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Stimulating Positive English Speaking Class Environment

Oleh: Ani  Purjayanti

Bogor Agricultural University (IPB)

 

Abstract

Despite the fact that the skills to communicate in English are crucial in the globalization era, the majority of students in Bogor Agricultural University encounter problems to speak this language appropriately and fluently. When asked to elaborate the inhibiting factors, students generally point out both linguistic and non-linguistic factors. Accordingly, not only do students need to be equipped with adequate knowledge of grammar, a sufficient range of vocabulary, and pronunciation knowledge but their confidence and willingness to take the risk also need to be provoked as well. In fact, the latter points, namely, building confidence and risk-taking willingness generally require hard efforts on the part of the teachers. Practice, is indeed viewed as the best way in such an English teaching-learning process, although, inevitably, there are often questions concerning the HOW this process is able to provide prominent and meaningful inputs to the students. This paper is written as an attempt to elicit students’ opinions on speaking classroom environment which can stimulate and foster students to speak appropriately and fluently. 100 students of Bogor Agricultural University (of Diploma level) who had taken reading class prior to the Speaking I, were randomly selected to be the subjects of the study. Besides completing questionnaires focusing on classroom arrangement and environment, participants were interviewed for further clarification. Results show that teachers play the most prominent role in creating classroom environment, including creating comforting but challenging classroom environment and providing appropriate teaching materials.

 

Key words: classroom environment, friendly speaking environment

Although teaching speaking skill does not completely differ from teaching other language skills, it apparently requires greater endeavors as students are driven to produce sentences in an active way. Meanwhile, being in a new speaking class – where one has to express ideas and opinions – is not always a pleasant experience for students. Quite often, a series of queries appears in a student’s mind: whether they will have an interesting class, a good teacher, nice friends, and so forth. Others might think whether they will be able to accomplish all of their classroom activities, and go through all of the tasks in the learning process for the whole semester. Still, some others wonder whether they are far behind their friends in terms of ability or the same. Such worries may, unfortunately, result in the decline of students’ guts and confidence so that their performance is far below optimum.

It is in such a case, learning environment becomes paramount. If the environment is dreary and discouraging, things will lead to a strenuous and boring situation though the lessons offered are tremendous. If the environment is tempting and motivating, on the other hand, learning may take place more easily as having safe and comfortable feelings, learners will eagerly open themselves to be involved and actively engage in the learning activities. By doing so, they are expected to be able to absorb and master the materials and skills given. But, the questions arisen here is “Who is responsible to create such a stimulating learning environment?”

This paper is written to elicit students’ opinion on “Who” or/and “What” can stimulate learners to speak in the speaking classroom.

 

Learning Environment

The term “Learning Environment” has apparently drawn a relatively wide attention from teachers of languages who then react in different ways as their follow-up actions. A some papers  discuss that many language teachers immediately direct their concentration on the physical setting of the classroom – where and how specific things must be placed and arranged as such an organization is believed to benefit young learners in their brain development  (Church, 2010). He goes on by mentioning other factors that may affect the classroom environment; namely, material choices as well as provided activities.  Byanderzee (2010), furthermore forward the idea that a positive classroom environment can be created by taking learners’ preferences and view points in the design of classroom materials, and this can be covered in specific classroom curriculum design. One specific goal for this is to ensure that students’ individual needs will be fulfilled. A larger coverage of the conception of learning environment is not only the “physical” environment but also the emotional feelings of learners created by particular people in a classroom: the teacher, classmates, etc that play a prominent role in stimulating positive learning environment. The feeling of being secure and excited when entering the classroom and conducting all the activities, is one of the examples of desired classroom environment.

 

Methods and Procedures

100 students of Diploma Program in IPB (from 6 different classes from two semesters) were asked to fill in a questionnaire “Stimulating Classroom Environment for English Speaking Learners”. They are free to give more than one answers when describing the preferred teacher, teaching materials, classmates, etc. In order to explore true responses from participants, Indonesian is used, but answers were given in English.

Responses were then tabulated and analyzed to obtain a clear depiction of students’ preferences. Words of similar meaning are classified into one to make the grouping easier. Some of these findings some were put into graphs.

In-depth interviews were conducted in order to get clarification of participants’ responses on the questionnaire.

