School of arts and sciences foreign language department undergraduate research

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Structural Syllabus: when we describe the structural syllabus we mention that it emphasizes mostly in grammar or the part of the speech, (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions and so forth), used in the oral and written language.

  • Language is a system which consists of a set of grammatical rules; learning language means learning these rules and then applying them to practical language use.

  • The syllabus input is selected and graded according to grammatical notions of simplicity and complexity. These syllabi introduce one item at a time and require mastery of that item before moving on to the next.

  • This type of syllabus maintains that it is easier for students to learn a language if they are exposed to one part of the grammatical system at a time.

A notional/ functional syllabus: this syllabus looks for the use of the language in a specific situation where the language is needed to provide or request information, and this one has been associated with what has been called with communicative language teaching. For example, when a person goes to a restaurant and he has to order the menu and he has the need to select his food and the waiter gives him options and takes his order and so on. The students need to use the language taught to fulfill the function of asking and ordering. Besides that, the notional/ functional syllabus is characterized by two ways. First, notion or category of meaning which is characterized by the interaction between meaning and grammatical forms such as time, duration, quantity, agent, instrument, place and many others. Second, the language use or the language form is put, for example, we can mention agreement, greeting, approval, prediction, requesting direction, apologizing and others.

Situational syllabus: this one emphasizes when the speakers are placed in specific real or imaginary setting the goal, the language structures are organized to express different interactions (functions) that are possible for different effects. These functions might be expressing sympathy, disagreement, or concern. Therefore, the fundamental principle for the organization of the contents is situation, instead of grammar items, although which will also appear in the syllabus. One positive aspect of the situational syllabus is that can lead more directly than others to learners to communicate in specific setting, and the situation in language learning provide social and cultural information about the language. However, one negative aspect is that the students can lack creativity and depend on pre-learned routines or pattern of language use rather than their own knowledge to face a new situation.

Skill-based syllabus: Skills are abilities that people must be able to do to be competent enough in a language, instead of independent of the situation or context in which the language use can occur. In this syllabus, the content of the language teaching involves a collection of particular skills that may play a role in using language. Although situational syllabuses combine functions together into specific settings of language use, skill-based syllabi merge linguistic competencies (pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and discourse) together into generalized types of behavior, such as listening to spoken language for the main idea, writing well-formed paragraphs, delivering effective lectures, and so forth.

The Task-based syllabus: A task-based syllabus supports using tasks and activities to encourage learners to utilize the language communicatively so as to achieve a purpose. The most important point is that tasks must be relevant to the real world language needs of the learner. The content of the teaching is a series of tasks that students want or need to perform with the aid of the language they are learning; tasks combine language and other skills in specific contexts of language use. One of the positive aspects, we can mention that is very suitable for learners of all ages and background and it can be effective in out of class activities in social or academic. On the other hand, the negative characteristics we can mention that the teacher must be creative concerning the settings to be used and the time they need to spend for such a task, it means that the teacher must not have the traditional role; he needs to give more in creativity and resources. The material that the teacher uses it has to be beyond of what we are accustomed to see in a language classroom (textbook, CD and others), and also the evaluation of task-based learning can be difficult.

A content-based syllabus: This syllabus is intended to designing a type of instruction in which the crucial goal is to teach specific information and content using the language that the learners are also learning. Although the subject matter is of primary and vital importance, language learning occurs with the content learning. The learners are at the same time language students and learners of whatever content and information is being taught. As compared with the task-based approach of language teaching that is connected with communicative and cognitive processes, content-based language teaching deals with information. This syllabus can be exemplified by assuming a chemistry class in which chemistry is taught in the language the learners need or want to learn, possibly with linguistic adjustment to make the chemistry more understandable. The positive characteristics of the content-based syllabus are that the students learn subject matter and language simultaneously and also the language is learned in context of its use, so that the language learning becomes more significant.

Today in the working field, English language is essential for different purposes since English has become an international language around the world; for that reason many people is interested in taking English courses, but is it a communicative learning what they need or for specific purpose? There are different reasons that people have for learning English, as Wilcox mentions ”everyone wants to know English for a variety of reasons(for prestige, even for the sake or snobbery as well as for enhancement of personality and its utilization value in education and in securing employment and promotion in one’s profession”. (Wilcox Peterson, Pat, ESP in practice p.42)

People desire to learn English language in order to develop it and apply, in their working field, so they can get better job opportunities and increase their budgets.

