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International Journal
of
Learning, Teaching
And
Educational Research
p-ISSN:
1694-2493
e-ISSN:
1694-2116
IJLTER.ORG
Vol.19 No.10
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research
(IJLTER)
Vol. 19, No. 10 (October 2020)
Print version: 1694-2493
Online version: 1694-2116
IJLTER
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research (IJLTER)
Vol. 19, No. 10
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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research
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Foreword
We are very happy to publish this issue of the International Journal of
Learning, Teaching and Educational Research.
The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational
Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal committed to
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We will endeavour to ensure the reputation and quality of this journal
with this issue.
Editors of the October 2020 Issue
VOLUME 19 NUMBER 10 October 2020
Table of Contents
Using Systematic Synthetic Phonics to Accelerate Rural Indigenous Children’s Acquisition of Early Literacy
Skills..........................................................................................................................................................................................1
Jia Rong Yap and Mellisa Lee Lee Chin
Active Learning in Economic Subject: A Case Study at Secondary School...................................................................19
Ramlee Ismail, Marinah Awang, Seow Yea Pyng and Muhammad Ridhuan Bos Abdullah
Inclusion of the FuzzyILS Method in MOODLE for Creating Effective Courses......................................................... 32
Antonio Silva Sprock
Supporting Natural Science Pre-Service Teachers during Work-Integrated Learning: A Case of a Lesson Study
Approach ............................................................................................................................................................................... 60
Wiets Botes, Boitumelo Moreeng and Moeketsi Mosia
Effect of Differentiated Instruction on the Achievement and Development of Critical Thinking Skills among
Sixth-Grade Science Students.............................................................................................................................................. 77
Mohammad Salih Al-Shehri
Rethinking Privilege in Teaching English in Japanese Higher Education ..................................................................100
Khatereh Hosseininasab
The Power Sources and Influences of Secondary School Principals in Eastern Ethiopia.......................................... 115
Birhanu Sintayehu
Exploring Educators’ Challenges of Online Learning in Covid-19 at a Rural School, South Africa........................ 134
Kananga Robert Mukuna and Peter J. O. Aloka
Managing Continuing Education via Distance Learning and Face-to-Face Courses for Human Resource
Development in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.............................................................................................................. 150
Phuong-Tam Pham, Tran-Binh Duong, Thi-Thuy-Trang Phan, Thai-Huu Nguyen, Minh-Thanh Nguyen, Trinh Le Thi
Tuyet, Nguyen Duong Hoang, Duong Hoang Yen and Tien-Trung Nguyen
Sociocultural Adaptation and Program Management Strategies for International Doctoral Students of the
“Confucius China Studies Program” ............................................................................................................................... 172
Fan Yang
Autonomous English Language Learning Beyond the Classroom: Indonesian Tertiary Students’ Practices and
Constraints........................................................................................................................................................................... 194
Daflizar
Computer Coding and Choreography: Contrasting Experiences of Learning About Collaboration in Engineering
and Creative Arts................................................................................................................................................................ 214
Nicholas Rowe, Rose Martin and Nasser Giacaman
Instructional Leadership and Students Academic Performance: Mediating Effects of Teacher’s Organizational
Commitment........................................................................................................................................................................ 233
Adeel Ahmed Khan, Soaib Bin Asimiran, Suhaida Abdul Kadir, Siti Noormi Alias, Batool Atta, Bukar Ali Bularafa and
Masood Ur Rehman
The Impact of Inclusion Setting on the Academic Performance, Social Interaction and Self-Esteem of Deaf and
Hard of Hearing Students: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis............................................................................. 248
Sulaiman M. Alshutwi, Aznan Che Ahmad and Lay Wah Lee
Teacher Support for Eliciting Students Mathematical Thinking: Problem Posing, Asking Questions, and Song .265
Ary Woro Kurniasih, Isti Hidayah and Mohammad Asikin
Move to Online Learning during COVID-19 Lockdown: Pre-Service Teachers’ Experiences in Ghana................. 286
Ugorji I. Ogbonnaya, Florence C. Awoniyi and Mogalatjane E. Matabane
Current Methods for Assessing the Level of Foreign Language Proficiency of University Students ..................... 304
Nataliia S. Ivasiv, Mariya S. Kozolup, Olena V. Oleniuk, Nataliia V. Rubel and Nataliya Y. Skiba
Teaching through Experiential Learning Cycle to Enhance Student Engagement in Principles of Accounting.... 323
Rohaila Yusof, Khoo Yin Yin, Norlia Mat Norwani, Zuraidah Ismail, Anis Suriati Ahmad and Salniza Salleh
The Value of Feedback in Primary Schools: Students’ Perceptions of the Practice.................................................... 338
Abatihun Alehegn Sewagegn and Askalemariam Adamu Dessie
Digital Collaboration in Teaching and Learning Activities: The Reflexivity Study on Educational Digital
Empowerment..................................................................................................................................................................... 355
Irwansyah and Sofiatul Hardiah
“This is why students feel lost when they go into teaching practice”: English Language Teachers’ Views on their
Initial Teacher Education................................................................................................................................................... 371
Sue Garton
1
©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research
Vol. 19, No. 10, pp. 1-18, October 2020
https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.19.10.1
Using Systematic Synthetic Phonics to Accelerate
Rural Indigenous Children’s Acquisition of Early
Literacy Skills
Jia Rong Yap
University of Malaya, Jalan Universiti, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8352-682X
Mellisa Lee Lee Chin
University of Malaya, Jalan Universiti, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5049-2205
Abstract. Studies focusing on the strategy of phonics in Malaysia have
highlighted the insufficiency and ineffectiveness of SBELC phonics
training received by teachers, resulting in confusion among them as to
what really constitutes effective use of the phonics strategy. On the other
hand, systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) has been proven beneficial in
accelerating the performance of children in their early literacy. However,
few studies have been conducted on English language learners as the
majority of those research was focused on native speakers of the English
language. Against this background, this article presents a description of a
systematic way of teaching phonics that could inform teachers on how
the strategy can be optimally utilised to accelerate the performance of
students who are possibly at risk of being left behind. It then reports an
investigation that compared the efficacy of SSP against SBELC phonics in
accelerating the acquisition of early literacy skills with a group of
indigenous children residing in the rural parts of Sarawak, Malaysia. Five
instruments; (1) productive letter-sound test, (2) free-sound isolation test,
(3) reading test, (4) spelling test, and (5) oral-reading fluency test were
administered to measure phonemic awareness, decoding, reading, and
spelling ability. Data were collected from the pretest and the posttest. The
results demonstrate that both groups recorded significant improvement
in reading and spelling, but children in the experimental group (SSP)
outperformed the control group (SBELC phonics) significantly. Following
this, SSP should be implemented in classrooms to help accelerate
children’s early reading fluency and spelling ability.
Keywords: early literacy; English language learners; indigenous children;
phonemic awareness; systematic synthetic phonics
2
©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Throughout the course of the reformation of English Language Education (ELE)
in Malaysia, various pedagogical approaches have been employed by the
Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE) to ensure the competent acquisition of
the language among Malaysians (Hazita, 2016). One significant initiative is the
introduction of the Communicative Language Teaching method in the 1982’s
Primary School Integrated Curriculum (KBSR) to promote second language
vocabulary acquisition. This method remains beneficial in the development of
communicative competence (Chin, Karunakaran & Yap, 2019). Presently, the
CEFR-aligned Standards-Based English Language Curriculum [CEFR-aligned
SBELC] (MOE, 2017) continues to map out “pedagogical approaches [that are]
built on the foundations of communicative competences” (pp. 1 – 2). To achieve
this, the CEFR-aligned SBELC recommends the principle of going “back to basics”
and states that “it is essential for teachers to begin with basic literacy skills in order
to build a strong foundation of language skills” (p. 6). Based on this premise, the
MOE’s move to incorporate phonics as a strategy for English teaching and
learning is arguably a step in the right direction in providing a solid foundation
for students’ subsequent successful acquisition of the English language. Indeed,
phonics as a useful strategy for early literacy has been widely acknowledged by
both international (e.g., Ehri, 2020; Wyse & Goswami, 2008) and local researchers
(e.g., Su & Hawkins, 2013; Zulkifli & Melor, 2019) alike. First introduced in 2011
and as stipulated in the then newly-revamped Standards-Based English Language
Curriculum (SBELC), “the Years 1 and 2 learning standards address basic literacy
using the strategies of phonics to develop phonemic awareness in pupils to enable
them to become independent readers by the end of Year 2” (MOE, 2011, pp. 8-9).
This strategy is carried over into the CEFR-aligned SBELC, with two dedicated
documents now prepared by the MOE to guide teachers with classroom phonics
teaching and learning practices.
However, despite the Malaysian government’s substantial investment in revising
the English language curriculum and providing continuous professional
development courses to teachers, several key challenges remain to be addressed.
Fundamentally, the implementation of CEFR-aligned SBELC left much to be
desired because teachers lack a full understanding of the suggested teaching
methods, and have limited knowledge of the curriculum altogether due to the
inadequacy of training (Sidhu, Kaur & Chi, 2018). Next, studies focusing on the
strategy of phonics in Malaysia (e.g., Nadiah Yan, Napisah & Mariyatunnitha,
2014; Rabindra, Nooreiny & Hamidah, 2016) have similarly highlighted the
inconsistency, insufficiency, and ineffectiveness of the SBELC phonics training
received by teachers, resulting in misconceptions and confusion among teachers
as to what really constitutes effective use of the phonics strategy.
In this regard, systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) could be the answer to the
abovementioned issues. Educational groups in Anglophone countries such as the
United States of America’s National Institute of Child Health and Development,
the United Kingdom’s Department for Education and Skills (through
recommendations of The Rose Review, 2006), New Zealand Ministry of
Education’s Literacy Experts Group, and Australian National Inquiry into the
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©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
Teaching of Literacy have acknowledged the centrality of SSP in accelerating the
acquisition of early literacy (Bowey, 2011; Jolliffe, Waugh & Gill, 2019). As
suggested in the term itself, the superiority of SSP lies in its systematicity. It begins
with developing learners’ phonemic awareness through the letter-sound training
(both productive and receptive), followed by the five-phase phonics training, and
the after-phase blending and segmenting practices. Additionally, SSP includes
pseudowords to ensure children apply the phonics strategy in reading and
spelling. In comparison, the SBELC phonics conducts the letter-sound training
and phonics training concurrently. It uses only real words, with occasional
blending and segmenting activities. Unsurprisingly, findings from the present
study have shown the experimental group (SSP) outperforming the control group
(SBLEC phonics) in their early literacy skills.
Against this background, the purpose of this article is two-fold. First, it advocates
for and presents a detailed description of a systematic way of teaching phonics
that could inform teachers on how the strategy can be optimally utilised to
accelerate the performance of students who may be at risk of being left behind (or
are still preliterate at Primary 1/Primary 2). Second, as a means of supporting the
effectiveness of SSP, it reports an investigation that compared the SSP programme
with SBELC phonics in imparting early literacy skills among young learners in the
rural setting. In the study, early literacy was defined as reading fluency and
writing in the form of spelling ability, whereby children’s performances were
measurable for documentation purposes (Purewal, 2008).
2. Literature Review
2.1 Phonics for Early Literacy
Fundamentally, phonics is a goal of enabling learners to associate sounds to the
prints and subsequently to transfer this skill into reading or spelling. It is also an
umbrella term that constitutes an organised set of rules about vowels, consonant-
blends and syllables, the key to which is to recover the sounds from the prints
(Griffith & Olson, 1992). It reflects Rose’s (2006) Simple View of Reading that
posits reading as a two-process skill; (i) the automatic word recognition skills, and
(ii) the ability to tap into prior knowledge and experience to gain comprehension.
The fundamental step in achieving word recognition is decoding, whereby a child
can associate the sounds (phonemes) represented by a letter or a combination of
letters (graphemes), and to identify the complete word (Rose, 2006). Rose (2006)
further emphasises that decoding is the precursor to comprehension and as such,
children need to first acquire the decoding skills in their beginning reading before
they are to progress to the task of comprehension.
Having said that, for successful teaching of reading and spelling through phonics,
the development of learners’ foundation in phonemic awareness should take
precedence. According to Cunningham (1988, as cited in Griffith & Olson, 1992),
phonemic awareness is the understanding that the sounds of a spoken language
work together to make words. Specifically, phonemic awareness does not sound
out words, but its skill enables children to use grapheme-phoneme relationships
to read and spell words by understanding the structure of the spoken language.
Ukrainetz et al. (2000) propose that this can be achieved by carefully choosing the
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©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
type of phonics instructions, defined as teaching practices that are designed to
help students acquire knowledge of the relationships between graphemes and
phonemes, and the ability to do blending (Armbruster, Lehr & Osborn, 2001). An
essential component of phonics, blending is the process of putting individual
phonemes together to read a complete word and it requires phonemic awareness
(Griffith & Olson, 1992). Beck and Beck (2013) further recommend scaffolding
blending whereby this sequential process of learners sounding each phoneme,
remembering the sequence, and blending the segments be developed. This
scaffolding blending process was integrated into this study as part of the
systematic synthetic phonics programme, which is discussed in further detail in
the subsequent section.
2.2 Systematic Synthetic Phonics
The term ‘Systematic Synthetic Phonics’ engaged in this study is composed of two
major concepts; (i) systematic phonics instruction, and (ii) synthetic phonics.
