THE USE OF PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING IN ANENGLISH FOR OCCUPATIONAL PURPOSES CLASSROOM AMONG FINAL SEMESTER STUDENTS OFDIPLOMA IN OFFICE MANAGEMENT AND TECHNOLOGY JACQUELINE SIM PHEK KIM UNIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MALAYSIA
THE USE OF PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING IN ANENGLISH FOR OCCUPATIONAL PURPOSES CLASSROOM AMONG FINAL SEMESTER STUDENTS OFDIPLOMA IN OFFICE MANAGEMENT AND TECHNOLOGY JACQUELINE SIM PHEK KIM A project report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree ofMaster of Education (Teaching of English as a Second Language) Faculty of Education in collaboration with the Department of Modern Languages Faculty of Management and Human Resources Development Universiti Teknologi Malaysia 30 SEPTEMBER 2006
iiI declare that this project report entitled “The Use of Problem-based Learning inan English for Occupational Purposes Classroom Among Final SemesterStudents of Diploma in Office Management and Technology” is the result of myown research except as cited in the references. The project report has not beenaccepted for any degree and is not concurrently submitted in candidature of anyother degree. Signature : Name : JACQUELINE SIM PHEK KIM Date : 30 SEPTEMBER 2006 ………
iii ToKester my hubby, bestfriend, confidant, soulmate; Jaomi and Timotheus the apples of my eye; and the memory of Linda Chang Ping Tek my Grand Mah. You have taught me to run with horses.
iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS From the depths of my heart, I thank the Lord for being my anchor. Hisomnipresence, faithfulness and wisdom enabled me to complete my Master andthis dissertation. I am very grateful to my lecturer and supervisor, Associate Professor Dr.Salbiah Binti Seliman, for motivating me to look at problems from a differentlight, and for patiently guiding, directing and advising me. I remember with deep appreciation the wind beneath my wings: myhusband, Kester, and my pride and joy, Jaomi and Timotheus, who believed inme, and loved me and all my idiosyncrasies especially during my most stressfuldays, and my mom, and sister, Evelyn, who gave me the much-needed space. Special mention goes to my friends, especially, Shirley Su, whoencouraged me to climb “walls”, Valerie Chan, who challenged me to thinkoutside the box, and Euphrasia Lee, who inspired me with her wits. It has been aprivilege solving problems with you. I also thank Cindy Wee, who has alwaysgone the extra mile, and my colleagues at Universiti Teknologi MARA KotaSamarahan who have been so supportive.
v ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to investigate the use of PBL in an EOPclassroom by determining, firstly, whether the use of PBL benefited the EOPrespondents’ language skills, and secondly, whether there are any significantimprovements in their language skills. The study also attempted to describe therespondents’ responses in the use of PBL in learning EOP. The respondentsinvolved in this study were five final semester students from diverse backgroundsand different levels of English Language proficiency pursuing Diploma in OfficeManagement and Technology at a local university in Sarawak. This study wasconducted using the qualitative approach. Observation Checklists were used tocollect data on the respondents’ oral language skills in their group discussionsand presentations to ascertain if the use of PBL had benefited the respondents’oral skills. Pretest and Posttest were administered at the beginning and the end ofthe study to determine if the process of learning EOP using PBL had benefitedthe respondents’ written language skills in the area of writing reply letters ofcomplaints. The Posttest letters were also analysed for significant improvementsin the language used by the respondents. Besides that, various types ofEvaluation Forms were distributed to the respondents to obtain data on theirresponses towards the use of PBL in an EOP classroom. The findings from thisstudy revealed that the respondents had responded positively towards the use ofPBL. Their oral and written language skills had improved significantly. On topof that, their generic skills had also improved, and this would enhance their rateof employability upon graduation. All the results of this study pointed towardsthe fact that the use of PBL in an EOP classroom had benefited the respondents’oral and written language skills.
vi ABSTRAK Tujuan kajian ini adalah untuk mengkaji kegunaan ‘PembelajaranBerasaskan Masalah’ (PBL) dalam kelas ‘Bahasa Inggeris Bagi TujuanPekerjaan’ (EOP). Ini dilakukan dengan menentukan pertamanya, sama adapengguna PBL boleh memberi faedah kepada kemahiran bahasa pelajar EOP dankeduanya, terhadap jenis kemahiran bahasa yang dapat diperbaiki dengansignifikannya. Kajian ini juga ingin menggambarkan tindak balas pelajar yangmengguna PBL untuk mempelajari EOP. Pelajar yang terlibat dalam kajian iniadalah lima orang pelajar semester akhir daripada latar belakang dan tahapkemahiran Bahasa Inggeris yang berbeza, iaitu pelajar Diploma PengurusanPejabat & Teknologi di sebuah universiti tempatan di Sarawak. Kajian inidijalankan dengan menggunakan pendekatan kualitatif. Satu Senarai SemakPemerhatian digunakan untuk mengutip data mengenai kemahiran lisan pelajardalam sesi perbincangan berkumpulan dan pembentangan. Ujian pra dan posdilakukan pada awal dan akhir kajian untuk menentukan keberkesanan prosespembelajaran EOP menggunakan PBL melalui kebolehan pelajar menjawabsurat. Borang Soalselidik juga digunakan untuk mendapatkan maklum balasmengenai perkara yang sama. Hasil kajian ini mendapati bahawa tindak balasterhadap kegunaan PBL dalam EOP adalah positif. Kemahiran bahasa dalamlisan dan penulisan didapati bertambah baik dengan signifikannya. Kemahirangenerik mereka juga bertambah baik yang seterusnya boleh meningkatkanpeluang mendapatkan pekerjaan setelah tamat pengajian. Oleh itu, semuakeputusan kajian ini menjurus kepada kegunaan PBL dalam bilik darjah EOPtelah dapat memberi faedah kepada kemahiran secara lisan dan penulisan bahasa.
