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Africa International Journal of Management Education and Governance

(AIJMEG) ISSN: 2518-0827 (Online Publication) Vol. 3 (4) 56-65,

November, 2018

An Evaluation of English Language

Teaching Syllabuses
DR. Florence Mokeira Okari
Department of Social Sciences Education, University of Eldoret

Type of the Paper: Research Paper.

Type of Review: Peer Reviewed.
Indexed in: worldwide web.
Google Scholar Citation: AIJMEG

How to Cite this Paper:

Okari, F. M. (2018). An Evaluation of English Language Teaching Syllabuses.

Africa International Journal of Management, Education and Governance (AIJMEG), 3
(4), 56-65.

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Governance (AIJMEG)
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Okari, (2018)

Africa International Journal of Management Education and Governance
(AIJMEG) ISSN: 2518-0827 (Online Publication) Vol. 3 (4) 56-65,
November, 2018

An Evaluation of English Language Teaching

DR. Florence Mokeira Okari
Department of Social Sciences Education, University of Eldoret


Received 13th July, 2018 One of the current debate issues in
ELT fora is the production of poor
Received in Revised Form 10th September, 2018 communicators of English language.
Accepted 29th October, 2018 Most students on graduating from
Published online 12th October, 2018 University remain unable to
communicate at even a basic level.
Keywords: Evaluation, Syllabus, Communicate, ELT This review paper starts with an
introduction that highlights the
importance of ELT evaluation, it proceeds to defining the terms evaluation and syllabus, various models of
evaluation are discussed, and types of ELT syllabuses are critically analyzed based on the models of
evaluation. Finally, the impact of evaluation on ELT syllabuses is discussed.