Exactly a score years ago, the US National Reading Panel (2000) released a 449-
page report which reviewed more than 100000 research studies on reading and
has recommended systematic phonics instruction for reading. Correspondingly,
Mesmer and Griffith (2005) explain that a systematic phonics programme
encompasses three elements; (i) a curriculum with a specific, sequential set of
phonics elements, (ii) instruction that is direct, precise and unambiguous, and (iii)
opportunities for learners to use phonics to read words. As for synthetic phonics,
this approach begins by teaching learners the identification of phonemes that are
represented by graphemes in a word, before putting them together to form a
complete word (de Graaff, Bosman, Hasselman & Verhoeven, 2009). It shares the
principles in the bottom-up processing of reading which views the ability to
decode efficiently and to recognise words automatically as vital skills. De Graaff
et al. (2009) suggest that once learners grasped these basic grapheme-phonemes
correspondences (GPCs), they can decode a number of words in English without
much difficulty and hence expand their reading vocabulary.
2.3 Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme
The Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) programme in this study embraces all the
elements of systematic phonics presented by Mesmer and Griffith (2005) and is
inspired by de Graaff et al.’s (2009) computer-assisted model which has been
modified into a human model. This SSP programme contains two parts. Firstly,
the letter-sound training introduces the phonemes and their represented
graphemes and is organised into two sections: (i) the receptive and (ii) the
productive. In the receptive way of training, the teacher says aloud a phoneme
twice and then places four graphemes cards (1 target phoneme, 3 distractors)
before their learners. The learners listen to the phoneme uttered and select its
corresponding grapheme out of the four cards. In the productive way of training,
the learners see the grapheme cards first and point at the corresponding
graphemes as the teacher produces the phonemes orally. Once the learners have
undergone the letter-sound training and successfully mastered all the phonemes
and their corresponding graphemes, they advance into the phonics training.
In this part of the programme (phonics training), learners are required to practise
reading, blending, and segmenting randomly presented words and pseudowords.
5
©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
Pseudowords are a pronounceable combination of graphemes that have the
characteristics of a known real word but are not real words according to common
English dictionaries (Cardenas, 2009, in de Graff et al., 2009). For instance, the
phoneme ai/eɪ/ may form words such as ‘sail’ and ‘bail’, or pseudowords like
‘dail’ and ‘phail’. Their integration is unique to this SSP programme, as using both
words and pseudowords will ensure learners acquire the intended phonics
knowledge for reading, and the syllabic patterns for spelling (Harris & Hodges,
1995). This phonics training is planned to be carried out in stages, with a
predetermined number of target GPCs in each stage. Nevertheless, despite the
emphasis on adhering to the scope and sequence of introducing the GPCs, the
teacher holds the autonomy in deciding the number of GPCs to begin with in the
first stage, and the addition of new GPCs in the subsequent stages until all 44
phonemes are covered. The decision can be made depending on their learners’
capability and progress.
Another important feature of this SSP programme is that each stage comprises
five phases. In Phase 1, the graphemes at the beginning and the end of the
word/pseudoword [(pseudo)word] are given. In Phase 2, only the grapheme at
the end is given. In Phase 3, the grapheme at the beginning is given. In Phase 4,
no graphemes are given and in Phase 5, a complete CVC (pseudo)word is given.
Specifically, in Phase 5, learners have to select the corresponding (pseudo)word
spoken by the teacher out of the four presented word-cards (1 target word, 3
distractors). The construction of 15 words in the first four phases and the
synthesising of 10 words in Phase 5 entitle the learners to proceed to an extended
blending and segmenting practice. In this after-phase activity, the teacher will
demonstrate smooth blending (the sounding of phonemes without pausing) and
smooth segmenting (the automatic association of a phoneme to its grapheme) as
a part of the skills training. For the next two sessions, learners practise blending
to form complete (pseudo)words and segmenting them for spelling. When all the
five phases within a stage are completed and the learners are able to blend and
segment 10 (pseudo)words, they progress to the next stage. A summary of the
phases and an overview of the SSP programme are presented in Table 1 and
Figure 1, respectively.
Table 1: Summarised details of phases in a stage in SSP
Phase
Sample Item
(CVC word)
Description Example
1
maid jail train
snail float foam
goat toast ties
lies pies dies
sheep green cheek
wheel torch sport
fork form
*words in italic are
used as examples
Graphemes at the beginning and the
end are given
m__d
f__m
2 Grapheme at the end is given
__ __ d
__ __ m
3 Grapheme at the beginning is given
m__ __
f__ __
4 No graphemes are given/presented
___ ___ ___
___ ___ ___
5
A complete CVC (pseudo)word is
given. Learners select the
corresponding (pseudo)word spoken
by the teacher out of the 4 wordcards
given (1 target word, 3 distractors)
1. maid**
2. foam
3. form
4. green
**target word
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©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
Figure 1. An overview of the Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme
To date, despite the growing body of literature that supports the benefits of
systematic synthetic phonics, little studies have been conducted on children who
are English language learners as the majority of those research was focused on
native speakers of the English language (McGeown, Johnston & Medford, 2012;
Watts & Gardner, 2012; Wyse & Goswami, 2008; Yap, 2014). Therefore, as outlined
in the purpose of this article, the next section presents a quantitative randomised
comparison experimental study that investigated the effects of SSP and SBELC
phonics on reading fluency and spelling ability with a group of indigenous
children (Iban) residing in the rural parts of Sarawak. These children were likely
to be at a higher risk of falling behind their city peers in early literacy if their ability
to read in the English language was not addressed in time (UNICEF, 2008). The
hypothesis and research questions are as follows:
The indigenous children who undergo SSP training will attain higher levels of
reading fluency and spelling ability than the children who receive SBELC phonics
training.
1. What is the relative effect of SSP as compared to the SBELC phonics on
children’s early reading fluency?
2. What is the relative effect of SSP as compared to the SBELC phonics on
children’s early spelling ability?
3. Method
The experimental study, which was quantitative in nature, took place in a real-life
natural setting of an educational organisation. It intended to prove the hypothesis
by determining whether or not the independent variable (the type of phonics
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©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
training) caused an effect on the dependent variable (the children’s reading
fluency and spelling ability). It followed the features of a true experimental study
with the inclusion of three key components – (i) pre-posttest design, (ii) a
treatment (or experimental) group and a control group, and (iii) random
assignment of study participants (Carpenter et al., 1989).
3.1 Participants
The participants in the present study consisted of 32 Primary 2 schoolchildren, in
which they were equally and randomly assigned into either the experimental or
the control group. They were from three neighbouring national schools located in
the rural parts of Bintulu, Sarawak. This study had engaged a non-probability
sampling method in the recruitment of participants, as they were the researchers’
existing students and students of English teachers known to the researchers. Table
2 shows the participants’ mean age, socioeconomic status, and level of
proficiency from the SBELC school-based assessment.
Table 2: Participants’ background
Mean age 92.6 months (SD = 3.5 months)
Socioeconomic status Good Average Hardcore Poor
15 8 9
Level of proficiency
from SBELC assessment
Band 3 Band 2 Band 1
7 20 5
The children were a homogenous group from the indigenous tribe of ‘Iban or Sea
Dayak’. Before primary education, all 32 participants had received a year of
kindergarten education and mastered all the 26 letter-names in the English
alphabet. However, formal learning and immersion into English language only
began in Primary 1. As SBELC phonics began in Primary 1, they had learned and
mastered 30 GPCs of 21 consonants, five short vowels, and four digraphs. This
conclusion was made based on the results of the achievement test where all 32 of
them received perfect scores, conducted at the beginning of 2013. The objectives
and nature of the experiment were explained to the participants’ parents prior to
obtaining their consent. They also met the following inclusion criteria: (a)
indigenous children from the rural parts in Sarawak, (b) learning English as a
foreign language, (c) undergoing SBELC phonics for reading, and (d), the ability
to attend phonics training for 30 minutes a day.
3.2 Phonics Training Procedure
The experiment consisted of two types of training: the SSP and the SBELC
phonics. Both phonics-training programmes contained 40 sessions of 30-minute
each that were executed over a period of eight weeks. The training duration and
session were planned in conformity with the SBELC phonics scheme-of-work. The
participants had 60 minutes of English lesson daily from Mondays to Fridays and
learnt approximately nine GPCs in eight weeks. The researcher purchased
commercially available Jolly Phonics products from the authorised distributor in
Malaysia and conducted the SSP training with the experimental group. This study
recruited the help of one phonics-instruction trained teacher to act as the SBELC
phonics trainer and also as the inter-rater (Teacher X). Teacher X carried out
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©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
SBELC Phonics training with the control group using the materials in the form of
textbook and teachers’ guidebook provided by the MOE. Prior to the actual
experimentation, the researcher and Teacher X (the trainers) simulated the
training procedures in SSP and SBELC Phonics twice to ensure a uniform
administration of the phonics training.
3.3 Training Scope and Sequence
Scope refers to the content of the phonics instruction and the range of GPCs
covered, while sequence is the order for teaching the GPCs. Both the experimental
and control groups were given the same 11 long vowel and diphthong sounds
(phonemes) represented by 16 graphemes. Thus, both groups have 16 GPCs
(ai/eɪ/, oa/əʊ/, ie/aɪ/, ee/iː/, or/ɔː/, oo/ʊ/, oo/uː/, oi/ɔɪ/, ou/aʊ/, er/əː/,
ar/ɑː/, ay/eɪ/, ow/əʊ/, igh/aɪ/, ea/iː/, and ue/uː/). The IPA symbols were not
introduced to the participants to avoid possible confusion.
3.3.1 Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) Training
Following the procedure as presented in Figure 1, the SSP training began with the
letter-sound training in which one GPC was taught in each session and altogether
16 sessions were allocated for this. The phonics training comprised 24 sessions
and required the participants to practise reading, blending, and segmenting
randomly presented (pseudo)words in five stages. At Stage A, children practised
with randomly presented (pseudo)words with the five GPCs of ai/eɪ/, oa/əʊ/,
ie/aɪ/, ee/iː/, and or/ɔː/. Each participant was given two attempts to listen to
the (pseudo)words given by the researcher and fill in the blanks with the
grapheme-cards provided to form the complete CVC (pseudo)words. Upon the
second erroneous attempt, the correct answer was given. Participants jotted down
the correctly formed words into their personal logbooks as a record of their
individual progress. This allowed them to proceed at an individual pace. The
participants went through the five phases in each stage (see Table 1). Three new
GPCs were added in Stage B (oo/ʊ/, oo/uː/, oi/ɔɪ/), Stage C (ou/aʊ/, er/əː/,
ar/ɑː/), Stage D (ay/eɪ/, ow/əʊ/, igh/aɪ/) and lastly, two in Stage E (ea/iː/,
ue/uː/). When all the five stages have been completed, children repeated the five
phases in Stage E until all 24 sessions were fulfilled.
3.3.2 SBELC Phonics Training
The letter-sound training and phonics training ran concurrently in SBELC phonics
training. Teacher X extracted the phonics components, the accompanying word
list and reading texts from the SBELC Year 2 English textbook and followed the
phonics instructions and activities stipulated in it. The SBELC phonics training
procedure was repetitive in nature, beginning with the introduction to and
practices of sounding out the target phonemes. The children were to associate a
phoneme to its corresponding grapheme by choosing the correct letter card. Then,
they were instructed to listen to a list of words presented to them by Teacher X
and to orally identify the vowel sound in those words. For example, the vowel
sound in ‘broach’ is oa/əʊ/. After that, they were expected to know how to blend
and segment by using the list of words provided in the textbook. The phonics
training of every unit ended with a reading text. The text integrated some of the
target GPCs and encompassed CVC, CV and VC words. The reading texts also
contained two- and three-syllable words that required Teacher X to demonstrate
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©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
using the whole-word approach. In each unit, two new phonemes were
introduced, with no reference or revision of the past phoneme learnt.
3.4 Instruments
The trainers attended two training sessions a fortnight before the pretest in April
to ensure a uniform administration of the tests. The tests took place in the evening
at the school’s library, after the day’s schooling session has concluded. The whole
process was digitally recorded for all five tests, to allow for an after-test review
and cross-examination between the trainers. Also, the Malaysian English
curriculum uses Standard British English as a reference and model for teaching
the language, as well as for spelling and pronunciation for standardisation (MOE,
2011). As such, the judgment of the pronunciation of phonemes cross-referred to
the phonemic chart from the British Council website. The judgment of the
pronunciation of words was cross-referred with oxforddictionaries.com.
Nonetheless, following studies by Wang and Koda (2005), all acceptable
pronunciations were scored correct. For example, the word ‘sail’ pronounced as
/seɪl/ and /sɛl/ were both acceptable.
Pretest and Posttest. The participants were tested twice; before the experiment
commenced in May (pretest) and after the experiment in August (posttest). Five
tests measuring (a) productive letter-sound knowledge, (b) phonemic awareness,
(c) reading ability, (d) segmenting/spelling ability, and (e) sentence-level reading
ability were administered to each child individually for a maximum of 30 minutes
each. Tests (a) to (d) and their scoring criteria were adapted from de Graaff et al.
(2009). Test (e) and its scoring criteria were adapted from Eun (2012). The
adaptations were necessary as the content needed to correspond to the phonemes
introduced in this study. Each of the instruments is elaborated below.
Productive Letter-Sound Test (PLST). This test measured the participants’
knowledge of the GPCs. They were given letter cards containing the sixteen GPCs
presented during the letter-sound training and asked to produce the phonemes.
The trainers gave a short demonstration (using the GPCs ur/ɜː/, ng/ŋ/) and the
children practised with two non-tested GPCs (a/æ/, ch/ʧ/) before the actual
testing commenced. This test carried a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score
of 16, with 1 point being given for each successful sound-production.
Free Sound-Isolation Test (FSIT). This test was conducted to test the participants’
phonemic awareness. They were presented with a list of 12 consonant-vowel (CV)
and 36 consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words (see Table 3). These words were
selected from the SBELC Year 2 English textbook, and they included the vowel
sounds presented in the experiment. The children were asked to segment the
words on the word chart into their individual sounds or to identify the phonemes
present in a word. For example, the word ‘pail’ has three phonemes /p/eɪ/l/.
