TEACHING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL USING CONSTRUCTIVISM APPROACH
Constructivism approach is the newest way to teach Language as foreign language. Mostly, many Vocational high schools in Indonesia use behaviorist approach which the students have to say what the teacher says and what the book says. The problems are; is the method appropriate? Is it works effectively or not? Does it give some benefits for the students or will become the parts of his life? These questions must be considered to achieve success in language acquisition not only as something that is accomplished in the classroom during the particular course, but also as a life-long activity, considering the graduates of Vocational high school students are prepared for the business world . This paper attempts to give a scratch of constructivism approach in teaching English as foreign language which might be a great necessity for the teacher of vocational high school. The content also involves Curriculum in order to be accuracy with the materials. Several points should be taken into consideration to apply the best method in classroom teaching.
Keywords : Constructivism, Vocational High School, Curriculum, English as Foreign Language, Teaching
The various approaches in language acquisition are most debated among the researchers, which the best approach should be applied in teaching English. The learning or acquisition about language has always been a controversial area for human mind. From the first behaviorist, nativist and constructivist approach, all of them have been explained by many researchers and linguists. They have their opinion to strength the theory of language acquisition; each theory has advantages and disadvantages. Debates among the researchers on language should be the first accomplishment. There are three dimensions of language approach. The first approach sees the language as a human phenomenon, the second as societal phenomenon, and the last one sees language as a system or structure on its own.
After the explanation of the terms above, now we can start arguing one of three approach languages learning in teaching learning process in the classroom. The Constructivist approach is a way to be used here. Thus, that approach is expected clear the grounds for adopting an appropriate direction towards improvement of foreign language teaching to learners in Indonesia, and help in determining new educational policies for learning and teaching of foreign languages to them and giving fresh insights on learning and teaching in the School, especially for vocational high school.
2. THEORIES OF CONSTRUCTIVIST APPROACH
a. What is Constructivism?
According to Brown (2007: 12) It will be helpful to think of two branches of constructivism: cognitive and social. In the cognitive version of constructivism, emphasis is placed on the importance of learners constructing their own representation of reality. Social constructivism emphasizes the importance of social interaction and cooperative learning in constructing both cognitive and emotional images of reality.
The process of language acquisition is not easy as in practical book theory. The main factor is method and principle of teaching learning used Teacher as facilitator or mediator is not the source of all knowledge. The learners should be active in teaching learning process. So, the teacher only gives stimuli to the learners in learning process. It needs to be concerned because the perspectives theory of constructivism is the subject. Learners find the meaning of something actively not only listen to the teacher. Discussion and presentations are meaningful way as the process of knowledge in language acquisition, especially in developing English. But most of the teachers follow behaviorist theory and placed them as the one source of all knowledge. Teaching is not only transferring the knowledge from the teacher to the students, but also active in giving feedback and build their own knowledge.
Shatz and Wilkinson (2010: 26) state a dynamic interplay between nature and nurture influences brain organization throughout childhood and, to some extent, the lifespan. Relationships between language learning and brain development may be best understood within a neuroconstructivist approach, according to which cognitive abilities emerge in response to bidirectional influences between neural and cognitive levels.
b. The Researchers’ Theory
The development of constructivism in education is attributed to such psychologists and philosophers as Jean Piaget, Lev Vigotsky, John Dewey, and Jerome Brunner. It is understood as a complex combination of learning theory, philosophy, pedagogy, and psychology. In the area of foreign language or language education, constructivism is often associated with the use of technology in the classroom. Constructivism emerged in reaction to the traditional educational approach widely practiced in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe and America. The teacher centered traditional instruction strategy, also called the information transmission model, is an instructional approach in which a teacher transmits information to the students with relatively little emphasis placed on the practicality or significance of the content. In traditional education, instructors are able to predict the outcomes of the instruction based on the notion that they control what students will learn by linking student responses from lower level to higher level skills. Although instructors determine learning outcomes for students, traditional education falls short in preparing students to be critical thinkers.
3. VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL AND SYLLABUS
a. The problems
Before teacher starts to teach their students, he or she has to consider about a number of questions that the teacher associates with language study. Why do they study foreign language? What is foreign language study? How is appropriate material for them? How should the teacher plan the language study for the course? How long to study foreign language? How do make language learning a part of the students’ life in the future? This question must be considered to achieve success in language acquisition not only as something that is accomplished in the classroom during the particular course, but also as a life-long activity.
Why are the students studying a foreign language? There are probably nearly as many answers to that question as there are students in your classroom. Take a look at some of the reasons other students have given for studying a foreign language. Very likely, your reason(s) can be found among them. Gaining skills for a job, Gaining access to foreign bodies of knowledge, Traveling abroad, Studying abroad, Working abroad, School requirement, Personal edification, Interest in linguistics, Parental influence, Becoming familiar with your heritage, Understanding people in your neighborhood, and Maintaining knowledge (Leaver 2005: 4).
Taken from: Educational Design Research page 70.
In teaching, we have to try our best in a tone and style appealing to the students as our primary audience. The content of materials should be modern and the students will feel at home with the learning situation. The approach has to be appropriate with the curriculum provided by government. We aim at a level of competence which should be possible for most students to achieve; to understand the standard of English as foreign language is clear and coherent.
Curriculum is perfected to improve the quality of education nationality. The continuous claims of the words of globalization changes to push the use of competency based curriculum. This approach stresses identification of English basic competence of vocational high school. Mostly, the indicators are written in order to make the students understand what they must master. The objectives are usually; 1) communicating in English 2) understanding English as a system 3) understanding culture 4) and knowledge.
4. CONSTRUCTIVISM IN IMPLICATION
a. Constructivism implication in general classroom
According to (Gagnon: 7) the constructivist learning design can be developed emphasizes six distinct elements; situation, groupings, bridge, questions, exhibits and reflections. The situation is a comprehensive overview of the learning episode with a clear statement of the purpose and of the task you expect your students to accomplish as they make meaning of the event. The details of the learning episode unfold chronologically through the other elements. We continue with groupings of students and materials and move to a bridge between prior knowledge and current learning. The teacher or students will ask the questions as they think together about accomplishing the tasks. After the students accomplishing the task to the teacher’s satisfaction as well as their own, they create and exhibit of their work. Then the teacher arranges for collective and individual reflections on their thinking. The students are the focus of the learning episode as they think together about how to accomplish the task.
Certainly because of teaching process is correlate with language acquisition, in this case, English as foreign language, the teacher must to give more attentions patterns of language acquisition itself. According of Brown (2007:1-2) important factor is needed attentions in second language acquisition, such as:  learners characteristics,  linguistics factor,  learning process,  age and acquisition,  context, and  aim. Surely these six factors are more important to be attention by English teacher because in learning process in classroom will have any difficulties. Exactly that is correlated with culture difference and grammar. Beside of it, base on principles above we can make it become reference as teaching learning process plan, restore curriculum, plan of teacher preparation program and to evaluate process teaching learning. As reference, group of teacher took constructivism principle in arrange teaching method that more intensive in students activity individual or group. Teachers search method that it understandable whatever the students think and experience in learning process. They though several activities that can stimulate students to think. Interaction each student in classroom is lived, they are given free to talk their idea and their opinion.
The important in constructivism theory is in learning process, students must have pressure. They must be active develop their knowledge, not teacher or someone else. They must be responsible with their learning result. Pressure of learn this active students in education especially learning English is important and need to develop. Students’ creativity and activity will help them to independent in their cognitive. They will become critical in analyze something case because they think, not only imitate.
b. How to apply the constructivism approach to vocational high school (SMK)
Competence Standard: Communicating in English at Elementary level. Based on ‘standar isi’ 2006. English for SMK year XI.
Class IX, semester 1, Basic Competence (KD) 1 (Business & Management);
Comprehending simple daily conversation in professional or personal context with non-native speakers.