In recent years, English language has had an important role in Education. In most universities and majors exist the English subject but in many of these, English is taught in a communicative way. Teacher has to ask themselves what English learners need to know in order to adapt that knowledge to their professional development. It is very important to take into account lots of points of view as subject teachers, the institution, English language teachers give an input to show the skills needed for learners to succeed in any academic situation. The institution provides the academic environment and the facilities in which students and teachers have a good teaching-learning process. The teacher of English view in order to feedback and enrich the syllabus and give important suggestions and learners point of view, they express their needs and wants in order to have motivating and interesting class, it is most valuable, because they are who directly receive the benefit. The main objective of ESP is to enable the learners to handle science lectures and laboratory, but also practice reference skill.



Observation has been the starting point in order to find out the problem, as a team, the group has decided to observe two English II classes taught in Biology and Arts Major, those observations have the objective to identify problems with syllabus deficiency and if the syllabi are oriented to students’ needs and major’s profile.

Based on the information, researchers have decided to do some class observations to the English Service Classes of Biology School and Arts School, to write a letter addressed to the teachers in charge of this subject. The use of the class observation is to analyze how the contents are designed. This period lasts three weeks, during this time researchers realize that teachers do not instruct according to the syllabus description and in use. Therefore, the problem begins here, there is not a sequence on topics; also it is not addressed to fulfill student´s needs. As teachers, they have to select a good guide to develop on the students an adequate attitude towards English learning. Researchers decided to develop these observations with the purpose to get a diagnosis, which is the starting point to suggest a new syllabus proposal.


With the purpose of getting more information, researchers made open interviews, where the interviewees express the situation according to their point of view of the studied problem. Firstly, this technique was applied to Lic. Xenia Maria Pérez Oliva, who is the Head of the Arts Department, she was the first interviewee, where she exposed what students from Art School were expecting to know at the end of the major in order to get more opportunities in the working world. Secondly, the researchers interviewed Engineer Martin Guerra, who is the Dean of “Facultad de Ciencias Naturales” of the University of El Salvador. Thirdly, another interview was addressed to Lic. Rodolfo Menjivar, the head of Biology school, and finally the last interview was applied to Lic. Miguel Carranza, who is in charge of English Service Area that Foreign Language Department, gives and this way they were interviewed to have a better comprehension of the real situation.

Researchers also interviewed ten students from Arts major that had already taken English II during the second semester of 2011; since the group had around thirty students, the team research decided to take a sample of thirty three percent, which means one third of the population. Also, the objective was to find out what kind of topics Art’s students prefer when they take English course. In the same way, students from Biology School were interviewed and researchers took a sample of one third from the group, which was around thirty enrolled students, in order to search the contents appropriate for their needs and related to the career’s profile.

Based on all the information, researchers presented a diagnosis in order to propose different syllabi to overcome the observed problem. This diagnose included the reasons of research and the proposal for Arts School

At the moment of developing a research, a deep analysis needs to be conducted to decide which kind of level research is going to be adapted to. The main purpose of this project was to propose a different syllabus for Arts and Biology students. Researchers decided to develop this research through an explorative research, due to there were no prior investigations, researchers decided to choose this research because the selected area that is not well known by many people, but it is an important field in which all the people in charge have to observe the teaching- learning process and improve the weakness points.

Researchers want to establish priorities for future projects by proposing different syllabi that fulfill participant´s needs. An exploratory research does not try to explain the problem; on the contrary, it is done with the purpose of collecting, identifying and describing general backgrounds regarding to the observed problem. According to Jany Lozano (2011), this kind of research presents “the findings of problems that need to be deeply examined in future projects”. The main purpose of this is to give facts about topics that have not been enough studied before. Generally, this kind of research gives the basis to subsequent investigations.