Those children who have achieved phonemic awareness would be able to identify
and say /p/,/eɪ/ and /l/. The trainers gave a short demonstration and children
practised orally with two non-tested words before the actual test began. This test
carried a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 132, with 1 point being
awarded for each successful sound- production.
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Table 3: Free Sound-Isolation Test
Demonstrated word: pail
Practiced words: coat, fork
CV words CVC words
bow loud float stern
lie farm sheep cart
flow maid hook light
tray dream boil jail
die train herd foam
day mouth room cheek
grow form night shook
true moon cream coin
glue cloud boat nerd
pie sharp green sport
play torch look fight
sue peak join stool
Reading Test (RT). A total of 3 CV, 13 CVC words, and 3 CV, 13 CVC pseudowords
were administered to gauge the children’s blending skills (see Table 4). The final
list was derived from a combination of (pseudo)words formed from the 21
consonants, 14 digraphs acquired in Primary 1, and the 16 vowel sounds
presented during the training. The items were both in accordance with the 5 stages
of SSP training and SBELC Phonics training. To elaborate, the vowel sounds from
Stage A formed 10 items, Stages B to D formed six items each and lastly, Stage E
formed four items. The children were presented with the list of 32 (pseudo)words
and were required to read each (pseudo)word aloud. In the event of a child
mispronouncing a word, they were instructed to engage their blending skills.
However, if they still could not read the word after two additional tries, they
would proceed to the next word. This test carried a minimum score of 0 and a
maximum score of 32, with 1 point awarded for each successful (pseudo)word
produced.
Table 4: Summary of words formed from stages A – E
Stage Phoneme Word Pseudoword Number of Item
A ai /eɪ/
oa /əʊ/
ie /aɪ/
ee /iː/
or /ɔː/
said
gloat
lie
steep
stork
bain
coam
wie
cheel
chorm
10
B oo /ʊ/
oo /uː/
oi /ɔɪ/
crook
droop
coil
pook
flop
moin
6
C ou /aʊ/
er /əː/
ar /ɑː/
stout
perch
chart
boust
wern
spart
6
D ay/eɪ/
ow /əʊ/
igh /aɪ/
dray
grow
flight
glay
drow
spight
6
E ea /iː/
ue /uː/
speak
glue
pleak
crue
4
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Segmenting Skill/ Spelling Test (ST). The 32 items presented during the reading test
were reemployed to determine children’s spelling ability. The children were
asked to write the sounds they heard in a (pseudo)word, in sequential order. This
test carried a maximum score of 32, with 1 point awarded for each (pseudo)word
spelt correctly.
Oral-Reading Fluency Test (ORFT). This test was administered to determine the
participants’ reading fluency, defined as the ability to read a piece of text
automatically and accurately with expressions. However, prosody was not
included in the test as studies by Jiang, Sawaki and Sabatini (2012) and Lems
(2003, in Eun, 2012) have reported on the difficulty to achieve an acceptable
reliability given the subjective nature of deciding desirable prosody. The text was
adopted from Jolly Readers Level 2, published by Jolly Learning Limited. It
featured words that were phonetically decodable, and could be sounded out with
the 21 consonants, 14 digraphs acquired in Primary 1, and the 16 vowel sounds
presented during training in the current study. However, unlike the Reading Test
(RT), ORFT assessed participants’ ability to read at the sentence level by counting
the number of words the children read in a minute.
ORFT was conducted in this manner. The trainers and the children each had a
copy of the same reading text. The children were instructed to begin reading aloud
and while they read, the trainers noted any errors the children made by circling
the mispronounced words in their copy. Once the minute on the stopwatch held
by trainers was up, they marked in their sheet the children’s progress at the 60th
second and let them finish reading the text. The trainers then totalled the number
of words read within 60 seconds and subtracted them with errors made by the
children. For the purpose of this study, only errors made on the trained vowel
sounds were considered. For example, if ‘Child A’ read 65 words in a minute but
made a total of 6 errors (2 untrained-vowel words, 4 trained-vowel words), their
reading rate would be 61 words correct per minute. The children’s oral reading
fluency rate was compared against the benchmark adapted from Johns and
Berglund (2009), which states that the average second grade or primary 2
students’ mean words targets is 50 correct words per minute in February, 70 in
June, and 90 in October.
3.5 Data Analysis
Data for this study were analysed using IBM Statistical Packages for Social
Sciences (SPSS) version 21. The findings are presented in two parts. The first part
consists of the analysis of the pretest for both the experimental (SSP) and control
groups (SBELC Phonics) using independent samples t-test. This was conducted in
order to establish equality among both groups’ early literacy levels before the
intervention. Levene’s test for equality of variance was applied. Next, the
hypothesis and research questions were addressed through the analyses of
paired-samples t-test for each outcome variable. A paired-samples t-test was used
to compare the means of the pretest and posttest scores obtained from the
experimental group and control group, in order to determine the effectiveness of
the phonics training by looking at the significant difference between the two
scores.
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4. Findings and Discussion
4.1 Analyses of Pretest
The results of the pretest aimed at establishing the assumption of equality of
variance are presented in Tables 5 and 6. The null hypothesis to be tested (Ho: µE
= µC) states that the PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT pretest mean scores of the
experimental group are equal to the pretest mean scores of the control group.
Conversely, the alternative hypothesis (H1: µE ≠ µC) states that the pretests PLST,
FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT mean scores of the experimental group are not equal to
the pretests mean scores of the control group. The significance level alpha is
specified at .05.
Table 5: Descriptive statistics
Groups N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error
Mean
PLST Experimental 16 5.688 1.195 0.299
Control 16 5.750 1.390 0.348
FSIT Experimental 16 96.625 7.013 1.753
Control 16 96.938 6.547 1.637
RT Experimental 16 10.375 2.446 0.612
Control 16 10.750 2.206 0.552
ST Experimental 16 7.500 2.129 0.532
Control 16 8.125 2.306 0.576
ORFT Experimental 16 34.500 5.808 1.452
Control 16 34.438 6.491 1.623
Table 6: Independent samples t-test
Levene’s
Test for
Equality of
Variances
t-test for Equality of Means
F Sig. t df
Sig. (2-
tailed)
Mean
Diff.
Std. Error
Diff.
95% CI of
Difference
Lower Upper
PLST .104 .750 -.136 30 .892 -.063 .458 -.999 .874
FSIT .062 .805 -.130 30 .897 -.313 2.399 -5.211 4.586
RT .239 .628 -.455 30 .652 -.375 .823 -2.057 1.307
ST .085 .772 -.797 30 .432 -.625 .785 -2.227 .977
ORFT .092 .763 .029 30 .977 .063 2.177 -4.385 4.510
As shown in Table 6, since all the significant value was greater than alpha at .05
level of significance, there was no sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis.
It can be concluded that there is no significant difference between experimental
and control groups’ pretest scores in PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT. Results from
the Levene’s test also showed that the equality of variances is assumed. Therefore,
participants in both groups had similar levels of reading fluency and spelling
ability and so were deemed comparable prior to the intervention.
4.2 The Relative Effect of SSP and SBELC Phonics Training
To find out if there was a difference between the posttest scores of PLST, FSIT, RT,
ST and ORFT assessments of the SSP group and SBELC phonics group, an analysis
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of paired-samples t-test was computed. This was to analyse the mean scores of the
pretest and the posttest of the experimental and control groups. The significance
level is specified at .05 (alpha, α = .05). Results are presented in Tables 7 and 8 (for
the experimental group), and Tables 9 and 10 (for the control group). To address
the hypothesis that the children who undergo the SSP training would
demonstrate a better improvement in their reading fluency and spelling ability
than the children of SBELC phonics, a comparison was made by looking at the
higher Partial Eta Squared value of the two groups. The null hypothesis to be
tested (Ho: µ1 = µ2 or µ1 - µ2 = 0) states that the PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT
mean scores of the pretest are equal to the mean scores of the posttest. Conversely,
the alternative hypothesis (H1: µ1≠ µ2 or µ1 - µ2 ≠ 0) states that the PLST, FSIT,
RT, ST and ORFT mean scores of the pretest are not equal to the mean scores of
the posttest.
Table 7. Paired samples descriptive statistics for the experimental group
N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error
Mean
PLST Pretest 16 5.688 1.195 .299
Posttest 16 13.876 1.857 .464
FSIT Pretest 16 96.625 7.013 1.753
Posttest 16 118.750 9.842 2.461
RT Pretest 16 10.375 2.446 .612
Posttest 16 24.875 3.096 .774
ST Pretest 16 7.500 2.129 .532
Posttest 16 19.250 3.493 .873
ORFT Pretest 16 34.500 5.808 1.452
Posttest 16 44.375 6.956 1.739
Table 8. Paired samples t-test for the experimental group
Paired
Differences
t df
Sig. (2-
tailed)
Partial
ETA
Squared
95% CI of
Difference
Mean SD Lower Upper
PLST (PT-PST) -8.188 1.109 -29.54 15 .000 .880 -8.778 -7.597
FSIT (PT-PST) -22.125 3.557 -24.88 15 .000 .641 -24.020 -20.230
RT (PT-PST)) -14.500 1.633 -35.52 15 .000 .878 -15.370 -13.630
ST ((PT-PST) -11.750 2.266 -20.74 15 .000 .815 -12.957 -10.543
ORFT (PT-PST) -9.875 2.825 -13.98 15 .000 .388 -11.381 -8.369
Note. PT – Pretest, PST - Posttest
On average, based on the descriptive statistics shown in Table 7, it seems that the
experimental group performed better in the posttest. Since all mean differences
are negative (see Table 8), the posttest results are better than the pretest results.
The results suggest that there is sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis as
all the significant value was smaller than alpha at .05 level of significance. Thus,
it can be concluded that SSP had a significant effect on the children’s reading
fluency and spelling ability.
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Table 9. Paired samples descriptive statistics for the control group
N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error
Mean
PLST Pretest 16 5.750 1.390 .348
Posttest 16 10.188 1.940 .449
FSIT Pretest 16 96.938 6.550 1.637
Posttest 16 108.563 9.252 2.313
RT Pretest 16 10.750 2.206 .552
Posttest 16 20.313 3.005 .751
ST Pretest 16 8.125 2.306 .576
Posttest 16 14.063 2.670 .668
ORFT Pretest 16 34.438 6.491 1.623
Posttest 16 39.938 7.316 1.829
Table 10. Paired samples t-test for the control group
Paired
Differences t df
Sig. (2-
tailed)
Partial
ETA
Squared
95% CI of
Difference
Mean SD Lower Upper
PLST (PT-PST) -4.438 1.504 -11.80 15 .000 .648 -5.239 -3.636
FSIT (PT-PST) -11.625 4.745 -9.80 15 .000 .359 -14.154 -9.096
RT (PT-PST)) -9.563 2.309 -16.57 15 .000 .778 -10.793 -8.332
ST ((PT-PST) -5.938 2.462 -9.65 15 .000 .602 -7.250 -4.625
ORFT (PT-PST) -5.500 1.713 -12.85 15 .000 .144 -6.413 -4.587
Note. PT – Pretest, PST – Posttest
Overall, based on the descriptive statistics shown in Table 9, participants in the
control group appears to perform better in the posttest as compared to the pretest.
From the results of the paired samples t-test (Table 10), since all mean differences
are negative, the posttest results are better than the pretest results. Since all the
significant value was smaller than alpha at .05 level of significance, there was
sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis. It can be concluded that SBELC
phonics had a significant effect on children’s reading fluency and spelling ability.
As can be seen, the mean differences between the pretest and posttest for all five
assessments show a significant increase in the reading and spelling performances
for both experimental (see Table 8) and control (see Table 10) groups at .05 level
of significance. However, as seen in the Partial Eta Squared values, the
experimental group gained significantly higher in all the five assessments (PLST
= .880, FSIT = .641, RT = .878, ST = .815, ORFT = .388) compared to the control
group (PLST = .648, FSIT = .359, RT = .778, ST = .602, ORFT = .144). This confirms
the hypothesis that children who undergo SSP will attain higher levels of reading
fluency and spelling ability than those who receive SBELC phonics.
4.3 Using Systematic Synthetic Phonics to Accelerate the Acquisition of Early
Literacy Skills
Findings from this study have shown that synthetic phonics, whether systematic
(SSP programme) or unsystematic (SBELC phonics), helps children to develop
their decoding skills which apply in reading regular or phonetically decodable
words. Children from the experimental and control groups recorded significant
growth in their decoding ability (assessed through the RT, ST and ORFT). This
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indicates that both approaches were beneficial in building their blending and
segmenting skills (two components of synthetic phonics) that had contributed to
their improvement in beginning reading. Nonetheless, the experimental group
had higher levels of attainment as compared to the control group in productive
letter-sound knowledge, phonemic awareness, reading at world level, and
spelling, while achieving a similar level in passage reading with the control group.
As aforementioned, phonics training only comes after the letter-sound training in
the SSP programme. To elaborate, what this essentially means is that the superior
performance of the SSP group could be attributed to the following strategies. The
reading-supporting strategies were presented in the productive letter-sound
training (from grapheme to phoneme), Phase 5 (from written word to oral form)
and the after-phase blending session of the phonics training. The spelling-
supporting strategies involved the receptive letter-sound training (from phoneme
to grapheme), Phases 1 through 5 (from oral form to written word) and the after-
phase segmenting activities of the phonics training. The success also lay in the
implementation of phases and stages. Children were only allowed to progress to
the next phase after completing the current phase, and were only promoted to the
next stage after mastering the 5 phases, blending and segmenting sessions in each
stage.
