What’s your job, anyway? A peek into language teaching, instructional design, and a module at the micro-planning level

Photo by Bonneval Sebastien on Unsplash

Recently…

I’ve been approached by acquaintances and strangers about instructional design and what it is and I’ve been asked if it is a worthwhile pursuit for them. I took a lot of care and time to respond to people I know; I am grateful to those who took some/a lot of time and helped me on my journey many years ago, and I remember that the only two people who wouldn’t respond to my requests for 10 minute meetings or emails were teachers – one was a colleague and one was a stranger. I was determined not to be like those two people.

I also responded to the strangers who messaged me on SM platforms, but I was a little terse; some of the lazy questions people have asked me are googleable. What is an instructional designer, for example. What does an instructional designer do?

I’ve also been asked to predict the future about ID employment opportunities. I can’t do that. But have a look at LinkedIn postings and you can see what is trending.

Instructional design a big part of what I do; I don’t know why it wouldn’t be worthwhile, but I understand that it is similar to the job of a producer: what does a producer do on a TV show, exactly?

This post is written with the intention of taking you through the direction I took to develop a module in response for a call for proposals (the job posting) to apply for the job that I have now: an ESL faculty member at a college in Ontario with an instructional design designation, or specialty. I put a creative commons license on my work for my job application, and I will share with you the product that does not contain or refer to sensitive or copyright material or resources I did not create.

The customer – the school

This is where I begin. If you work in-house it is easy to understand the culture of the school and know what is expected from your school or department, but I had to do some research to learn about the culture of the school. Professor Google is your best friend.

The end user – the students

This is who I build for. Every time. In this case, I was told what level of students I was developing for, and that it is an English for Academic Purposes Program (EAP). The identified learners were closer to advanced learners than novice learners of English. This gave me paramaters for what kind of outcomes, objectives, assessments and activities to consider. If you’re not a subject matter expert in the course you are developing, you need to learn as much as you can about the subject.

If you think “But I’ve never taught this before,” then interview people. When I responded to an open call for proposals to develop after school classes for young learners of English, I interviewed an elementary school teacher and a librarian to help me frame my proposal.

The “pain” – the problem I’m addressing

This is a skill I have been taught and constantly upgrade with reading and experience. I listened. How? I listened to the job description and what the school has put out as its strategic plan. I also kept the instructions for my interview as a header in my document as I worked on my course development and lesson plan. Akin to a thesis statement, the pain of the customer must be addressed. It was what I checked when I reviewed all my work.

What are the outcomes?

Never forget these. Make sure all assessments address an evaluation of the outcomes.

As you can see from my table, the value of assessments I left to be determined, but each planned assessment clearly addresses one or more than one course outcome. Assigning weight to assessments was not part of the ask but I wanted to demonstrate how I work.

Table of Assessments

I think this is an ID thing that teachers don’t always do. As a teacher, I may want to evaluate students on something because I think they need to know it, but the course outcomes drive the direction of the assessments. If there is a summative assessment, it measures students on how they perform an outcome.

The Module

Unfortunately, the module I built contains a lot of information that isn’t mine to share on a blog, but this one section doesn’t contain anything that is not my idea. Except the template, that is. My friend and fellow ID Iwona Gniadek used this template with me when the tables were turned – she was the ID on a job and I was the content expert. I liked the template so much that I re-used it. I think every ID has several of these table templates stashed away on a Google Drive somewhere. Each unit was built on an outcome, which I haven’t shared here.

The Lesson Plan

One thing you cannot leave to chance is that the customer will understand what you are planning or how you will get there. It was important for me to provide context for where my lesson was situated within the module I had built.

Context
This lesson is close to the end of a module on school culture and, more specifically, the culture of higher education around the topic of academic writing and plagiarism. By the time students have this class, they will have:
• Selected a research topic.
• Understood how to use APA formatting.
• Had instruction about creating outlines.
• Researched academic integrity and plagiarism independently.
• Participated in discussions surrounding the topic of academic integrity.
• Summarized content about plagiarism in the digital age.

Tools

  1. Reader’s Choice Readings:
    • Winners and Losers
    • Can English be Dethroned?
    2 Large Post-Its for wall
  2. Small Post-Its for writing
  3. Pens
  4. Flip chart markers
  5. Jelly Beans
  6. 2 bowls
  7. LMS* – H5P** (online hours)
  8. LMS – Google Docs (online hours)
  9. LMS – Discussion Board on(line hours)

*LMS stands for Learning Management System

**H5P is an application that is used to develop interactive content which is embeddable into an LMS

My approach

Any ID work will follow the needs of the client – the school, the department, the company, whoever it may be. After conducting my research, this is the approach I decided to take when developing the course module and the lesson plan. In some calls for proposals, this may be outlined for you, but in this case, it was not.

