Archive for May, 2011

DEVELOPING SPEAKING MATERIALS FOR THE STUDENTS OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING AT STATE POLYTECHNIC OF MALANG

Achmad Sjaifullah

State Polytechnic of Malang

ABSTRACT

Developing teaching materials for the students of Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang is urgently needed by considering the fact that no such representative suitable material is available. For the time being, the teaching of speaking class in the Mechanical Engineering greatly depends on the commercial text books, the contents of which are mostly not always in line with communicative contexts of the Mechanical Engineering.

The research findings show that: (1) there are five aspects to be included in the developed materials, these are: the aim, the topic, the organization and design, the language, and the exercises. (2) Based on the evaluation from the experts, the lecturers and the students, this developed student book is considered appropriate for further use in the speaking class. At last, this developed student book is considered suitable and applicable because it contains basic concepts required in the speaking skill and simple exercises. The results of the try-out become clear evidence for the aforementioned suitability and applicability.

 

Key-words: material development, speaking skills

 

According to the National Center for Vocational Education Research Ltd/National Center for Competency Based Training, as quoted by National Education Ministry/Diknas (2007),  teaching materials are referred to as information, instruments and texts needed by a teacher /instructor to plan and to examine the implementation of teaching-learning activities through which a favorable learning environment can be set up.

In a language-teaching context teaching materials are used to provide language inputs and language practices that occur in the classroom (Richards, 2001). For inexperienced teachers, materials serve as a form of teacher training, providing ideas how to plan and teach lessons as well as formats that teachers can use. Not only do materials provide the basis for the content of the lessons, the language skills taught, and the kinds of language practice students take part in but they also serve to supplement the teacher’s instruction. For the learners, the materials provide a major source of the contact they have with the language apart from the teacher. It means that materials function as a teacher’s substitute where students, in the absence of a teacher, can conduct self-study by doing such things as reading, reviewing, doing the exercises, etc.

Materials are commonly easy to find in the market and their number is plentiful. However, not all of those commercial materials are relevant with the needs of a teacher and students. According to Richard, there are some weaknesses that commercial materials have. For example, they may contain inauthentic language where contents are often not representative of real language use, merely tending to incorporate teaching points. Secondly, they may distort content where they often present an idealized view of the world and hence fail to represent real issues. Thirdly, they may not reflect students’ needs. In this case, those books are often written for global markets, failing to reflect the needs and interests of students and hence need adaptations. Fourthly, they deskill teachers. Teachers are often trapped to use these teaching materials solely as the primary source of teaching. As such, their role becomes reduced to that of a technician whose primary function is to present materials prepared by others.

Even more, commercial materials, as stated by Hutchinson and Waters (1987), are often intended for non-educational reasons, for example, in order to enhance the reputation of an institution or an individual. Hence, such a book often loses its idealism to present new ideas, interesting tasks, and challenging exercises both for learners and a teacher in the process of teaching-learning in the class.

Providing relevant teaching materials is an important issue in the speaking class of the Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang. Based upon preliminary study in the Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang it reveals few things. First, no speaking material is available at the Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang whereas speaking skill is much needed as soon as students graduate from the polytechnic. Furthermore, providing students with communicative skill has been prescribed in the curriculum of State Polytechnic of Malang (Buku Pedoman Akademik, 2005).

Second, the existing materials seem to give a few portions of speaking skill exercises. Finally, the language inputs in the aforementioned materials tend to be very limited in nature and authenticity.

Based on this empirical evidence, the study being reported here was carried out that specifically aims at developing an interesting, authentic and practical student book for speaking class at the Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang.

In connection with the background of the study, the general problem of this research was “what is an appropriate student’s book for a speaking class at the Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang?

Therefore, the study basically aimed to develop an appropriate student book for a speaking class at the Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF MATERIALS

Teaching material is one of important components in teaching-learning process. According to Richard (2001) instructional materials generally serve as the basis for the language practice that occurs in the classroom. For inexperienced teachers, materials also serve as a form of teacher training, providing ideas how to plan and teach lessons as well as formats that teachers can use. Some teachers use instructional materials as their primary teaching resource. The materials provide the basis for the content of the lessons, the balance the skills taught, and the kinds of language practice students take part. In other situations, materials serve primarily to supplement the teacher’s instruction. For learners, the materials provide the major source of contact they have with the language apart from the teacher.

 

THE TEACHING OF SPEAKING

It is widely known that the main goal of English teaching and learning process is to improve the learner’s ability to communicate in English. So far, it is believed that compared with the four language skills, namely listening, speaking, writing and reading, speaking is considered as the most important skills to learn and as one of the primary goals of study (Omaggio, 1986:175). As a result, most foreign language learners are interested in learning to speak (Urr, 1996: 120).

However, to communicate in a new language successfully is not easy. Besides mastering the language itself, the learner should also really know a large number of things such as culture, social interaction, and the politeness norms prevailed in the society where the language is used. Therefore, to learn to communicate well in another language, a learner must change and expand identity as he or she learns the cultural, social, and political aspects (Hugges, 2002: 8-9). In this matter, the teacher should help the learner unify the aspects in order to communicate successfully in the new language. Besides making the learner knows the social, cultural, and political aspects, the teacher should facilitate the learners to have certain abilities required in order to be successful in spoken interactions.