To encapsulate, SSP could be the answer for teachers of learners who may be at
risk of being left behind and those from a disadvantaged background such as the
indigenous groups and/or rural schools (Johnson & Tweedie, 2010) to gain similar
improvements in their learners’ early literacy in English language. The empirical
evidence gathered in the current study also serves to confirm the success of similar
projects using systematic phonics for beginning reading (e.g., Hawkins & Su,
2013; Zulkifli & Melor, 2019). However, in addition to reporting the effectiveness
of the SSP programme, this article has also thoroughly described the principles
and step-by-step procedure of how teachers can carry out the systematic synthetic
phonics training in classrooms with their learners. This corresponds with findings
from Rabindra et al.’s (2016) study in which teachers are calling for “a specific
training session on phonics” as information from courses is often “in a diluted and
watered form” (p. 14). This too possibly answers Warid’s (2015) calls for more
guidance and support for teachers of English Language in indigenous rural
schools.
5. Conclusion
This study has examined the application of the phonics method in improving
young children’s early literacy. As discussed previously, reading consists of two
distinct components: (i) word-recognition and (ii) comprehension. Phonics
instruction supports the development of children’s decoding ability that enhances
their word-recognition and thus improves their overall early literacy. In this
regard, the highly systematic strategies prescribed in SSP can provide a
methodological sequence of introducing the synthetic phonics skills and letter-
sound training. Children in the present study had felt a sense of achievement
when they used the SSP strategies and successfully read storybooks
independently (Jolly Readers Level 1 and Level 2 had been given for reading after
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©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
the training). This was achieved despite the children’s language-disadvantaged
background.
Based on the findings, the followings recommendations are offered for further
investigations. Firstly, as an improvement, future studies can be repeated for a
longer period of time, possibly for the entire school year, and begin phonics
training of all the 44 phonemes at the beginning of the school term. Doing so may
provide a better idea of whether a complete SSP program helps rural children
develop early reading fluency and spelling ability, and if the intervention helps in
their overall acquisition of literacy skills in the English language. Another
consideration for future research is to increase the sample size for the study,
possibly by extending the intervention to other rural schools. Doing so will enable
the researcher(s) to collect and analyse more data across more settings and
enhance the generalisability of SSP in developing early literacy. Finally, this study
focused on word recognition only and has yet to study the effects of SSP on
reading comprehension. It is therefore recommended future research to explore
this area by incorporating the assessments on complete reading processes; both
word recognition and comprehension.
6. Acknowledgments
The authors offer their sincerest appreciation to Kuang Ching Hei for her
encouragement, and the blind reviewers for their assistance and constructive
feedback that have led to the publication of this paper.
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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research
Vol. 19, No. 10, pp. 19-31, October 2020
https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.19.10.2
Active Learning in Economic Subject:
A Case Study at Secondary School
Ramlee Ismail*, Marinah Awang and Seow Yea Pyng
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Perak, Malaysia
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0511-0343
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7734-6366
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7720-4875
Muhammad Ridhuan Bos Abdullah
Universiti Utara Malaysia, Malaysia
https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2018-8605
Abstract. This study aims to investigate the impact of active learning in
the economics subject in Perak secondary school on students’
achievement, motivation, interest, and social interaction. This study
applies a quasi-experimental research design, which involves the control
and the treatment groups with thirty and thirty-four participants,
respectively. The active learning materials for the treatment group were
based on active learning methods provided by the Ministry of Education
with support from structured lesson plans namely: simulations,
discussions, brainstorming, case studies, and visits in the school’s
compound. A questionnaire is also used to measure students’
motivation, interest and social interaction before and after the
intervention. The results showed that students who had experienced
active learning activities score higher than their counterparts
significantly for topic 1 and 2. Besides, findings show that they were
motivated and interested in learning economics through active learning
compared to the traditional approach. However, the researchers find
that the social interaction element is not as significant as the others. It
has been concluded that the active learning method attracts student’s
interest and motivation in the economic subject and subsequently
improves their achievement. Students also will get benefit from the
varieties of teaching method with a focus of learning outcomes to enrich
student-learning activities.
Keywords: active learning; economics education; experimental study;
teaching economic
*
Corresponding author: Ramlee Ismail; Email: ramlee@fpe.upsi.edu.my
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1. Introduction
The subject of Economics has long been taught in Malaysian secondary schools
under the Secondary Schools Integrated Curriculum since 1991. This subject
aims to provide the basic knowledge to students to enable them to understand
its principles in the modern world. The fundamentals of economics for
secondary schools will assist students in making rational economic decisions in
their daily lives. It helps also to train them to be more critical and creative in
their thinking (Ministry of Education, 2015). Add to this, Generic skills such as
interpersonal skills, managing and problem solving would be emphasised
through this subject (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 2005). Typically, the
economic subject is more likely to use traditional methods such as lectures (chalk
and talk), note-taking and it is teacher-centered. Benzing and Christ (1997) and
Allgood, Walstad and Siegfried (2013) emphasised that economics courses
feature more chalk and talks than other courses. However, the survey done by
Watt and Beckers (2008) had pointed out that some of the changes in the
teaching method have slowed down, especially in the use of technologies among
young economist. In this vein, the notion of active learning pedagogies,
including peer learning, flipped classroom, problem-based learning, cooperative
learning, and blended learning, has shaped the teaching learning process.
Accordingly, many studies revealed that the active learning method is
successfully increasing the students’ understanding of economics contents
(Tatsumi, 2012; Johnson & Meder, 2019). However, few studies investigate the
effect of active learning in secondary or high school.
In the secondary school contexts, learning economics is associated with the fact
of memorising activities to prepare for the national examination, compared to
student-centered learning process. Consequently, students are less likely to be
motivated and are reluctant to its learning. In comparison with another subject
such as the Principle of Accounts or Business, the academic achievement in
Economics subject is still behind and unsatisfactory. For example, the average
numbers of students who passed this subject in the national examination
(Malaysian Education Certificate) was 63%, from 2000 to 2010. In contrast, those
who passed the Principle of Accounts and Business have scored 69.9% and
76.2% in the same period (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 2010). Nevertheless,
for the last five years, the results have increased by 5%to give 75.7% in 2014 and
80.20% in 2015.
A lower achievement in the economic subject is to certain extent related to
students’ poor academic background in calculation, the negative attitudes
towards the subject , unattractive teaching methods, and the teaching load
(Becker & Watts, 1996, 2001a, 2001b; Watts & Becker, 2008; Backhouse, 2012).
Many educationists believe that students’ attitude and motivation towards this
subject should cooperate with an attractive teaching method. However, the
likelihood of economic teachers using other methods of teaching is lower than
teachers of other subjects (Becker, 1998; Watts & Schaur, 2011). As a reaction, the
Ministry of Education in Malaysia (MoE) promotes and encourages active
learning because it betters students' performance. Additionally, the teaching
learning process that involves active learning in a classroom is more enjoyable
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and exciting (Becker, 1997; Zheng, 2017; Schlehuber, 2017). Therefore, the MoE
has introduced a module of Active Learning Practices in Economics since 2005 to
help teachers involve in active learning in the classroom (Ministry of Education,
Malaysia, 2005). This module covers all topics in the syllabus and teaching
materials to support all activities. Yet, it has been observed that there have been
no recent developments in active-learning module in the secondary school
economic subject. Therefore, the present paper aims to determine whether active
learning in the Economics Module could improve secondary school students’
interest, motivation, social interaction, and their achievement.
2. Literature Review
Simply put, active learning is a method of teaching and learning that involves
direct participation of students in the learning process (Ministry of Education,
Malaysia, 2005). Students not only learn to do something, but they also think
about the actions and decisions taken in those activities (Bonwell & Eison, 1991;
Roach, 2014). According to Silberman (1996) and McLaughin et al. (2013),
learning is not about a plain absorption of information into the students’ minds,
but it also needs the involvement of their minds and actions. The outcomes of
active learning will be permanent because they are engaged in tasks that involve
higher cognitive thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation
(Bonwell & Eison, 1991; McLaughin, 2013). Thus, students can solve problems
that require higher cognitive levels as well as strengthening the skills to think
critically and creatively. The benefits of active learning documented with the
economics education literature have always been highlighted as one of the
teaching method principals (Carlson & Skaggs, 2000; Ginsburg, 2009; Jensen &
Owen, 2003; Maier & Keenan, 1994; Manning & Riordan, 2000; Watts & Schaur,
2011, Moon, Wold & Francom, 2017; Zheng, 2017; Bryan & Jett, 2018). Therefore,
active learning in economics education is mandatory (Becker, 1997; Becker &
Watts, 2001a; Hansen, 2001; Salemi, 2002) to be used in the classroom. This
method of teaching requires the active involvement of students to achieve
sustainable learning outcomes in the economics subject (Cross, 1987; MOE, 2005;
Siegfried et al.; 1991; Whiting, 2006). Some empirical studies on active learning
find that students who are involved in teaching and learning using this
approach performed better than in the traditional approach (Gratton-Lavoie &
Stanley, 2009). Moreover, students’ interaction and collaboration in small groups
do not only increase, but also will contribute to greater subject materials
(Yamarik, 2007; Bryan & Jett, 2018).
With regard to the above said, the traditional learning process carried out by
teachers in the classroom does not highlight the concept of independent
learning. Rather, in the teacher-centered learning process, students are given less
opportunity to apply or develop their cognitive and affective skills. They only
receive the information from their teachers passively and are required to act on
what is instructed by the teachers (Prince, 2004). This philosophy is old-
fashioned and does not align with the actual role students need to play to
survive in the teaching learning process. In this respect, active learning activities
such as group discussions, problem-solving, simulations, games and case studies
provide students with the opportunity to express and support their ideas as well
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as to consider the thoughts and the opinions of others (Meyers & Jones, 1993;
McCarty, Ford & Ludes, 2018). With this in mind, students can exchange their
ideas and interact freely with their classmates. Additionally, active learning
activities can attract students' interest and create a fun, lively and cheerful
classroom atmosphere (Salemi, 2002).
In fact, active learning is not only useful in enhancing students' understanding,
but it also increases students’ achievement (Carlson & Velenchik, 2006; Bartlett,
2006; Buckles & Hoyt, 2006; Yamarik, 2007; Filio et al., 2013; Calimaries & Sauer,
2015; Cavigllia-Harris, 2016; Rita et al., 2016). Carlson and Velenchik (2006)
demonstrate that the technique of discussions in the economics class could
develop students' analytical thinking skills. Students can apply the economic
theory using the information and data provided by their instructor. Meanwhile,
Bartlett (2006) finds that the cooperative learning technique in economics
education is effective in improving students' academic performances in
examinations. Active learning activities provide opportunities for students to
acquire higher thinking skills when interpreting economic concepts. In this
sense, Rupp (2014) comes across the fact that elementary school students have
significant improvements in their understanding of fundamental economic
concepts. This situation sharply contrasts with the traditional learning situation
where students are merely asked to understand the precise concept from the
teacher's explanation (Salemi, 2002).
In the same line of thought, many scholars also realized that active learning can
improve students’ interest towards the economics subject (Brokaw & Merz, 2004;
Dixit, 2006; Rotgans & Schmidt, 2011; Strow & Strow, 2006). Brokaw & Merz
(2004) show that active learning could trigger students' interest in the critical
concepts of the economy. Games technique, for example, can improve student's
understanding of economic theories that are too abstract for them to
comprehend (Dixit, 2006). Furthermore, role-play can also enhance student's
interest in the subject, as well as prevents boredom and sleepiness in the
classroom. In parallel, teachers should provide guidance, coaching, and
motivation that are necessary for students who have difficulties with active
learning activities in class (Buckles & Hoyt, 2006). Also, rewards that are given
by teachers to those who did well in a particular activity either in verbal forms,
such as praises and encouragement or in material forms such as chocolates or
small gifts, will make students more motivated to actively participate in group
activities (Slavin, 1990). The latter do not only foster intrapersonal and
interpersonal skills among the students, but also inculcate ethical values such as
respecting the opinion of others, collaborating and, to be fair and equitable in
emphasizing logical facts. In doing so, learner's autonomy and collaboration will
increase (Becker, 1997; Bonwell & Eison, 1991; Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1998;
Salemi, 2010; Toh Wah Seng; 2008; Bailey et al., 2013; Bergmann et al., 2013), and
their interaction improves academic achievement and interest (Brooks &
Kandler, 2002). Which in return give more opportunities and flexibilities to
identify their learning style, interests, and abilities (Fuller et al., 2015 & Mazur et
al., 2015).
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Though the significant endeavour done by the MoE and the outstanding
materials for effective outcomes, some economics teachers have almost forgotten
the existence of this module as most of them prefer the traditional method of
instruction which is ‘chalk and talk,'. In this context, Hansen at al. (2002)
contended that economics teachers or instructors have been slow to adopt the
new teaching methods. The common reasons for using the traditional approach
in the economics subject includes the large class size, lack of materials, and the
many topics covered in the syllabus. Goffe and Kauper (2014) suggest that the
predominant reason why teachers prefer to use the lecturing method in the
economics subject is the ability to control the delivery and coverage of content.
In the Malaysian context, teachers complained that they are reluctant with non-
related teaching activities at school such as too much clerical work, data
entering, and preparing the students for various competitions at school, district,
state and national levels. A survey has been carried out on the teacher’s
workload in Malaysia and findings show that the average number of hours is 57
hours per week, but some of them have workload up to 76 hours per week.
Unfortunately, the proportions of time spent in preparing teaching activities
were low (MoE, 2013). Indeed, when the educational system is streaming into
so-called science and art, economics students then fall into the ‘second category’
wherein the likelihood of passivity and anonymity exists and therefore becomes
a barrier of active teaching and learning ( Hoyt at al., 2010; Roach, 2014). The
quality of learning also depends on learners' abilities to steer and control their
learning processes (Niemi, 2002) and past performance (Denny, 2014). The
outcome of students’ achievement is measured by “how many got A’s or how
many per cent passed the economics subject” which is in fact not an encouraging
statement teachers appreciate to spend more time on effective classroom
management, solid planning teaching materials, and activities. However, these
are not the ultimate reasons why the active teaching and learning module by
MoE should be left behind. Hence, the researcher’s rationale is to study the
effectiveness of the current teaching method, using the materials provided by
the MoE, to improve students’ interest, motivation, social interaction and
achievement in the Economics subject at secondary schools.
