In late 2017, early 2018, TransformELT’s Alan Mackenzie and Alan Pulverness wrote the syllabus documents for the new British Council flagship global product for teen English language learners: Upper Secondary Plus (USP). This is a six-level series (B1, B1+, B2, B2+, C1, C1+) with ten learning units each, all based around separate content themes.
A number of factors attracted us to USP. Firstly the content base for materials design was a departure from many current courses. The project-driven nature of the materials reinforced the content base of the materials design. The desire to embed the development of learner autonomy into all of the teaching and learning within British Council teaching centres had the potential to be transformative in terms of the teaching-learning approaches taken. The truly task-based nature of the approach we believed to be innovative, and we were also intrigued by the desire to develop ‘semi-authentic’ readings and listenings for this range of levels. Purely authentic materials could not be used due to copyright issues.
Lower Secondary Plus went into production in 2018 with a different production team, but using the same development methodology as USP. We were then further commissioned to create an additional Academic and Exams Skills supplement to USP at the end of 2018.
This involved collating a taxonomy of academic and exam skills from available literature. We then used this taxonomy to audit the existing materials. These were written by British Council writers based on the syllabus documents we had produced. Having analysed them for presence or absence of academic and exams skills which we mapped graphically. We then produced an academic and exams skills syllabus for each level to fill out the gaps identified in the audit.