 

Findings and Discussion
It was found that according to the students, the salient factors that have great roles in stimulating positive classroom environment so as to make them willing and encouraged to speak in English are in the following order:

 

Figure 1: The most influential factor in creating positive learning environment

Fig1-any

Results indicated that the majority of the participants (68%) pointed out “the teacher” as the most crucial factor in making them speak, compared to other factors such as materials (10%), classmates (10%), learning situations (7%)  and learning activities (5%). Teacher factor is evidently far above the other choices, meaning that teachers  are viewed to have a vital role in providing valuable learning environment.

Regarding detailed teachers’ characteristics, teaching materials, classmates’ characteristics, and so forth that students preferred in-depth interviews were conducted. Responses mentioned by participants in each category are discussed individually.

 

1. Teacher (as the Most Influential Factor)

What are the aspects of an influential teacher brought up by the students in the questionnaire and interview?

Regarding teachers’ characteristics that students preferred, students raised teachers’ being friendly, supportive and giving respect as the highest in frequency. Responses students raised in the questionnaire are as described in the following:

  1. 1.      Being friendly

The most outstanding teachers’ characteristic raised by the majority of the students (89 %) – which also means what students concern the most about their teacher – is “friendliness”. Although it is described in a variety of words; including, being friendly, always smiles, always shows friendly face, the body language shows friendliness, and the like, students point out that this characteristic has a great impact on their feelings towards the classroom environment. This can make them feel at ease and comfortable and also reduce their nervousness so that they can enjoy the lesson and find it easier to express their opinions.

  1. 2.      Being supportive

Similar to the first characteristic, this second one was also written by 77% students as one of the teacher’s ideal characteristics. They have more courage if the teacher always provides support for his/her students, particularly when they make mistakes or do not know what to say. Thus, expressions such as “That’s good, so what about …“ in order to remind them of what they have to focus on, or “Right, but how do you pronounce …” when trying to correct their pronunciation can make them keep going.

Another expression that students use in the response is that they like to have a teacher who always gives motivation so that they feel the need to learn more and more. This can be conducted when giving them assignment or at the end of the lesson, for instance, depending on the classroom situation. Saying “Practice again and again so that in the next meeting you can speak much better than this time…” can give a significantly positive impact on the students.

  1. 3.      Giving respects

Although it is not mentioned as often as the above two characteristics, more than half of the respondents (57%) mention that they need to be given respects by their teacher. A teacher who respects students, listens to what they say, provides the same opportunities for all students to speak or ask questions, and does not criticize nor give bad judgment in front of others is sincerely appreciated. A teacher should also be able to accept students’ weaknesses wisely.

  1. 4.      Being  eager in correcting students’ mistakes

Both eagerness and willingness of a teacher to address students’ mistakes in a positive way is another concern (51%) since students believe that they still make lots of mistakes when speaking. A teacher, accordingly, is expected to show and correct these mistakes, as by doing so, students will be aware of their mistakes in the hope that they can avoid making the same mistakes at other times.

  1. 5.      Being kind-hearted

In addition, many students (46%) would like to have a teacher who has genuine understanding upon his/her students’ level of English proficiency, including understanding their difficulties and anxiety while learning English. In their words, they like a teacher who “can understand students’ situations” and do not become furious easily. A teacher has to have a great patience in her/himself.”

 

  1. 6.      Being creative and innovative

To a smaller extent (11%), students stated that a creative and innovative teacher can create good environment in the classroom since he/she can make classroom alive with the materials and activities provided for the students.

  1. 7.      Other characteristics

There are, still, other teachers’ characteristics preferred by students  though only in a very small number (7%). These include being able to explain clearly and become a role model, having sense of humor, being professional, and  close to the students. Moreover, teachers should also be serious in a friendly manner.

From the findings, it revealed that only a very few number of the participants point out teacher’s intelligence, knowledge, and smartness as profound aspects in creating friendly speaking environment. These cognitive characteristics were not as highly favoured as affective characteristics as discussed above. It is definite, therefore, that to provide friendly speaking environment, teachers’ personalities have to be given more attention. This is a great input for language teachers to introspect and check whether the above points are built in themselves.