3. Methodology
The conceptual framework for this study adopted the three-phase learning
model introduced by Biggs (1978). The first phase of the survey is a pre-study,
which refers to the pre-review factors of active learning namely: student’s
achievement, interest, motivation and social interaction of students in an
Economic subject. The second phase involves the process of teaching and
learning (T&L), which is active learning that was carried out in the Form Four
economics classes. In hope to meet the intended results, discussions,
simulations, brainstorming, case studies and visits within the school’s
compound are the five active learning activities the researchers have used in this
research paper. These learning activities are indeed extracted from the “Best
Active Learning Practices in Fundamental Economics” as provided by MoE. The
materials and tools for these learning activities will further enhance the
effectiveness of student's learning in the final phase. Figure 1 shows the three
phases.
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Pre-review of the effectiveness Teaching & learning process -
Active learning Output
• Academic achievement
• Interest
• Motivation
• Social interaction
• Discussions
• Simulations
• Brainstorming
• Case studies
• Visit school compound
• Academic
achievement
• Interest
• Motivation
• Social
interaction
Figure 1. Active Learning Process in Teaching and Learning of Fundamental
Economics
This research is a quasi-experimental design which is used to test whether there
are any significant effects of active learning and the traditional methods on the
academic achievement of students in the Form Four FE subject. Also, the
researchers used a questionnaire to obtain students’ feedback on the
effectiveness of active learning methods in their economics class. The
questionnaire is administered to sixty-three participants and it consists of two
sections. The first section covers information on the personal background of the
respondents such as gender, parent’s educational level, and others. Whereas,
section two is meant to collect data on the respondents’ interest, motivation, and
social interaction using the five Likert scale. The questionnaire is adapted from
Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire – MSLQ research tool, which was
developed by Pintrich and DeGroot (1990). This MSLQ survey tool has been
widely used to measure the level of motivation in students' learning.
Meanwhile, social interaction instruments have been modified from the
Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA) survey by Armsden and
Greenberg (1987).
Preliminary test (pretest) and performance tests (posttest) are used to measure
students’ basic knowledge, and evaluate their academic achievement,
respectively. These tests are developed by the researchers in which they are
based on the Malaysian Certificate Education Examination and certified by an
expert from the same state. Indeed, the preliminary test is used as a covariate to
streamline the fundamental difference between treatment and control groups.
The present study takes place in Perak secondary school where the researchers
explicitly introduced the studied criteria and the materials to be used in both
groups (treatment group, N=34 and Control group, N=30). The investigators
have used random sampling method to group the participants based on their
registration number, but those with odd registration number are reallocated to
the treatment group, including those with registration number who are in the
control group. The control class is used to eliminate the variation effect of the
student's knowledge and economics background. The same teacher teaches both
classes on the same topics but with different methods. The experiment lasts for
four weeks, which covers Unit 5 with the Topic: Market. The teaching load is "2
+ 1" per week, which is 80 and 40 minutes for each session. The materials and
lesson plans used were Active Learning Module from page 148 to 167; covering
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11 teaching materials with four main activities namely: brainstorming, role play,
simulation and group work. The control group uses a traditional method.
Source: Modified from Shadish, Cook, and Campbell (2002)
Figure 2: The Intervention vs the Traditional Method
The researchers have also provided plans to be used in daily lessons according
to topics, reference materials, papers, and other group activities to help instruct
others entirely. Also, guidance and answers for teachers are also provided to
ensure that active learning activities are carried out smoothly in the economics
class. A summary of the activities for both methods is shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Comparison of Active and Traditional Learning Methods
Active Learning Traditional Learning
Students were introduced to study
topics through an impressive set of
Induction.
The teacher introduced the lesson topic
through a brief question and answer
Teaching activities using active learning
materials.
The teacher presented the lesson
content by using the lecture method.
Students complete the individual and
groups’ learning materials
Students listen to while taking notes
The conclusion made by students or
teachers at the closing session
The teacher made a summary at the
closing session
Students do the activities in the form of
active learning
The teacher gave a few questions for
homework
Sample (64 students)
Quasi-experimental study and survey
Treatment group (34 students) Control Group (30 students)
Active learning
Traditional learning
Achievement Test
Pre-test
Post survey
Data analysis
Summary/discussion/recommendations
Pre survey
Achievement Test
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4. Results
Descriptive statistics were used to describe the demographical factors of our
sample. Table 2 depicts some students’ background for both groups. The male
sample was slightly larger than the female sample in the treatment group
compared to the control group. Table 2 summarises the collected data on the
respondents’ background information.
Table 2: Background Profile of the Study’s Respondents (n=64)
Item
Treatment Group Control Group
n (%) n (%)
Gender
Male
Female
19 (55.9)
15 (44.1)
13 (43.3)
17 (56.7)
Parents’ education
Primary school
Secondary school
Tertiary education
7 (20.6)
25 (73.5)
2 (5.9)
7 (23.3)
23 (76.7)
-
Parents’ / Guardian’s Employment
Government Employees
Private Sector Employees
Self-employed
Retirees
11 (32.4)
6 (17.6)
13 (38.2)
4 (11.8)
8 (26.7)
7 (23.3)
11(36.7)
4 (13.3)
Total Monthly Household Income
Less than RM 1000
RM 1000 – RM 1500
RM 1501 – RM 2000
More than RM 2000
21 (61.8)
8 (23.5)
4 (11.8)
1 (2.9)
20 (66.7)
7 (23.3)
-
3 (10.0)
The differential in the mean score of active learning activities in the classroom is
tested by the Paired Sample T-Test and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) for the
achievement test. The difference between the mean scores for the treatment
group before and after involvement in the active learning process is compared
and determined whether there were any significant differences between the two
data sets. The Paired Sample t-test is used to test whether there is any significant
increase in interest, motivation and social interaction in the treatment group
after they have experienced the activities that were carried out using the active
learning method. While, the ANCOVA technique is used to eliminate the
existence of economics knowledge of the two groups that were involved in the
current attempt (Shadish, Cook & Campbell, 2002). A covariate uses the latest
monthly assessment for both groups as the pre-test. Column five in Table 3
depicts students’ achievement in the first and second topics.
Table 3: Analysis of Covariance
Experiment Topic Group N Mean Test
Performance
F p
Active
learning
1 Control
Treatment
30
33
53.00
61.52 73.181 0.000
2 Control
Treatment
30
33
56.00
67.42 92.659 0.000
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As displayed, the mean score for the treatment group was higher than the
control group in both topics. The findings show that the academic achievement
of students who used active learning activities was significantly higher than
their counterpart with the F=92.66.
Table 4 reflects the results of students’ experience in active learning. The mean
difference between pre and post-survey for "Interest, Motivation, and Social
Interaction" are shown in column three. The positive value indicates that the
average score for post-test is higher than the pre-test.
Table 4: Paired Sample t-test
Variables Mean difference after and
before treatment
df t value Sig. (two tails)
Interest 1.817 33 14.240 0.000
Motivation 1.425 33 10.572 0.000
Social Interaction 0.225 33 1.688 0.101
The significant or the non-significant of the mean difference in these activities
depends on the t value. Therefore, the t value for “Interest and Motivation” is, t
(33, p = 0.000) = 14.24 and t (33, p = 0.00) = 10.57 respectively, which was smaller
than 0.05 which indicates that both variables are significant. That is to say, the
active learning activities conducted in the classroom enabled students to show
more interest and motivation in learning the economics subject. However, as
displayed, there is no significant difference in the mean score of “Social
Interaction” before and after learning activities.
5. Discussion and Conclusions
This study concludes that the treatment group with the notion of active learning
method performs better than those following the traditional learning process in
the control group. In this regard, some studies also showed that active learning
had improved students’ academic achievement, (Budd, 2004; Johnson &
Johnson, 1994; Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1998; Meyers & Jones, 1993; Roche,
2014 and Slavin, 1995). However, Malek, Hall and Hodget (2014) found that
there is no statistically significant improvement when the traditional teaching
methods were tested with the alternative teaching method. The findings of the
current paper dictate that students become more motivated in learning
economics using the active teaching and learning method. These findings are
also found by other researchers namely, Bartlett (2006), Becker (1997), Bonwell
and Eison (1991), Brokaw and Merz (2004), Carlson and Velenchik (2006), Dixit
(2006), Hazlett (2006) and Salemi (2002).Students are fond of the active learning
activities conducted in class mainly in simulations, group discussions, case
studies and visits within the school’s compound. They approach these practices
as being attractive and fun which help them to understand the concepts of
economics better. More than that, active learning methods can also enhance
students' motivation in the process of learning economics for Form Four.
Although the application of motivational research to the economics subject is
scarce, there is some evidence that motivation is an additional factor to
successful output in economics among students (Arnold & Straten, 2012),
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because the teaching aids and materials in active learning are rewarding and fun
for students (Salemi, 2002). Nevertheless, results of the current endeavour do not
show the mean difference before and after experiment on the aspect of social
interaction. That is to say, it appears that there is no conclusive evidence that the
active learning method is effective in improving the social interaction of
students. Probably, changes in a class setting should be included in preparing
class activities. Because, active learning classroom (ACL) is a common setting
and arrangements for enhance effective learning process (Baepler & Walker,
2014; Metzger, 2015), the latter will contribute to make a significant impact on
social interaction with new team members and foster a closer relationship with
new friends. As far as economics teachers are concerned, they should not solely
rely on traditional learning methods, as a reason, to complete the syllabus given
for a large number of students in a class. The active teaching materials provided
by educational department should be frequently used, diversified and blended
with latest teaching and learning devices to motivate students. Indeed, further
empirical studies should explore promising alternatives to enable learners
understand the significant role social interaction plays and what pedagogies to
develop for successful integration.
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IJLTER.ORG Vol 19 No 10 October 2020

  • 1. International Journal of Learning, Teaching And Educational Research p-ISSN: 1694-2493 e-ISSN: 1694-2116 IJLTER.ORG Vol.19 No.10
  • 2. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research (IJLTER) Vol. 19, No. 10 (October 2020) Print version: 1694-2493 Online version: 1694-2116 IJLTER International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research (IJLTER) Vol. 19, No. 10 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically those of translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, broadcasting, reproduction by photocopying machines or similar means, and storage in data banks. Society for Research and Knowledge Management
  • 3. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal which has been established for the dissemination of state-of-the-art knowledge in the fields of learning, teaching and educational research. Aims and Objectives The main objective of this journal is to provide a platform for educators, teachers, trainers, academicians, scientists and researchers from over the world to present the results of their research activities in the following fields: innovative methodologies in learning, teaching and assessment; multimedia in digital learning; e-learning; m-learning; e-education; knowledge management; infrastructure support for online learning; virtual learning environments; open education; ICT and education; digital classrooms; blended learning; social networks and education; e- tutoring: learning management systems; educational portals, classroom management issues, educational case studies, etc. Indexing and Abstracting The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is indexed in Scopus since 2018. The Journal is also indexed in Google Scholar and CNKI. All articles published in IJLTER are assigned a unique DOI number.
