Teaching the Literature Component in English: What can Secondary School Teachers do?

Synopsis

With the hope of increasing students’ language proficiency and critical analysis, a change, to incorporate the Literature Component in English into English language syllabus, in education curriculum is implemented in the Malaysian school. In its implementation, the question on what happens in Literature classes remains uncertain. Thus, the article explored the approaches employed by teachers to teaching the literature component in selected secondary schools in Sabah. The study was conducted in 15 urban secondary schools and used 112 English teachers. For data gathering, triangulation (questionnaire as the primary data, classroom observation, and focused interview) is used. A total of 87 teachers responded to the questionnaire, two teachers (English option teacher, a TESL graduate; and non-option teacher, a History graduate) were observed for four weeks and then were interviewed. Findings show that out of the 6 approaches in teaching of Literature, the paraphrastic approach (e.g. re-telling the text, using simple terms, and other related techniques) is popularly used by teachers, and it is followed by information-based approach (e.g. content explanation of the text, providing students with background information, and other related techniques). In line with these, the abovementioned approaches were well-observed in the case study. The reasons as to why these approaches were used are based on students’ language proficiency, attitude, the exam-oriented culture, the prescribed literary materials, and the number of students in classroom. Hence, the study concludes that teachers are in dilemma as to how their approaches match to the objectives of the Literature Component in English—generating students’ personal response and appreciation.

Critiquing

This article of Diana Hwang and Mohamed Amin Embi from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia is entitled Approaches Employed By Secondary School Teachers to Teaching the Literature Component in English. The background of study establishes the problem that there was a major change in the education curriculum, and some research shows students being ‘passive and less responsive’ and teachers being ‘dull and less creative’. Thus, the authors made a good reason to why they conducted this study to confirm such claims so they included approaches, activities and reasons of applying such approach, relationship between the approaches and the activities, and significant difference between English option teachers and non-option English teachers in terms of their approaches in teaching the literature component. These show a clear picture of each variable given because all needed areas of interests are covered from the approaches to the relationship of the two, even to the application of approaches of two teachers with different background for validation purposes of the study; in other studies, some fail to provide and connect areas like the connection and coordination of variables in research. However, in this article, all variables are well-developed and inter-related with one another.

In review of Literature,   the authors started with giving the function of Literature, one of which is “Literature contributes to the holistic development of an individual (Kamarudin, 1998; Mukherjee, 1976; Honer, 1983). The author creates a basis to which the main focus of the study adheres. Then, the theory of Carter (1991) was used as to how teaching of Literature is viewed and explained thoroughly.  BMJ (2008) stated “using theory help design a research question, guide the selection of relevant data, interpret the data, and propose explanations of causes or influences”. Additionally, they furthered with the framework of approaches used in the study. It really shows in the article that the author followed the article throughout the article. In terms of variables, every variable of the study is covered, is well explained and is unfolded in each section. Carraway (2006) stated that the importance of the connection of the working title and the main message is crucial in maintaining readers’ interests. As observed, the authors made the article stand on its own, used lay-person terms or non-jargon terms, catering to non-expert audience. Baron (2011) explained that using ‘Plain English’ helps general public readers create contexts and understand texts (as cited by Morrison-Saunders, 2011). In addition, the author provided enough literature to establish the study and support every variable.

The researchers of the study provided the methodology in structured manner. They listed the research design, location of the study, sample, research instruments, pilot study, and data analysis and procedures. Under the research design, the strength of the study is that they used qualitative and quantitative measures in triangulation and what mode of data gathering they used. Meanwhile, they had some limitations in the sampling section, but the author did not provide basis why only two case studies were involved. Next, even though it is explained short, the sampling is done with basis. Afterwards, what interesting is their research instrument detailing mainly the classroom observation but not also done to the interviews and the questionnaire—the main research instrument. Then, the study had a pilot study for reliability purposes. Lastly, they provided how the data analysis and procedures are carried out. In sum, the author provided adequate information and described the methods for measuring the results.

In the findings section, every section gives answers to the problems of the study in an order manner and has tables and other supplementary data for support. The authors let the reader know from where the data were gathered and only presented the major findings; for example, the top three and the least approach used by teacher with the corresponding numerical data in parenthesis. Then, the finding given is furthered explained by using the data gathered from other research instruments like the class observation. Hence, the author adequately explained the findings by giving the major findings and using of tables and boxes, which are self-explanatory, well-integrated, and done in complementary way.

For validation purposes, the authors provided discussion of the results in relation to the objectives of the study. For instance, in relation of the research instruments, they provided the major findings supported by other studies and authors. However, the author would have made the results more valid if it is more supported by other sources and more respondents and longevity of class observation.

In the concluding review, the study is a bit late to conduct as the study was done after 5 years of implementation of the Literature Component in English. It should have been conducted a year after and then followed in its third or fifth year. Meanwhile, the study is worthy of interests as it concerns the following: teachers — what approaches are applicable to attain the goal of teaching Literature, parents – what kind of teaching in Literature their children are getting from their teachers, and students – how their language proficiency is developed. The author explained these clearly and consistently. Then, the objectives are properly integrated and very specific. Then, the study lacks in having more case studies and giving basis of choosing such. In the results and discussion, the authors were not biased as they used triangulation for confirming results based on three mode of research instruments. For the conclusion part, their arguments insinuate that teachers do not adhere to the Literature Component in English and should be more skilful in using approaches in teaching Literature.

Implication to the teaching of Literature

Based on the results of the study, the following implications of the study are developed to the teaching of Literature:

  1. Use Literature to facilitate reading and master the language, and make it to be student-centred, activity-based and process-oriented.
  2. Increase exposures in the use of the English language and increase students’ motivation in second language acquisition.
  3. Utilize teaching approaches that adhere to the concerned governing body’s guidelines and principle in students’ language proficiency development.
  4. Be mindful of the activities given to students whose language and response must be developed.
  5. Know different approaches that suit the needs of every class of students.

References

BMJ (2008). 337 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a949 (Published 7 August 2008).

Morrison-Saunders, A. (2013). Writing About Writing: Ideas for Short Report and Journal Article Composition.

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