The above-mentioned findings are, in fact, in line with previous studies (eg., Purjayanti, 2008). Similar hints to teach speaking class are also stated by Kelly (2010) who points out that both “teacher’s behaviors” and “teacher’s characteristics”, particularly “teacher’s personalities” have a great impact on how a learning environment is created. Whether or not a teacher is even-tempered, sarcastic, serious, patient, or optimist, is viewed to be the most important factor in creating a stimulating classroom environment as it appears that every student mentions this in their response.

What needs to be done then? Personalities, indeed, have to come first. Giving genuine smile and showing a happy face can be the first thing a teacher has to perform. Language teachers do not only assist students but also learn from others; sharing both knowledge and experience with students at the same time may help language teachers maintain the positive environment.

Included in the personalities that a language teacher needs to posses is the choices of words he/she uses in the classroom. Words of appreciation, inspiration as well as keenness are always good to use. A list of word choices and expressions used by language teachers in the classroom is proposed by Andrew (2009:1); he mentions that saying “raise a hand if in need of assistance” creates a more positive environment than saying “do not call out answers”.

Regarding teacher’s attempt to correct students’ mistakes which is very common to occur in a speaking class, again, words play a great role. Suess (2010); therefore, suggests that a teacher should conduct this activity wisely:

Always start with positive statement; praise them for trying. Praise is a powerful positive motivation tool” (Mc-Daniels in Suess, 2010:2)

Above all, a more crucial tip for teacher’s personalities is provided by Suess who states that the heart of creating stimulating classroom environment is teachers’ “enthusiasm” as well as “excitement” towards the lesson being taught. Teachers should always try to be enthusiastic and eager with the valuable job being conducted. It is this excitement   that will finally spread throughout the whole classroom and spark students’ enthusiasm to learn.

It is, definitely, a big fortune if all the characteristics and behaviors that students preferred become the parts of language teachers’ daily life in order to make students feel the comfort, respect, and even love from teachers. The most important questions that need to be addressed now is probably, “Are language teachers able to keep up the same performance from time to time?”, or “Can they always control their emotion in all kinds of situations?” Whatever the answer it takes, it is always good to take Kelly’s affirmation into account:

your behavior is the one factor that you can completely control” (Kelly, 2010:1)

 

Materials

The second vital component that can stimulate learning environment, as the participants respond on the questionnaire includes are both teaching materials and classmates. These are discussed with teaching materials discussed first and followed with classmates.

It was found that the stimulating materials include real-life topics, interesting topics, simple (trivial-matter) topic), and others. Real life topic includes topics about daily life, current issues and situations, any other current issues appear in the society. Students perceived such topics to be un-threatening topics to discuss since they are mostly have the knowledge on them; thus, it is relatively challenging. Interesting topics include the ones providing new or more knowledge or information are also found interesting. On the other hand, the ones that students are not familiar with are more difficult to express. Third, simple topics are the ones related to the real-life topics. Topics on politics or laws, for instance, are fairly hard to discuss. Finally, other topics include  the ones which are challenging, of their own choice, and fun.

 

Classmate

Placed in the same rank as teaching materials, classmates were pointed out by 10% of the participants to be one of the factors influencing the learning environment. What kinds of classmates are they exactly expecting to make them encouraged to speak? The following characteristics of classmates are expected.

Being great motivators

85 % students affirmed that they are encouraged to speak when their classmates are the ones who can give them motivation. This kind of classmates are those willing to help and do not expect too much in return. These classmates also appreciate whatever their other friends performed and gave necessary suggestions.

Being active and responsive

58% students; furthermore, pointed out that these classmates are relatively active when conducting conversations with them, active asking questions and giving opinions during class presentation. Such classmates can radiate energy to them so that they finally become active.

Willing to give correction

Similar to the hope addressed to teachers, some students (27%) feel happy to be corrected by their friends. They found that most of the time, they forget grammar or certain pronunciation due to nervousness or concentration breakdown. Having correction from their friends will make them fresh again and able to carry out their speaking.

Possessing better skills

This finding was found relatively surprising. 16% of the participants stated that they can apparently have more courage when facing classmates with better ability. They revealed that these kinds of friends will indirectly radiate their great spirit to the others who realize that they have to learn more and more.