  • 4. Foreword We are very happy to publish this issue of the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research. The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal committed to publishing high-quality articles in the field of education. Submissions may include full-length articles, case studies and innovative solutions to problems faced by students, educators and directors of educational organisations. To learn more about this journal, please visit the website http://www.ijlter.org. We are grateful to the editor-in-chief, members of the Editorial Board and the reviewers for accepting only high quality articles in this issue. We seize this opportunity to thank them for their great collaboration. The Editorial Board is composed of renowned people from across the world. Each paper is reviewed by at least two blind reviewers. We will endeavour to ensure the reputation and quality of this journal with this issue. Editors of the October 2020 Issue
  • 5. VOLUME 19 NUMBER 10 October 2020 Table of Contents Using Systematic Synthetic Phonics to Accelerate Rural Indigenous Children’s Acquisition of Early Literacy Skills..........................................................................................................................................................................................1 Jia Rong Yap and Mellisa Lee Lee Chin Active Learning in Economic Subject: A Case Study at Secondary School...................................................................19 Ramlee Ismail, Marinah Awang, Seow Yea Pyng and Muhammad Ridhuan Bos Abdullah Inclusion of the FuzzyILS Method in MOODLE for Creating Effective Courses......................................................... 32 Antonio Silva Sprock Supporting Natural Science Pre-Service Teachers during Work-Integrated Learning: A Case of a Lesson Study Approach ............................................................................................................................................................................... 60 Wiets Botes, Boitumelo Moreeng and Moeketsi Mosia Effect of Differentiated Instruction on the Achievement and Development of Critical Thinking Skills among Sixth-Grade Science Students.............................................................................................................................................. 77 Mohammad Salih Al-Shehri Rethinking Privilege in Teaching English in Japanese Higher Education ..................................................................100 Khatereh Hosseininasab The Power Sources and Influences of Secondary School Principals in Eastern Ethiopia.......................................... 115 Birhanu Sintayehu Exploring Educators’ Challenges of Online Learning in Covid-19 at a Rural School, South Africa........................ 134 Kananga Robert Mukuna and Peter J. O. Aloka Managing Continuing Education via Distance Learning and Face-to-Face Courses for Human Resource Development in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.............................................................................................................. 150 Phuong-Tam Pham, Tran-Binh Duong, Thi-Thuy-Trang Phan, Thai-Huu Nguyen, Minh-Thanh Nguyen, Trinh Le Thi Tuyet, Nguyen Duong Hoang, Duong Hoang Yen and Tien-Trung Nguyen Sociocultural Adaptation and Program Management Strategies for International Doctoral Students of the “Confucius China Studies Program” ............................................................................................................................... 172 Fan Yang Autonomous English Language Learning Beyond the Classroom: Indonesian Tertiary Students’ Practices and Constraints........................................................................................................................................................................... 194 Daflizar Computer Coding and Choreography: Contrasting Experiences of Learning About Collaboration in Engineering and Creative Arts................................................................................................................................................................ 214 Nicholas Rowe, Rose Martin and Nasser Giacaman
  • 6. Instructional Leadership and Students Academic Performance: Mediating Effects of Teacher’s Organizational Commitment........................................................................................................................................................................ 233 Adeel Ahmed Khan, Soaib Bin Asimiran, Suhaida Abdul Kadir, Siti Noormi Alias, Batool Atta, Bukar Ali Bularafa and Masood Ur Rehman The Impact of Inclusion Setting on the Academic Performance, Social Interaction and Self-Esteem of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis............................................................................. 248 Sulaiman M. Alshutwi, Aznan Che Ahmad and Lay Wah Lee Teacher Support for Eliciting Students Mathematical Thinking: Problem Posing, Asking Questions, and Song .265 Ary Woro Kurniasih, Isti Hidayah and Mohammad Asikin Move to Online Learning during COVID-19 Lockdown: Pre-Service Teachers’ Experiences in Ghana................. 286 Ugorji I. Ogbonnaya, Florence C. Awoniyi and Mogalatjane E. Matabane Current Methods for Assessing the Level of Foreign Language Proficiency of University Students ..................... 304 Nataliia S. Ivasiv, Mariya S. Kozolup, Olena V. Oleniuk, Nataliia V. Rubel and Nataliya Y. Skiba Teaching through Experiential Learning Cycle to Enhance Student Engagement in Principles of Accounting.... 323 Rohaila Yusof, Khoo Yin Yin, Norlia Mat Norwani, Zuraidah Ismail, Anis Suriati Ahmad and Salniza Salleh The Value of Feedback in Primary Schools: Students’ Perceptions of the Practice.................................................... 338 Abatihun Alehegn Sewagegn and Askalemariam Adamu Dessie Digital Collaboration in Teaching and Learning Activities: The Reflexivity Study on Educational Digital Empowerment..................................................................................................................................................................... 355 Irwansyah and Sofiatul Hardiah “This is why students feel lost when they go into teaching practice”: English Language Teachers’ Views on their Initial Teacher Education................................................................................................................................................... 371 Sue Garton
  • 7. 1 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research Vol. 19, No. 10, pp. 1-18, October 2020 https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.19.10.1 Using Systematic Synthetic Phonics to Accelerate Rural Indigenous Children’s Acquisition of Early Literacy Skills Jia Rong Yap University of Malaya, Jalan Universiti, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8352-682X Mellisa Lee Lee Chin University of Malaya, Jalan Universiti, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5049-2205 Abstract. Studies focusing on the strategy of phonics in Malaysia have highlighted the insufficiency and ineffectiveness of SBELC phonics training received by teachers, resulting in confusion among them as to what really constitutes effective use of the phonics strategy. On the other hand, systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) has been proven beneficial in accelerating the performance of children in their early literacy. However, few studies have been conducted on English language learners as the majority of those research was focused on native speakers of the English language. Against this background, this article presents a description of a systematic way of teaching phonics that could inform teachers on how the strategy can be optimally utilised to accelerate the performance of students who are possibly at risk of being left behind. It then reports an investigation that compared the efficacy of SSP against SBELC phonics in accelerating the acquisition of early literacy skills with a group of indigenous children residing in the rural parts of Sarawak, Malaysia. Five instruments; (1) productive letter-sound test, (2) free-sound isolation test, (3) reading test, (4) spelling test, and (5) oral-reading fluency test were administered to measure phonemic awareness, decoding, reading, and spelling ability. Data were collected from the pretest and the posttest. The results demonstrate that both groups recorded significant improvement in reading and spelling, but children in the experimental group (SSP) outperformed the control group (SBELC phonics) significantly. Following this, SSP should be implemented in classrooms to help accelerate children’s early reading fluency and spelling ability. Keywords: early literacy; English language learners; indigenous children; phonemic awareness; systematic synthetic phonics
  • 8. 2 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction Throughout the course of the reformation of English Language Education (ELE) in Malaysia, various pedagogical approaches have been employed by the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE) to ensure the competent acquisition of the language among Malaysians (Hazita, 2016). One significant initiative is the introduction of the Communicative Language Teaching method in the 1982’s Primary School Integrated Curriculum (KBSR) to promote second language vocabulary acquisition. This method remains beneficial in the development of communicative competence (Chin, Karunakaran & Yap, 2019). Presently, the CEFR-aligned Standards-Based English Language Curriculum [CEFR-aligned SBELC] (MOE, 2017) continues to map out “pedagogical approaches [that are] built on the foundations of communicative competences” (pp. 1 – 2). To achieve this, the CEFR-aligned SBELC recommends the principle of going “back to basics” and states that “it is essential for teachers to begin with basic literacy skills in order to build a strong foundation of language skills” (p. 6). Based on this premise, the MOE’s move to incorporate phonics as a strategy for English teaching and learning is arguably a step in the right direction in providing a solid foundation for students’ subsequent successful acquisition of the English language. Indeed, phonics as a useful strategy for early literacy has been widely acknowledged by both international (e.g., Ehri, 2020; Wyse & Goswami, 2008) and local researchers (e.g., Su & Hawkins, 2013; Zulkifli & Melor, 2019) alike. First introduced in 2011 and as stipulated in the then newly-revamped Standards-Based English Language Curriculum (SBELC), “the Years 1 and 2 learning standards address basic literacy using the strategies of phonics to develop phonemic awareness in pupils to enable them to become independent readers by the end of Year 2” (MOE, 2011, pp. 8-9). This strategy is carried over into the CEFR-aligned SBELC, with two dedicated documents now prepared by the MOE to guide teachers with classroom phonics teaching and learning practices. However, despite the Malaysian government’s substantial investment in revising the English language curriculum and providing continuous professional development courses to teachers, several key challenges remain to be addressed. Fundamentally, the implementation of CEFR-aligned SBELC left much to be desired because teachers lack a full understanding of the suggested teaching methods, and have limited knowledge of the curriculum altogether due to the inadequacy of training (Sidhu, Kaur & Chi, 2018). Next, studies focusing on the strategy of phonics in Malaysia (e.g., Nadiah Yan, Napisah & Mariyatunnitha, 2014; Rabindra, Nooreiny & Hamidah, 2016) have similarly highlighted the inconsistency, insufficiency, and ineffectiveness of the SBELC phonics training received by teachers, resulting in misconceptions and confusion among teachers as to what really constitutes effective use of the phonics strategy. In this regard, systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) could be the answer to the abovementioned issues. Educational groups in Anglophone countries such as the United States of America’s National Institute of Child Health and Development, the United Kingdom’s Department for Education and Skills (through recommendations of The Rose Review, 2006), New Zealand Ministry of Education’s Literacy Experts Group, and Australian National Inquiry into the
  • 9. 3 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Teaching of Literacy have acknowledged the centrality of SSP in accelerating the acquisition of early literacy (Bowey, 2011; Jolliffe, Waugh & Gill, 2019). As suggested in the term itself, the superiority of SSP lies in its systematicity. It begins with developing learners’ phonemic awareness through the letter-sound training (both productive and receptive), followed by the five-phase phonics training, and the after-phase blending and segmenting practices. Additionally, SSP includes pseudowords to ensure children apply the phonics strategy in reading and spelling. In comparison, the SBELC phonics conducts the letter-sound training and phonics training concurrently. It uses only real words, with occasional blending and segmenting activities. Unsurprisingly, findings from the present study have shown the experimental group (SSP) outperforming the control group (SBLEC phonics) in their early literacy skills. Against this background, the purpose of this article is two-fold. First, it advocates for and presents a detailed description of a systematic way of teaching phonics that could inform teachers on how the strategy can be optimally utilised to accelerate the performance of students who may be at risk of being left behind (or are still preliterate at Primary 1/Primary 2). Second, as a means of supporting the effectiveness of SSP, it reports an investigation that compared the SSP programme with SBELC phonics in imparting early literacy skills among young learners in the rural setting. In the study, early literacy was defined as reading fluency and writing in the form of spelling ability, whereby children’s performances were measurable for documentation purposes (Purewal, 2008). 2. Literature Review 2.1 Phonics for Early Literacy Fundamentally, phonics is a goal of enabling learners to associate sounds to the prints and subsequently to transfer this skill into reading or spelling. It is also an umbrella term that constitutes an organised set of rules about vowels, consonant- blends and syllables, the key to which is to recover the sounds from the prints (Griffith & Olson, 1992). It reflects Rose’s (2006) Simple View of Reading that posits reading as a two-process skill; (i) the automatic word recognition skills, and (ii) the ability to tap into prior knowledge and experience to gain comprehension. The fundamental step in achieving word recognition is decoding, whereby a child can associate the sounds (phonemes) represented by a letter or a combination of letters (graphemes), and to identify the complete word (Rose, 2006). Rose (2006) further emphasises that decoding is the precursor to comprehension and as such, children need to first acquire the decoding skills in their beginning reading before they are to progress to the task of comprehension. Having said that, for successful teaching of reading and spelling through phonics, the development of learners’ foundation in phonemic awareness should take precedence. According to Cunningham (1988, as cited in Griffith & Olson, 1992), phonemic awareness is the understanding that the sounds of a spoken language work together to make words. Specifically, phonemic awareness does not sound out words, but its skill enables children to use grapheme-phoneme relationships to read and spell words by understanding the structure of the spoken language. Ukrainetz et al. (2000) propose that this can be achieved by carefully choosing the
  • 10. 4 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. type of phonics instructions, defined as teaching practices that are designed to help students acquire knowledge of the relationships between graphemes and phonemes, and the ability to do blending (Armbruster, Lehr & Osborn, 2001). An essential component of phonics, blending is the process of putting individual phonemes together to read a complete word and it requires phonemic awareness (Griffith & Olson, 1992). Beck and Beck (2013) further recommend scaffolding blending whereby this sequential process of learners sounding each phoneme, remembering the sequence, and blending the segments be developed. This scaffolding blending process was integrated into this study as part of the systematic synthetic phonics programme, which is discussed in further detail in the subsequent section. 2.2 Systematic Synthetic Phonics The term ‘Systematic Synthetic Phonics’ engaged in this study is composed of two major concepts; (i) systematic phonics instruction, and (ii) synthetic phonics. Exactly a score years ago, the US National Reading Panel (2000) released a 449- page report which reviewed more than 100000 research studies on reading and has recommended systematic phonics instruction for reading. Correspondingly, Mesmer and Griffith (2005) explain that a systematic phonics programme encompasses three elements; (i) a curriculum with a specific, sequential set of phonics elements, (ii) instruction that is direct, precise and unambiguous, and (iii) opportunities for learners to use phonics to read words. As for synthetic phonics, this approach begins by teaching learners the identification of phonemes that are represented by graphemes in a word, before putting them together to form a complete word (de Graaff, Bosman, Hasselman & Verhoeven, 2009). It shares the principles in the bottom-up processing of reading which views the ability to decode efficiently and to recognise words automatically as vital skills. De Graaff et al. (2009) suggest that once learners grasped these basic grapheme-phonemes correspondences (GPCs), they can decode a number of words in English without much difficulty and hence expand their reading vocabulary. 2.3 Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme The Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) programme in this study embraces all the elements of systematic phonics presented by Mesmer and Griffith (2005) and is inspired by de Graaff et al.’s (2009) computer-assisted model which has been modified into a human model. This SSP programme contains two parts. Firstly, the letter-sound training introduces the phonemes and their represented graphemes and is organised into two sections: (i) the receptive and (ii) the productive. In the receptive way of training, the teacher says aloud a phoneme twice and then places four graphemes cards (1 target phoneme, 3 distractors) before their learners. The learners listen to the phoneme uttered and select its corresponding grapheme out of the four cards. In the productive way of training, the learners see the grapheme cards first and point at the corresponding graphemes as the teacher produces the phonemes orally. Once the learners have undergone the letter-sound training and successfully mastered all the phonemes and their corresponding graphemes, they advance into the phonics training. In this part of the programme (phonics training), learners are required to practise reading, blending, and segmenting randomly presented words and pseudowords.