Burns and Joice (1997: 30-31) propose five (5) abilities, namely (1) signaling that  one wishes  to speak, which involves many gestures, phrases or sounds; (2) recognizing the right moment to speak, namely be familiar with signals such as falling intonation or changes of pace or volume, pauses or changing discourse markers; (3) using one’s turn without losing it before it  finishes; (4) recognizing signals of other people’s desire to speak, namely being aware of gesture and body language and initiating phrases or sounds and (5) letting someone else have a turn.

In order to grow such learners’ abilities, the teacher should provide the learners with opportunities to speak in English. He should try to make the learners’ speaking ability to be partly the natural result of English as the main means of communication in the classroom (Davies, 2000: 83). English in Indonesia is as a foreign language and for that reason; the learners learn the language in their own culture. It means that the learner particularly may practice their speaking in the classroom. In this case, a key word in developing their speaking ability in English is the opportunity given to the learners to speak in the language-promoting interaction (Summin in Richards and Renandya, 2002: 208).

Therefore, the teacher should design activities in such a way that all the learners can acquire a variety of communicative purposes. It means that learners may be able to use appropriate expressions in the right time and right context. The activities should (1) be based on authentic or naturalistic source materials; (2) enable learners to manipulate and practice specific features of language; (3) allow the learners to rehearse in class, communicative skills they need in the real world and (4) activate psycholinguistic process of learning.

Davies (2000: 82) proposed some guidelines to encourage the learners to speak. (1) Try to create a relaxed atmosphere in the class, so all learners are brave to speak in front of the audience. (2) Expose the learners as much as possible to naturally pronounced speech, and also integrate some pronunciation work in the lessons. (3) Accustom the learners to combining listening and speaking in real time, in natural interaction.  The guidelines imply that the teacher should train their students to speak to other persons, model the right pronunciation and use English in real communication event. Moreover, the teacher should find speaking tasks that make the learners use all and any language at their command. There are three reasons for this. The first is rehearsal. The teacher gives a free discussion to give the learners a chance to rehearse outside the classroom. It is a way for learners to get the feel of what communicating in the foreign language really feels like. The second is feedback. It means that the teacher gives speaking tasks in which the learners try to use language they know. The teacher and the learners then get feedback. The last is engagement, meaning that good speaking activities can and should be highly motivating (Harmer, 1988: 87-8).            

To facilitate the learners to improve their speaking ability, the teacher should create a successful speaking class.  He should create successful speaking class activities. A speaking class is successful if it has the following characteristics. The first is that learners talk a lot. In this case, the learners should talk as much as possible during the class period. Teacher talk or pauses don’t dominate the class. The second is that participation is even. All learners get a chance to talk and contributions are evenly distributed among the members of the class. The third is that motivation is high. It means that the learners have a high enthusiasm to speak. They are interested in the topic and have something to say about it. And the last is that the language is of an acceptable level. The learners may express themselves in utterances that are relevant, easily comprehensible to each other and of an acceptable level of language accuracy.

                       

DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH DESIGN

This study adopts a Research and Development (RAD) design. As stated by Borg and Gall (1983), research and development refers to a process used to develop and validate educational products. The product of this research is student’s book for speaking class for the students of Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang.

This research uses research procedure by adopting model from Dick and Carey. This model is a continuum development cycle where each stage is subject to revision. For the sake of the research practicality, this model was adapted by the researcher. The adoption is done in such a way with consideration that each stage of development offers adequate information for the improvement of the developed materials.

The adapted model includes six steps:  preliminary study, reference study, material development, expert Evaluation, empirical Evaluation and final product.  The adaptation is done with the consideration that each stage can provide data to develop the product.  The preliminary study was aimed at finding the information about current problems and the needs of learning English in the Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang. In the reference study, the writer studied the existing curriculum and reviews some text books. The purpose of reference study was to find out the objectives of the teaching of speaking and obtain data about appropriate topics to develop student’s book. There are four steps to conduct in developing materials, that is, a) formulating general objectives, b) stating specific objectives, c) selecting topics, and d) developing topics into tasks.

Expert Evaluation is a stage that functions to assure the quality, the suitability, and the applicability of the developed book. There are some stages to conduct during the expert Evaluation, namely, a) giving a draft, b) obtaining feedback from experts and c) revising the draft. The try out is intended to obtain information of the applicability and the suitability of the student’s book. There are some stages in the try out, namely; a) implementation, b) observation, c) reflection, and d) revision. The stages of research development are presented in Figure 1.

The subjects of the try-out are 40 students of Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic Malang. The students are interviewed after they finished their exercises. Some important information, such as, problems encountered by the students is noted down and analyzed. If the developed materials meet the criteria of success then the developed materials are considered appropriate to be used in the speaking class of Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang.

After fulfilling the criteria set up in the expert Evaluation, the developed materials are then ready for the try-out stage. The try-out is scheduled to implement from February 28, 2008 to March 15, 2008. The location of the try-out is in Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang. There are two classes for the developed materials to be tried out. Each class is attended by twenty students.

 

 MATERIAL DEVELOPMENT

 

There are four steps to conduct in developing materials, namely, a) formulating general objectives, b) stating specific objectives, c) selecting topics, and d) developing topics into tasks. The steps are presented in Figure 2.

The general instructional objective of this material development is based on the curriculum of Mechanical Engineering of State Polytechnic of Malang which is to provide the students with the effective communication skill required in the professional environments. For that reason, the content of the teaching materials as the product of this research reflects relevant items needed in the Mechanical Engineering environments in terms of language functions, grammar, vocabulary, etc.  While  the specific instructional objectives of this material are a) to demonstrate their communicative competence in technical topics, b) to work on exercises.