Others

What includes under this category are, among others, having sincere classmates – the ones who give their complete attention when others are carrying out their tasks – , can also provide the spirit for them to speak. They also like classmates who never laugh at their friends’ mistakes

It is worth noting that classmates can, indeed, have a relatively big influence in the learning environment, particularly in a speaking class. It is necessary, therefore, for all language teachers to give their attention to this matter. Mc-Daniels words, quoted by Suess (2010:2) can be used as a great reminder:

Make sure students respect one another by teaching them help rather than laugh at each other .They should be reminded how they would like to be treated, and should treat others that way.”

 

Learning/Classroom Situation

Although this is not discerned as a really influential factor in creating the learning environment, few students stated some preferences on the classroom situations. Apparently, they like the following (in order of preference):

  1. to have a life classroom where everyone can express their opinions without fear
  2. to be in a fun and relax but serious situation (as opposed to an intense classroom)
  3. to be in a warm, conducive, and communicative classroom
  4. to be given an opportunity to speak or ask questions
  5. to be placed in pairs or groups
  6. to be placed in a small class  ( not too many students in it)

It was found that students, indeed, like to take part by expressing ideas in their speaking classroom, whether they are as a presenter or audience. This is believed to be able to provide as pleasant classroom environment so as not to make students feel discouraged and disrespected.

It was also worth noting that – as mentioned by a number of students – placing students in pairs or small groups is one way to make students feel comfortable and relax (as opposed to be individual). The first reason might be because they know each other, and secondly they have more turn and opportunity to express their ideas. Having this, therefore, it is expected that students can have better involvement, and hopefully better learning results.

 

Learning Activities

Students revealed that activities they like to perform in a speaking class are:

  1. the ones involving asking and answering questions
  2. presentation
  3. group discussion
  4. graded level of difficulty (to start from the easiest then move to the next grades)

The above findings, in fact, confirmed students’ high desire to get more time to perform speaking in the classroom. Thus, the enthusiasm is there with the students. The question arisen will be “are students given a opportunity to carry out the real speaking? Or, instead, is their high spirit “killed” simply because  the language teachers  do not provide an environment that can keep students’ high desire?

 

Conclusion

Generating a stimulating learning environment means creating safe, comfortable, secure, and friendly situations where students feel welcome, accepted and respected. Nervousness, anxiety or even stress due to the fear to produce utterances may be reduced or even hampered by such a friendly environment. In this kind of environment, learners are put in the centre of the classroom activities where they can explore and share knowledge, information, and experience in their own way. It is expected that in this way, learners can build their confidence and grow their willingness to express their ideas in their speaking class so as to make them speak better.

Now, as previously discussed, it is the duty of the teacher as the “most influential” person – whom the students rely on – to make every effort in order to provide the above findings for students to learn more eagerly. As McDanniels (2012:1) stated:

All students, even those who have learning difficulties and extraordinary personal challenges can do well when they are physically comfortable, mentally motivated and emotionally supported”.

 

REFERENCES

Andrew, Tammy. 2009. Positive Learning Environment. http://suite101.com/article/positive-learning-environment-a97379

Office of Instructional Development (OID) UCLA. Improving classroom Interaction. http://www.oid.ucla.edu/units/tatp/old/lounge/pedagogy/interaction

Anonymous. 2005. How to Create Enriching Environments that Enhance Student Learning. v

Byanderzee. 2010. Creating a Positive Classroom Environment. www.ehow.com

Church, Ellen Booth. 2010.  Off to a Great Start: Creating an Effective Classroom. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/great-start-creating-effective-classroom

Donato, Nanci. A  Discussion of a Positive Learning Environment and Classroom Management. www.clarion.edu/20715.pdf

Imel, Susan. 2011. Inclusive Adult Learning Environments. www.ericdigests.org/1996-2/adult.html

Kelly, Melissa. 2010. Creating a Positive Learning Environment: Dealing with Forces That Effect the Learning Environment. http://712educators.about.com/od/classroomhelpers/tp/Creating-A-Positive-Learning-Environment.htm

Lebednik, Christine. How to Have Stimulating Classroom Discussions. www.ehow.com.