Introduction evaluation models can also apply to syllabus

It has been observed from literature read that most evaluation.
students on graduating from either high school or In Kenya, Evaluation of Syllabuses is done at the
university remain unable to communicate at even Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development
a basic level. A. study carried out in Japan by (KICD) by relevant teachers who are selected
Long and Russell (1999:27) observe: It seems from various schools and other stakeholders under
reasonable after years of English classes focused the leadership of the subject specialist and
on grammar, Japanese students would want more curriculum specialist.
conversational practice, want to have more Evaluation
confidence and better speaking skills. This Evaluation is the process of determining to what
implies that a syllabus focusing on the extent the educational objectives are actually
communicative aspect of language would satisfy being realized (Tyler, 1949). Evaluation has been
the needs and desires of young Japanese adult conceived either as the assessment of the merit
learners. and worth of educational programmes (Guba and
Evaluation of English Language Teaching (ELT) Lincoln, 1981; Glatthorn 1987; and Scriven,
syllabuses is essential. It is very crucial to be 1991), or as the acquisition and analysis of
understood whether the ELT syllabus objectives information on a given educational programme
are met or not so that informed decisions can be for the purpose of decision making, (Nero, 1986;
made. Evaluation of ELT syllabuses is necessary Shiundu and Omulando, 1992; and Teacher
so as to give feedback to stakeholders, to improve proficiency course manual, 2007).
the language learning process, certification of Evaluation is a vital concept in any education
learner competence, data to meet accreditation system. In fact the success or failure of any
requirements and assessment of the cost of programme in education may be attributed nearly
delivery. There are many types of ELT syllabuses; entirely to the quality and quantity of evaluation
pre-determined syllabus emergent syllabus and done at the beginning of and during the
task based syllabus. The curriculum evaluation implementation of the programme.
models will be adopted in this review. It is Syllabus
believed, atleast in this paper that a syllabus is a A syllabus on the other hand is an expression of
component of a curriculum, therefore curriculum opinion on the nature of language and learning; it
acts as a guide for both teacher and learner by
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providing some goals to be attained (Rabbin vi) Analyze the results in order to
2002). determine strengths and weaknesses
Widdowson (1984), defines a syllabus as a of the curriculum and to identify
general plan of activities that can be applied in a possible explanations for this
class to facilitate the learning process. In general, particular pattern of strengths and
a syllabus can be defined as a part of the weaknesses.
curriculum that concerns the selection and vii) Use the results to make the
sequencing of content to be taught in a language necessary modifications in the
programme. It is a summary of the content to curriculum.
which learners will be exposed (Yalden, 1987). It
is an outline and summary of topics to be covered The Tyler model has a number of advantages: it is
in an education or training course. easy to apply; it is rational and systematic; and it
Models of Curriculum Evaluation is concerned with curriculum improvement.
These models were found necessary to be adopted However, the model also has some drawbacks. It
in discussing the ELT syllabuses evaluation, since does not allow for unintended outcomes; does not
a syllabus is a part of a curriculum. suggest how the objectives themselves should be
Over the years, a number of curriculum evaluation evaluated; takes no account of students as
models have been proposed by various authorities individuals with varying abilities; and is
in curriculum and evaluation. These models essentially summative. In ELT, learners are better
essentially deal with the 'what' and the 'how' of of evaluated in every lesson depending on the
curriculum evaluation; that is, what should be the skill taught.
focus of curriculum evaluation, and how course
curriculum evaluation should proceed. 2. Stufflebeam's Context, Input, Process,
1. Tyler's objectives—centered model Product (CIPP) Model
Ralph Tyler (1949) proposed a model in which Daniel Stufflebeam's 1971 model is a decision
evaluation is seen as a process of determining the making based approach to curriculum valuation. It
extent to which educational objectives have been is comprehensive model which considers
or are being attained. According to Glatthorn evaluation to be a continuous process. The model
(1987), Tyler's Model moves rationally and evaluates a programme at four levels: the context,
systematically through seven related steps: the inputs, the process, and the product.
i) Begin with the behavioural
objectives which have been Context evaluation.
previously determined. These Context refers to the education environment in
objectives should specify both the which schools operate. In evaluating Context, the
content of learning and the expected objective is to define the educational setting, to
learner behaviour. identify the target population and assess their
ii) Identify the situations which will needs, to identify opportunities for addressing the
give the learner the opportunity to needs, diagnose problems underlying the needs,
express the behaviour embodied in and to judge whether proposed objectives are
the objective and which evoke or sufficiently responsive to the assessed needs. This
encourage this behaviour. is done using methods such as situational analysis,
iii) Select, modify, or construct suitable survey research, document review, interviews,
evaluation instruments, and check and diagnostic tests among others. Context
the instruments for objectivity, evaluation is essential because it provides
reliability and validity information from which decision makers
iv) Use the instruments to obtain determine goals and objectives, and it provides a
summarized or appraised results. basis for judging the outcomes of the programme
v) Compare the results obtained from (Stufflebeam & Shinkfield, 1985; Glatthorn,
several instruments before and after 1987).
given periods in order to estimate Input Evaluation
the amount of change taking place. Inputs in the school system may include teachers,
learners, teaching/learning resources, school