 

The Results of Evaluation

Following the completion of the draft of the developed material, the researcher submits it to the experts for further evaluation. Two experts are invited to give their ideas and opinion about the quality of this developed student book. There are some aspects that become the focus of their evaluation, namely, the aim, the organization and design, the language, the topics, and the exercises.

 

The Aim

The aim, the first aspect of student book evaluation, concerns the clarity of the objectives in each unit. he clarity means the objectives are easily perceived so that the readers can directly understand the purpose of each unit.

According to the experts, the objectives written in the developed student book are generally acceptable. They say that 7 out of 9 units are considered excellent while the other 2 units need to be improved, i.e., unit 1 and 6. They say that unit 1 does not contain relevant objectives with its content.  Asking questions about particular items related to job and giving responses on questions related to particular job that become the objectives of unit 1 are not explicitly written. By contrast, the content of unit 1 tends to stress on understanding and giving the answers to the question in the interview. For that reason, it is reasonable that the objectives of unit 1 needs to be corrected and adjusted to its content, that is, to understanding the questions and giving the answers to the questions in the interview.

 

The Topics

Furthermore, the attractiveness of the topic and their variation are two sub aspects of the topic. The former is intended to see if the developed student book has power to arouse the students’ interest in learning. Besides that, the topics are also relevant with the need of Mechanical Engineering students. Meanwhile, the latter is focused on seeing how much the topics of this developed student book are varied. Variation means that something is presented in a slightly different form. The variation of the topics is intended to make the students always feel fresh and challenged with something new. Furthermore, variation can also keep them from boredom.

 

The attractiveness sub aspect is enhanced through careful selection of the topics relevant with Mechanical Engineering. Most of the topics are representation of concrete experience as commonly found in the world of Mechanical Engineering such as job safety, machine operation, work instrument, maintenance, problems with machine, engineering profession, etc. The fact that the topics are varied from one to topic to another is due to the requirements to keep students from boredom with having the same topic.

 

The Organization and Design           

Based on the evaluation from the experts about the organization and design aspect, this developed student book in general has met the aforementioned sub aspects. However, the improvement needs to carried, especially the sequence of the content. One of the experts suggests that the numbering technique of unit 6 should be improved; otherwise, readers might find it difficult to follow the instructions. The other expert says that unit 9 (‘Problem Solving’) should be shifted to unit 8 (‘Presenting something’) because the latter is more difficult than the former.


The Language

 

Experts find that this developed student book has met both the correct use and the relevant use of vocabulary. The correct use of vocabulary in a sentence concerns how the words in the developed student book are properly chosen. Broadly speaking, the selection of the vocabulary should consider the common usage in the world of Mechanical Engineering. Meanwhile, the relevant use of vocabulary with Mechanical Engineering means that how words selected in the developed student book have a connection with the subject at issue (Mechanical Engineering). According to the experts, the vocabulary selected in the developed student book is already in line with the Mechanical Engineering. To some extent, this condition is promoted by the selection of authentic materials as the source of the developed student book.

 

The Exercise

There are some kinds of exercises in this student book such as question and answer, words matching, conversation gaps, work in pair, role-play, and pronunciation practice. These different kinds of exercises can be found in every unit. Nevertheless, according to one of the experts those exercises are considered less varied. As such, students will feel discouraged to do the exercises. For that reason, different format is needed.

 

THE TRY-OUT ANALYSIS

After the completion of the try-out session, all subjects were given interview guides or borrowing Miekley`s term the checklist (2005). Furthermore he says that the checklist provides educators with a valuable tool for evaluating textbooks for use in ESL/EFL classrooms. By using this method, it will make the textbook selection process more efficient and more reliable.

About 40 interview guides were distributed to the students and only 30 interview guides were given back to the researcher. The purpose of this activity is to find out additional information concerning the applicability of the workbook. Before distributing the interview guides to the students, the researcher explains its objectives as well as some technical ways to fill in the questionnaire.

 

The Attractiveness of the Topics

Regarding the attractiveness of the topic, 12 (40%) students strongly agree that the topics are attractive. About 15 (50%) students agree that the student book contains interesting topics; meanwhile, 3 (10%) students say that the topics of the student book are quite moderate. The opinions of the students regarding the attractiveness of the topic are presented in the following diagram.

The accumulation of the students’ scores on the aspect of the attractiveness of the topic total 241 (See Research Findings). The score of 241 indicates that the topics in the developed student book are considered “good” (See Table 1.)

 

The Suitability of the Exercises 

The following aspect evaluated by the students is connected with the suitability of the exercises. In this case, suitability is defined as the appropriateness to a purpose or an occasion. From the result of the field study, the students have positive perception on the suitability of the exercises in the developed student book. Their positive perception can be seen from diagram 2.

Diagram 2:  The Suitability of the Exercise with the Objectives

With regard to the results of questionnaires, 4 (13%) students say that the exercises at this developed book are moderately suitable with the objectives.

