Sample Curriculum: Destigmatizing Neurodiversity

As a cumulative project in my L2 Oral Skills class at the University of Colorado Boulder, a group including me and two of my colleagues created a full curriculum on the topic of destigmatizing neurodiversity. Designed primarily for advanced ELLs (i.e., between the B2 and C1 levels, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages - CEFR) , this unit consists of three lessons, each with a focus on developing a different oral skill (listening, speaking, and pronunciation), but all integrated in a way that enbales smooth, logical transitions between them in terms of both content and language skills. To support this flow, each lesson follows a similarly scaffolded structure - i.e., a "warm-up" activity, followed by a presentation of material, then followed by a larger "practice" activity, and finally concluding with "assessment" and "wrap-up" activities. The order of the lessons also exhibits a scaffolded design, particularly in the sense that the students' direct involvement in the material naturally increases from each skill to the next, with the culmination of all three consisting of a student-led presentation to the class based on the information about neurodiversity - as well as effective English listening, speaking, and pronunciation - that they have learned. All the activities featured are applicable in most 21st-century English classrooms, with the only significant prerequisite being reliable access to technology. There are also supplementary resources included with the lessons, such as external references to pertinent information on the topic, possible activity/lesson alterations and ideas, etc. In spring 2023, this curriculum was nominated for a Linguistics Undergraduate Reasearch Award, which is bestowed by CU Boulder's Department of Linguistics to select students who have demonstrated exceptional work in the field. 

While the lessons in this curriculum have yet to be delivered in a real-life ELT context, based on the feedback they've received so far, it can be reasonably assumed that they will prove effective so long as the guidelines regarding learner level and material accessibility are followed. Since neurodiversity is a rising topic of interest in many facets of today's society, it's expected that the students will show at least some interest right away before continuing to grow in their engagement throughout the rest of the unit. The primary concern that my group members and I had while designing this lesson is the potential sensitivity to this topic, especially in a context where a student or someone close to a student is considered neurodiverse. It is therefore important for the instructor to not only have a thorough understanding of the unit material, but also an acute awareness of their students' reactions such that the instructor knows when and how to modify the content as appropriate.   

See the full curriculum here. Please also feel free to check out the other curricula presented on the given website; each one focuses on a social justice issue faced by today's society.