McDaniels, Michelle McFarland. 2011. Children Respond to a Positive Learning Environment. http://www.brighthubeducation.com/classroom-management/13907-creating-a-positive-learning-environment/

Purjayanti, Ani. 2008. Good Language Teacher: Whose perceptions? Paper presented in 55th TEFLIN International Conference. Jakarta: UIN

Suess, Emily. 2010. A Positive learning Environment. http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/a-positive-learning-environment


MODIFYING EFL COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING FOR INDONESIAN CONTEXT

Sugeng Susilo Adi

University of Brawijaya

 

Abstract

This article is talking about the problems of implementing Communicative language teaching (CLT) in Indonesia. The main problem of applying the teaching approach is the gap between the theory and its classroom practices. Other problems such as classroom size in term of student number and student learning styles are also highlighted in this article. Accordingly, this article suggests an audio lingual communicative language teaching strategies that might be applicable for the majority of Indonesian junior and senior high schools. These strategies were derived form an empirical research that the writer conducted in Islamic Junior High Schools in Indonesia.

Keywords: communicative language teaching, learning styles, audio lingual, teaching strategies

***

 

When the trend of English language teaching in Indonesia is more focusing on the praxis of Communicative language teaching (CLT), some problems are still found in the implementation at the classroom level. Communicative language teaching that theoretically requires the language use as communication tools, in Indonesia sometimes it could not be implemented successfully. Several constraints are becoming obstacles of the CLT implementation such as the number of students in one classroom, the students learning styles, and non-native speaker teachers.

It is quite often stated that the weaknesses of CLT implementation in some East Asian countries, including Indonesia is that the approach in some cases is not appropriate with cultural local context. Baker (2008:1) states that an essential element in fostering successful intercultural communication is developing cultural awareness as part of ELT pedagogy. To illustrate this, a case study of Thailand is presented examining English use, English teaching policy and practice, and local cultural attitudes towards ELT. This then leads to suggestions on how locally relevant intercultural communicative practices can form part of ELT classroom pedagogy in Thailand with the aim of developing learners’ cultural awareness. It is argued that similar analyses may be applied to other Asian contexts, which may share features with the Thai context. This can lead to the development of teaching practices, which through engaging learners in intercultural reflection will result in English language users who are better able to manage intercultural communication through English.

Three interesting issues are highlighted in this article dealing with the CLT implementation in Indonesian context, particularly how the approach could fit to the Indonesian context which culturally is a part of East Asian context. There issues include the essence of CLT, Indonesian context as an East Asian one, and audio lingual communcative: an emprical base.

 

Communicative language teaching: the essence

The essence of Communicative language teaching (CLT) is teaching language for communication. Richards (2006: 5-23) says that Communicative language teaching is generally regarded as an approach to language teaching which reflects a certain model or research paradigm, or a theory. This language teaching approach is based on the theory that the primary function of language use is communication. Its primary goal is for learners to develop communicative competence ability. Furthermore, he adds that as far as theories of learning and effective strategies in teaching are concerned, CLT does not adhere to one particular theory or method. It draws its theories about learning and teaching from a wide range of areas such as cognitive science, educational psychology, and second language acquisition (SLA). CLT methodologies embrace an eclectic approach to teaching, which means they borrow teaching practices from a wide array of methods that have been found effective and that are in accordance with principles of learning as suggested by research findings in research in SLA and cognitive psychology. Its open-ended or principle-based approach allows for a great deal of flexibility, which makes it adaptable to many individual programmatic and learner needs and goals.

              Savignon (2012: 212) says that communicative language teaching requires several principles in its classroom practices, they are: (1). Language teaching is based on a view of language as communication. That is, language is seen as a social tool which speakers and writers use to make meaning; we communicate about something to someone for some purpose, either orally or in writing. (2). Diversity is recognized and accepted as part of language development and use in second language learners and users as it is with first language users. (3). A learner’s competence is considered in relative, not absolute, terms of correctness. (4). More than one variety of a language is recognized as a model for learning and teaching. (5). Culture is seen to play an instrumental role in shaping speakers’ communicative competence, both in their first and subsequent languages. (6). No single methodology or fixed set of techniques is prescribed. (7). Language use is recognized as serving the ideational, the interpersonal, and the textual functions, as defined by Halliday, and is related to the development of learners’ competence in each. (8). It is essential that learners be engaged in doing things with language, that is, that they use language for a variety of purposes, in all phases of learning. Learner expectations and attitudes have increasingly come to be recognized for their role in advancing or impeding curricular change. Numerous sociolinguistic issues await attention.