The exploratory studies serve as a tool to get familiar with phenomenon or problems unknown, and help us to get information in order to develop an investigation on the observed field. That is why researchers decided to follow this line, due to the current problem has not been studied before, so as it has been mentioned before, the present project is the basis for a future investigation. This kind of research determines tendencies for next investigations, and most of the time are quiet flexible in its methodology. (Hernandez et al. Research Methodology. Pp 8, 2011)

Researchers had gotten information from all the parts involved in this problem, this means the data was obtained since the very beginning of where the problem occurred, so this problem was defined as a field research. Moreover, this investigation followed a qualitative design because we as researchers wanted to describe the problem and at the same time to propose alternative syllabi for each school.




In order to develop this research, two groups of English Service subject were observed and interviewed. One was from Arts school which had 30 students and the other was from Biology school where there were 78 participants.

The selected sampling to obtain the data was at random in the English course where the researcher team interviewed a class of 30 students in the Arts School at the University of El Salvador in the year 2011. The schedule of this class was from 12:00 m. to 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Besides that, the same kind of sampling was used to find out what topics the students really needed to learn for the coming courses.

All the interviews applied to students were structured because the questions followed a sequence previously established. On the other hand, the interviews applied to head of Biology Department, Arts School and the Natural Science’s Dean were semi-structured interview because at the time when they were interviewed new questions emerged and they answered spontaneously.


The instrument and techniques, used for gathering information were the following:

  • The direct observation

  • The structured interview

  • The semi-structured interview

Processing techniques

The data analysis was based on the results gathered from students and teachers interviewed, in order to identify which were the contents they wanted to see in future courses.

Researchers perform a structured interview to 10 students from Biology School and another interview to 10 students of Arts school. From the first group 6 were male and 5 were female, there ages were on a range of 21 to 29 years old, and for second group 6 were female and 4 were male, the age range was the same as Biology students. As has been mentioned before they were chosen at random.

Firstly researchers interviewed students from Biology; they asked them which topics they wanted to see in the coming English Service courses. The first question was the following:

4.3 Data analysis and Findings

Biology major:

  1. What kind of contents do you want to see in the first unit of your English Service course?


UNIDAD 1 : botánica estructura y función de las plantas


floración de las plantas de semillas


la estructura y función de las plantas


flores, frutos y semillas


tallos y raíces


variedad en el mundo de las plantas



The results shows that most of students are interested on topics related to plants and fruits, also they told researchers that these topics have not been taught in any English class they received. This is a big matter due to students need to be exposed to real topics that must be related to the field they are studying.

  1. Do you know something regarding to Botany, if not which topics regarding to this area would you like to see?


Unidad 2


anatomía humana y fisiológica


teoría creacionista


huesos y músculos


el sistema nervioso


nutrición y digestión


circulación y respiración


sistemas integumentarios, endocrino y excretorio



According to the results students are most interested in getting knowledge about nervous system and nutricion and digestion, while the rest are interested on other topics that are related to human anatomy. Researchers compare these topics with the ones they saw at the moment of observing this class are really away from students´ needs.

  1. Which kind of topics would you like to see in English Service course regarding to Life Sciences and Philosophy?


UNIDAD 3: ciencias de la vida, Metodología y Filosofía


historia natural e investigación científica


evolución un retiro de la ciencia


introducción a la ecología



Based on the information above most of the students show the necessity to receive information regarding to Ecology and Scientific Research and natural history, so these topics should be offered in future courses in order to create on students a different perspective of what they need.

  1. Do you have information about Zoology, if not which are the related topics you would like to see?


UNIDAD 4: Variedad y diseño en el mundo animal (Zoología)


los mamíferos


las aves


reptiles y anfibios




artrópodos; invertebrados con pies articulados


variedad en el mundo de los invertebrados



Most of the interviewed students show a big interest on topics related to mammals and invertebrates, also based on this information there is a big necessity to make a change on the current contents they are receiving.

  1. Which contents would you like to see regarding to your field?




La Biología y la Biología molecular


La complejidad de las cosas vivientes


Citología: El diseño y la función de la célula


Herencia: La continuidad de la vida


ADN: La regulación de la vida



According to the gotten results all students that were interviewed show a big interest on all topics regarding to their study field. This information shows that they are expecting to be really involved in all information about Biology.

Art Major:

  1. What do you know about Arts?


Unidad 1:


¿Qué es Arte?


Vocabulario Básico de Arte

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