  • 11. 5 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Pseudowords are a pronounceable combination of graphemes that have the characteristics of a known real word but are not real words according to common English dictionaries (Cardenas, 2009, in de Graff et al., 2009). For instance, the phoneme ai/eɪ/ may form words such as ‘sail’ and ‘bail’, or pseudowords like ‘dail’ and ‘phail’. Their integration is unique to this SSP programme, as using both words and pseudowords will ensure learners acquire the intended phonics knowledge for reading, and the syllabic patterns for spelling (Harris & Hodges, 1995). This phonics training is planned to be carried out in stages, with a predetermined number of target GPCs in each stage. Nevertheless, despite the emphasis on adhering to the scope and sequence of introducing the GPCs, the teacher holds the autonomy in deciding the number of GPCs to begin with in the first stage, and the addition of new GPCs in the subsequent stages until all 44 phonemes are covered. The decision can be made depending on their learners’ capability and progress. Another important feature of this SSP programme is that each stage comprises five phases. In Phase 1, the graphemes at the beginning and the end of the word/pseudoword [(pseudo)word] are given. In Phase 2, only the grapheme at the end is given. In Phase 3, the grapheme at the beginning is given. In Phase 4, no graphemes are given and in Phase 5, a complete CVC (pseudo)word is given. Specifically, in Phase 5, learners have to select the corresponding (pseudo)word spoken by the teacher out of the four presented word-cards (1 target word, 3 distractors). The construction of 15 words in the first four phases and the synthesising of 10 words in Phase 5 entitle the learners to proceed to an extended blending and segmenting practice. In this after-phase activity, the teacher will demonstrate smooth blending (the sounding of phonemes without pausing) and smooth segmenting (the automatic association of a phoneme to its grapheme) as a part of the skills training. For the next two sessions, learners practise blending to form complete (pseudo)words and segmenting them for spelling. When all the five phases within a stage are completed and the learners are able to blend and segment 10 (pseudo)words, they progress to the next stage. A summary of the phases and an overview of the SSP programme are presented in Table 1 and Figure 1, respectively. Table 1: Summarised details of phases in a stage in SSP Phase Sample Item (CVC word) Description Example 1 maid jail train snail float foam goat toast ties lies pies dies sheep green cheek wheel torch sport fork form *words in italic are used as examples Graphemes at the beginning and the end are given m__d f__m 2 Grapheme at the end is given __ __ d __ __ m 3 Grapheme at the beginning is given m__ __ f__ __ 4 No graphemes are given/presented ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ 5 A complete CVC (pseudo)word is given. Learners select the corresponding (pseudo)word spoken by the teacher out of the 4 wordcards given (1 target word, 3 distractors) 1. maid** 2. foam 3. form 4. green **target word
  • 12. 6 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Figure 1. An overview of the Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme To date, despite the growing body of literature that supports the benefits of systematic synthetic phonics, little studies have been conducted on children who are English language learners as the majority of those research was focused on native speakers of the English language (McGeown, Johnston & Medford, 2012; Watts & Gardner, 2012; Wyse & Goswami, 2008; Yap, 2014). Therefore, as outlined in the purpose of this article, the next section presents a quantitative randomised comparison experimental study that investigated the effects of SSP and SBELC phonics on reading fluency and spelling ability with a group of indigenous children (Iban) residing in the rural parts of Sarawak. These children were likely to be at a higher risk of falling behind their city peers in early literacy if their ability to read in the English language was not addressed in time (UNICEF, 2008). The hypothesis and research questions are as follows: The indigenous children who undergo SSP training will attain higher levels of reading fluency and spelling ability than the children who receive SBELC phonics training. 1. What is the relative effect of SSP as compared to the SBELC phonics on children’s early reading fluency? 2. What is the relative effect of SSP as compared to the SBELC phonics on children’s early spelling ability? 3. Method The experimental study, which was quantitative in nature, took place in a real-life natural setting of an educational organisation. It intended to prove the hypothesis by determining whether or not the independent variable (the type of phonics
  • 13. 7 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. training) caused an effect on the dependent variable (the children’s reading fluency and spelling ability). It followed the features of a true experimental study with the inclusion of three key components – (i) pre-posttest design, (ii) a treatment (or experimental) group and a control group, and (iii) random assignment of study participants (Carpenter et al., 1989). 3.1 Participants The participants in the present study consisted of 32 Primary 2 schoolchildren, in which they were equally and randomly assigned into either the experimental or the control group. They were from three neighbouring national schools located in the rural parts of Bintulu, Sarawak. This study had engaged a non-probability sampling method in the recruitment of participants, as they were the researchers’ existing students and students of English teachers known to the researchers. Table 2 shows the participants’ mean age, socioeconomic status, and level of proficiency from the SBELC school-based assessment. Table 2: Participants’ background Mean age 92.6 months (SD = 3.5 months) Socioeconomic status Good Average Hardcore Poor 15 8 9 Level of proficiency from SBELC assessment Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 7 20 5 The children were a homogenous group from the indigenous tribe of ‘Iban or Sea Dayak’. Before primary education, all 32 participants had received a year of kindergarten education and mastered all the 26 letter-names in the English alphabet. However, formal learning and immersion into English language only began in Primary 1. As SBELC phonics began in Primary 1, they had learned and mastered 30 GPCs of 21 consonants, five short vowels, and four digraphs. This conclusion was made based on the results of the achievement test where all 32 of them received perfect scores, conducted at the beginning of 2013. The objectives and nature of the experiment were explained to the participants’ parents prior to obtaining their consent. They also met the following inclusion criteria: (a) indigenous children from the rural parts in Sarawak, (b) learning English as a foreign language, (c) undergoing SBELC phonics for reading, and (d), the ability to attend phonics training for 30 minutes a day. 3.2 Phonics Training Procedure The experiment consisted of two types of training: the SSP and the SBELC phonics. Both phonics-training programmes contained 40 sessions of 30-minute each that were executed over a period of eight weeks. The training duration and session were planned in conformity with the SBELC phonics scheme-of-work. The participants had 60 minutes of English lesson daily from Mondays to Fridays and learnt approximately nine GPCs in eight weeks. The researcher purchased commercially available Jolly Phonics products from the authorised distributor in Malaysia and conducted the SSP training with the experimental group. This study recruited the help of one phonics-instruction trained teacher to act as the SBELC phonics trainer and also as the inter-rater (Teacher X). Teacher X carried out
  • 14. 8 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. SBELC Phonics training with the control group using the materials in the form of textbook and teachers’ guidebook provided by the MOE. Prior to the actual experimentation, the researcher and Teacher X (the trainers) simulated the training procedures in SSP and SBELC Phonics twice to ensure a uniform administration of the phonics training. 3.3 Training Scope and Sequence Scope refers to the content of the phonics instruction and the range of GPCs covered, while sequence is the order for teaching the GPCs. Both the experimental and control groups were given the same 11 long vowel and diphthong sounds (phonemes) represented by 16 graphemes. Thus, both groups have 16 GPCs (ai/eɪ/, oa/əʊ/, ie/aɪ/, ee/iː/, or/ɔː/, oo/ʊ/, oo/uː/, oi/ɔɪ/, ou/aʊ/, er/əː/, ar/ɑː/, ay/eɪ/, ow/əʊ/, igh/aɪ/, ea/iː/, and ue/uː/). The IPA symbols were not introduced to the participants to avoid possible confusion. 3.3.1 Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) Training Following the procedure as presented in Figure 1, the SSP training began with the letter-sound training in which one GPC was taught in each session and altogether 16 sessions were allocated for this. The phonics training comprised 24 sessions and required the participants to practise reading, blending, and segmenting randomly presented (pseudo)words in five stages. At Stage A, children practised with randomly presented (pseudo)words with the five GPCs of ai/eɪ/, oa/əʊ/, ie/aɪ/, ee/iː/, and or/ɔː/. Each participant was given two attempts to listen to the (pseudo)words given by the researcher and fill in the blanks with the grapheme-cards provided to form the complete CVC (pseudo)words. Upon the second erroneous attempt, the correct answer was given. Participants jotted down the correctly formed words into their personal logbooks as a record of their individual progress. This allowed them to proceed at an individual pace. The participants went through the five phases in each stage (see Table 1). Three new GPCs were added in Stage B (oo/ʊ/, oo/uː/, oi/ɔɪ/), Stage C (ou/aʊ/, er/əː/, ar/ɑː/), Stage D (ay/eɪ/, ow/əʊ/, igh/aɪ/) and lastly, two in Stage E (ea/iː/, ue/uː/). When all the five stages have been completed, children repeated the five phases in Stage E until all 24 sessions were fulfilled. 3.3.2 SBELC Phonics Training The letter-sound training and phonics training ran concurrently in SBELC phonics training. Teacher X extracted the phonics components, the accompanying word list and reading texts from the SBELC Year 2 English textbook and followed the phonics instructions and activities stipulated in it. The SBELC phonics training procedure was repetitive in nature, beginning with the introduction to and practices of sounding out the target phonemes. The children were to associate a phoneme to its corresponding grapheme by choosing the correct letter card. Then, they were instructed to listen to a list of words presented to them by Teacher X and to orally identify the vowel sound in those words. For example, the vowel sound in ‘broach’ is oa/əʊ/. After that, they were expected to know how to blend and segment by using the list of words provided in the textbook. The phonics training of every unit ended with a reading text. The text integrated some of the target GPCs and encompassed CVC, CV and VC words. The reading texts also contained two- and three-syllable words that required Teacher X to demonstrate
  • 15. 9 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. using the whole-word approach. In each unit, two new phonemes were introduced, with no reference or revision of the past phoneme learnt. 3.4 Instruments The trainers attended two training sessions a fortnight before the pretest in April to ensure a uniform administration of the tests. The tests took place in the evening at the school’s library, after the day’s schooling session has concluded. The whole process was digitally recorded for all five tests, to allow for an after-test review and cross-examination between the trainers. Also, the Malaysian English curriculum uses Standard British English as a reference and model for teaching the language, as well as for spelling and pronunciation for standardisation (MOE, 2011). As such, the judgment of the pronunciation of phonemes cross-referred to the phonemic chart from the British Council website. The judgment of the pronunciation of words was cross-referred with oxforddictionaries.com. Nonetheless, following studies by Wang and Koda (2005), all acceptable pronunciations were scored correct. For example, the word ‘sail’ pronounced as /seɪl/ and /sɛl/ were both acceptable. Pretest and Posttest. The participants were tested twice; before the experiment commenced in May (pretest) and after the experiment in August (posttest). Five tests measuring (a) productive letter-sound knowledge, (b) phonemic awareness, (c) reading ability, (d) segmenting/spelling ability, and (e) sentence-level reading ability were administered to each child individually for a maximum of 30 minutes each. Tests (a) to (d) and their scoring criteria were adapted from de Graaff et al. (2009). Test (e) and its scoring criteria were adapted from Eun (2012). The adaptations were necessary as the content needed to correspond to the phonemes introduced in this study. Each of the instruments is elaborated below. Productive Letter-Sound Test (PLST). This test measured the participants’ knowledge of the GPCs. They were given letter cards containing the sixteen GPCs presented during the letter-sound training and asked to produce the phonemes. The trainers gave a short demonstration (using the GPCs ur/ɜː/, ng/ŋ/) and the children practised with two non-tested GPCs (a/æ/, ch/ʧ/) before the actual testing commenced. This test carried a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 16, with 1 point being given for each successful sound-production. Free Sound-Isolation Test (FSIT). This test was conducted to test the participants’ phonemic awareness. They were presented with a list of 12 consonant-vowel (CV) and 36 consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words (see Table 3). These words were selected from the SBELC Year 2 English textbook, and they included the vowel sounds presented in the experiment. The children were asked to segment the words on the word chart into their individual sounds or to identify the phonemes present in a word. For example, the word ‘pail’ has three phonemes /p/eɪ/l/. Those children who have achieved phonemic awareness would be able to identify and say /p/,/eɪ/ and /l/. The trainers gave a short demonstration and children practised orally with two non-tested words before the actual test began. This test carried a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 132, with 1 point being awarded for each successful sound- production.
  • 16. 10 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Table 3: Free Sound-Isolation Test Demonstrated word: pail Practiced words: coat, fork CV words CVC words bow loud float stern lie farm sheep cart flow maid hook light tray dream boil jail die train herd foam day mouth room cheek grow form night shook true moon cream coin glue cloud boat nerd pie sharp green sport play torch look fight sue peak join stool Reading Test (RT). A total of 3 CV, 13 CVC words, and 3 CV, 13 CVC pseudowords were administered to gauge the children’s blending skills (see Table 4). The final list was derived from a combination of (pseudo)words formed from the 21 consonants, 14 digraphs acquired in Primary 1, and the 16 vowel sounds presented during the training. The items were both in accordance with the 5 stages of SSP training and SBELC Phonics training. To elaborate, the vowel sounds from Stage A formed 10 items, Stages B to D formed six items each and lastly, Stage E formed four items. The children were presented with the list of 32 (pseudo)words and were required to read each (pseudo)word aloud. In the event of a child mispronouncing a word, they were instructed to engage their blending skills. However, if they still could not read the word after two additional tries, they would proceed to the next word. This test carried a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 32, with 1 point awarded for each successful (pseudo)word produced. Table 4: Summary of words formed from stages A – E Stage Phoneme Word Pseudoword Number of Item A ai /eɪ/ oa /əʊ/ ie /aɪ/ ee /iː/ or /ɔː/ said gloat lie steep stork bain coam wie cheel chorm 10 B oo /ʊ/ oo /uː/ oi /ɔɪ/ crook droop coil pook flop moin 6 C ou /aʊ/ er /əː/ ar /ɑː/ stout perch chart boust wern spart 6 D ay/eɪ/ ow /əʊ/ igh /aɪ/ dray grow flight glay drow spight 6 E ea /iː/ ue /uː/ speak glue pleak crue 4
  • 17. 11 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Segmenting Skill/ Spelling Test (ST). The 32 items presented during the reading test were reemployed to determine children’s spelling ability. The children were asked to write the sounds they heard in a (pseudo)word, in sequential order. This test carried a maximum score of 32, with 1 point awarded for each (pseudo)word spelt correctly. Oral-Reading Fluency Test (ORFT). This test was administered to determine the participants’ reading fluency, defined as the ability to read a piece of text automatically and accurately with expressions. However, prosody was not included in the test as studies by Jiang, Sawaki and Sabatini (2012) and Lems (2003, in Eun, 2012) have reported on the difficulty to achieve an acceptable reliability given the subjective nature of deciding desirable prosody. The text was adopted from Jolly Readers Level 2, published by Jolly Learning Limited. It featured words that were phonetically decodable, and could be sounded out with the 21 consonants, 14 digraphs acquired in Primary 1, and the 16 vowel sounds presented during training in the current study. However, unlike the Reading Test (RT), ORFT assessed participants’ ability to read at the sentence level by counting the number of words the children read in a minute. ORFT was conducted in this manner. The trainers and the children each had a copy of the same reading text. The children were instructed to begin reading aloud and while they read, the trainers noted any errors the children made by circling the mispronounced words in their copy. Once the minute on the stopwatch held by trainers was up, they marked in their sheet the children’s progress at the 60th second and let them finish reading the text. The trainers then totalled the number of words read within 60 seconds and subtracted them with errors made by the children. For the purpose of this study, only errors made on the trained vowel sounds were considered. For example, if ‘Child A’ read 65 words in a minute but made a total of 6 errors (2 untrained-vowel words, 4 trained-vowel words), their reading rate would be 61 words correct per minute. The children’s oral reading fluency rate was compared against the benchmark adapted from Johns and Berglund (2009), which states that the average second grade or primary 2 students’ mean words targets is 50 correct words per minute in February, 70 in June, and 90 in October. 3.5 Data Analysis Data for this study were analysed using IBM Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 21. The findings are presented in two parts. The first part consists of the analysis of the pretest for both the experimental (SSP) and control groups (SBELC Phonics) using independent samples t-test. This was conducted in order to establish equality among both groups’ early literacy levels before the intervention. Levene’s test for equality of variance was applied. Next, the hypothesis and research questions were addressed through the analyses of paired-samples t-test for each outcome variable. A paired-samples t-test was used to compare the means of the pretest and posttest scores obtained from the experimental group and control group, in order to determine the effectiveness of the phonics training by looking at the significant difference between the two scores.