About 10 (33.3%) students agree that the exercises are suitable with the objectives. The rest, 16 students (53.3%), strongly agree that the exercises are suitable with the objectives. The accumulation of the students’ scores on the aspect of the suitability of the exercises total 251. The score of 251 (See Research Findings), means that the exercises in the developed student book are considered “excellent” (See Table 1: Interpretation of Scores)

 

The Clarity of the Instruction

The clarity of the instruction in the exercises is also evaluated. It is quite close relationship with the comprehensible instruction used to the students so that the students can do the exercises as expected. Commonly the instructions presented at this developed book are stated in the form of simple and clear sentences. Moreover, the instructions are previously completed with an example in order to ease the students to do the exercises.

 

Diagram 3: The Clarity of the Instruction

Based on the field study, almost not all the students have the difficulties to understand the instructions of the exercises in the developed student book. The positive perception of the students about the clarity of the instruction can be taken from the data of the research. Based on the results of the questionnaire given to the students, 8 (26.6%) students have moderate opinion, 11 (36.6%) students agree that the instructions of the exercise are clear. Meanwhile, the rest of the students, 11 people (36.6%), have strong agreement that the instructions in the exercises are clear. The accumulation of the students’ scores on the aspect of the clarity of the instruction total 233 (See Research Findings). The score of 233 means that the clarity of the instruction in the exercises is considered “good” (See Table 1: Interpretation of Scores).

 

The Types of the Exercises

There are some types of exercise used at this book such as warm up, vocabulary, conversation gap,  and ways to say it,  pair up and practice, role-play, discussion, useful word and the sound of word. Based on the results of the questionnaires, about 19 (63.3%) students have strong agreement. 11 students (36.6%) agree that the exercises in the student book are varied and interesting.  Only 1 (3.3%) student has a moderate opinion in that the types of exercises in the developed student book are varied and interesting.

Diagram 4:  The Types of the Exercise

The accumulation of the students’ scores on the aspect of the types of the exercises total 262 (Research Findings). The score of 262 means  that  the  clarity of the  instruction  in the exercises is considered “excellent’ (Table 1: Interpretation of Scores).

 

Table 1. The Research Findings 

No Aspects ∑ Students giving the scores TOTAL SCORES Inter-pretation
strongly agree agree moderate
1 The Attractiveness of the Topic 12 (40%) 15 (50%) 3 (10%) 30 (100%) 241 Good
2 the Suitability of the Exercises 16 (53.3%) 10 (33%) 4 (13%) 30 (100%) 251 Excellent
3 the Clarity of the Instruction 11 (37%) 11 (37%) 8 (27%) 30 (100%) 233 Good
4 Types of the Exercises 19 (63%) 11 (37%) 1 (3.3%) 30 (100%) 262 Excellent
5 the Level of Difficulty of the Exercises 10 (30%) 14 (23%) 6 (20%) 30 (100%) 232 Good
6 the Level of the Language 15 (50%) 12 (40%) 3 (10%) 30 (100%) 255 Excellent
7 The Advantage of the Exercises 18 (60%) 11 (37%) 1 (3%) 30 (100%) 262 Excellent
8 The Proper Use of the Student Book 17 (57%) 11 (37%) 2 (7%) 30 (100%) 258 Excellent

 

The Level Difficulty of the Exercise

The level of difficulty is connected with relative difficulty of completing a task or objective. From many types of exercises observed by the students, the warm up exercise is considered the most difficulty. They have this perception because it needs some skills to this exercise. These skills are the vocabularies and the science related to this topic. Moreover, if the activity of warm up exercise is transformed to be oral communication, the pronunciation skill is very essential to practice the language. On the hand, the exercise supposed to be easiest one is connected with Vocabulary exercise. The students only fill in the blank with the appropriate words prepared.

When giving their evaluation the level of difficulty of the exercises, there are 6 students (20%) who have moderate perception. Furthermore, 14 students (23.3%) agree that the level of difficulty of the exercises is suitable with the students’ English proficiency. 10 students (30%) strongly agree that level of difficulty of the exercises is suitable with the students’ English proficiency. The accumulation of the students’ scores on the aspect of the level of difficulty of the exercises total 232 (Research Findings). The score of 232 means that the clarity of the instruction in the exercises is considered “good” (See Table 1: Interpretation of Scores).

This fact indicates that almost all of the students have positive response to the level of difficulty of the exercise.

 

The Level of the Language

The level of language means that it deals with the types of vocabulary and the grammar used at this developed book. The user of this book has the background of Mechanical Engineering so that the language used should be directed to the field of this study. The vocabularies of Mechanical Engineering presented and recognized to the students at every discussion at this book so that they are accustomed to using these words in every life. Furthermore, the use of grammar at this book is directed to the general of types of

 

grammar that are commonly used at work. The examples are the use present tense, past tense, present continuous tense and future tense.

 

Diagram 5:  The Level of Difficulty of the Exercise

Diagram 6: The Level of the Language

Based on the data collected from the research, almost all of the students give positive response to the levels of language used at this developed book.  With regard to the level of the language, 3 students (10%) say that the level of language in this student book is moderate. 12 students (40%) agree that the level of language in this student book is appropriate to the students. In addition, the rest 15 students (50%) strongly agree that the level of language in this student book is appropriate to the students of Mechanical Engineering of polytechnic Malang. The students’ scores on the aspect of the level of the language total 255 (Research Findings). The score of 255 means that the level of the language in the developed student book is considered excellent (See Interpretation of Scores).  From the data, it can be concluded that the levels of language used at this book suit to the students’ competence.

