The Dilemma of IELTS Test Takers at Preparatory Programs in the UAE: A Call for Lexical-Structural Syllabus Design

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Doctorate of Education

Theoretical Perspectives on Materials and Syllabus Design in TESOL (DED609)

Title: The Dilemma of IELTS Test Takers at Preparatory Programmes in the UAE: A Call for Lexical-Structural Syllabus Design.

By: Mohammed A. Molhim
Module tutor: Dr. Yasmin yildiz

No. of words 000 words
Essay Outline
* Introduction
* Conceptual Framework
* IELTS Marking Rubrics: Lexical Resources & Grammatical Range * Lexical Syllabus
* Structural Syllabus
* Selection of Lexical and Grammatical Items in Lexical-structural Syllabus: * Structural Syllabus: Drawbacks
* The Structural Syllabus and Grammar Teaching
* Suggested Steps to design a Lexical-Structural Syllabus * Conclusion

Introduction
Standardized test preparation courses such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) in preparatory programmes at government and private universities in the United Arab Emirates (The UAE) prepare students to meet their exit score requirement. Curriculum planning has been driven towards these tests. Some research studies (Read and Hayes, 2003) warned against that type of curriculum in that it is restricted to those areas that are to be tested with no balance or integrated skills course design. Curriculum designers therefore depend heavily on materials geared to practice for the required exam. Moreover, Alderson and Hamp-Lyons (1996) argue that these type of curriculum are characterised by ‘teaching to the test’ and even text-book slaves. On the other hand, this essay will argue that designing and implementing curriculum that is supported by materials that reflect and meet the test question types and objectives can be beneficial to students preparing for standardised tests in the UAE. This paper will be outlined as follows: After introducing the conceptual framework of the essay, it will highlight the IELTS’ marking criteria of ‘Lexical Resource’ and ‘Grammatical Range’ in the hope to establish the argument that half of the IELTs marking criteria is based on lexical and grammatical items. Then, the type of lexical and structural syllabus that can be proposed to meet students’ needs in enhancing the aspect of English Language accuracy will be described. Some practical guidelines will then be provided for designing a lexical-structural syllabus.

Conceptual Framework
This essay falls within the conceptual framework of critical theory and critical pedagogy. From a social reconstructionism perspective, critical theory and critical pedagogy call for critically re-addressing status quo issues in education. Paolo Freire (1972), a critical theorist, believes that in most education systems there exists a hidden curriculum that underlines the status quo supported by the dominant culture and thus repressing minority subcultures. Curriculum planning should undergo a constant progressive change due to the progressive nature of the country and educational systems in the UAE. Curriculum change at the level of preparatory programmes is an inseparable part of this change since it is observed that research has provided enough evidence see published annually (IELTS, 2011) that in the UAE and other Arab countries where the majority of students and IELTS test takers struggle to reach a level of proficiency matching score band 5.0 that enables them to proceed to their major. This judgment is supported by professional and formal data provided in Table 1 below which is adapted from the IELTS Annual Review of 2011. These records include a comparison of IELTS results by mother tongue candidates and by country of origin for the many countries using the IELTS tests.

Table 1. Mean band score for the most frequent countries or regions of origin Country: The UAE| Listening| Reading| Writing| Speaking| Overall | Academic Module| 4.9| 4.8| 4.7| 5.4| 5.0|

General Module| 4.3| 3.5| 4.3| 4.9| 4.3|

It is...
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