Project Hotel T.E.A.C.H. Curriculum
Hotel TEACH targets developing English language skills, soft skills and technology skills with the goal of helping learners acquire jobs in the hotel industry. It is based in industry standards, implicit knowledge of the setting,Equipped for the Future (EFF) content standards, and student learner and goals. There are eight units that cover topics such as: Identifying your learning goals, Communicating with guests, Working as part of a team, and Career advancement and getting ready for the interview. Clear directions for implementation, handouts, material lists, and Teacher Tips are included. The curriculum addresses all four skill areas (e.g., journaling, reading websites and newspapers) but does not explicitly teach reading and writing. The authors also provide an overview of the curriculum in the form of a chart using the following categories:
- Areas of Responsibility from EFF Worker Role Map
- Major EFF Skills Focus
- Hospitality Industry Skills Focus
- Language Focus
- Career Counseling Focus
- Technology Focus.
They also provide a bibliography. Some of the resources referred to in the curriculum can be found at the above url (e.g., audio portions). However, other items (generally videos) can be found for free on line or need to be purchased (see curriculum bibliography for full information).
This resource is intended for non-native English speakers who are working (or preparing to work) in the hotel industry. The curriculum was developed with funding from the U. S. Department of Labor by LaGuardia Community College in New York City with its industry partner Sheraton Manhattan Hotel, providing it with a sense of reality. (For example, actual floor plans from the Sheraton Manhattan Hotel are used in one unit.) The curriculum is also keyed to the EFF role map and skill sets to show how the various skills taught in the curriculum relate to those workforce development competencies. The intent is to develop the skills necessary for immigrant workers to work successfully in the hotel industry, thus benefitting both the employer and the employee. Students are also encouraged to practice and use the behavioral skills outside work in their personal lives.
The curriculum overview provides a matrix that correlates the skills taught in each unit of the product with EFF skills and role map, with hospitality industry skills, and with ESL functional language skills. Each unit also provides an introductory career counseling section and incorporates technology skills (for example, students may use computer skills in customizing worksheets for their use in the curriculum). The integration of these various skill areas in the curriculum is commendable in that students experience their integrated and purposeful use.
The curriculum does a good job of integrating reading, writing, speaking, and listening along with many critical workplace skills. It was interactive and used different modalities of instruction that could be useful in meeting the needs of students with different learning styles. It used a contextualized approach to teaching language—an approach that has a good evidence basis (see studies on the IBEST program). The curriculum was framed in a way that made the objectives of each section clear to instructors and had lessons that could be used and adapted to meet the needs of particular groups of students. Metacognition for the learner was supported throughout. In general the curriculum was prepared based on a solid approach to how adults, particularly adult English language learners, acquire new knowledge.
New learning is linked to previous learning and experience. Teachers are cautioned to be respectful of students’ home cultures while at the same time explaining the customs in the U. S. Often students watch an introductory video to present the content. (For example, they may observe the video to identify positive behaviors displayed by employees.) Role playing is frequently incorporated to teach and practice the behavioral skills. Extension Activities further develop the skills. Teacher Tips include suggestions for adapting the curriculum to a local situation in addition to further activities. The grammar lessons are functional and contextual to the hotel industry.
Students are encouraged throughout the curriculum to assess their own behaviors and skills. Assessment instruments and activities are not included in the curriculum. Performance in the activities and role plays provide a basis for teacher assessment, but guidance is not provided for using performance-based assessment. The emphasis of the curriculum is on instruction and performance in a simulated work environment in the hotel industry. An extensive bibliography provides useful teaching resources, many of which are incorporated into the curriculum.
Although the curriculum has many strong aspects, it should be noted that it is not self-contained. For example, one has to order the videos (both videocassettes and DVDs) from other sources. It also uses a textbook that would have to be purchased separately. Both types of materials are essential to the lessons. (Audios are provided as part of the curriculum on the website.) Therefore the curriculum cannot be used as is; it will need to be adapted to the user’s location.
There are a few ideological items that, while common to the field, should be given some thought and be presented differently or extended and amplified with discussion additional activities. For example, the use of the term “white lie,” why teach that it is okay to lie when what the curriculum is really saying is that not everyone needs to know everything about a situation? It is not a “white lie” to say that a person cannot come to the phone when they are in the restroom. It is the truth. The issue at hand is how an employee makes a judgment on what to say or not to say depending on the audience and the situation. Furthermore, “white lie” could be construed as a term with racial connotations and should be avoided in a curriculum that is instructing ELLs not only in job related skills but also in cultural values.
Or, the stated approach of being both worker and employer focused—complaining is given as an example of unprofessional behavior, and it certainly could be. However, there is no discussion of how a worker should handle a legitimate complaint. What recourse does the worker have? Another example that was overly weighted towards the employer and did not offer protections to workers is in section 7 where there is a discussion of taking initiative. Even from my own experience, I know that taking initiative is not valued by all employers. Sometimes workers are penalized for taking initiative due to a supervisor who is insecure in his or her job or even due to company culture or policy. Without a discussion of the risks involved or what to do if there are negative consequences to taking initiative, the curriculum could be encouraging a worker to take an action that could result in workplace discipline. This curriculum supposes that the employer is benign, which unfortunately is not always the case, particularly with entry level jobs where workers skills and abilities are not always as valued as they should be. Including these discussions would enrich the curriculum and provide a more worker oriented focus, one that not only helps the worker understand how to behave in the American workplace but also provides him or her with an orientation to workers’ rights in the workplace.
Note: The term “non-incumbents” (referring to students) is used without definition. Apparently it refers to students who are not working in a hotel but are enrolled in a workforce development class.