vii TABLE OF CONTENTSCHAPTER TITLE PAGE DECLARATION ii DEDICATION iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv ABSTRACT v ABSTRAK vi TABLE OF CONTENTS vii LIST OF TABLES xii LIST OF FIGURES xiv LIST OF ACRONYMS xv LIST OF APPENDICES xvi 1 INTRODUCTION 1 1.1 Introduction 1 1.2 Background of the Study 3 1.3 Statement of Problem 4 1.4 Purpose of the Study 5 1.5 Objectives of the Study 6 1.6 Research Questions 6 1.7 Significance of the Study 7 1.8 Scope of the Study 7 1.9 Conclusion 8 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 9 2.1 Introduction 9 2.2 Current Status of PBL 9
viii2.3 Approaches to Language Learning and Teaching 10 2.3.1 Constructivist Approach 11 2.3.2 Learner-Centred Approach 11 2.3.3 Approaches in Language Acquisition and Learning 13 (a) Behaviourist Approach 13 (b) Innatist Approach 15 (c) Natural Approach 16 (d) Interactionist Approach 182.4 What is PBL? 212.5 Rationale for Using PBL 222.6 Early Success of PBL 23 2.6.1 PBL in Medicine 23 2.6.2 PBL in Pure Sciences 252.7 Recent Developments in PBL 25 2.7.1 PBL in Education 26 2.7.2 PBL in Law 27 2.7.3 PBL in Language Teaching and Learning 27 2.7.4 PBL in English for Academic Purposes 28 2.7.5 PBL in English for Occupational Purposes 29 2.7.6 PBL and Generic Skills 302.8 Design Process of PBL 332.9 Characteristics of PBL 352.10 Scaffolds in PBL 362.11 Characteristics of a PBL Poorly-Structured Problem 362.12 Role of the Facilitator in PBL 372.13 Role of the Learners in PBL 382.14 Constraints in Implementing PBL 38 (a) Cultural Change 38 (b) Manpower 39 (c) Infrastructure 39
ix 2.15 Conclusion 393 METHODOLOGY 40 3.1 Introduction 40 3.2 Research Design 40 3.3 Population 42 3.4 Sampling Design 43 3.5 Respondents 43 3.6 Instrumentation 44 3.6.1 Instruments used in Data Collection 45 (a) Questionnaire 45 (b) Written Essay 46 (c) Poorly-Structured Problem 46 (d) Poorly-Structured Problem Reply Letter 46 (e) Tests 47 (f) Evaluation Forms 48 (g) Problem Logs 51 (h) Checklists 53 3.6.2 Instruments used in Data Analysis 55 (a) Assessment of General Language Skills 55 (b) Assessment of Specific Language Skills 56 (c) Assessment of Oral Presentation 57 3.7 Research Procedure 59 3.7.1 Preliminary Study 59 3.7.2 Preparation of Instruments 59 3.7.3 Piloting of Instruments 61 3.7.4 Improvement of Instruments 62 3.8 Data Collection 63 3.9 Data Analysis 68 3.9.1 Poorly-Structured Problem Reply Letter and Pretest 68
x 3.9.2 Tests (Pretest and Posttest) 69 3.9.3 Assessment of Oral Presentation 70 3.9.4 Evaluation Forms 70 3.9.5 Problem Logs 72 3.9.6 Checklists 72 3.10 Conclusion 734 FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION 74 4.1 Introduction 74 4.2 Benefits of PBL on the Respondents’ Language Skills 74 4.2.1. Ability to Decide To Write a Reply Letter of Complaint 75 4.2.2 Ability to Write a Reply Letter of Complaint 76 4.2.3 Improvements in Written Language Skills 76 4.2.4 Discussions of Respondents’ Overall Performance 82 4.3 Aspects of Language Skills the Respondents Improved Significantly 83 4.3.1 Significant Improvements in Written Language Skills 84 (a) Grammar 86 (b) Punctuation 87 (c) Vocabulary and Expression 87 (d) Rhetorical Aspects 88 4.3.2 Discussions of Respondents’ Overall Written Performance 90 4.3.3 Significant Improvements in Oral Language Skills 93 (a) Language Used When Communicating With Group Members 93
xi (b) Effectiveness in Oral Language Skills 93 4.3.4 Discussions of Respondents’ Overall Spoken Performance 97 4.4 Informants Responses to the Use of PBL in Learning EOP 98 4.4.1 Interpersonal Skills 99 4.4.2 Self-Management Skills 101 4.4.3 Communication Skills 105 4.4.4 Problem-Solving Skills 110 4.4.5 Discussions of Respondents’ Overall Responses to the Use of PBL in Learning EOP 114 4.5 Conclusion 1145 CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION 115 5.1 Conclusion 115 5.2 Recommendations 118 5.3 Pedagogical Implications 119 5.4 Suggestions for Further Research 120 5.5 Limitations of the Study 121REFERENCES 123Appendices A-V 132-163
xii LIST OF TABLESTABLE NO. TITLE PAGE3.1 Likert Scale used in Evaluation Form 493.2 Grading Scale for Evaluation 513.3 Assessment of General Language Skills 553.4 Assessment of Specific Language Skills 563.5 Assessment of Oral Presentation 573.6 Grading Scale for Oral Presentation 583.7 Types of Improvement in the Posttest Letters 694.1 Analysis and Comments of the Respondents’ Letter from the Pretest and Poorly-Structured Problem Reply 774.2 Marks obtained by the Respondents in the Pretest and Posttest Letters 844.3 Types of Improvement Obtained by the Respondents in the Posttest Letters 85
xiii4.4 Checklist of Generic Skills: Self-Evaluation of Interpersonal Skills Before and After the Use of PBL in Learning EOP 994.5 Checklist of Generic Skills: Self-Evaluation of Self-Management Skills Before and After the Use of PBL in Learning EOP 1014.6 Ratings Obtained by the Respondents in the Group Evaluation 1034.7 Checklist of Generic Skills: Self-Evaluation of Communication Skills Before and After the Use of PBL in Learning EOP 1054.8 Marks Obtained by the Respondents in the Oral Presentation 1074.9 Checklist of Generic Skills: Self-Evaluation of Problem-Solving Skills Before and After the Use of PBL in Learning EOP 110
xiv LIST OF FIGURESFIGURE NO. TITLE PAGE2.1 Design Process of PBL 343.1 Research Design 413.2 Process of Data Collection 63
xv LIST OF ACRONYMSEOP - English for Occupational PurposesPBL - Problem-Based LearningEAP - English for Academic PurposesELT - English Language TeachingFBI - Federal Bureau of InvestigationALM - Audio-Lingual MethodSLA - Second Language AcquisitionLAD - Language Acquisition DeviceL2 - Second LanguageNA - Natural ApproachCI - Comprehensive InputL1 - Native SpeakerNon-L1 - Non-Native SpeakerCO - Comprehensive OutputUBD - University Brunei DarussalamSPM - Sijil Pelajaran MalaysiaCGPA - Cumulative Grade Point AveragePTPTN - National Higher Education Fund
xvi LIST OF APPENDICESAPPENDIX TITLE PAGEA Questionnaire 132B Written Essay 135C Checklist of Generic Skills 136D Pretest 138E Poorly-Structured Problem 139F Checklist of Observation 140G Scaffolds 1 141H Problem Log 1 142I Self-Evaluation Form 1 145J Group Evaluation Form 1 147K Scaffolds 2 149L Problem Log 2 150M Scaffolds 3 151N Problem Log 3 152O Scaffolds 4 154P Problem Log 4 155Q Assessment of Oral Presentation 156R Group Evaluation Form 2 157S Poorly-Structured Problem Evaluation Form 158T Self-Evaluation Form 2 160U Posttest 162V Poorly-Structured Problem Reply Letter 163
1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION1.1 Introduction The lecturer entered the EOP class all prepared to deliver the first lecture ofthe new semester. Exuberating with enthusiasm and well-prepared withtransparencies and printed notes, she introduced the final semester undergraduates tothe course content. Expecting enthusiastic responses from these undergraduates, shewas certainly not prepared for what was to transpire. Comments such as ‘dry’,‘boring’, and ‘technical’ were the responses she received. She was taken aback bythis lacklustre attitude of the undergraduates, and on probing further, she discoveredthat they were not in the least interested in learning the EOP skills so important fortheir career. There has to be a departure from this approach of learning and teaching toone that will enable the learners and teachers to see the relevance of learning. It hasto be an approach that views learning as a process that constructs knowledge; onethat is not only concerned with the end product of acquiring that knowledge butrather the process of constructing that knowledge. This is to run away from the non-constructivist approach of learning to one that looks at learning from theconstructivist point of view (Brooks and Brooks, 1993). Learning, to aconstructivist, involves a process where knowledge is constructed not transferred.It is based on the principle that learning takes place when there is construction of
2knowledge. Brooks and Brooks (1993) explain it well when they say that the focusin learning is the receipt of knowledge and the learning activity. They add that thistype of learning approach will free the learners from the “dreariness of fact-driven curriculum and allow them to focus on large ideas; (they) place in students’ hands the exhilarating power to follow traits of interests, to make connections, to reformulate ideas, and to teach unique conclusions” (Brooks and Brooks, 1993: 22). Gone were the days where education was seen as a transfer of knowledgefrom the teacher to the learners, and as long as learners were given knowledge, theywould be able to use it (Gordon, 1998). One method which advocates learning by engaging learners in authenticlearning activities is PBL which uses real-life problems as the starting point andfocus of learning (Barrows, 1985; Dunlap, 2005). It is based on the premise that theplace where learning occurs lies not with the head-knowledge of the learners but inthe arena where there is social interaction (Mardziah, 1998), and where the socialparticipants play a deciding role in the content and amount learnt (Cole andEngestrom, 1993; Salomon, 1993). The use of PBL in the science disciplines has been successful in producinglearners who are responsible for their own learning and equipping themselves withthe relevant generic skills for life outside the classroom (Wood, 2003; Oliver andMcLoughlin, 2001). This method of learning and equipping can be adopted in theEOP language classrooms where PBL is used as an approach to pave the way for thisself-learning to take place.