 

The Advantage of Exercise

Students give different opinions on the advantage of the exercises in the student book. Based on the findings, there is only 1 student (3.3%) who says that this developed student book gives advantage to the improvement of students ‘English proficiency. 11 students (36.6%) agree that this developed student book is advantageous to their English proficiency. 18 students strongly agree (60%) that this developed student book is advantageous to their English proficiency.

The students’ scores on how the exercises in the student book helps them improve their English total 262 (appendix 1). The score of 262, according to table 6, means that the level of the language in the developed student book is considered excellent. From the data, it can be concluded that the exercise in this developed student book offer them advantages to improve their English.

Diagram 7: The Advantage of Exercise

The Proper Use of the Student Book

The last aspect that the students evaluate in the questionnaires is the proper use of the student book. This aspect specifically focuses on the question if the developed student book is properly used as a reference book in the speaking class.

Based on the results of the questionnaires, 2 students (6.6%) say that the developed student book is quite proper to be used in the class. 11 students (36.6%) agree that this book is proper to be used in the classroom. 17 students (56.6%) strongly agree that this book is proper to be used in the classroom. The accumulation of the students’ scores on this aspect is 258. Referred to table 6, the score of 258 means that the proper use aspect of this developed student book is considered excellent. In another word, this student book is very appropriate to be used as the textbook in the speaking class.

Diagram 8: The Proper Use of the Student Book

 

CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS

This research on developing student book for the students of Mechanical Engineering in the speaking class is conducted because there is no such a material available specifically in State Polytechnic of Malang. The material is developed in accordance with some of the principles in the procedural models of Dick and Carey (1985) that consists of preliminary study, reference study, material development, expert evaluation and empirical evaluation.

The final product of this research is a student book which items are arranged according to the topics mostly selected from the students` workplace, namely, job interview, job safety, machine operation, work instrument, maintenance, problems with the machine, engineering profession, presenting something and problem solving.  This topics in this material are exploited into several tasks that enable the students to develop their speaking skill that later will lead the students to the mastery of the language.

Furthermore, the developed student book is completed by a description of the student book, general instructional objectives, time allotment, a guide for the instructor, a guide for the student, course outline, specific instructional objectives, summary and examples of each topic. It is intended that the implementation of the student book in learning and teaching activities can be done easily by the users.

At last, this developed student book is considered suitable and applicable because it contains basic concepts required in the speaking skill and simple exercises. The results of the try out become clear evidences for the aforementioned suitability and applicability.

There are some points worth considering for those who want to use the material developed in this study or who want to do a similar study.

For the teachers who want to use this material, it is suggested that: (a) they have good command of English in order to implement the developed student book, (b) they have an appropriate knowledge of the topics. It is therefore advisable for them to do a lot of reading about the topics, and (c) they should be creative in implementing the developed student book in the learning and teaching process. They should facilitate their students with the atmosphere that encourage the students to be active in their learning, especially by bringing the simulated objects to the classroom or by using the real objects outside the classroom.

For further researchers, it is suggested that (a) the do a site observation in the students` workplace before developing this material further so that the developed student book reflects the actual terms and activities used and done in real situation and (b) they conduct more complete and perfect evaluation, as for example, carrying out try-out of the units in larger group of students or holding seminar or workshop about teaching speaking skill using this developed student book. By doing so, it is expected that the product will be more tested and valid.

 

 

REFERENCES

 

Borg, W and Gall,M.R.,1983.Educational Research (5th Ed). London: Longman.

Burns, Anne and Joice, Helen. 1997. Focus on Speaking. Sidney. National Centre for English language Teaching and Research. Macquarie University.

Davies, Paul, 2000. Success in English Teaching. United Kingdom. Oxford University Press.

Dick, W. & Cary, L. (1990), The Systematic Design of Instruction, Third Edition, Harper Collins

Diknas.2007. Sosialisasi KTSP: Pengembangan Bahan Ajar.www.diknas.go.id

Harmer, Jeremy.1998. How to Teach English. England. Addison Wesley Longman Limited.

Hughes, Rebecca. 2002. Teaching and Researching Speaking. Great Britain. Pearson Education.

Hutchinson, Tom and Waters, Alan, 1987. English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

Omaggio, C. Alice. 1986. Teaching Language in Context. Boston, Massachusetts 02116 USA. Heinle & Heinle Publishers, Inc.

Oxford, Rebecca. (2006). Task-Based Language Teaching and Learning: An    Overview. http://www.asian-efl-ournal.com/Sept_06_ro. php

Politeknik Negeri Malang, 2005. Buku Pedoman Akademik. Penerbit Politeknik Negeri Malang

Richards, C. Jack and Rodgers, S. Theodore. 2001. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. United States of America. Cambridge University Press.

Ur, Penny. 1996. A Course in Language Teaching. Great Britain. Cambridge University Pres.

SLA MAJOR THEORETICAL VIEWS: Putting the Jigsaw Pieces Together

 Sugeng Hariyanto

 State Polytechnic of Malang

ABSTRACT
Second language acquisition is a complex internal process. There no guarantee that what it is known now is the complete picture. In other words, there may be some other aspects that have not been revealed. This article tries to briefly review the major theories in Second Language Acquisition (SLA). 