In addition, Asassfeh, (2012) explain that one important distinctive feature of CLT is its emphasis on meaning-oriented instruction (MOI), a term that emerged in response to language teaching methods that emphasized the mastery of language forms. Educators’ increasing awareness that learners acquire a foreign language best when their attention is focused on the meaning communicated rather than on the linguistic form led to a lack of interest in such methods as grammar translation and audiolingualism.  Today, meaning-oriented communicative language teaching methodology has the overarching principles of focus on real communication, providing learners with opportunities to try out what they know, tolerance of learners’ errors as a healthy sign of progress in developing the communicative competence, integrating the different skills. In other words, its goal is to make use of real-life situations that necessitate communication (Asassfeh: 525-535).

 

Indonesian context as an East Asian one

The problems of ELT practice in Indonesia, English continues to be the most popular foreign language in Indonesia schools. Since 1994, ELT has been introduced from grade four of elementary level in public schools. With a reorientation objective in 1994 (which is regarded to be important in ELT in Indonesia in the last few years), the focus has been on listening and speaking skills in elementary schools and on speaking and reading skills in secondary schools. Also the language policy for education in Indonesia has made English language learning compulsory. Although the policy has attributed teaching English from early grades in elementary schools, it has not been fully implemented largely because of lack of primary teachers both in numbers and skills level. Nevertheless, there has been an attempt in the last ten years to strengthen and improve the ELT through curriculum revision and development as well as decentralization reform (Imperiani, online, p.6). English Language Teaching (ELT) in Indonesian context is obviously explained in Impreriani’s abovementioned that the curriculum have been experienced may experimaentation. Besides that, some characteristics can be highlighted to illuminate the ELT in the Indonesian context such as the big class size with arround 40 students and South East Asian students‘ language learning styles.

Especially interesting is about the big size classroom as a problem, Bruhwiler and  Blatchford (2011) say that  in many studies of class size effects, teacher characteristics are missing, even though many argue it is not class size that is important but teacher quality. In the present study teachers’ effectiveness on the learning progress was assessed while teaching a unit with predefined learning objectives. To measure adaptive teaching competency a multi-method approach was employed. Smaller classes led to higher academic learning progresses, better knowledge of students, and better classroom processes. Adaptive teacher competency remained relevant in smaller classes, that is, class size and teacher quality were independently important. There are several limitations of research on class size effects which have informed this paper. One limitation of most class size research is that effects are examined in relation to academic outcomes and, more recently, in relation to classroom processes, but rarely are the effects of class size and classroom processes systematically examined in the same study. Studies also tend to examine effects at a ‘‘macro’’ level, for example, in terms of progress over a whole school year, rather than examine effects of class size in terms of specific curriculum units (Bruhwiler and  Blatchford, 2011: 95-108).

About the Indonesian learning style, it might be concluded that Indonesian students learning styles are similar with other East Asian learning styles. Zhenhui (2001) in Matching Teaching Styles with Learning Styles in East Asian Contexts states that in East Asia, most students see knowledge as something to be transmitted by the teacher rather than discovered by the learners. At the second place, the teacher-centered classroom teaching in East Asia also leads to a closure-oriented style for most East Asian students. These closure-oriented students dislike ambiguity, uncertainty or fuzziness.  Another most popular East Asian learning styles originated from the traditional book-centered and grammar-translation method are analytic and field-independent. The final East Asian preferred learning style is concrete-sequential. Students with such a learning style are likely to follow the teacher’s guidelines to the letter, to be focused on the present, and demand full information. They prefer language learning materials and techniques that involve combinations of sound, movement, sight, and touch and that can be applied in a concrete, sequential, linear manner. Oxford & Burry-Stock (1995) discovered that Chinese and Japanese are concrete-sequential learners, who use a variety of strategies such as memorization, planning, analysis, sequenced repetition, detailed outlines and lists, structured review and a search for perfection.