31.2 Background of the Study The present scenario in the classrooms where learners are unable to see theimportance of what they learn as being instrumental in succeeding in the real worldhas to undergo a paradigm shift. Traditional education practices are churning outdisinterested and bored learners who go to school and come home with huge amountof facts to memorise – an activity that does not in the least prepare them for lifeoutside the classroom. Their attitude towards the learning process is reflected intheir declining attendance rate and poor academic performance (Zhonglei, 2004;Ahlfeldt, 2004). Learning in the classrooms cannot be confined to just the content to be taughtfor the day, nor the syllabus to be completed in the semester. It will be so unnaturalbecause acquisition of knowledge comes in a package together with the acquisitionof other skills. In other words, these learners are not just learning and improving ontheir language skills, but also simultaneously picking up a variety of generic skills. Research has unveiled an important role of PBL and its ability to motivatelearners to learn as they would in the real-world (Mardziah, 1998); learning which isself-directed and encouraged by the learners’ own intellectual curiosity to findsolutions to problems. Through PBL, the learning horizon of the learners is openedto a wide spectrum of skills and knowledge which they can acquire besides just thetarget content. Wood and Head (2004) in their research on the application of PBL in theEAP classroom manage to successfully use PBL in their EAP class and in its processenable their students to gain the necessary skills. The same can be done for the EOPclassrooms by using PBL in the teaching and learning of EOP language skills. Inthis case then, the use of real-world problems in the learning process will enable the
4learners to acquire the end product which is the construction of the target EOPlanguage skills, and at the same time, develop generic skills relevant for life-longlearning. This learning experience will be a simulation of the real-world.Instructional sessions will never be boring any more, and learners will be moreenthusiastic towards the learning experience as they take charge of their ownlearning. While substantial research and studies have been carried out in the field ofpure sciences and medicine, there has not been much in language in general and EOPin particular. Thus, this study looks at the use of PBL in learning EOP languageskills where learners are themselves responsible for solving a problem that mirrorsreal-world problems which are not well-phrased, have many solutions and use amyriad of generic skills, such as those pertaining to oral or written communication,critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, leadership, and team workwhich serve the basis for life-long learning (Peterson, 1997; Murray-Harvey et al.2004; Ellis et al., 2005).1.3 Statement of Problem The trend in language teaching and learning has been one where learnerslearn language in a structured, linear fashion using unrealistic examples. Languagehas been taught and learnt in isolation with importance placed on the content to belearnt but not on the learning activity. Many times, these learning activities are notonly few but far from being real. The lessons are reinforced through practice whichlearners find hard to grapple with. Products of this type of teaching and learningprocess are learners who know all about the rules of the language but do not knowhow to use the language proficiently in the real world (Short, Harste and Burke,1996). In response to this, teachers in the language classrooms can use PBL to close
5the gap between language used in the real world and language taught in theclassroom. This can be done by embedding into the classroom learning activitieswhich support the type of thinking process that is synonymous with the real world(Mardziah, 1998; Brown et al., 1989; Lave and Wenger, 1991). Studies on PBL in the fields of medicine and pure sciences, such as Physicsand Biology, have generated theories and assumptions that PBL can successfullycreate a learning environment where learning is done in context within its targetdomain using learning tasks which are as close to real life as possible. Such afunctional approach if used in language learning will ensure that all learners havepractical knowledge of the contextual use of the language and learners are able to useit in real-life situations. Despite these studies, PBL in language teaching andlearning has not been studied comprehensively. More studies should be undertakenin this area to shed more light into the role PBL can play in the teaching and learningof language.1.4 Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to investigate the use of PBL in an EOPclassroom. It is a qualitative investigation that seeks to describe how PBL canbenefit the learners’ language skills in an EOP classroom in the area of writing replyletters of complaints. It is hoped that through the PBL learning experience, theselearners will experience significant improvements in their language skills in writingreply letters of complaints. The study also attempts to describe the responses of the learners towards PBLapproach of teaching and learning. Their responses will be helpful in finding out ifPBL is favourable in facilitating their learning experience.
61.5 Objectives of the Study This study aims to:1.5.1 Determine whether the use of PBL in an EOP classroom benefits therespondents’ language skills in writing reply letters of complaint;1.5.2 Find out which aspects of the respondents’ language skills, namely, speaking,and writing reply letters of complaint, have improved significantly with the use ofPBL; and1.5.3 Analyse the informants’ responses to the use of PBL in learning EOP.1.6 Research Questions1.6.1 Does the use of PBL benefit the respondents’ language skills in an EOPclassroom?1.6.2 What aspects of language skills do the respondents improve significantlywhen using PBL in learning EOP?1.6.3 How have the informants responded to the use of PBL in learning EOP?
71.7 Significance of the Study The findings on whether PBL improves the learners’ language skills in anEOP classroom will help pave the way for the introduction of PBL in teaching andlearning language. This will further enhance the use of authentic learning activitieswithin the target context of language learning in an EOP classroom. Data on theaspects of language skills that the learners improved significantly when using PBL inlearning EOP will give teachers an indication of the language skills that can benefitthe most through the use of PBL. Gaining an insight into the responses of the learners towards this approach ofteaching and learning is invaluable in assisting the teachers and the management inplanning ways to maximise the benefits of PBL. An awareness of the problems thathinder the learners from benefiting from this approach will enable the teachers andcurriculum planners to minimise the problems they face. The findings of this study will be of great significance especially to teacherswho are considering using different and more novel ways of making learning morestudent-centred and meaningful. With the results, these teachers will be able toknow how to insert more meaningful learning tasks based on real-world problemsinto their target context. It is hoped that the findings of this research will lead toPBL playing a more prominent role in the language classroom.1.8 Scope of the Study This study investigated the use of PBL in an EOP classroom. It focused onthe language used by the respondents in writing formal reply letters of complaints,and oral communication. This study involved five final semester respondents who
8were pursuing Diploma in Office Management and Technology in a local universityin Sarawak. It used a qualitative approach with different types of instruments, suchas, Questionnaire, Tests, Observations and Evaluations to obtain data on the benefitsand significant improvements in the language skills of the respondents after the useof PBL in their EOP classroom.1.9 Conclusion Therefore, it is hoped that this study will provide invaluable informationpertaining to the use of PBL in helping the learners find the learning experiencerelevant to them in the EOP classroom. This first chapter on the Introduction of the study is followed by four otherchapters. Chapter 2 discusses the Review of Literature while the Methodology inChapter 3 explains how the study was carried out. Chapter 4 presents the Findingsand Discussion, and the report ends with Chapter 5 on the Conclusion andRecommendations.
9 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW2.1 Introduction The literature review synthesizes research and studies on PBL. First, itdescribes the current status of PBL. Second, it focuses on the approaches that arerelated to language learning and acquisition. Next, the chapter explains what PBL is,the rationale for using it, and followed by its early success. Then, this is followedwith an explanation on the recent developments in PBL, its design process, andcharacteristics and features. These recent developments refer to previous research onPBL in ELT. The chapter concludes with a summary of the constraints ofimplementing PBL.2.2 Current Status of PBL PBL has been gaining ground in teaching and learning carrying with it amandate for innovative approaches to education. The literature on PBL hasmushroomed at such a fast pace with the sharing of different experiences. Lam(2004) comments that PBL has already been accepted internationally as aneducational innovation. It has been introduced into the social work curriculum at theUniversity of Hong Kong where Lam conducted a study on 10 undergraduates from
10the Bachelor of Social Work programme. She observes that the learners successfullyfill the gap in their knowledge by relating their practical field sessions to the theoriesthey have learnt in the classroom. She adds that PBL is a promising alternative tothe conventional field that education models. More recently, PBL has found its way into FBI in training their agents andmaking them more competent investigators who are able to do what they are trainedto do, and which is, to work as a team and solve problems (Ahlfedlt, 2003). PBL has also been introduced into the field of communication where there isa call for reforms in its curriculum and pedagogy. Ahlfedlt (2003) researches on theuse of PBL in the public speaking classroom by studying 855 students. The findingsfrom the research show that students from the PBL classes performs better onspeeches than students from the traditional classrooms, and not only are they moreengaged in their learning experience, they also experience less speaking anxiety.These findings are significant because they reveal PBL to be an effective method ofinstruction in the public speaking classroom2.3 Approaches to Language Learning and Teaching Approaches make up one of the fundamental factors that determine thesuccess of language learning and teaching. In this study, the review of literature willdiscuss the approaches that can be used in tandem with PBL.
