also need to be taken into account. Unfamiliar approaches and change might be welcomed enthusiastically or met with resistance. At Asuka, three elements appeared crucial: discussion with the class coordinator prior to the course; outlining a clear step-by-step approach to negotiating and designing a syllabus; and, most importantly, the students’ willingness to ‘try something new’.

2. Fostering learner autonomy

A negotiated syllabus offers students the opportunities to become more aware of their goals, select course objectives, and create content that is inherently more motivating as they have greater ownership, autonomy, and self-direction.

3. What do we need to take into consideration when conducting and recording interviews?
There may be a ‘learning curve’ for both the interviewee and interviewer. Accordingly, the main interview questions were discussed 2 weeks in advance so the interviewee had time to prepare answers and obtain feedback on them. Naturally, it takes a few minutes to relax and get comfortable so the first 5 minutes of the interview (which was subsequently cut) focused on basic general questions before moving onto the main topic.

Philip Shigeo Brown
Column Editor, MASH Learners’ Voices

Recommended reading
Johnson, S. (1998) Who Moved My Cheese? London: Vermilion.
Nunan, D. (1997) “Designing and adapting materials to encourage learner autonomy”. In P. Benson and P. Voller (eds.) (1997) Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning, pp. 192-203. London: Longman.

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The article is usefull for me. I’ll be coming back to your blog.

Thanks, Jane. That's good to hear. In the latter half of this year, I'll also be working on a book chapter on the same topic so there should be more to come, too!

now i am teaching of a local NGO in my country but i am still lack of teaching resources, so i need your help.

best regards


Thanks for your comment Venancio. In order to make it easier for people to help you, could you tell us more about your context and what specifically you need help with?

Latest news - I've just got accepted to JALT 2010 International Conference where I'll be "Introducing a Negotiated Syllabus" and also sharing experiences from doing so on Peace Boat ( as well as here. I've also just started a discussion forum if you'd like to find out more and join the conversation :-),58.0.html

Last year, in The Language Teacher (November/December), Harry Harris also describes his approach to curriculum negotiation:

Harris, H. (2010). Curriculum negotiation at NHK: Meeting the needs and demands of adult learners. The Language Teacher 34(6), 22-26.

And just out this year:

Boon, A. (2011). "Negotiated Syllabuses: Do You Want to?". In J. Macalister & I. S. P. Nation (Eds.), Case Studies in Language Curriculum Design: Concepts and Approaches in Action Around the World. New York & Oxon, UK): Routledge:

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