In an ideal world, the program planning process would be smooth and all stakeholders would have one goal in mind: how to meet the learners’ needs. However, a truly learner-centred approach is hard to achieve and only possible, I feel, if the program planner is the trainer himself, and there is no one else involved in the process. Although this is not entirely true either: a program planner may bring his own beliefs to the table – those
influenced by bigger context such as culture and religion, which may thwart the learner-centred planning.
Nevertheless, the continuum of felt and ascribed needs is an interesting concept and puts a different light on the learner-centred approach. Must we always have learners’ needs in mind when planning a course? It would be fair to say that the delivery of the already planned program should be 100% learner-centred. However, learners are just one of the stakeholders and the needs of the other groups involved, e.g. licensing bodies and funders must be met to the same degree as those of the learners. “In other words, program planners must be able to analyze the context of programs they are working with to determine where along the continuum the program they are designing falls” (The Week 4 Lesson Outline).
For instance, a learner says they need to learn more grammar. Do we jump on the grammar bandwagon right away? If the learner works one-on-one with a tutor, their needs might be addressed and focused on fully.
However, if they go to school, the task-based approach will be “imposed” on them because that is the teaching methodology of the bigger stakeholder.
When there are more groups involved in program planning, “everyone wants a piece
of the pie,” as Krista says. Negative influences such as personal and political agendas, egos,
pressuring, suppressing differences, and not listening to everyone’s input may hinder the program planning process. It’s not an easy job to do to plan an adult education program. Jer’s analogy to a juggling act is right on the money, and while juggling, the program planner’s actions must be founded on ethical practices, reminds Jo-Anne.
Week 4 readings were interesting and insightful. They gave me an understanding of how power dynamics can influence a planning process and what an ideal planner should do; a good one will be able to balance his
beliefs/needs and those of other stakeholders to develop a great program. This, however, would take
exceptional negotiating and people skills.