112.3.1 Constructivist Approach The approach to learning in PBL is based on the premise that learning in thesocial environment is a process where knowledge is constructed (Brooks and Brooks,1993). Mardziah (1998) states that it is the knowledge gained and insight obtainedduring the process of constructing that knowledge which is more important than theend product itself. This is further supported by Brown et al. (1989), and Lave andWenger (1991) who stress that learning tasks must be present to facilitate thelearning process of the target language. Thus, it is the learning situation that isinstrumental in determining what the learners know and understand. Savery and Duffy (1995) sum up the three constructivist principles that areconsistent with PBL as social interaction with the environment, and cognitiveconflict that will all work towards fostering understanding and stimulating learning.This will in turn help the learners experience learning as in the real-world, byconstructing knowledge for themselves. As these learners gain more relevantexperience, they will be able to restructure their knowledge. Mardziah (1998) points out that according to the constructivist view,language learners should participate in all types of real life language activity as thiswill help them understand how language is used in the real-world. They should notjust learn the rules of language.2.3.2 Learner-Centred Approach This approach places the needs and interests of the learners at the forefront ofthe learning experience. It ensures that the materials, activities and the wholeprocess of teaching and learning are subjected to close negotiation between the
12teachers and the learners in determining that the teaching approach is the mostconducive for the learners. This approach relies heavily on the learners beingactively involved in using their knowledge and generic skills, such as, criticalthinking, communication and problem-solving, to maximise the benefits from thelearning situation. The theory of situated learning encompasses knowing and understanding as aproduct of the learning situation and the learning activity. In other words, learningactivities should be carried out in a target domain supported by thinking processeswhich are similar to those in real life (Brown et al., 1989; Lave and Wenger, 1991).Learning will hence be based on real life situations drawing examples and lessonsfrom the real world scenarios instead of learning out of context. Learners adapt differently to different language learning styles, and learnerswho are unfamiliar with the learning style used, might not be able to fully gain fromthe learning environment. Therefore, teachers need to help their learners adjustslowly to the new learning style, and gain confidence. Group members who arefamiliar with the learning environment also play a crucial role in helping the learnersenjoy the learning experience. A functional approach to language learning placesimportance on helping the learners to use language in the right context for real-worldsituations. PBL is one learning approach that allows the teachers to adjust thelanguage level of the learning environment to suit the needs and learning styles ofthe learners. However, since learners come with diverse needs and languagebehaviour is very broad, linguists around the world are interested in understandingand explaining the various processes learners go through in language learning. Thishas resulted in many approaches and hypotheses being put forward to furtherunderstand how languages are acquired and learnt.
132.3.3 Approaches in Language Acquisition and Learning There is as yet no definite approach that can be used to describe or explainthe language acquisition and learning process. On one extreme of the continuum isthe behaviourist approach that focuses on observed aspects of linguistic behaviour.On the other end is the nativist approach that believes that learners are born with aninnate knowledge to the nature of language. Meanwhile, the interactionist approachviews the acquisition of language as collaborative efforts of the learners and teachersset in the midst of a host of different external and internal factors.(a) Behaviorist Approach Bohannon III and Bonvillian (1997) base this approach on the observable andmeasurable aspects of language behaviour. It is an approach that recognizes thedifficulties involved in defining and measuring mental processes, and as such, itlooks for environmental conditions or stimuli that can be observed and co-occur, andcan predict specific verbal behaviours or responses. In doing so, Zimmerman (1979)explains that it has disregarded mentalistic explanations of language behaviour thatrest upon the implicit knowledge of grammatical rules. This behaviourist psychology has led to the development of the ALM in the1950s. It is a method which emphasizes oral discussion at the expense of grammarrules, and it is a process of habit-formation involving lots of oral repetition until apattern is formed. The ALM assumes that all language learning is the sameregardless of whether they are verbal or non-verbal, and since they are similar toother types of behaviour, they can be learnt through imitation and reinforcement. Inthis learning process, Bohannon III and Bonvillian (1997) see the learners as“passive recipients of environmental pressures” similar to that of a tabula rasa.They have no preconceived notions of the world but through a series of variousscheduled reinforcement, they undergo a series of conditioning. Skinner (1957), a
14leading behaviourist in the United States in his book which is aptly titled ‘VerbalBehaviour’, refers to this type of learners as mere spectators who play a passive rolein their own language development. He sees language as a special case of behaviour. In addition to that, Littlewood (1984) says this process has no mental orcognitive implications but only a set of mechanical habits formed through imitationand repetition. He proposes a framework for teaching where he advocates pre-communicative and communicative activities. He views the former activities as atype of skill training where learners use habit-forming and cognitive techniques suchas explanations, to master certain aspects of the language like sound patterns. In thelatter type of communicative activities, whole-task practice is introduced in thelearning process. Here the learners’ different sub-skills will be integrated tocommunicate meanings, and the learners can acquire language through the naturalprocesses. In this case, meanings to be communicated precede the language items tobe learnt. However, Brown (1994) understands this production of correct responses tostimuli as training in imitation. During this process of habit-formation, the learners’attempts that closely resemble adults’ speech will be reinforced with rewards orsome other forms of approval while speech that is meaningless or incorrect willreceive negative reinforcements such as punishments. Over time, the learners willuse imitation more frequently in learning. The duration they take to learn a languageis dependent upon the training techniques used by the teachers rather than thematurity of the learners. Thus, language development is seen as a link between thevarious stimuli in the learners’ environment and their internal responses, and overtverbal behaviour. This approach places importance on performance instead ofcompetence, and Bohannon III and Bonvillian (1997) sum it well when they say thatthe behaviourist is more concerned with language functions, verbal behaviour and itsstimuli, and the consequences of language performance.
15 However, this view on how language is learnt is not shared by the innatistswho use the innatist approach to account for the acquisition of language.(b) Innatist Approach This approach to SLA is a reaction to the theory of learning. Chomsky(1957) claims that learners are biologically programmed for language whichdevelops in them in just the same way as how other biological functions develop. Heexplains that as language is both too complex and the learning occurring too rapidlyfor the learners to learn through imitation, linguists should study the underlyingcompetence and not the performance of humans. He further adds that learners areendowed with an ability to self-learn the rules governing a language. They have aspecial device called the LAD, found only in human species. It is a tool to processspeech, and the samples of language (input) are necessary to trigger the LAD whichthen enables the learners to discover for themselves the rules of the language. Due tothe ability of the LAD to be activated immediately on receiving language samples,the universal features of all languages such as the basic grammatical structures arefound in the device. Therefore, learners can creatively use their skills of cognition to acquire L2independently by constructing their own rules, and simultaneously, changing therules whenever there are mistakes. So, they are continually playing an active role inthe learning process and finding out how language works no matter how complex thetask may seem. This leads to another approach called the natural approach which viewslearners as playing an equally active role in learning language but the maindistinction lies in the fact that language input can be processed internally without anyoutput from the learner as explained by Lightbown and Spada (1993).
16(c) Natural Approach This NA has its bases on Krashen’s work on SLA and Terrell’s classroomexperiences. Krashen’s (1983) principle of ‘comprehension precedes production’explains that for any speaking or writing abilities to take place, the learner must firstreceive input in the form of comprehensible messages or texts. He further adds thatthe learners’ productions of the language appear in stages, and so they should notface any pressure to speak unless they are ready to do so. The NA theory maintains a distinction between language learning andlanguage acquisition. It explains that learning involves knowledge of the rules of thelanguage but it is the acquisition of language that determines the development of thecommunicative ability to understand and speak the L2 successfully. Languagelearning is useful as an editor for making corrections and changes before or after thesentences are spoken or written. In the NA theory, Krashen presents five hypotheses to explain languageacquisition and learning. The first of these is the Acquisition-Learning hypothesiswhich draws a distinction between the two processes of language development.Krashen (1983) explains that in acquisition, the learner’s linguistic ability is sub-consciously and naturally developed whereas in learning, the learner has an ‘explicit’knowledge of the rules. He adds that language must be acquired in order for naturaland fluent linguistic interaction to happen, and this acquisition is not a result oflearning. Any errors made in the process has very minimal or no effect at all on thissubconscious way of language development. In the second hypothesis, which is, the Natural Order hypothesis, theacquisition of the rules of a language occurs in a sequence that is predictable, and in
17this case, some of these rules are acquired early while others late. Besides, it alsoallows for the acquisition of some structures in groups. In the Monitor hypothesis, Krashen (1987) stresses that acquisition‘initiates’ the L2 production whereas learning acts as the monitor or editor on whatthe acquired system has produced. Learning through the conscious method, andformal rules of the language play a minor role in the L2 production, and for theseconscious rules to be of use, three conditions must be present, namely, sufficienttime, focus on form and knowledge of the rules. According to Krashen, there are basically three types of performers: themonitor over-user who is always using his L2 conscious knowledge to check hisperformance, the monitor under-user who is in favour of the acquired system overthe conscious knowledge, and the optimal monitor user who will only use themonitor appropriately - when it does not hinder communication. He considers hislearned competence as supplementing his acquired competence. The Input hypothesis, which is considered the most important hypothesis,emphasizes language acquisition instead of language learning. Here, Krashen (1987)stresses that the learner acquires language by receiving CI or by understanding themessages, and focusing on their meaning. He explains that for this to happen, thelanguage the learner understands consists of structures that is ‘a little beyond’ (1987)his present competence of the language, which is, i +1 = CI. To move from i to stagei + 1, a condition must be met. The learner must understand (focus on meaning) theinput that has i +1, and the input must be of i +1 level but the CI does not have to befine-tuned However, the best input should refrain from aiming at i +1 because whenthere is sufficient understandable input, i +1 will automatically take place.