Learning Materials: Restaurant & Costumer Services
The teacher gives the class examples from video or audio file of vocabulary and expression at restaurant and costumer services such as; English Expressions in a Restaurant (Expression by a waiter and Expressions by a customer), words used for describe food (bland, rich, spicy, salty, sweet, sour, bitter, hot), ways to prepare food (pickled, baked, boiled, broiled, fried, sautéed), words to describe the taste of food (yummy, yucky, delicious, awful, tasty, disgusting, good), Example of Dialogue In a Restaurant. The class is divided into 5 groups, then observing and listening to the voice or dialog in the video or audio files. Each group has to make summary from what they listen to and it should be presented in class.
Class XI, semester 1, Basic Competence (KD) 5
Expressing intentions in any form
Learning Materials: Selling and Buying Products (Bargaining)
The teacher gives the material likes; its expression by a clerk, expression by a customer, and example of dialogue. The students work in group and the teacher give some kinds of topics which are different each topic to the others. The group makes a free dialog related to their topic and should be presented.
Class XI, semester 1, Basic Competence (KD) 4
Describing past activities and future plans.
Learning Materials: The past events
Procedure; Tell the students an interesting story that comes from their own experience. Tell students that they must tell a story to their classmates; instruct them to go home and make their own story, encourage them to practice telling the story that they choose by reading, and the students have to read their story in the class. When the students begin to see similarities and differences between their stories and the ones that their classmates are telling; discuss the terms compare and contrast, students compare and contrast objects they are familiar with, the students have to identify words and phrases that indicate that a comparison or a contrast is taking place (e.g., in addition, furthermore, and on the other hand) develop a list of these words that can be posted in the classroom. Use two versions of story for the culminating activity; divide the class into two and have each half read one version, pair up the students who read version with those who read version two, the partners jointly make a list of similarities and differences between the versions, reconvene the class and open the discussion of similarities and differences to the class as a whole. The charts and previous lists made will be helpful at this time.
Class XI, semester 1, Basic Competence (KD) 2
Making note or recording simple messages in direct interaction or by using any devices.
Learning Materials: Telephone Handling (personal pronouns, reported speech, adjective clause, and telephone message).
The teacher gives the material such; English Expressions on Telephone, Expressing leaving telephone message or note, and so on. The students are worked in pairs to write all telephone conversation or telephone handling, message, and so on as many as possible. It helps them to develop their creative thinking.
Constructivism as school of thought that include in tradition philosophy is a paradigm that new in education. Names like Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky are names that often correlate with this paradigm itself. In constructivism language learning can be told that give a new vision with teaching learning process. These correlate with gain foreign language as knowledge object that surely has their complexity.
This point of view give an alternative that more takes place the learners as subject who think actively and not a wood that must chiseled. It has logic consequence that teacher not a source of knowledge, but only a facilitator. The implication for students in teaching learning process is they are demanded to always pro-active in finding their own knowledge and develop cognitive skill. Finally, constructivism theory is alternative plan especially in education system in Indonesia that dominant with behaviorism-liberalistic paradigm. But, one thing that must be underlined is teacher not only planting dogmatism of knowledge awkward and conservative but also how to stimulate the students to find out and construct their own knowledge. Until let the students in their creation with their skill to speak up their opinion and interpret with anything that they are learned.
Akker, Jan Van Den., Gravemeijer, Koeno., McKenney, Susan., and Nieveen, Nienke. 2006. Educational Design Research. London and New York: Routledge
Anwar, Munash F. 2008. English in Progress for SMK year XI Business and Management. Bogor: Yudhistira
Brown, H Douglas. 2007. Principle of Language Teaching and Learning. New York: Pearson Education, inc.
Leaver, Betty Lou., Ehrman, Madeline., and Shektman, Boris. 2005. Achieving Success in Second Language Acquisition. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gagnon Jr, George W., and Collay, Michele. 2001. Designing for Learning ; Six Elements in Constructivist Classrooms. California: Corwin Press, inc.
Shatz, Marilyn., and Wilkinson, Louse C. 2010. The Education of English Language Learners. New York: Guildford Press