These days, it has been becoming more important to judge a student’s abilities by the achievement of tasks rather than the results of regular tests. In step with this change, KU has reorganized its liberal arts courses, one of which was English. Required English course has shifted its name from Global English into English. What makes it new? What will be the reactions from KU students? For more information, I interviewed Stephanie Downey, a Professor of the Division of Undergraduate English, College of General Education, who is an Academic Coordinator and one of the committee members on the new curriculum.
1. What is task-oriented education?
“Today, English is a key to unlock global opportunities and expand personal opinions in Korea. Students in Korea spend a lot of years studying English only to express a lack of confidence in their ability to use English for its primary purpose of communication. Thus, we want to offer freshmen at KU a new task-based approach to learning English. In this course, students will be guided through a competency-based curriculum that challenges them to improve their communication skills, independence, self-expression, and creativity through a series of personalized, meaningful real-world tasks ranging from introducing themselves to telling and listening to personal stories, etc.”
2. What effects do you expect the new curriculum to have?
“We hope that students will improve their communication skills, gain confidence, and actually be able to use English better to achieve their real-life goals such as talking with foreigners more easily and travelling abroad confidently. The real-world content presented in this course motivates learners to engage with language meaningfully while gaining a deeper understanding of local and global cultures, developing the confidence and skills needed to express themselves powerfully and proficiently in English.”
3. What is the difference between ‘English’ and ‘Global English’?
“The most noticeable difference is that students do not take regular exams. Since 'English' is a project-type class centered on tasks, students will be evaluated for individual skills through tasks or quizzes based on communication using English in actual life situations. This is done under absolute evaluation, not relative evaluation. In addition, the new textbook is custom-made by National Geographic. We spent more than nine months working closely with the publisher to choose topics, photographs, and contents that would specifically appeal to KU students. The book is modern, colorful and has interesting audio and video materials. The class uses a task-based, project-based approach so students learn by doing. Class time is focused on doing sustained speaking activities and communicating with other students to improve fluency.”
4. How are the student’s abilities evaluated in this curriculum?
“As I mentioned earlier, ‘English’ mainly evaluates students’ competence through various tasks such as writing a letter to a pen pal, going on a mock job interview, completing a digital storytelling project, and presenting about a cultural festival or celebration. Professors check how well students use appropriate expressions in the simulated conditions of ordering food in restaurants, or whether they include all the details that they learned in class to their own party or travel plans. In the storytelling project, which has a high proportion in the evaluation, students choose one of the given topics to tell their stories in front of other students. Students can use various media such as PPT, poster, and video to increase the efficiency of their presentation. They will be evaluated on how well they complete the various tasks and demonstrate competency in that particular skill. The skill can be about whether students properly used the past tenses or time order words that they had learned in class. If students took the class hard, they would be able to organize their scripts for presentations based on lessons.”
5. What are the reactions of KU students to the revamped curriculum?
“It is hard to know the exact reactions of the freshman to the revamped curriculum due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to online teaching. To make a guess, KU students will feel unfamiliar with this curriculum at first, but they will get used to the class soon as they have always done a good job in all classes.”
6. Are there any words you want to say to KU students?
“KU students will have a hard time using only English in this class. Still, students do not have to be burdened with that because professors evaluate students on how well they can use what you have learned in tasks rather than how fluently you can speak English. In addition, I feel sorry that the class has to go online for a while and appreciate that all the students are doing their best on their assignments under such circumstance. I hope to see you all in the classroom as soon as possible.”