18According to Krashen (1985), the success experienced by the immersion languageteaching in the French immersion schools is due to the input of materials which arecomprehensible to the students. He claims that the environment is conducive for theL2 learners to do well. In the Affective-filter hypothesis, Lightbown and Spada (1993) look at thefilter as an ‘imaginary barrier’ hindering the usage of input available in theenvironment by the learner. These screens or barriers to input can take the form ofmotives, needs, attitudes and emotions, and the learner decides on what needs to betended to and what is acquired. A learner with low affective filter has low anxietylevel and his motivation and self-confidence are high.(d) Interactionist Approach This approach agrees with Krashen’s view that CI is crucial for languageacquisition but Lightbown and Spada (1993) add that the relationship between thelearner’s innate capabilities for language and his linguistic environment is ofimportance as well in any language development. According to Brown (1994), thelearner’s knowledge of the world will influence what he learns about language, andGleason (1997) reaffirms that since the environment is the place where languageemerges, so the learner’s learning process cannot be explained by innate linguisticalone but should be coupled with non-linguistic aspects of interaction. The interactionist also believes that modified interaction will result in CI(Brown 2000) and it is a necessary condition for language acquisition. Ellis (1984)elaborates that when the learner encounters a problem with his communication,changes to the structure of what is communicated will assist him in understandingthe input. Besides, this type of interactional modifications, which takes place in theprocess of negotiating a communication problem, will promote comprehensible or
19modified input. There has to be interactional modification on the input structure sothat any linguistic input that is unfamiliar will be made familiar and comprehensible. Long (1980) also discovers an increase in different types of interactionalfeatures in conversations between an L1 and a non-L1 as compared to conversationsbetween two native speakers. This increase in interactional restructuring in the firstconversation, which helps in comprehension and language acquisition, is promptedby the need of the speakers to exchange information. Long continues to add that thebasis for the development of linguistic rules are interactive communication. Hemaintains that the L1 speaker will keep on modifying his utterances so that the non-L1 speaker can understand him. He calls for “information-exchange tasks” wherethe L1 and non-L1 speakers are expected to mutually exchange information. Thiswill cause the language to be interactionally modified (1985) to suit the capability ofthe learner, and hence, facilitate comprehension and SLA. Pica, Young and Doughty(1986) in their study on input modification have discovered that modifications madeon interactions have successfully raised the level of comprehension among thesubjects. This interaction hypothesis goes one step beyond Krashen’s CI for languageacquisition to include the CO hypothesis which argues that CI alone without CO isinsufficient for language development. Swain cites the French immersionprogramme where the focus is on language rather than on its form. Her study revealsthat though the students have a good understanding of the language, they cannotachieve the proficiency level of the native speakers. Based on the findings from thisstudy, she concludes that CI alone is insufficient for language acquisition. That inputhas to be coupled with opportunities for output such as speaking and writing. Long (1980) argues that the attempts of the learner to produce CO will enablehim to not only test his own hypothesis about the language but also be aware of any
20of his linguistic problems, and to focus on form. It allows the learner to notice theirlinguistic problems and emphasize on the formal properties of the input. Pica (1990)has successfully demonstrated that even though the non-L1 speaker is more reluctantto change his original output due to problem with communication, he still modifieshis output and that of his native speaking interactor’s. The behaviourist, innatist and interactionist explanations can be reconciled byway of seeing each of them explaining a different aspect of the learner’s languagedevelopment. The task of the behaviourist which focuses on the linguisticenvironment tries to explain routine aspects, the innatist the acquisition of complexgrammar and the internal processing mechanisms of the learner, and theinteractionist is best explained by how the child relates form and meaning inlanguage, and how he interacts and uses the language appropriately. Much has been said about these approaches towards language acquisition andlanguage learning, and it can be seen that none of them is complete in itself.However, they are still important for their implications in language learning andclassroom teaching because they are a store house of information on how languagesare acquired and learnt, and how teaching should be. It is obvious that the learner’s success in language learning is dependent onnot just one but a number of factors which influences him in his attempt at learningthe language. Thus, it can be concluded that all these views share a similar goal,which is, to provide the language learner the tools he needs to communicatesuccessfully, and the means to determine the quantity and quality of input hereceives. These approaches are useful for understanding how language is learnt. Itwill help provide the conceptual framework for this study which is concerned withthe learning of EOP language skills using the PBL approach.
212.4 What is PBL? There are many versions to the definition of PBL. Finucane, Johnson andPrideaux (1998) define PBL as a learner-centred educational approach that focuseson independent learning and a deeper understanding of the subject matter byallowing learners to play an active role in solving problems which mirrors real worldproblems. They use problems as a context for learners to learn problem-solvingskills and acquire the target knowledge. This definition is echoed by Mayo et al.(1993) who define PBL as a pedagogical strategy which uses real-world situations asthe basis for the development of content knowledge and problem-solving skills. Thismethodology is in line with Plato’s and Socrates’ way of teaching; they had alwaysencouraged their students to think critically, source for information and debate it in ascholastic way. Wood and Head (2004) in their study conducted on the applicationof PBL in EAP amongst premedical students at UBD view PBL as a context-basedapproach which is ideal for the learning phenomenon to take place in a “holisticfashion, synthetic rather than analytic” (2004: 5). They argue that PBL is notcontent-based instruction, which is concerned with learning the content, nor does ituse the L2 to learn content. They add that PBL is definitely not a type of casestudies as found in business schools. In PBL, learners work in small groups trying to solve a problem. Theydiscuss possible causes, develop hypotheses and strategies, search for moreinformation, refine their solutions and finally reach a conclusion. In the process,they develop and use different skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving,decision-making, and communication, and hence, construct the target knowledge.This is the metacognitive or problem-solving process of finding solutions. In actualfact, this process paves the way for the pursuit of the learning goals which form thebasis of PBL. It enables the learners to recognise their level of proficiency in thelanguage and gaps in their knowledge. These gaps will eventually lead to furtherindependent learning outside the classroom.