Behaviorists sees human language is acquired and maintained via stimulus-response-reinforcement sequence. Innatist theory first of all states that conditioning model is not appropriate to explain how human language is acquired based on the fact that children can produce novel sentences in new combination that has never been heard. Interactinists point out that LAD/UG or innate capacity alone does not help much. Finally, cognitivist view sees that in acquiring a language, a human being needs a mental capacity. All theoretical views will not argue the claim that human being needs mental capacity to acquire language. This article ends in its effort to put “the jigsaw pieces” from the schools of SLA theory to form a picture of how second language is theoretically acquired.

Key-words: second language acquisition, behaviorist, innatist, interactionist, cognitivist

 

As a relatively new field of study, SLA has advanced through research with various theoretical underpinnings. The results often seem contradictory to each other. This article reviews the theoretical view that have influence people understanding on SLA, namely behaviorist theory, innatist theory, interactionist theory and cognitive theory, and the result of major research with the theoretical views. Finally, the writer proposes a way of understanding the theoretical views and result results to yield a complete picture of SLA based on them. In other words, he would state that the seemingly contradictory research finding and theories are actually complementary to each other in explaining different aspects of SLA.

 

BEHAVIORIST THEORY

Behaviorism is a school of psychology. Its key concept of behaviorism is human behavior is a product of the stimulus-response interaction. Accordingly, behaviorists also see language learning (acquisition) as a matter of “stimulus-response” mechanism. This model assumes that human mind is a blank slate when he is born.

Within this school, B.F. Skinner proposes a theory about language acquisition which he states in his writing “Verbal Behavior” (Schunk, 1991: 72-73). For him, verbal behaviors can be classified as mand, tact, echoic. Mand is a verbal operant in which the response is reinforced by a characteristic consequence and under the functional control of relevant conditions of deprivation or aversive stimulation. The word “mand” is found in the word “command” and “demand”. In other words, the person will repeat the verbal behavior—for example, “take it”—if the command or demand is met by other person.

The second type of verbal behavior is tact, which mean the verbal operant in which a response of a given form is strengthened by a particular object or event. For example, mom says “Daddy” to the child each time Dad comes. The child learns to associate the word “Daddy” and the person. Then, he/she produces word by imitating other people. After the sound production is praised, his/her word learning is reinforced.

The third verbal type is echoic. One of the instances is simple imitation. For example, a father says to his child “Daddy”, and his child repeats it. Afterwards, the father hugs the child or smile to him to reinforce it.

Thus, in all three types, the important sequence in learning is stimulus – response – reinforcement. According to Schunk (1992: 74), Verbal behavior presents a theoretical analysis of how human language can be acquired and maintained. The issue is not whether human being acquire language via reinforcement as it is undoubtedly plays a role. Rather, the issue, according to Schunk, is whether reinforcement is the mechanism primarily responsible for language acquisition.

 

INNATIST THEORY

The Father of innatist theory in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is Chomsky. He started by criticizing Verbal Behavior, maintaining that a conditioning model is inappropriate for explaining language acquisition and comprehension (Schunk, 1992: 74). The most influential idea contributed by Chomsky to SLA is the concept of innate hypothesis (LAD/UG)[1] and then principle and parameter. Language Acquisition Device (LAD) or Universal Grammar (UG). The LAD or UG is endowed to human being at birth. This is something innate. This position is generally referred to as innate hypothesis. This innate mechanism is activated when appropriate stimulation (input) is posed.

For Chomsky, since birth human LAD starts receiving input by which the human being stimulated to construct rules of the language. The output (utterance) he/she produces is a result of the application of the rules produced by this LAD. See the following illustration for a better picture.

In the illustration above, we see a box, showing that LAD/UG and grammar are not observable and the process is a mental process happening in the human mind. Therefore, this approach is also called rational approach. LAD and UG is about the same thing for Chomsky. In his 1965 publication, he refers it as LAD but in 1980-s onward, he calls it UG.

Triggered by research on natural order of English morpheme acquisition as a first language, Dulay and Burt (in Gass and Selinker, 1994: 80) did a research and came up with the conclusions stating that the process of SLA is very similar to that of first language acquisition (FLA) as they found that second language learners creatively construct the rules of second language in the same way as those in first language and the errors produced by SLA learners also resemble those produced by first language learners. Their theory is known as creative construction hypothesis. Based on this, many research were conducted and another theory came up to the surface, named “natural order hypothesis”, which claims that second language learners acquire second language morpheme in the same order as the first language learners do (Gass and Selinker, 1994: 82).

Another major theory based on LAD concept is the one developed by Krashen. This theory consists of several hypotheses—together known as the monitor model—namely: acquisition-learning, natural order, input, monitor and affective filter hypotheses (Gass and Selinker, 1994: 144-150 and Cook, 1993: 51 – 55). According to acquisition-learning hypothesis, human beings have two ways in developing competence in second languages: acquisition and learning. Acquisition is the subconscious  process  of  acquiring  new  language system. On the other hand, learning is a conscious process of obtaining knowledge of a new language. Monitor hypothesis states that learning will only result in knowledge to monitor or edit the language production by the learner. According to natural order hypothesis, all element of the new language is acquired in a predictable order called natural order. Second language learner will acquire the new language system if he/she is exposed to comprehensible input (input hypothesis). This comprehensible input should be a bit above the current state of the learner knowledge. This is defined as i + 1, where the current state of the knowledge is “i” and the next stage shall be i + 1.

The model proposed by Krashen in presented in Figure 2 below by Cook (1993: 54).

