Activating learners’ role in teaching and learning English literature at faculty of English - Hanoi nationnal university of education

Abstract. This study focuses on the teaching and learning of English Literature, a compulsory subject in the course of study to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Faculty of English (FoE) at Hanoi Nationnal University of Education (HNUE) and some recommendation on how to activate the students’ role to meet the goal of their university education and help them benefit from good learning habits. The first part of the study consists of a literary review of the needs of learning, some key concepts as well as features of positive teaching methods. Following that are the findings obtained from 73 questionnaires returned by students at FoE of HNUE. The questionnaire consisted of 15 questions divided into five groups: 1 - The informants, 2 - The students’ attitude, 3 - The students’ home preparation and related matters, 4 - The student’ contribution in class and their expected extra-curricular activities and 5 - Tests and assessment. Six bits pieces of information were given in an attempt to inspire students to complete the questionaire.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 29-36 ACTIVATING LEARNERS’ ROLE IN TEACHING AND LEARNING ENGLISH LITERATURE AT FACULTY OF ENGLISH - HANOI NATIONNAL UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION Do Thi Phi Nga Hanoi Nationnal University of Education E-mail: phinga69@yahoo.com Abstract. This study focuses on the teaching and learning of English Lit- erature, a compulsory subject in the course of study to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Faculty of English (FoE) at Hanoi Nationnal University of Education (HNUE) and some recommendation on how to activate the students’ role to meet the goal of their university education and help them benefit from good learning habits. The first part of the study consists of a literary review of the needs of learning, some key concepts as well as features of positive teaching methods. Following that are the findings obtained from 73 questionnaires returned by students at FoE of HNUE. The questionnaire consisted of 15 questions divided into five groups: 1 - The informants, 2 - The students’ attitude, 3 - The students’ home preparation and related matters, 4 - The student’ contribution in class and their expected extra-curricular activities and 5 - Tests and assessment. Six bits pieces of information were given in an attempt to inspire students to complete the questionaire. Keyworld: English Literature, teaching, learning, inspire, questionaire. 1. Introduction The needs of the study : Globalization together with the role of tertiay education pushes lecturers at HNUE in general and particularly those at FoE of HNUE to find the best methods for each subject in order to help their students study autonomously and actively seek new information. Only when the lecturers at FoE of HNUE studied and analyzed the teaching and learning situation carefully and made some premitive suggestions to inspire increased student activity, was this obtained. The aims of the study : 1- To nvestigate the teaching and learning of English Literature at FoE of HNUE. 2- To discover, study and apply methods that will help students with second language aquisition while learning English Literature. 29 Do Thi Phi Nga The subjects and methodology : Both qualitative and quantitative meth- ods are utilized in the study to analyze and sum up the findings obtained from 73 questionaires on the needs and the awareness of the students’ role from students of three classes in course 58 - credit 5 at FoE of HNUE in the school year 2010-2011 after careful analysis in order to make subjective and necessary conclusions for the study. Literary review Concepts of learning needs : First, the term learning needs may refer to needs when learning or working, or what the student can regurgitate at the end of the course. Secondly, learning needs can be interpreted as: “What an individual or the whole society needs in a language course” [Mountford, A. 1981]. Third, learning needs can be defined as everything that a student needs to do to understand and master a language. This definition is process-based and connected to transitioning behaviour and learning tools. Assessment forms Formal Assessment. This is the assessment form based only on end-of-course results. Ongoing Assessment. Tyna Blythe and Associates [1998], in his book entitled Teaching For Under- standing: An Ongoing Assessment, stated, “When understanding the objectives of this assessment form, one can see that Ongoing Assessment is not purely assessment, it is the sustainable contribution to the learning process.” Concepts of Activation in teaching and learning What is activation in teaching and learning ? : This is the process whereby students change their learning process into a self-study habit autonomously, forgoing passive reception of knowledge. Đang Xuan Son believes that student activation of this sort is based on the principle “student-centered” and can be defined as, “Activating students – assigning through various ways means that will force students to work, to seek and obtain information through all means. Students themselves ‘move’ the term ‘motherland’ from a first ‘home’ to a second ‘home’ - their soul.” The role of student activation in the teaching-learning process : Only when stu- dents are aware of their own activeness can the teaching-learning process