22 Finucane, Johnson and Prideaux (1998) point out that PBL has beenrecognised as the key to effective learning and learners’ pursuit of their learninggoals. In today’s age of information explosion, learning is no longer a solo venturebut a partnership, a joint venture where learners learn about collaboration,cooperation and responsibility. Rather than just focusing on the acquisition of thetarget content, PBL goes one step further by enabling and motivating the learners tobe responsible for their own learning. It is an avenue for growth for them for theydetermine their own learning tasks, are responsible for their group learning, and itensures they understand more of the target content and are able to transfer theknowledge to novel situations. Most important of all, PBL makes it possible for thegap between school or tertiary education and the actual real-world situation to benarrowed. It prepares the learners for the working world. Fekete (1987) and Murray-Harvey et al. (2004) explain that PBL, which isbased on the principle that learning has to and must be learner-centered in order for itto be optimised, sets the platform for the development of generic skills through itsactive learner involvement, teamwork, self-directed learning and inquiry-orientedtasks. Hmelo and Evensen (2000) add that the skills that are enhanced through thistype of PBL learning will in fact enable graduates to apply the knowledge they havelearnt at their work place. This enhances the employability of graduates who are notonly dependent upon what they know but also how to use that knowledge tocomplete tasks successfully in the real world.2.5 Rationale for Using PBL In using PBL, various disciplines are integrated throughout the curriculum,and as the learners attempt to solve the problems, they construct knowledge andapply it to their search for an answer. Thus, learning occurs in the target context and
23builds on the prior knowledge of the learners. Theoretically, this type of approachcan help in retention, motivation and self-directed learning. The learners areresponsible for their learning needs and the learning strategies. Studies by Ahlfeldt (2003) and Aldred (n.d.) have shown that learners in PBLmust be involved in their learning process by taking charge of their own learning.Zhonglei (2004) says that instead of waiting for answers to come from their teachers,these learners will take the initiative to look for answers to problems themselves.They set the perimeters of what and how much to learn, and this type of self-directedlearning enables the learners to “explore new knowledge for themselves” leading to“deeper retention of the information” (Ahlfeldt, 2003: 28).2.6 Early Success of PBL PBL has been used as an approach to teaching and learning with muchsuccess especially in the domains of medicine and pure sciences.2.6.1 PBL in Medicine The history of PBL can be traced to as far back as 1968 at the Faculty ofMedicine at McMaster University in Canada where this pedagogy was officiallyadopted. Three other medical schools, namely, the University of Limburg atMaastricht in the Netherlands, the University of Newcastle in Australia, and theUniversity of New Mexico in the United States, soon followed suit and adapted thisapproach into their curriculum. The University of Delaware incorporated PBL intoits curricula in 1992 (Ahlfeldt, 2003). Thus, Camp says “sprang one of the more
24important educational movements of this century” (n.d.: 1). Slowly but surely, PBLwas gaining ground at other medical schools in the region during the 1970s and1980s. Today, according to Albanese (2000), PBL is widely used in almost 100medical schools in the United States and almost every country of the world. It hasnow become the basis of medical curricula in Canada, the United Kingdom, theMiddle East and Asia. In Australia, it was estimated that by the year 2000, 50% ofits doctors would have experienced the PBL process of learning (Finucance, Johnsonand Prideaux, 1998). Camp (n.d.) explains that the distinguishing factors between PBL and theother approaches in medical schools are the learning goals and objectives of PBL forthe learner that go beyond just acquiring and using the target content. This is whatthe traditional medical curricula are all about. PBL, on the other hand, advocateswholesome learning for the learner where learning takes on another new dimension,and that is the development of other aspects of the learning experience. With theintroduction of PBL into the medical schools, many of the problems faced whileusing the traditional medical curricula have been solved. Lohman and Finkelstein(2000) study the dental education programme at a university in the Midwest. Theirobservations on self-directedness reveal that in small groups as those found in PBL,self-directedness increases. Learners are able to learn, remember, and apply whatthey have learnt, and at the same time, continue on the learning process. They havealso begun to develop more positive attitudes towards learning. Huey (2001)observes that PBL has successfully enhanced the learning environment. However, the one thing about PBL that has probably left such a great impacton the learners, according to Camp, is the process of learning itself. She argues thatsuccess of PBL lies in its emphasis on the learner’s “autonomy, building on previousknowledge and experiences, and the opportunity for immediate application” (n.d.: 2).
25 This approach has also found its way into other disciplines such as dentistry,pharmacy and veterinary science (Kennedy, 2001), and public health, pure sciences,and nursing (Biley and Smith, 1998).2.6.2 PBL in Pure Sciences PBL has been used with much success in the pure sciences subjects, such as,biology, chemistry and physics. Duch (1995) observes that in her physics class, herlearners are able to identify gaps in their knowledge and then do the necessary gapfilling. She notices that in the traditional science class, learning takes the form ofabstract to the concrete where concepts are being introduced and then applied to theproblem. In PBL, the reverse is true where the learners are presented with theproblem and then they move to realise the concepts. The known precedes theunknown to make sense of abstract principles. Albanese and Mitchell (1993)discover that by doing so, the learners retain the knowledge better. Allen (1996) observes that success of teaching and learning in her Biologyclass is very much dependent upon her ability to use PBL in helping her learnersbridge the gap between learning and expectations, which is, to enable her learners tolearn how to integrate their knowledge of biological principles with their skills ofcommunication and acquisition in order to make the learning more purposeful.2.7 Recent Developments in PBL Although PBL is widely used in the teaching and learning of medicine andpure sciences, the same cannot be said of PBL in other educational domains.
26However, recently, educationists, such as Duffy and Cunningham (1997), haverealised that the successes of PBL in the medical schools can spill over to otherclassrooms.2.7.1 PBL in Education According to Norman and Schmidt (1992), there is evidence to show thatPBL learners tend to remember knowledge longer than other learners who are nottaught using PBL, and they also fare better in integrating knowledge to solveproblems. However, they are quick to add that in their review of experimentalevidence of differences in learners’ learning that could be a result of PBL, theydiscover that there is as yet no evidence to support the claim that problem-solvingskills can be improved through PBL. Despite this, they conclude that PBL has alasting impact on self-directed learning skills and learners’ motivation, and itslearning environment is more stimulating. This fact is further supported by Mierson (1995) who states that PBLprovides the environment for her learners to be exposed to a diversity of skills. Shediscovers that these learners are excited about learning, and they are able tosuccessfully present their ideas using accurate scientific terminology. Allen (1996)discovers that her style of lecturing using a combination of lectures and textbookreadings, gives her students the impression that learning is all about memorisation offacts which have very little importance to their daily lives. However, ever sinceusing PBL in her classroom, she finds that her students are enthusiastic aboutlearning, and their eagerness to learn more motivates them to self-direct their ownlearning by bringing “together collective skills at acquiring, communicating andintegrating their knowledge of the biological principles and concepts” (1996:1).