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infrastructure, and administrative decisions or intended and actual outcomes. This is critical in
policies. The objective of evaluating inputs is to making decisions on whether to retain, reject, or
identify and assess system capabilities, alternative revise the programme. Product evaluation is also
strategies for attaining the stated goals, and important as it shows the impact of a programme
procedural designs for implementing the (Stufflebeam, 1971; Stufflebeam & Shinkfieldi,
strategies, budgets, and schedules. This is done by 1985).
analyzing the available human and material The CIPP model's strengths include its focus on
resources, by literature searches, visits to the context, and its concern for formative
exemplary programs, and piloting. Information evaluation. However, it has been criticized for not
from input evaluation is used to help strengthen taking into account the very political nature of
programme support, and to provide a basis for decision-making, and it is considered difficult to
judging programme implementation (Stufflebeam implement and expensive to maintain (Guba and
& Shinkfield, 1985). In the modern society, we Lincoln, 1981; Glatthorn, 1987). However, in
need to look at the competencies of those who ELT, product evaluation is seen as crucial, for as
teach the learners, the effectiveness of the the case now, the products cannot express
learning resources used to teach, among others. themselves, hence, a call for ELT syllabus
Process evaluation evaluation.
The concept of process in schooling covers such
aspects as curriculum design and delivery 3. Partlett and Hamilton's illuminative model
procedures, opportunities to learn, time Partlett and Hamilton (1972) proposed a model of
management, school organization, and quality curriculum evaluation that departed from the
assurance/control procedures. At this level, the conventional approaches. Their model is more of
implementation of the programme is addressed. a research strategy that employs informal,
Three strategies are employed here: "the first is to observational means of data collection. The
detect or predict defects in the procedural design model's focus is on how the curriculum actually
or its implementation stage, the second is to works in practice rather than how well it relates to
provide information for decisions, and the third is the stated objectives.
to maintain a record of procedures as they In this model, two concepts are particularly
occur"(Stufflebeam, 1971, p. 229). Evaluating the important: the instructional system and the
process is important for implementing and learning milieu. However, it is the learning
refining the programme procedure, hence milieu-that should be given special attention. This
ensuring quality control over the process. It also is because a curriculum is never implemented
provides the basis for interpreting the outcomes of exactly as planned due to the complex pattern of
the programme (Stufflebeam, 1971; Stufflebeam the interactions between teachers, students,
& Shinkfield, 1985). materials, policies, parents, and other factors that
Product evaluation make up that particular milieu. Consequently, "the
In product evaluation, the evaluator compares the evaluator must examine this pattern closely to
actual programme outcomes with the intended understand what the curriculum really is" (Marsh
outcomes. In other words, it seeks to answer the & Willis, 2007, p. 291). There are three
question: to what extent are the objectives being overlapping stages in the illuminative model:
attained? The objective of evaluating the product observing, inquiring, and seeking general
component is to collect descriptions and principles.
judgments of outcomes and to relate them to the Observing
stated objectives of the programme and to the In observing, the evaluator simply observes the
context, input and process information and to interactions and activities in the milieu without
interpret their worth and merit. Data obtained at any attempt at controlling or manipulating them.
this level leads to decisions on whether to retain, The evaluator familiarizes him/herself with the
reject or revise the programme. This is achieved day-to-day reality of the setting, maintains a
by accurately defining outcome criteria, collecting continuous record of on-going events, and isolates
judgments of outcomes from stakeholders, and significant features. The method of data collection
performing both qualitative and quantitative used is mainly social anthropological
analyses to determine the relationship between the observation (Marsh & Willis, 2007).

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documents to determine the scope of

Inquiring the evaluation project.
In inquiring, the evaluator focuses on selected iii) The evaluator observes the
significant features and occurrences for more programme closely to get a sense of
sustained and intensive inquiry. The methods used its operation and to note any
are observation of specific features, interviews intended deviations from announced
with teachers and students, and the use of intents.
questionnaires and attitude tests (Marsh & Willis, iv) The evaluator discovers the stated
2007). and real purposes of the project and
Seeking general principles the concerns that various audiences
In seeking general principles, the evaluator seeks have about it and the evaluation
to delineate the patterns of causes and effects, v) The evaluator identifies the issues
which will lead to explanations of how the and problems that the evaluation
curriculum is working out in practice. This should be concerned with. For each
requires an intensive sifting through the available issue and problem, the evaluator
data to find corroborating evidence from multiple develops an evaluation design,
sources. The methods used here are observations, specifying the kinds of data needed.
interviews, and questionnaires. vi) The evaluator selects the means
Data emanating from this comprehensive and needed to acquire the data desired.
intensive study of the entire milieu gradually Most often, the means will be
illuminates evaluator's understanding of the human observers or judges.
curriculum, and it then becomes his/her duty to vii) The evaluator implements the data
similarly illuminate the understandings of other collection procedures.
persons (Partlett & Hamilton, 1972 and Marsh & viii) The evaluator organizes the
Willis, 2007). One of most significant advantages information into themes and
of the illuminative model is its scope. It examines prepares "portrayals" which
curriculum phenomena from a wide perspective communicate in natural ways the
and using in-depth analysis. Another advantage is thematic reports. The portrayals may
that it is more realistic than most traditional involve video, tapes, artifacts, case
evaluation models because it focuses on what studies or other 'faithful'
actually happens in practice, rather than what representations.
should happen. ix) By again being sensitive to the
However, the model is vulnerable to being concerns of the stakeholders, the
entirely subjective and it is very demanding on the evaluator decides which audience
evaluators, especially on their interpersonal skills requires which reports and chooses
(Partlett & Hamilton, 1972; Ornstein & Hunkins, formats most appropriate for given
2004 and Marsh & Willis, 2007). audiences.
4. Stake's Responsive Evaluation Model The major strength of the responsive model is its
Robert Stake (1975) was more concerned with sensitivity to clients and its flexibility. Its major
evaluating curriculum processes than outcomes. weakness, however, is that it is quite susceptible
Stake's model advocates for qualitative to manipulation by clients (Glatthorn, 1987)
description rather than quantitative data. 6. An Eclectic Evaluation Model
According to Glatthorn (1987, pp. 275-276), an Educational practitioners wish to have a model
interactive and recursive evaluation process that best serves their purposes with minimum or
embodies the following steps: no weaknesses. It has been observed that each of
i) The evaluator meets clients, staff the models have strengths and weaknesses in their
and audiences to gain a sense of use. As the educational practitioner selects any of
their perspectives on and intentions the models, should be remembered that there are
regarding evaluation. advantages and also drawbacks to contend with.
ii) The evaluator draws upon such Consequently, an eclectic model is here proposed.
discussions and the analysis of any This is a model that takes advantage of the
positive attributes of various evaluation models