From the picture, it is known that the process is quite simple. There is input, the input is process by LAD, than knowledge is acquired. Out can be generated from the knowledge acquired. While the knowledge obtained from formal learning is used to monitor the production of output.

In conclusion, this view sees that human being is indeed endowed with specific mind faculty to acquire language (LAD/UG). With LAD/UG, human being is very creative. He just needs input, and LAD/UG will process it to result in the system of the language being studies.

 

INTERACTIONIST THEORY

The Father of this theory is Vygotsky. He state that social interaction plays an important role in the learning process and proposed the zone of proximal development (ZPD), where learners construct the new language through socially mediated interaction (Brown in Shenon, 2005). Vygotsky’s social-interactionist theory was proposed about 80 years ago, and still serves as a strong foundation for the interactionists’ perspective today (Ariza and Hancock in Shanon 2005).

The basic concept in interactionism, or sometimes called social-interactionism, states that children have some innate knowledge of the structure of language, but also require meaningful interaction with others. Different from innatist view, interactionists thinks that environmental factors are more dominant than innate factors (Shanon, 2005).

Although it is different from innatist view, it recognizes the extreme differences found between behaviorists and innatists views. Its view stating that children have some innate knowledge of the structure of language represents its recognition of innatist view and the one stating that interaction with other person is important represent the importance of reinforcement, which is a behave­oristic view. Interactionist and innatists share the idea that comprehensible input is important. Further, Interactionist maintains that the comprehensible input is achieved by simplifying the input to the right level for the language learners and the input must be interactive. As a matter of fact, the modified input or negotiation of meaning concept is the major concept in interactionist theory in SLA.

In short, the claim about modified input is as follows. In talking to a language learner, a speaker needs to simplify or modify the interaction to suit the language mastery level of the language learners. Modified interaction will lead to comprehensible input; comprehensible input will entail language acquisition (Lightbown and Spada 1993 in Shanon, 2005). Then, we know the term foreigner talk (Gass and Selinker, 1994: 197) and teacher talk.

Negotiation of meaning refers to the instances in conversation when the participants interrupt the flow of the conversation so that both of them understand the conversation (Gass and Selinker, 1994: 208).

As interaction is always two-way communication, Swain proposes comprehensible output (Gass and Selinker, 1994: 212). For her, input and output is equally important. The importance of the output or interaction can be seen in the example below:

 

NNS: so I went to shopping yesterday

NS  : oh you went shopping?

NNS:yes I went- I went shopping

 

From this instance, comprehensible input is as important as comprehensible output.

Comprehensible output hypothesis claims that output makes learners aware of language knowledge gaps, experiment with language forms and structures, and obtain feedback from others about language use (Ariza and Hancock, 2003 in Shanon, 2005).

Comprehensible output provides learners with a forum for several important language learning function: (Gass and Selinker, 1994: 213):

(1) testing hypothesis about the structure and meanings of the target language,

(2) receiving feedback for the verification of these hypotheses,

(3) developing automaticity in IL production, and

(4) forcing a shift from more lexical and semantic processing of the second language to a more syntactic mode.

In short, interactionists see that human being has a particular capacity to acquire language. However, this mind faculty does not help much if there is no helpful interaction. The mind cannot do anything useful for language acquition without interaction.

 

COGNITIVIST VIEW

Cognitive model claims that learning language is the same with learning any other knowledge. Language is acquired by means of a common mental faculty, not a specific one. There are two main models in this category: information processing models and connectionism model.

There are two information processing models: McLaughlin’s information processing model and Anderson’s ACT* model. According to McLaughlin, human being is an information processor limited by both how much attention he/she gives to a task and by how well he/she can process the information. This psychologist differentiates ‘automatic’ from ‘controlled’ processes (in Cook, 1994: 253-254). Controlled processes often involve new information, are under the control of attention. On the other hand, automatic processes are quick and need little attention; they have been built up by practice and therefore need little attention or capacity to perform. As learning a new language is learning new information, learners logically go through controlled process first.

The most outstanding research in SLA in this line shows that attention has an effect, while time pressure does not; extra time helps both those who know the rules of grammars explicitly and those who do not. In other word, control (attention) is not related to whether the subjects know the rule explicitly or not (Hulstijn and Hulstijn in Cook, 1994: 254-256).

The second model in cognitive school is Anderson’s SCT* model (Cook, 1994: 246-249). ACT stands for Adaptive Control of Thought. And the symbol (*) represents the ultimate version in the development of the model. Like Information Processing model, this also emphasizes the automatization process. ACT* distinguishes three form of memory: working memory, procedural memory, and declarative memory. Working memory is used for the performance of the production rule based on declarative memory and procedural memory. Declarative memory is used to store actual information and procedural memory consists of processes to check the part of the rules against declarative memory. In other word, declarative memory stores the knowledge of “what” and procedural memory stores the knowledge of “how”.

How do these memory work? According to Anderson, a production system consists of production rules, such as: IF the goal is to generate a plural Noun and the Noun ends in a hard consonant, THEN generate the Noun + s. The working memory is used to produce “Noun + s”. Declarative memory stores the concept of plural and hard consonants. The procedural memory relates the concept of plural and hard consonants.

In learning a new production rules, including language rule, someone starts from obtaining declarative knowledge, then he proceduralizes it (procedural knowledge) and finally generalizes the rule. When this is achieved, the production can be done quickly and automatically.