27 Gordon (1998) states that the ingredient for enthusiasm in real-world learningwill exist when the latter is balanced with the realities of real-world classrooms aslong as the learning experiences are authentic and properly designed. In real-worldsituations, problems are never structured properly. Even if learners can solveproblems in school, it does not mean they have acquired critical thinking skillsneeded to solve real-life situations unless these problems were not structuredproperly and they appeared vague.2.7.2 PBL in Law PBL has also made its presence felt in the teaching of law. Bailey (2004)observes in her 72 law students at the Southampton Institute that using PBL hasallowed them to develop a myriad of skills pertaining to practicing law. Her learnersdevelop cognitive skills, such as, problem-solving and decision-making in lawpractice. On top of that, they are highly motivated for learning and can constructknowledge on their own after developing their self-directed learning skills.2.7.3 PBL in Language Teaching and Learning This is an area that linguists and language educationists alike have startedexploring. Duffy and Cunningham (1997) explain that PBL makes it possible forlearning to be more meaningful when it encourages the learners to behave as theywould in the real-world. They argue that if this can happen in the medical schoolsthen it can also happen in the domain of language learning. Mardziah (1998) pointsout that learners can learn a language in the real-world by using PBL and placing thelearners in problem-solving activities. These problems must not be structuredproperly, they must not have any easy answers, and they have to reflect the problems
28in the real-world. While solving the problems, these learners will use the languageto communicate and negotiate, and express opinions. They will documentdiscussions and decisions, refer to documented materials, and present their findingsand opinions. In the process, all the four language skills, namely, listening,speaking, reading and writing are learnt and practiced. On top of that, these learnerslearn the social conventions of language used for social interactions whiledeveloping the right words to use in the right context. Besides, they also learn tospeak and write grammatically correct sentences as they are expected to uselanguage in the real-world. This is synonymous with what they will experience inthe occupational domains in the world outside the classroom.2.7.4 PBL in English for Academic Purposes This case study on the use of PBL in the EAP classroom is conducted byWood and Head (2004) to a class of premedical students at UBD. The presentapproach of teaching EAP is unable to meet the needs of these students who, uponspending three semesters at UBD, will continue into their medical degree programmein Australia using the PBL approach. Hence, the lecturers have to devise a newapproach to teaching EAP which is motivating, learner-centred and able to meet therequirements of the EAP course. The lecturers decide to use PBL. This is asignificant decision as the lecturers are well-aware that what they are doing is goingagainst the traditional approaches in EAP, and they will probably be the very first touse PBL in EAP. In this case-study, while the lecturers’ objective is to ensure that at the end ofthe learning process they attain the desired level of proficiency in English for pre-medical students, they are also concerned with the process that will lead them to thatend product. So, the course activities include working in teams in solving a
29simulated medical problem. It must be stressed here that the students are notrequired to have any prior medical knowledge in order to solve the problem. Goingthrough the process of PBL will enable them to gain the necessary generic skills toarrive at the answers. Learning takes the form of a contextualised integrated mannerinstead of memorisation of abstract facts. Wood and Head (2004) explain that what makes learning EAP using PBLdifferent from learning EAP the traditional way is that on the onset of the learningprocess, minimal language is used, and the tasks assigned to the learners comenaturally from the problem to be solved. The learners are not assigned tasks aswould be in a traditional EAP approach. Besides that, these tasks flow naturallyfrom one to the other during the process of problem-solving. The presence of thelecturers was important but not to tell the learners what to do after every task iscompleted, but rather to guide and facilitate the learning. The learners are totallyresponsible for determining what leaves to be done after the completion of every taskbased on the needs analysis they would have carried out from the beginning of thewhole process (Bosher & Smalkosli, 2002). The learners decide the framework forlearning and they set their own pace and momentum. Wood and Head concludefrom this case study that PBL “can be, and has been, applied successfully to theteaching of medical EAP” (2004: 15).2.7.5 PBL in English for Occupational Purposes As yet there have been no studies done in this area. Searches in the Interneton PBL in EOP have produced no results or links to the use of PBL in teachinglanguage skills in EOP. However, as reviewed earlier, according to Duffy andCunningham (1997), if PBL can be used successfully in the domains of medicine, itcan also be used in other domains, and in this instance, in EOP. Besides that, Wood
30and Head (2004) experimenting PBL in EAP also produced very favourable resultsin enhancing learner-centred classroom and self-directed learning. The core featureof the use of PBL in learning the language skills in an EOP classroom will belearning the language skills in the context of solving related problems.2.7.6 PBL and Generic Skills A review of literature on PBL will not be complete without looking at whatliterature says about generic skills in PBL for after all it is the presence of genericskills in the PBL approach that makes problem-solving possible. Some of the educational objectives for using PBL are the use of PBL in theclassroom which allow for the development of a host of essentials or generic skillsamongst the learners, and these skills being interdisciplinary can be adapted to anycurriculum. The generic skills are also known as employability skills or skills which willenhance the employability rate of graduates. Achan, Philip and Gunjew (2003: 10)explain that “to be employable, a graduate must possess a portfolio of skills so thatthey are flexible enough to adapt to any number of positions or situation”. In thisstudy, the generic skills refer to four different categories of skills, namely,Interpersonal Skills, Self-Management Skills, Communication Skills and Problem-Solving or Metacognitive Skills. Zhonglei (2004) explains clearly the course which she designed for her 40students at the University of Lanzhou in the People’s Republic of China. Throughthis course, she expects her students’ spoken English and listening ability to improve
31significantly. She also expects them to have more freedom to determine theirlearning goal which is an important aspect of self-directed learning, and theenvironment should present them with ample opportunities to develop theircommunication and problem-solving skills. Murray-Harvey et al. (2004) state that the approach in PBL which is based onthe constructivist’s principles of teaching and learning will ensure a successfullearning outcome of the target content, and a development of the generic skills suchas higher order thinking skills, problem-solving skills, thinking skills, teamworkskills, communication skills, time management skills, and information skills (Bailey,2004). They add that these qualities which are fostered through PBL, are muchsought after by employers, and graduates should not be found lacking in any of them. However, these skills which are characteristic of the real-world are missing inthe classroom. Learners are presented with problems or situations which are well-defined and with clear parameters leading to only one obvious answer. The learnersare taught problem-solving but not how to solve problems. In problem-solving, thelearners learn and equip themselves with skills to solve problems. They are taughtthe hows in problem-solving but this knowledge remains as just head-knowledge. On the other hand, knowing how to solve problems allows the learners to gothrough the process of solving problems and in the midst of this process, they learnfor themselves the skills needed to solve the problems. How to solve problems is away of life (Endlex Life Skills, 2006) where learners construct the necessaryknowledge and develop their metacognitive skills relevant to solving problems.These skills provide insight for the learners and help them analyse the problems,brainstorm for ideas, reevaluate their strategies, present and implement theirsolutions.
32 The classroom is very much teacher-centred and learners wait to be spoon-fed instead of being responsible for their own learning. Skills pertinent to lifelongand self-directed learning are missing. These generic skills which can later beintegrated into the undergraduates’ work place and used in varying combinationssubject to the nature of their jobs have been sidelined and deemed less important inthe curriculum. This has prevented graduates from applying the knowledge and skills theyhave acquired from their tertiary education at their work place. Many have theknowledge but are ineffective when it comes to hands-on application of thatknowledge due to a lack of confidence, and absence of skills, such as, incommunication, decision-making, problem-solving and working as a team. Zhonglei(2004) reiterates that the emphasis in the curriculum has been placed on the pursuitof the target content using the traditional method which has no place for thedevelopment of generic skills. However, PBL can help foster generic skills because the genesis of PBL liesin solving problems, and, hence, self-construct the target knowledge and develop therelevant generic skills. These generic skills developed through PBL are important asthe basis for lifelong learning, and they assist in the learners’ process of learning(Zhonglei, 2004; Wright, n.d.). The University of Wollongong Australia hasrecognised the significance of these generic skills, and hence they have emphasizedthe development of various generic skills in their formal curriculum to complimenttheir undergraduates’ construction of professional knowledge (Wright, n.d.).Macquarie University has also included as part of its teaching and learning plan toequip their Accountancy undergraduates with generic skills which will help them inlifelong learning and increase their chances of employability (Macquarie University,2001).
33 Employers have begun demanding for graduates who are not onlyknowledgeable in their respective disciplines but are also competent in meeting theirlist of generic skills – skills driven by intellectual curiosity which include theflexibility to apply their understanding to new and different situations. This abilityof graduates to use the knowledge and skills, which are developed during theirtertiary education, at their work place is of paramount importance. These genericskills compliment the graduates’ professional knowledge and they support theirlifelong learning process. In the EAP classroom (Wood & Head, 2004), the premedical students areable to solve problems and complete tasks because they are able to integrate as manygeneric skills as possible into their learning process. In the end, they produce theright answers to the problem and learnt premedical English; all by way of using thegeneric skills within the context of PBL. Likewise, in this study, the developmentand role of generic skills will be seen in the same light of being instrumental in theprocess of learning the EOP skills of writing formal reply letters of complaints.2.8 Design Process of PBL Figure 2.1 on the next page describes the design process of PBL. It startswith the facilitator presenting the Poorly-Structured Problem to the learners, and thenthe learners relate the Problem to their classroom situation. Then, they define,summarise and analyse the Problem to be solved. This is the first stage of themetacognitive process of solving the Problem. The facilitator gives the learners theirfirst set of Scaffolds to guide them in their brainstorming session. Then, they form acommittee within the group and assign each member different roles andresponsibilities. The first stage ends with the learners agreeing on a problemstatement.