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while at the same time countering their became situational needs rather than grammatical
disadvantages. In this way, evaluation will units. Here, the principal organizing characteristic
proceed maximizing in the strengths while at the is a list of situations which reflects the way
same time monitoring their expected drawbacks. language and behavior are used everyday outside
Eventually therefore, there is an evaluation model the classroom. Thus, by linking structural theory
that will best serve the educational purposes. to situations the learner is able to induce the
Syllabuses for Elt meaning from a relevant context. One advantage
1. Pre- Determine syllabus: of the situational approach is that motivation will
The term pre- determine syllabus, is a syllabus be heightened since it is "learner- rather than
where the content is planned first before the subject-centered" (Wilkins.1976: 16). However, a
classroom interaction takes place. There are main situational syllabus will be limited for students
four type of pre-determine syllabus, a) The whose needs were not encompassed by the
structural or grammatical syllabus: It is also situations in the syllabus. This dissatisfaction led
known as a grammatical or linguistic type of Wilkins to describe notional and communicative
syllabus because in the central there is a categories which had a significant impact on
grammatical item, the basic of English language syllabus design. Partlett and Hamiliton's
such as articles, verbs, tenses, vocabulary etc. In illuminative model which focuses on how the
the structural syllabus language content is defined syllabus actually works in practice rather than
in manifesting the system of English. It was how well it relates to the stated objectives can be
developed at a time when linguists conceived of used for evaluation.
language in terms of the distribution properties of c) The Functional syllabus: A list of functions
surface form. The learner is expected to master is made and graded in terms of its usefulness to
each structural step and add it to her grammar the learners and the language necessary for
collection. As such the focus is on the outcomes performing these functions is then provided to
or the product. For this syllabus the models learners such examples are: agreeing and
Stufflebeam's Context, Input Process, Product and disagreeing, expressing likes and dislike, giving
Tyler's model which look at what extent the and refusing permissions, responding to
objectives are achieved can be used. compliment and introducing oneself.
One problem facing the syllabus designer Wilkins' criticism of structural and situational
pursuing a grammatical order to sequencing input approaches lies in the fact that they answer only
is that the ties connecting the structural items the 'how' or 'when' and 'where' of language
maybe rather feeble. A more fundamental (Brumfit and Johnson. 1979:84). Instead, he
criticism is that the grammatical syllabus focuses enquires "what it is they communicate through
on only one aspect of language, namely grammar, language" (Op.Cit.:18). Thus, the starting point
whereas in truth there exist many more aspects to- for a syllabus is the communicative purpose and
language. Finally, recent corpus based research conceptual meaning of language i.e. notions and
suggests there is a divergence between the functions, as opposed to grammatical items and
grammar of the spoken and of the written situational elements which remain but are
language; raising implications for the grading of relegated to a subsidiary role, in order to establish
content in grammar based syllabuses. objectives, the needs of the learners will have to
b) The Situational syllabus: The Syllabus be analyzed by the various types of
identifies such situation where the learners are communication in which the learner has to
likely to use the language and give them the confront. Consequent!)', needs analysis has an
language, they need. For example, Situation of A association with notional-functional syllabuses.
Shopping', Daily many people go for shopping Although needs analysis implies a focus on the
and interact with shopkeeper on many items learner, critics of this approach suggest that a new
which are necessary to perform those functions. list has replaced the old one. Where once
This type of syllabus is especially useful for those structural/situational items were used a new list
students, who use language in limited situations consisting of notions and functions has become
and for specific purposes. the main focus in a syllabus. White (1988:77)
The limitations in structural syllabus led to an claims that "language functions do not usually
alternative approach where the point of departure occur in isolation" and there are also difficulties