The implementation of CLT in Indonesia is well representing other East Asian countries in terms of its gap between theory and practices. Liao & Zhao (2001) states that Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach has become the prevailing language teaching methodology across the world. Language teachers’ application of CLT in foreign language teaching has yet to be explored in past research. The CLT practice is still constrained by the lack of strategies that can be used to make CLT happen in class. For example, some beginning teachers believe that CLT not only can be used to teach the spoken but also the written language. They have created some ideas about using CLT to teach reading and writing activities. Yet, in reality the CLT practice only happens when they speak Chinese for creating the target language environment.

To bridge the theory-practice gap on CLT, Liao (2001) proposed some interesting principle strategies that are relevant to apply in the Indonesian context. The strategies constitute: Teaching should start with listening and speaking, drills on language form should not be excessive, English should be used in class, use of translation should be limited, audio-visual aids like realia, pictures, over-head transparencies, audio-tapes, videos, and computers should be fully utilized, the teacher’s role should be a facilitator and helper to guide students to develop effective learning habits, teachers should be aware of the individual differences among students in the learning process, and appropriate encouragement should be given to students to reinforce their initiatives.

 

Audio Lingual Communcative: an Emprical Base

One of alternatives the writer suggests ia a midified communicative language teaching which is called Audio Lingual Communcative (ALC) approach. This approach is derived from the empirical research and developemnet (R&D) conducted by the writer in 2010. In this developmental project, the writer creates a product consisting of textual learning materials assisted by audio recordings. This development also results in a learning design contained in a teaching manual, which is an integral part of this developmental product. In the learning design contained in the manual, the developer applies a learning strategy which the developer calls the Audio Lingual Communicative (ALC) learning strategy, reflected by the available learning activities.

The ALC learning strategy is an eclectic learning strategy which combines different language learning methods, in particular the Audio Lingual Method with Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in order to adapt to real situations in the classroom. The real situation in the classroom found by target student observation has shown that classes are composed of at least 40 pupils, the school does not have a language laboratory, teaching materials used were still written exercise-based, and the teacher is still the central figure in learning. One of the reasons that the ALC learning strategy was chosen is because that strategy had been proven successful in China and Vietnam. Both countries have English language learning contexts which are similar to the context of the target students in this development. In 1990, CLT which had been modified with local contexts had been applied in Vietnam and China. In Vietnam, students enjoyed speaking in a large classroom setting, so real communication was directed to answer questions from the teacher in the form of an oral symphony (Rao, 2006; Pham, 2005).

As a learning strategy that combines the Audio Lingual Method with the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) method, ALC adopts several principles from both teaching methods in the classroom learning praxis. In the Audio Lingual Method, usually a simple laboratory tool which tends to be “audio passive” is used, which stresses listening practice and speaking by way of hearing foreign language expressions using said tool. Using this method stresses the oral skills of speaking and listening.

In the learning practices toward the experimental class used in this development, the ALC strategy applied relies on several principles, among them: 1) giving students the chance to participate in communication by using the language in various activities; 2) keeping the given communicative activities comprehensible and relevant to the students’ interests, 3) putting the communicative activities on a gradation, starting from the simplest and moving to the more complex; and 4) integrating the four language abilities of listening, reading, speaking, and writing into the audio-assisted learning. The consequences of those principles are manifested in the learning activities as the following, among others: 1) listening to the audio, imitating it, and demonstrating the conversation together, creating a spoken orchestra in the classroom; 2) demonstrating the conversation in pairs and groups, seated and in front of the class; 3) reading texts, metered verse, poetry, dialogue, and words aloud, together and individually; 4) working in groups, in pairs, and individually on written text practice; and 5) other challenging student-oriented activities.

Field observations have shown that the ALC strategy adopted in the learning design of this developmental product was able to facilitate target students, which are the middle school students in the Ma’arif  NU Sidoarjo educational environment, to be actively involved in English language learning. Several of the learning activities above were done well by the students.