Rationale for the Module and Lesson Plan
Students who have higher levels of acculturation tend to be more successful in postsecondary studies (Bartosik, 2017). Several factors influence acculturation, including: length of time spent in a country, engagement with the host culture, motivation, and participation in EAP programs. EAP programs are excellent places where students, and in particular international students, can learn more about the culture associated with academic language and the culture of postsecondary settings.

Students struggle with adjustment to school culture in various ways: moving from secondary to post-secondary institutions can cause acculturative stress, and when a change of country is included in the shift, the stress is compounded with becoming acclimatised to the host culture as well as the school culture. North American schools place a value to academic integrity that is understood or contextualized differently in other global academic settings.

Plagiarism in academic settings can be explained in this manner: not abiding by the policy of academic integrity means an academic crime has been committed, warranting punishment. The punishment may be outlined in a policy document and faculty are bound to abide by the policy. This view of plagiarism is common in most academic institutions (Pecorari & Petric, 2014).
Within the context of English language learning, the issue of plagiarism must be interpreted alternatively, from a pedagogical perspective (Brown & Reynolds, 2019). Since all language learning, to some extent, can be considered borrowing the target language, the line between what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable should be flexible (Pennycook, 1996). The line between intentional vs unintentional plagiarism is also flexible and complex (Petric, 2004). This phenomenon of language re-use is also demonstrated by L1 English students and students from various cultural backgrounds; however, culture can play a role in language re-use (2007). When plagiarism is reframed in a pedagogical approach, instead of a punitive approach, it can be considered a natural part of the writing process, whereby language chunks are borrowed and memorized by learners. By drawing attention to examples of patchwriting and language re-use, teachers can use these examples as resources in writing instruction, and not opportunities for punishment or remediation.

Kumaravadivelu’s postmethod concept of employing macrostrategies in teaching is the context I have chosen for addressing plagiarism because the learner-centred approach to plagiarism, the pedagogic approach, addresses two of Kumaravadivelu’s proposed macrostrategies: maximizing learning opportunities, and minimizing perceptual mismatches (Kumaravadivelu, 2006). He says that “teachers are seen both as creators of learning opportunities for their learners and utilizers of learning opportunities created by learners” (2006, p. 201). If a teacher uses student exemplars of different types of plagiarism, the teacher can take advantage of these examples as learning opportunities for the whole class.

Another macrostrategy, minimizing perceptual mismatches, has much in common with plagiarism in L2 classrooms. If plagiarism is unintentional (Petric, 2004) then students, as they acquire more language, become able to be less ambiguous in their writing. However, plagiarism may be a new concept to some learners, or the idea of what is plagiarism and what is language re-use, can “result in some kind of mismatch between teacher intention and learner interpretation” (Kumaravadivelu, 2006, p. 2003). How teachers address plagiarism in L2 classrooms and how students understand plagiarism is equally dependent on how learners perceive it and interpret it, and how teachers prepare for teaching it and their intentions in teaching (2006). Sometimes teachers believe that once they inform students about plagiarism, students will understand it, but that is often not the case.

This module addresses the topic of understanding academic culture and academic integrity.

What about the jelly beans, Anna?

I will leave you to wonder: how would you use jelly beans in a lesson on academic integrity?

References
Bartosik, A. (2017). International students’ perceptions of factors affecting academic success in post-secondary studies [master’s thesis]. University of Toronto, Canada.

Brown, J., & Reynolds, B. (2019). Treating English-language learners with respect: Critical praxis. In A. Jule (Ed.), The Compassionate Educator: Understanding social issue and the ethics of care in Canadian schools (pp. 153-174). Canadian Scholars.


Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding language teaching: From method to postmethod. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Pecorari, D., & Petric, B. (2014). Plagiarism in second-language writing. Language Teaching. 47(3), 269-302. Pennycook, A. (1996). Borrowing others’ words: Text, ownership, memory, and plagiarism. TESOL Quarterly 30, 201–230. doi:10.2307/3588141

Petric, B. (2004). A pedagogical perspective on plagiarism. NovELTy 11, 4–18.

Silberstein, S., Dobson, B. K., & Clarke, M. A. (2002). Reader’s Choice (4th ed.). Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

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