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of selecting and grading function and form. written skills and also various cognitive
Clearly, the task of deciding whether a given processes.
function (i.e. persuading), is easier or more Long (1985) sees need analysis as the starting
difficult than another (i.e. approving), makes the point in a task-based syllabus since task-based
task harder to approach. In this case evaluation syllabus is built on "an analysis of human learning
can be done using Tyler's objectives centered in general and/or second language in particular"
model which determines the extent to which (Nunan, 1989, p. 55). Furthermore, Skehan and
stated objectives have been or are being attained. Foster (2001) look at the following issues in
d) The Lexical syllabus: In this type of syllabus designing task-based syllabus: task difficulty,
the word frequency determines the contents. impacts of task difficulty and task conditions, the
Sample of natural language is analyzed on a large sequencing of tasks, the measures of three
scale by using computers and the comment words dimensions of task performance, and the measures
in the language along with the commonest of task difficulty. Among the three elements - task
patterns are identified. The learners are exposed to complexity, task conditions, and task difficulty -
the different ways in which these words are used according to Robinson (2003), complexity
in their most natural environment. The above differentials should be the crucial premise for task
discussed syllabuses belong to product oriented sequencing in task-based syllabus. The models to
syllabus category. be used in evaluating task based include:
Stufflebam's Context, Input, Process, Product
2. Emergent syllabus (CIPP) Model and Partlett and Hamilton's
The emergent syllabus is concerned with issues illuminative model which focus on how the
and decisions made while teaching. The emphasis syllabus actually works in practice rather than
is on the process of learning. The emergence how well it relates to the stated objectives.
syllabus is not product oriented but process
oriented. It means according the student's level a If the assumptions about the nature of linguistics
teacher can change his/her syllabus. This is called and language learning is one of "language as
flexible syllabus and a teacher can produce communication" (Richards and Rodgers 1986:69)
effective result. The use of Context, Input, then a syllabus based around activities and tasks
Process, Product (CIPP) model is seen as which promote real and meaningful
appropriate for use in evaluating this kind of communication will seem advantageous. It has
syllabuses because the model considers evaluation been shown that the false beginner in Japan will
as a continuous process. have learned structural rules to a surprisingly
Task-Based Syllabus complex degree, yet may find it difficult to use, or
Tasks are deemed to be tools providing learners indeed, may never have had an opportunity to use
with the data they need for learning (Ellis 2000). the language learned. Consequently, the belief
According to Gholami and Moghaddam (2013), that learning is facilitated by activities that
"the tasks have a strong motivational power since include real communication, may be the most
they make the language learning process suitable belief to adopt in the Japanese classroom.
meaningful". Tasks is defined by Ellis (2003) as a
work plan that requires learners to process Further points to consider when critically
pragmatically in order to achieve an outcome that reviewing a syllabus are the objectives of the
can be evaluated in terms of whether the correct course as well as the needs of the learners.
or appropriate propositional content has been Ultimately, and perhaps ideally, a hybrid syllabus
conveyed. To this end, it requires them to give will result purely due to pragmatic reasons. As
primary attention to meaning and to make use of Hutchinson and Waters (1987:51) suggest: It is
their own linguistic resources, although the design wise to take an eclectic approach, taking what is
of the task may predispose them to choose useful from each theory and trusting also in the
particular forms. A task is intended to result in evidence of your own experience as a teacher.
language use that bears a resemblance, direct or Thus, to what extent has an integration of the
indirect to the way language is used in the real various approaches taken place? Does the syllabus
world. Like other language activities, a task can specification include all aspects? If yes, how is
engage productive or receptive, and oral or priority established? These questions must also

