Lesson 1, Topic 1
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Rationale for the High School Preparation Course & Curriculum Approach

Rationale for the High School Preparation Course

The John Paul International College High School Preparation programme is designed to address the English language learning needs of full fee-paying international students, who intend to undertake secondary studies at John Paul College (JPC). The course also is designed to prepare students to participate fully in the life of the college and, therefore, the curriculum (formal and informal) is designed to encourage the development not only of language proficiency, but also the academic literacy and cultural capital necessary for the students to successfully become an active participant in this learning context.

The current John Paul College strategic direction and vision, the imperatives of the national curriculum, and the John Paul College curriculum and Pedagogical Framework underpin the High School Preparation programme. It has literacy and numeracy as its core focus as well as goals to encourage students to analyse, draw inferences, and assess written information whilst incorporating computer literacy across the curriculum.

Curriculum Approach

Language learning in the HSP programme is achieved through an integrated skills approach where English language learners are exposed to authentic language for real purposes, topics and themes of interest and relevance with reference to the mainstream. Students study English structure ensuring a focus on form within a meaningful context, as well as the language skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

One image for teaching English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) is that of a tapestry. The tapestry is woven from many strands, such as the characteristics of the teacher, the learner, the setting, and the relevant languages (i.e., English and the native languages of the learners and the teacher). For the instructional loom to produce a large, strong, beautiful, colourful tapestry, all of these strands must be interwoven in positive ways.

For example, the instructor’s teaching style must address the learning style of the learner, the learner must be motivated, and the setting must provide resources and values that strongly support the teaching of the language. However, if the strands are not woven together effectively, the instructional loom is likely to produce something small, weak, ragged, and pale–not recognizable as a tapestry at all. In addition to the four strands mentioned above–teacher, learner, setting, and relevant languages–other important strands exist in the tapestry.

In a practical sense, one of the most crucial of these strands consists of the four primary skills of listening, reading, speaking, and writing. This strand also includes associated or related skills such as knowledge of vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, syntax, meaning, and usage. The skill strand of the tapestry leads to optimal ESL/EFL communication when the skills are interwoven during instruction. This is known as the integrated-skill approach (Oxford, 2001, p 1-2).

The theme-based model integrates the language skills into the study of a theme (e.g., urban violence, cross cultural differences in marriage practices, natural wonders of the world, or a broad topic such as change). The theme must be very interesting to students and must allow a wide variety of language skills to be practiced, always in the service of communicating about the theme. This is the most useful and widespread form of content-based instruction today, and it is found in many innovative ESL and EFL textbooks (Oxford, 2001. p 4.)

As the HSP programme is designed to prepare students for entry to study in an Australian high school a key element in the design is the explicit link to the mainstream curriculum. This is seen not only in the themes around which tasks are based, but the design of the tasks themselves, the text types utilized, and the approach to assessment. Students need a place and a purpose for communication, so many of the activities incorporate involvement in the school community (such as Headmasters assembly, working with mainstream texts, co-curricular activities) and the local community.

Aligning with the main school, the JPIC HSP programme’s Pedagogical Framework is based on Hattie’s (2009) book Visible Learning. Hattie’s research explains what works best in the classroom, and what has the most positive effect on achievement. According to Hattie (2009), teachers who implement practices that have an effect size greater than the hinge-point of d = 0.40, known as the “Zone of desired effects”, have the greatest impact on student achievement outcomes. Teachers are encouraged to work within the “Zone of Desired Effects” to optimize outcomes for students.

Graduate Attributes of JPIC students
A graduating JPIC student:
• has met the language proficiency entry level requirements for the year level they are entering in the
• is familiar with the social and academic culture of John Paul College through active engagement and
participation in Headmasters Assembly, Co-curricular activities, integration activities e.g. integrated main
stream classes such as HPE, maths, specialist classes such as PEAP,
• is willing to leave their comfort zone by:
a. engaging and working with different ‘others’ (socially and culturally)
b. engaging in learning activities ‘out of their comfort zone’
• is an inquirer who knows how to learn independently and with others
• makes the interconnections of knowledge that have local and global significance
• engages with social and cultural others
• shows a mature attitude and initiative by serving and participating in school, community and co-curricular
• has begun to develop life and career goals and takes positive steps towards achieving these goals
• is familiar with the (JPC’s approach to positive education) and has begun to engage with the
different elements of wellbeing.