Anderson illustrate his idea using classroom L2 learning (Cook, 1994: 249), where the learners get the declarative knowledge from the teacher. This model is supported by O’Malley and Chamot’s research done in 1990 (in Cook, 1994: 249), stating that learning strategies are a set of productions that are compiled and fine-tuned until they become procedural knowledge and L2 learners follows Anderson’s three stages.

Another cognitive theory of SLA is Connectionism. Conecctianism sees the human mind as a single highly complex network through which spread (Cook, 1994: 265). Unlike ACT, connectionism denies the need for separating declarative and procedural memory and there is no production system convention. Connectionism views language learning as recognition of patterns in the input by learners. (ppt). Learning is based on construction of association pattern in the brain and creation of link or connection among them. The link become stronger as the association keeps recurring (happens in high frequency).

When applied to SLA, learners build up language knowledge through exposure to thousands of linguistic input. The pattern of association among linguistic items become stronger each time the learner is exposed to more linguistic input. For example, a learner hears “I read” and “She reads” so often that he develop a pattern of association between the addition of “s” with “I” and “she”.

However, there were no many research studies yet on this concept. Rumelhart and McLelland (1986 in Cook, 1994: 265) support this model with their research on the simulation of past tense learning. At least up to 1993, no other research on this concept has been done.

In conclusion, cognitive theories believe that human being employs their mind mind to learn all things, including language, in the same manner; speech-production is a matter of information processing process. Then, learning a new language is establishing patterns of connection among linguistic input received by the learners. Learning itself can progress from a declarative knowledge to procedural knowledge. When a learner produces speech, it may be controlled or not controlled, depending on the connections or type of memory involved. Finally, this view is about how human being obtain, store, and retrieve knowledge, be it language knowledge or other knowledge.

 

SUMMARY

In shorts, the above discussion can be summarized into several points. Behaviorists sees human language is acquired and maintained via stimulus-response-reinforcement sequence. This can happen in informal and formal situation. As a matter of fact, behaviorist view has influenced language teaching field with the birth of Audio-Lingual Method and the use of language laboratory.

Innatist theory first of all states that conditioning model is not appropriate to explain how human language is acquired based on the fact that children can produce novel sentences in new combination that has never been heard. This theory centers on the existence of LAD/UG. Many research support the existence of natural order of morpheme acquisition.

Interactinists point out that LAD/UG or innate capacity alone does not help much. Children should interact in order to acquire the language he/she is learning. Here, reinforcement is needed. Input should be manipulated to suit the learners’ current level of language mastery.

Finally cognitivist view sees that in acquiring a language, a human being need a mental capacity. However, this is not the one specific for language acquisition. This is the same mental capacity to learn mathematic and how to cook. As a matter of fact, in the discussion, the dominant topic is on how knowledge is perceived, stored and retrieved.

 

Putting the pieces together

Second language acquisition is a complex internal process. There no guarantee that what it is known now is the complete picture. In other words, there may be some other aspects that have not been revealed. However, based on the current understanding of SLA, the following statements are made.

1.     In order to acquire a language, human being must have a mental capacity, which can be the same or different from the one used to acquire other skills or knowledge.

2.     Human being use language to interact with children and adult alike, with purpose of social interaction or instructional.

4.     Interaction involves stimulus and response; where certain responses can be seen as positive or negative reinforcements.

5.     Interaction can be held in formal as well as informal setting.

6. There are many aspects of language to acquire, namely: (a) syntax, morpheme, (b) vocabulary, and (c) pragmatic and sociolinguistic competence.

 

Now lets put the pieces together.

All theoretical views will not argue the claim that human being needs mental capacity to acquire language. Behaviorist emphasizes the stimulus-response-reinforcement chain, while innatist and interactionist views believe it is a specific kind of mental capacity. Meanwhile, cognitivist state that it is the same kind of mental capacity. In this position, all are correct. The specific mental capacity is the “development” of certain aspect of the main capacity. The analogy is the capacity of our hand. We believe that some people is keen at drawing, some others are skillful in playing basketball. They all use the capacity of hand. The person can show shooting tricks that are never taught to them. This is also something creative like children speaking the novel sentences.

Innatists never talk about reinforcement, but as interaction always involves responses that can be reinforcement, we can say that reinforcement plays roles especially in maintaining the language.

When the learning of the new language takes place in informal setting, Krashen hyotheses are acceptable. When the learning is in formal setting, behaviorist view and cognitivist view can be used explain the process more adequately.

In summary, all the theories are complementary and useful for us to understand the nature of second language acquisition.

 

REFERENCES

Cook, Vivian.  1993. Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. New York: St. Martin’s Press

Gass, Susan M. and Selinker, Larry. 1994. Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Myles, Florence. Second Language Acquisition (SLA) Research: Its Significance for Learning and Teaching Issues. Retrieved on Febryary 5, 2011, from http://www.lang.ltsn.ac.uk/resources/ goodpractice.aspx?resourceid=421

Schunk, Dale H. 1991. Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company.

Shannon, Fred. 2005. Interactionist Theory in Second Langauge Acquisition. Retrieved on February, 6, 2011, from: http://fredshannon.blogspot.com/ 2005/11/interactionist-theory-in-second-language-acquisition.html.



[1] Some experts classify LSD/UG theory into cognitive category is LAD/UG process the input. However, the writer thinks that this is best classified into “innatist” or “nativist” category as Chomsky seems to emphasize on the innate nature of this language-specific mental capacity.