34 Figure 2.1 is an adapted model of the problem-solving process by Savery andDuffy (1995) and Zhonglei (1994).Stage 1 Presenting the Poorly-Structured Problem(Encountering and (Facilitator presents Problem to learners) Defining the Problem) Relating to Classroom Situation (Learners relate Problem to classroom situation) Defining the Problem Scaffolds 1 (Learners summarise and analyse the Problem) Forming a Committee (Learners form committee within the group) Agreeing on a Focused Problem Statement (Learners agree on a problem statement)Stage 2 Accessing, Evaluating and Utilizing Information(Accessing, (Learners work together to solve Problem) Scaffolds 2 Evaluating and Utilising Information) Presenting the Proposal (Learners synthesize and present proposal within group) Reaching a Consensus (Learners arrive at a conclusion)Stage 3 Synthesizing and Presenting Scaffold #3(Synthesize & the Final Proposal Performance) (Learners present their solutions) Evaluating Session (Peer, self and problem-evaluation) Figure 2.1: Design Process of PBL
35 The second stage of the process of PBL sees the learners accessing,evaluating and utilising information to solve the Problem. They received the secondset of Scaffolds to guide them in using the information to arrive at a proposal andpresent it in the group. In the third stage, the learners with the third set of Scaffoldssynthesize and present the solutions. The process of PBL ends with a sessionevaluating their peers, themselves and the Problem. In this design process, certainsteps may be revisited and repeated. There will be a difference of ideas, learningissues and solutions between the group members and this can be a point ofdiscussion for the whole class.2.9 Characteristics of PBL According to Tan (2003) and Duch (1996), the following are somedistinguishing characteristics of PBL. • Problems are the thrust of the curriculum - the problems do not test language or generic skills, rather, they assist in the development of the skills themselves. • The Problems are poorly-structured – there are more than one solution to the Problems, and as new information is gathered, the perception and, thus, the solution of the Problems changes. • Learners solve the Problems while the teachers act as facilitators. • Learners are given only guidelines as to how to approach the Problems.
36 • Authentic performance-based assessment, which is, Problems that mirror real-world Problems. • Learners share information but they construct their own knowledge. • Interdisciplinary and integrative.2.10 Scaffolds in PBL As shown in Figure 2.1, the facilitator builds Scaffolds into the pedagogy atdifferent phases of the teaching-learning process. The Scaffolds can take the form ofWh-questions such as the following: • What do you know? • What are your thoughts on this problem? • What is meant by the sentence …? • Could you explain what is meant by this term?2.11 Characteristics of a PBL Poorly-Structured Problem Duch (1996) views this messy, unorganised, complex and poorly-structuredProblem as the centre of learning. It should be left open-ended so as to allow forlearner-processing besides motivating them to use their reasoning skills to relate the
37content to their own context and previous knowledge (Albanese & Mitchell, 1993).The problem acts as a catalyst for learning. Blumberg, Soloman and Shehata (1994) say that the content to be exploredby the learners should be achievable with regard to time allocation and resourcesavailable. The effectiveness of PBL on these learners is dependent on themselvesdeveloping learning issues that are synonymous with the proposed objectives. The Problem presented to the learners should be guided by the followingconsiderations (Albanese & Mitchell, 1993). The problem should: • be significant; • be task oriented; • be interdisciplinary; • cover objectives; • be complex enough to incorporate prior knowledge; and • have a common issue that can be replicated in another situation.2.12 Role of the Facilitator in PBL The role of the teacher is changed to that of a facilitator or coach. He playsthe part of cognitive and metacognitive coach rather than the knowledge-holder anddisseminator. He questions, props, monitors, challenges and manages the group
38dynamics to keep the process going. By doing so, he is encouraging the learners tothink critically and make wise decisions. Mardziah (1998) likens this person to onewho is responsible for helping the learners to be resourceful in looking for resourcesthat can help them learn the language more effectively. He does not teach butfacilitates the learning by remaining in the background, and allows the learners tointeract among themselves.2.13 Role of the Learners in PBL The learners will participate actively and collaboratively in the problem-solving process. They should be able to identify what they need to learn and whatresources they are going to use to accomplish that learning. Thus, they design theirown learning to meet their own needs.2.14 Constraints in Implementing PBL The following are some constraints in the implementation of PBL.(a) Cultural Change For successful PBL implementation, both teachers and students need toassume new roles. Teachers are no longer the sages on the stage disseminatinginformation and directing student learning. However, traditional teachers find itdifficult to withhold information when they watch their students struggle withproblems.
39(b) Manpower In implementing PBL, a lot of time is spent designing the Problems.Problems are interdisciplinary, and, thus, a methodology such as PBL will requiremore time to carry out. Lectures, on the contrary, are not interdisciplinary.Albanese & Mitchell (1993) state that lessons conducted using PBL require moreextra time to complete as well.(c) Infrastructure The PBL curricula require learners to work in groups of between four to six,so there must be enough small rooms which are adequately equipped for teaching.Besides, facilitators also need to ensure that there are enough materials for learnersto source from. As such is its nature, it will naturally incur more costs in itsimplementation (Allen et al., 2003).2.15 Conclusion Based on the review of literature, it can be concluded that language teachingand learning has much to gain from the use of PBL in the classroom. Linguists,educationists and teachers will be moving in the right direction if they strive to usethis approach in making the construction of knowledge more meaningful to theirlearners. In the following chapter on Methodology, the preceding discussions on PBLas an approach in language teaching and learning will be put into practice.
40 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY3.1 Introduction This chapter provides an overview of the research design in this study. Itgives an explanation of how the respondents of the study were selected, what thedifferent instruments were, how they were prepared, and how the data was collectedand analysed.3.2 Research Design This study took a qualitative approach that attempted to describe the use ofPBL in enhancing the language skills in an EOP classroom. A qualitative studyfocuses on providing an explanation for Man’s behaviours through subjectiveapproaches which are akin to qualitative measures (Mohd Najib, 2003). Thetriangulation of the data collected was done using pretest and posttest, evaluationsand observations which assisted in the validation of the data. The research designtook the following format:
41 Research FocusTheoretical Framework Pilot Study Population Questionnaire Written Essay Respondents Data Collection Checklist of Generic Skills Pretest Poorly-Structured Problem Checklist of Observation Scaffolds 1 Problem Log 1 Self-Evaluation 1 Group Evaluation 1 Scaffolds 2 Problem Log 2 Scaffolds 3 Problem Log 3 Scaffolds 4 Problem Log 4 Assessment of Oral Presentation Group Evaluation 2 Poorly-Structured Problem Evaluation Self-Evaluation 2 Checklist of Generic Skills Posttest Data Analysis Figure 3.1: Research Design
42 Figure 3.1 describes the research design. It explains how the research startedwith a research focus leading to the theoretical framework. After that a pilot studywas conducted to test the instruments. Then the population was determined, andwith the use of Questionnaire and a Written Essay, the respondents of the study wereidentified. Various instruments were used to collect data. The research design endedwith an analysis of the data gathered. A detailed description of the research designcan be found in the following sections of this chapter. The data for this study was collected over a period of three weeks betweenJuly and August, and all these thirty-one undergraduates went through the process ofPBL in learning EOP language skills. This study used a Questionnaire and a WrittenEssay to collect data on the background of the undergraduates.3.3 Population The population of this study was undergraduates from a local university inSarawak. There were thirty-one of them pursuing a diploma programme in OfficeManagement and Technology, and the duration of the programme was a minimum ofsix semesters. When this study was carried out, they had spent the first threesemesters doing foundation English courses. In their final semester, they had tocomplete an EOP course. The contact hours for the EOP course were six hours perweek. These undergraduates already had prior knowledge of the English tenses, andthey were expected to use English competently in the four language skillscomprising listening, speaking, reading and writing. This EOP course prepared themfor careers directly related to office management. All the undergraduates were Bumiputeras comprising Malays from Sarawak,and the indigeneous races from Sabah and Sarawak. Their entrance qualification
43into the diploma programmes was at least five credits in their SPM including a creditin either the English Language or Bahasa Malaysia.3.4 Sampling Design This study chose its respondents using stratified sampling. This type ofsampling allowed the undergraduates to be grouped according to similar variablesdetermined by the researcher. Some of these variables included age, gender, race,hometown, training obtained, financial status, academic and family background, andthe respondents’ level of proficiency. The respondents for this study were chosenfrom this group of undergraduates. According to Mohd. Najib (2003), this type ofsampling allowed the researcher to pre-determine the stratified population, and thenchoose the sample that best represented the population being investigated.3.5 Respondents Five respondents were chosen of which three were female and two male.Three of them were aged between 21 to 22 years, one was between 23 to 24 yearsand another respondent was 25 years and above. The racial composition comprisedtwo Malays, one Iban, one Bidayuh and one Sikin. All were from Sarawak exceptfor one respondent from Sabah. Two of those from Sarawak were from the urbanareas and the other two were from the rural areas. The respondent from Sabah camefrom an urban area. The highest academic qualification of the respondents prior to studying atthe university was SPM. All of them were in their final semester, and two of them