take place meaningfully and reach the intended objectives. In other words, student activity plays an integral part, drives motivation and pushes the teaching-learning process forward. Changing methodology to activate students In the 21st century, in this era of technology, changing methodology has to 30 Activating learners’ role in teaching and learning English Literature at... start with changing to a new way of thinking about the way knowledge is obtained. It must go from the traditional method of “Teacher Dictates and Students Take notes” to: ‘Teacher proposes a problem and Students try to find solutions’. Changing methodology via positive teaching methods to activate students According to Vu Hung Tien in his article on positive teaching methods, “Pos- itive teaching methods attempt to activating the acquisition of information in stu- dents. The focus is on activating students, not teachers. However, in order to teach using positive methods, teachers have to make a great deal more effort compared with the passive teaching method.” Characteristics of positive methodology to activate students Positive methodology, as described by Vu Hung Tien, has totally different characteristics from the traditional methodology, particularly regarding Passing on Knowledge in the areas below: + Teaching and learning via organized student activities. + An emphasis on self-study. + Increased individual learning along with cooperative learning. + Combining teacher and student assessments. 2. Content 2.1. Analyzing the findings to discover the reality of teaching and learning English Literature at FoE - H.N.U.E 2.1.1. The informants Question 1: When did you start learning English? It can be seen in chart 1 that 56.1% of the student respondents started learning English when they were in junior high school, 32.9% started learning English in elementary school and only eight out of the 73 students (10.9%) began learning English in high school. Chart 1. When students started learning English 31 Do Thi Phi Nga 2.1.2. Students’ attitude towards English Literature Question 2: How important do you consider English Literature to be? In response to this question, 32.8% said that it is “very important” and 67.1% said that it is “important.” No students thougt that it was “Not important.” Question 3: Were you aware of the syllabus, the presesiquite that were required as well as the methodology and references required before you took the course? All of the students said that they were provided with the above information. Question 4: How would you define the students’ role in studying English Lit- erature to maximize the objectives of the course? All but one student (98.6%) answered, “Students should actively participate in order to understand English and expand other language skills.” 2.1.3. Students’ home preparation and related matters Question 5: What for you is ‘effective home preparation’ that you would do before going to class? To this question students’ answered lesson material (95.8%), reference material (47.9%) and other (41.1%). Question 6: What type of student grouping helps you work best? The answer to this question showed the learning attitude and individual’s work effects when they cooperated with their peers. Of the 73, 53 preferred to work with a partner (78%), 13 chose to work in group of 3-4 (17.9%) and only 3 felt self- confident enough to work by themself (4.1%). Question 7: With what type of home work do you work best? Chart 2. Types of home assignment help learners work best It is obviously from the chart that students learn and solve problems best when working more independently because the choice each group prepares a separate topic is the most favoured (54.8% or 40 out of 73). The choice for sharing one part of a topic is favored by only 10 (13.7%). Question 8: What is the most effective choice of topics for you? 32 Activating learners’ role in teaching and learning English Literature at... Chart 3. The most effective choice of topic The findings from the survey questionnaires shows that students wish to be more actively involved in the learning process. Chart 4. Information sources for home preparation Question 9: Which source do you usually get necessary information from? The Internet ranks at the top of the four sources students use to search for needed information when preparing homework (82.2%). Following closely are textbooks provided by teachers (68.4%), reference books recommended by teachers (54.8%) and other books and magazines (61.6%). Question 10: What difficulties do you have when doing home preparation? While 13.7 % of the students think that they have too little time to spend on home preparation, this is not an obstacle for them. What worries students most is the lack of equipment (54.8%) suggesting that learning is hindered by a lack of learning aids and this is their biggest barrier. This is matched by a lack of understanding of the topic (also 54.8%), and then there were 20 students of the 73 (27.4%) who do not want to work in groups. 2.1.4. Students’ contributions in class and expected out-of-classroom activities Question 11: What learning style is the most efficient for you? Twenty-three students think that first all of the topics should be presented in groups and only then should there be classroom discussion, whereas 50 students (68.5%) think that the teachers should bring in the topics, students should then discuss and finally teachers should wrap it up. Question 12: How much time should be given to group presentations? 