The teaching materials were organized by the elaboration model (Reigeluth, 1983) which covers selection, sequencing, synthesizing, and summarizing. Content selection was done by collecting relevant materials for English language learning, taken from various sources, including the Internet, domestic- and internationally-published English language books, dictionaries, children’s encyclopedia, and other relevant sources. Sequencing was established by ordering units and sub-units according to the degree of difficulty of the language functions, creating a functional syllabus. Synthesizing was done by keeping the units and sub-units connected with each other. Finally, summarizing was done by showing a vocabulary list at the end of each unit, where students are not only able to find out the meanings of words but are also able to construct sentences with them and read them aloud.

Field observations done on the experimental class used in this development show that students can be actively involved in learning through meaningful language activities such as demonstrating dialogue, finding the meanings of words in a dictionary, reading aloud, singing, and reading poetry or metered verse. Meaningful activities can facilitate the achievement of the general goal of learning which is for students to be able to understand the meaning in very simple transactional and interpersonal conversations, to interact with their surrounding environment.

Based on reviews by experts, teachers, and field tests on the developmental product consisting of audio-assisted teaching materials, the result obtained is that the developmental product is proven feasible and can facilitate the achievement of learning goals. Field test results with the experimental class in this development have shown that students’ judgment regarding the textual teaching materials shows a percentage of 86.75%, while the audio recordings show 87.19%. Results of the post-test of the experimental class using this developmental product shows a significant difference compared to the control class which used a different learning package.  This developmental product, which has been developed and revised based on experiments, has its own unique characteristics compared to other learning devices. Audio Lingual Communicative (ALC) learning strategy which combines the Audio Lingual method with Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), which is applied in the learning design from this development, can be concluded as the proper strategy for the English language learning context in the middle schools of the LP Ma’arif NU Sidoarjo environment. The selection of the ALC learning strategy was based on the eclecticism philosophy which combines several foreign language principles and learning methods, adjusted to student context.

Conclusion

There are several constraints which are becoming obstacles of the CLT implementation in Indonesia. The implementation problem of CLT in Indonesia is that the approach in is always not appropriate with Indonesia socio cultural context. An empirical base which is called audio lingual communicative could be an alternative in modifying the CLT to be fitting to the Indonesian context. The strategies suggest an eclectic learning strategy which combines different language learning methods, in particular the Audio Lingual Method with Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in order to adapt to real situations in the classroom. As a learning strategy that combines the Audio Lingual Method with the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) method, ALC adopts several principles from both teaching methods in the classroom learning praxis. In the Audio Lingual Method, usually a simple laboratory tool which tends to be “audio passive” is used, which stresses listening practice and speaking by way of hearing foreign language expressions using said tool (Adi, 2010, 2011).

 

References

Adi, Sugeng S. 2010. Pengembangan bahan ajar tekstual berbantuan rekaman audio bagi siswa kelas VII SMP/MTs di lingkungan Lembaga Pendidikan Ma’arif NU Sidoarjo. Unpublished Dissertation. Postgraduate Program, State University of Malang

Adi, Sugeng S. 2011. Communicative language teaching: is it appropriate for Indonesian context? International Journal of Educational Technology and Distance Learning. Vol. 8, Number 11, December 2011. Online. (http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Dec_11/Dec_11.pdf, retrieved January 2, 2012)

Asassfeh, Sahail M. 2012. Communicative Language Teaching in an EFL Context: Learners’ Attitudes and Perceived Implementation (pp. 525-535). Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 3, No. 3, May 2012

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Zhenhui, Rao. 2001. Matching Teaching Styles with Learning Styles in East AsianContexts.The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VII, No. 7, July 2001. Online. (http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Zhenhui-TeachingStyles.html retrieved July 2, 2011

 

NOTE ABOUT THE WRITER

Dr. Sugeng Susilo Adi, M.Hum., M.Ed. got his Bachelor from the English Department,  Faculty of Letters, Sebelas Maret University, Surakarta in 1992. His first Master degree is in American Studies which he earned from Postgraduate Program, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta in 1997. His second master degree is Master of Education (M.Ed.) in TEFL which he got from The School of Education, University of South Australia, Adelaide (2002). In 2010 he got his Doctor in Instructional Technology from State University of Malang (UM). One of the summer courses he participated was Study of the US Institutes for Secondary Educators in the University of Chicago at Illinois (UIC), USA in 2008. He is currently teaching at the Department of English Education, Faculty of Cultural Studies, University of Brawijaya (UB), Malang, Indonesia.

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