Designing Business English programmes 3

This is the final article in a three part series. In the first part we looked at needs analysis and how to define goals and objectives. In the second part we considered how we could design a business English syllabus and in this last one we will see the last three stages of developing business English programmes.

Designing Business English programmes 3 - methodology article


  • Selecting suitable material
  • Course delivery
  • Programme evaluation


Selecting suitable material
Teaching materials are a crucial component in language programmes. Your selection of course materials and supplementary material is vital. You have to remember that business English teaching is about fulfilling your students' and the organisation's needs. It is quite difficult to find a course book that completely does so; as a result most business English teachers design teaching material besides using a course book.

You should take into consideration many different factors when choosing a course book:

  • Is it consistent with the goals and objectives of your course?
  • Does it address your students' needs?
  • Is its content relevant to your students?
  • Does it incorporate authentic texts, either written or spoken? 
  • Is it culturally appropriate?

The supply of business English teaching material has increased substantially. You can find published materials that range from general business English to more specific fields inside business English (Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Law, etc.). There are course books, business skills books, CDs, DVDs, interactive CD-ROMs, business English dictionaries with CDs, Accounting, Banking, Financial and Legal dictionaries.

You can find a list on the IATEFL BESIG website ( ). You can also visit the websites of the different publishers and see what they have. Most of their sites also offer extra resources to supplement their course books. There are many websites devoted to business English teaching and learning too. Some of them offer useful tips; others offer business articles with activities; others audio resources, and more.

Sometimes you will need to produce your own tailor-made materials. Preparing effective teaching materials is not an easy task, but it is essential when teaching business people and it is very rewarding. You can choose articles, pieces of news, podcasts, videos or recordings that are relevant to your students and that reflect their concerns and interest and prepare tasks or activities. You can find resources online: newspapers, business magazines, specialist magazines, company websites, and international organisations websites.

One of the best resources you have is your students, you know the language, but they are the experts on their fields. They can provide you with information, material and their expertise. Your students can give you samples of the authentic items and documents they use:

  • E- mails
  • Reports
  • Letters
  • Memos
  • Contracts
  • Company magazines
  • Company advertising material
  • Presentations
  • Conference calls
  • Video recordings

Remember these documents may be commercially or legally sensitive and must be kept confidential.

In many cases you might think the language is not at an appropriate level, don't worry; this is what they encounter in their daily working life. What matters is the difficulty of the tasks you set and most importantly, your students will feel that they are not only learning English, but also reading, listening or discussing topics they need for their jobs.

Course delivery
You are about to start a new course after following all the previous steps. How are you going to launch it?
You will need to build group rapport and a positive attitude towards learning by empowering your students.
What does that mean?

  • Put your students in control of their learning
  • Prioritise objectives with your students
  • Involve them in decision-making during the class
  • Provide tasks that are intellectually challenging, but not frustrating
  • Draw on your students' expertise
  • Give your students the necessary tools to become more self-reliant
  • Invite your students to lead some of the lessons
  • Provide a non-threatening environment in which your students can feel self- confident and are encourage to take risks and be creative
  • Create awareness of all the informal learning opportunities your students can take advantage of
  • Maximise the opportunities for peer-to peer knowledge sharing

Remember that in order to maintain a high level of motivation your students need to find their learning experience relevant and useful to their professional lives.

Programme evaluation
Programme evaluation is an on-going and cyclical process. You are constantly thinking about the needs of your students, the objectives and how the materials you use and your teaching can be more supportive. Evaluation is about constantly and cyclically making the programme better.

In order to evaluate the whole programme and be able to develop a process of programme renewal you will need to conduct 360-degree evaluations. What does this mean?

  • Students evaluate their own progress, the programme and the learning environment
  • The teacher evaluates the development of the course and of the students
  • The organisation evaluates the effectiveness of the programme.

This process can be carried out in the middle and at the end of the programme.

How can you do it?

  • You prepare a self-assessment quiz based on the needs, objectives and syllabus
  • In class you go over the syllabus, you see what has been done so far and what has been accomplished
  • In class you evaluate the effectiveness of the objectives and you discuss if there have been some changes in their needs
  • You suggest that the organisation evaluates the effectiveness of the programme
  • You evaluate the programme together with the organisation

Based on the outcome of these evaluations you re-design the syllabus. The process of designing the programme is a cyclical one and it continuously evolves.






Designing business English programmes is a challenging but rewarding process. And as Sylvie Donna states: 'Business English is special because of the opportunity it gives you to fulfil students' immediate needs of English.... Business English is not only special; it can become an exciting and surprising area of teaching. As a result of your efforts to improve a few people's lives you are likely to have interesting classes, increased job satisfaction and a window into other people's world.'



  • A Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment - Council of Europe (2001) Cambridge University Press. 
  • English Next - David Graddol (2006) British Council 
  • Curriculum Development in Language Teaching - Jack C. Richards (2001) Cambridge University Press
  • Second Language Teaching & Learning - David Nunan (1999) Heinle & Heinle Publishers
  • Teach Business English - Sylvie Donna (2000) Cambridge University Press
  • How to Teach Business English - Evan Frendo (2005) Pearson Education Limited
  • The Elements of Language Curriculum - James Dean Brown (1994) Heinle & Heinle Publishers


Mercedes Viola Deambrosis, Director, 4D Content English



Submitted by kate wong on Mon, 08/10/2009 - 00:12


Thanks so much for your article. We are about to start a Business English Course, and this will be so useful for my teachers, and our planning.

We are based in Trinidad, West Indies. It would be good to hear about your experience in Uraguay. Please get in touch.


Hi Kate,

I'm happy to know the article is useful.

There are three of them:

this is the link for the first one:

and this is the link for the second one:

I´ll contact you and we can exchange ideas and experiences.

All the best,


Arq. Mercedes Viola Deambrosis


4D Content English

Circunvalación Durango 1429 of. 501

Montevideo - Uruguay

Tel: (598 2) 9161496 


Submitted by tallulah on Tue, 01/12/2010 - 06:57


Dear Mercedes,

Firstly, thanks so much for these three programmes. They have come just as I am about to embark on a new Business English class which has specific demands.

Secondly, unfortunately I am still feeling pretty overwhelmed by the task and wondered if you could point me in the direction of a book or website 'for dummies' that could further guide me.

Lastly, I'm finding it difficult to find books that deal with one specific area. All the books seem to cover business in general and I would like one that deals specifically with finance. Do you know of any?



Dear Talullah,


Sorry that it took me this long to get back to you.


These two books can be very useful for you when designing business English courses:

·          Teach Business English - Sylvie Donna (2000) Cambridge University Press

·          How to Teach Business English - Evan Frendo (2005) Pearson Education Limited



Business English textbooks with more emphasis on Finance could be:

More general:


·  Intelligent Business - Longman

·  Market Leader- Longman


More specific:


·  Financial English - Heinle

·  Absolute Financial English – Delta Publishing


I hope this helps.


All the best,



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