33 Do Thi Phi Nga The choice of 20 minutes is favored by 33 students (45.8%), 25 minutes is the choice of 18 students (247%) while 15 minutes is preferred by 15 (20.5%). Question 13: How much time should be given to classroom discussion following group presentations? Approximately two thirds of the students (68.5%) would like to spend 10 minutes in classroom discussion while 23 (31.5%) would like to see it limited to just 5 minutes – the favored time choice of teachers. 2.1.5. Assessment forms Question 14: Besides listening to a teacher, how else can one learn the subject? Chart 5. Extra-activities Students choose watching films and videos that were made of works of English Literature (79.5%), followed by competitions and quizzes (57.5%) and class discus- sion (49.5%). If possible, native speakers and famous Vietnamese writers could speak (46.5%) and role-playing could be done. Effective assessment forms Question 15: In your opinion, what is the most effective way to assess learning progress for this subject? Ongoing assessment is preferred by 73% of the students and formal assessment is the choice of only 27%. If the students were in charge, they would have their teachers make use of ongoing assessment rather than the end-of-term exam form of assessment that is the current practive. 2.2. Suggestions on how to inspire students to take a role in teaching–studying English Literature 2.2.1. Redesigning the course syllabus to make it more ‘student-centered Teachers need to design a course syllabus which has students spending a lot of time on presentation and discussion to help them be more active in the classroom. 34 Activating learners’ role in teaching and learning English Literature at... 2.2.2. Changing the presentation requirements and topics in order to activate students There are so many ways to cooperate in the teaching-learning process such as forming pairs and group presentations. For example, the teacher and the students can make two lists of topics for presentation and let the students make random choices. Pairs and groups presentation should be reform to give students a chance to work with all of their classmates. 2.2.3. Intensifying pair and group work When teaching is innovative, pair and group work will eliminate laziness and help students kick their bad habits. Pair and group work will increase the potential of students in the class and make the most of individuals’ strengths, enhance their communicative skills, combine leadership and plan making and get them to complete tasks better, more quickly and in a variety of ways. 2.2.4. Giving more aid to the learners Whether the learning process is successful or not depends a great deal on both spiritual and material support. Support can be varied and displayed as in the following: + Answers to questions that arise while students are doing homework: teachers can be in contact with students via e-mail, online chat, etc.. + Choosing peers to form pairs or groups for discussion and presentations + Finding sources of supplementary information: teacher can help students via e- mail, online websites, personal profiles, etc.. + Facilities and specialized equipment: This could be something simple like headphones or cassette players but for more expensive equipment teachers and stu- dents have to appeal to educational institutions. 2.2.5. Additional activities Additional activities can make a subject more interesting and students should be encouraged to explore the subject voluntarily. Focusing on the distinguishing features of a subject, extra activities such as watching videos, films and small talk with writers at home and abroad would be meaningful and significant. Quizzes about an authors’ life and career could be given. 2.2.6. Improving assessment forms to carry out ongoing assessment It would be quite frustrating to keep the traditional assessment forms while using positive teaching methods. Students make day-to-day progress and it is the 35 Do Thi Phi Nga teacher’s job to record this progress to encourage them to progress further. Only ongoing assessment would enable teachers to keep track of the student’s progress while also motivating students. 3. Conclution The findings of this study shows that the new textbook on English Literature which was designed to activate students can only partly meet the students’ needs and expectations. Also important are the course syllabus and content, and assessment forms. There is a current need to change and adopt a new teaching methodology. At this time teachers need to reassess their roles and duties as they teach and as the teaching–learning process takes place at the university level. What have been teacher-dominated classrooms need to become more of an environment that includes self-teaching and input from the students. At the same time, education managers need to change with the times and meet the needs of education facilities as they become more student-centered. REFERENCES [1] Brindley, G. 1989. Assessing achievement in the learner-centered curriculum. Sydney: National Center for English Language Teaching and Research. [2] Berwick, R., 1989. Need Analasys, Longman, New York. [3] Nunan, D., 1988. The Learner-Centred Curriculum: Cambridge University Press. [4] H. G. Widdowson, 1978. Teaching Language as Communication, OUP. [5] Tyna Blythe and Asociates, 1998. Teaching for understanding: Ongoing Assess- ment. Havard University - School for Education and Project Zero. 36
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