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form part of the criteria when designing or 3. If important decisions are presumed to be
assessing our own syllabus. related to test results, then teachers will
English has been integrated into the curriculum at teach to the test. The practices of schools
all educational levels from primary to tertiary as a publishing test results to compare
focal foreign language for globalization. In students and schools often makes the
satisfying students' needs for English study, stakes so high for educators that they
countless course books, textbooks, and reference forego a well founded educational
books for English learning have been launched, experience for students in lieu of having
which engenders confusion for teachers as well as their students do well on the test.
students to make a choice. 4. In every setting where a high-stakes test
operates, a tradition of past examinations
The Impact of Evaluation on the Syllabus develops, which eventually de facto
Evaluation is ideally meant to be a platform for defines the curriculum.
syllabus improvement. This is positive. However, 5. Teachers pay particular attention to the
reality is different because as Scriven (1991, p. 8) form of the questions on a high stakes
puts it, the credibility of evaluation brings in test (for example, short answer, multiple
psychological factors that go beyond rational choices, essay) and adjust their
estimation. Many people think that the use of instruction accordingly. In ether words,
evaluation as a data reduction process the name of the 'education game' is 'pass
summarizing a year's work into a grade, for the test, not become educated'.
example, is a kind of crime. In some 6. When test results are the sole or even
circumstances, indeed, such a radically reductive partial arbiter of future educational or
kind of evaluation should be completely life choices, society tends to treat test
inappropriate circumstances that demand a much results as a major goal of schooling
richer and fuller evaluation account, as for rather than as a useful, but fallible
example, when the need is to help the student or a indicator of achievement.
counselor plan changes of programme or study 7. A high -stakes test transfers control over
approach. But in other circumstances and far other the curriculum to the agency which sets
purposes such as selection for admission to or controls the examination.
advanced courses, jobs or graduate school, there These principles aptly capture the current scenario
is probably no better general approach than the in Kenya. They describe a examination-oriented
letter grade. culture in which there is only one route to
Important as the letter grade, which is the success: passing the examination. Failure is not an
culmination of standardized testing may be, it has option. Because of this morbid fear of failure of
a largely debilitating influence on the curriculum. examination, students and even teachers often go
This negative effect of instructional evaluation or, to extremes, some blatantly unethical to ensure
specifically testing on the curriculum, is what students pass. In this respect, evaluation in the
Shiundu & Omulando (1992) say have backwash form of standardized tests or examinations leads
effects. Madaus (1998) has outlined seven to intellectual immorality, and the general impact
principles that explain this backwash effect. is a travesty of the entire purpose of education.
1. The power of tests and examinations to Yet this impact should not render evaluation
affect teachers, institutions, curriculum useless. While there are arguments against
or instruction is a perceptual evaluation, the focus should be on how to do the
phenomenon. If individuals perceive the evaluation well, not how to avoid it. How can
test as important, it will influence their evaluation be done well? It is an answer that
actions, whether the test is important or every conscientious curricularist or syllabist or
not. educator should seek. As Scriven (\99\, p. 43)
2. The more any quantitative social concludes in his celebrated Evaluation Thesaurus
indicator is used for social decision- that, doing evaluation and doing it well matters in
making, the more likely it will distort pragmatic terms because bad products and
and negatively impact on the social services cost lives and health, destroy the quality
processes it is intended to monitor. of life and waste the resources of those who

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cannot afford waste. In ethical terms, evaluation is high-tech way. In intellectual terms, it refines the
a key tool in the service of justice in social and tools of thought and exposes a pervasive and
business terms, evaluation directs efforts where it disgraceful prejudice a further step toward
is most needed and endorses a new and better way demythologizing the disciplines. In personal terms
when if is better than the traditional way and the it provides the only bases for justifiable self-
traditional way when it is better than the new esteem.
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