  • 18. 12 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. 4. Findings and Discussion 4.1 Analyses of Pretest The results of the pretest aimed at establishing the assumption of equality of variance are presented in Tables 5 and 6. The null hypothesis to be tested (Ho: µE = µC) states that the PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT pretest mean scores of the experimental group are equal to the pretest mean scores of the control group. Conversely, the alternative hypothesis (H1: µE ≠ µC) states that the pretests PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT mean scores of the experimental group are not equal to the pretests mean scores of the control group. The significance level alpha is specified at .05. Table 5: Descriptive statistics Groups N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean PLST Experimental 16 5.688 1.195 0.299 Control 16 5.750 1.390 0.348 FSIT Experimental 16 96.625 7.013 1.753 Control 16 96.938 6.547 1.637 RT Experimental 16 10.375 2.446 0.612 Control 16 10.750 2.206 0.552 ST Experimental 16 7.500 2.129 0.532 Control 16 8.125 2.306 0.576 ORFT Experimental 16 34.500 5.808 1.452 Control 16 34.438 6.491 1.623 Table 6: Independent samples t-test Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means F Sig. t df Sig. (2- tailed) Mean Diff. Std. Error Diff. 95% CI of Difference Lower Upper PLST .104 .750 -.136 30 .892 -.063 .458 -.999 .874 FSIT .062 .805 -.130 30 .897 -.313 2.399 -5.211 4.586 RT .239 .628 -.455 30 .652 -.375 .823 -2.057 1.307 ST .085 .772 -.797 30 .432 -.625 .785 -2.227 .977 ORFT .092 .763 .029 30 .977 .063 2.177 -4.385 4.510 As shown in Table 6, since all the significant value was greater than alpha at .05 level of significance, there was no sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis. It can be concluded that there is no significant difference between experimental and control groups’ pretest scores in PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT. Results from the Levene’s test also showed that the equality of variances is assumed. Therefore, participants in both groups had similar levels of reading fluency and spelling ability and so were deemed comparable prior to the intervention. 4.2 The Relative Effect of SSP and SBELC Phonics Training To find out if there was a difference between the posttest scores of PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT assessments of the SSP group and SBELC phonics group, an analysis
  • 19. 13 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. of paired-samples t-test was computed. This was to analyse the mean scores of the pretest and the posttest of the experimental and control groups. The significance level is specified at .05 (alpha, α = .05). Results are presented in Tables 7 and 8 (for the experimental group), and Tables 9 and 10 (for the control group). To address the hypothesis that the children who undergo the SSP training would demonstrate a better improvement in their reading fluency and spelling ability than the children of SBELC phonics, a comparison was made by looking at the higher Partial Eta Squared value of the two groups. The null hypothesis to be tested (Ho: µ1 = µ2 or µ1 - µ2 = 0) states that the PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT mean scores of the pretest are equal to the mean scores of the posttest. Conversely, the alternative hypothesis (H1: µ1≠ µ2 or µ1 - µ2 ≠ 0) states that the PLST, FSIT, RT, ST and ORFT mean scores of the pretest are not equal to the mean scores of the posttest. Table 7. Paired samples descriptive statistics for the experimental group N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean PLST Pretest 16 5.688 1.195 .299 Posttest 16 13.876 1.857 .464 FSIT Pretest 16 96.625 7.013 1.753 Posttest 16 118.750 9.842 2.461 RT Pretest 16 10.375 2.446 .612 Posttest 16 24.875 3.096 .774 ST Pretest 16 7.500 2.129 .532 Posttest 16 19.250 3.493 .873 ORFT Pretest 16 34.500 5.808 1.452 Posttest 16 44.375 6.956 1.739 Table 8. Paired samples t-test for the experimental group Paired Differences t df Sig. (2- tailed) Partial ETA Squared 95% CI of Difference Mean SD Lower Upper PLST (PT-PST) -8.188 1.109 -29.54 15 .000 .880 -8.778 -7.597 FSIT (PT-PST) -22.125 3.557 -24.88 15 .000 .641 -24.020 -20.230 RT (PT-PST)) -14.500 1.633 -35.52 15 .000 .878 -15.370 -13.630 ST ((PT-PST) -11.750 2.266 -20.74 15 .000 .815 -12.957 -10.543 ORFT (PT-PST) -9.875 2.825 -13.98 15 .000 .388 -11.381 -8.369 Note. PT – Pretest, PST - Posttest On average, based on the descriptive statistics shown in Table 7, it seems that the experimental group performed better in the posttest. Since all mean differences are negative (see Table 8), the posttest results are better than the pretest results. The results suggest that there is sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis as all the significant value was smaller than alpha at .05 level of significance. Thus, it can be concluded that SSP had a significant effect on the children’s reading fluency and spelling ability.
  • 20. 14 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Table 9. Paired samples descriptive statistics for the control group N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean PLST Pretest 16 5.750 1.390 .348 Posttest 16 10.188 1.940 .449 FSIT Pretest 16 96.938 6.550 1.637 Posttest 16 108.563 9.252 2.313 RT Pretest 16 10.750 2.206 .552 Posttest 16 20.313 3.005 .751 ST Pretest 16 8.125 2.306 .576 Posttest 16 14.063 2.670 .668 ORFT Pretest 16 34.438 6.491 1.623 Posttest 16 39.938 7.316 1.829 Table 10. Paired samples t-test for the control group Paired Differences t df Sig. (2- tailed) Partial ETA Squared 95% CI of Difference Mean SD Lower Upper PLST (PT-PST) -4.438 1.504 -11.80 15 .000 .648 -5.239 -3.636 FSIT (PT-PST) -11.625 4.745 -9.80 15 .000 .359 -14.154 -9.096 RT (PT-PST)) -9.563 2.309 -16.57 15 .000 .778 -10.793 -8.332 ST ((PT-PST) -5.938 2.462 -9.65 15 .000 .602 -7.250 -4.625 ORFT (PT-PST) -5.500 1.713 -12.85 15 .000 .144 -6.413 -4.587 Note. PT – Pretest, PST – Posttest Overall, based on the descriptive statistics shown in Table 9, participants in the control group appears to perform better in the posttest as compared to the pretest. From the results of the paired samples t-test (Table 10), since all mean differences are negative, the posttest results are better than the pretest results. Since all the significant value was smaller than alpha at .05 level of significance, there was sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis. It can be concluded that SBELC phonics had a significant effect on children’s reading fluency and spelling ability. As can be seen, the mean differences between the pretest and posttest for all five assessments show a significant increase in the reading and spelling performances for both experimental (see Table 8) and control (see Table 10) groups at .05 level of significance. However, as seen in the Partial Eta Squared values, the experimental group gained significantly higher in all the five assessments (PLST = .880, FSIT = .641, RT = .878, ST = .815, ORFT = .388) compared to the control group (PLST = .648, FSIT = .359, RT = .778, ST = .602, ORFT = .144). This confirms the hypothesis that children who undergo SSP will attain higher levels of reading fluency and spelling ability than those who receive SBELC phonics. 4.3 Using Systematic Synthetic Phonics to Accelerate the Acquisition of Early Literacy Skills Findings from this study have shown that synthetic phonics, whether systematic (SSP programme) or unsystematic (SBELC phonics), helps children to develop their decoding skills which apply in reading regular or phonetically decodable words. Children from the experimental and control groups recorded significant growth in their decoding ability (assessed through the RT, ST and ORFT). This
  • 21. 15 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. indicates that both approaches were beneficial in building their blending and segmenting skills (two components of synthetic phonics) that had contributed to their improvement in beginning reading. Nonetheless, the experimental group had higher levels of attainment as compared to the control group in productive letter-sound knowledge, phonemic awareness, reading at world level, and spelling, while achieving a similar level in passage reading with the control group. As aforementioned, phonics training only comes after the letter-sound training in the SSP programme. To elaborate, what this essentially means is that the superior performance of the SSP group could be attributed to the following strategies. The reading-supporting strategies were presented in the productive letter-sound training (from grapheme to phoneme), Phase 5 (from written word to oral form) and the after-phase blending session of the phonics training. The spelling- supporting strategies involved the receptive letter-sound training (from phoneme to grapheme), Phases 1 through 5 (from oral form to written word) and the after- phase segmenting activities of the phonics training. The success also lay in the implementation of phases and stages. Children were only allowed to progress to the next phase after completing the current phase, and were only promoted to the next stage after mastering the 5 phases, blending and segmenting sessions in each stage. To encapsulate, SSP could be the answer for teachers of learners who may be at risk of being left behind and those from a disadvantaged background such as the indigenous groups and/or rural schools (Johnson & Tweedie, 2010) to gain similar improvements in their learners’ early literacy in English language. The empirical evidence gathered in the current study also serves to confirm the success of similar projects using systematic phonics for beginning reading (e.g., Hawkins & Su, 2013; Zulkifli & Melor, 2019). However, in addition to reporting the effectiveness of the SSP programme, this article has also thoroughly described the principles and step-by-step procedure of how teachers can carry out the systematic synthetic phonics training in classrooms with their learners. This corresponds with findings from Rabindra et al.’s (2016) study in which teachers are calling for “a specific training session on phonics” as information from courses is often “in a diluted and watered form” (p. 14). This too possibly answers Warid’s (2015) calls for more guidance and support for teachers of English Language in indigenous rural schools. 5. Conclusion This study has examined the application of the phonics method in improving young children’s early literacy. As discussed previously, reading consists of two distinct components: (i) word-recognition and (ii) comprehension. Phonics instruction supports the development of children’s decoding ability that enhances their word-recognition and thus improves their overall early literacy. In this regard, the highly systematic strategies prescribed in SSP can provide a methodological sequence of introducing the synthetic phonics skills and letter- sound training. Children in the present study had felt a sense of achievement when they used the SSP strategies and successfully read storybooks independently (Jolly Readers Level 1 and Level 2 had been given for reading after
  • 22. 16 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. the training). This was achieved despite the children’s language-disadvantaged background. Based on the findings, the followings recommendations are offered for further investigations. Firstly, as an improvement, future studies can be repeated for a longer period of time, possibly for the entire school year, and begin phonics training of all the 44 phonemes at the beginning of the school term. Doing so may provide a better idea of whether a complete SSP program helps rural children develop early reading fluency and spelling ability, and if the intervention helps in their overall acquisition of literacy skills in the English language. Another consideration for future research is to increase the sample size for the study, possibly by extending the intervention to other rural schools. Doing so will enable the researcher(s) to collect and analyse more data across more settings and enhance the generalisability of SSP in developing early literacy. Finally, this study focused on word recognition only and has yet to study the effects of SSP on reading comprehension. It is therefore recommended future research to explore this area by incorporating the assessments on complete reading processes; both word recognition and comprehension. 6. Acknowledgments The authors offer their sincerest appreciation to Kuang Ching Hei for her encouragement, and the blind reviewers for their assistance and constructive feedback that have led to the publication of this paper. 7. References Armbruster, B. B., Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2001). Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read kindergarten through grade 3. Washington, D.C., WA: National Institute for Literacy. Retrieved from http://www.nifl.gov Beck, I. L., & Beck, M. E. (2013). Making sense of phonics: The hows and whys (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press. Bowey, J. A. (2011). Need for systematic synthetic phonics teaching within the early reading curriculum. Australian Psychology, 41(2), 79–84. doi:10.1080/00050060600610334 Carpenter, T. P., Fennema, E., Peterson, P. L., Chiang, C. P., & Loef, M. (1989). Using knowledge of children’s mathematics thinking in classroom teaching: An experimental study. American Educational Research Journal, 26(4), 499-531. doi:10.3102/00028312026004499 Chin, M. L. L., Karunakaran, K., & Yap, J. R. (2019). The role of negotiated interaction in L2 vocabulary acquisition among primary ESL learners. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 25(2), 1-21. doi:10.17576/3L-2019-2502-01 De Graaff, S., Bosman, A. M. T., Hasselman, F., & Verhoeven, L. (2009). Benefits of systematic phonics instruction. Scientific Studies of Reading, 13(4), 318-333. doi:10.1080/10888430903001308 Ehri, L. C. (2020). The science of learning to read words: A case for systematic phonics instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), 45-60. doi:10.1002/rrq.334 Eun, H. J. (2012). Oral reading fluency in a second language reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 24(2), 186-208. Retrieved from http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/rfl
  • 23. 17 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Griffith, P. L., & Olson, M. W. (1992). Phonemic awareness helps beginning readers break the code. The Reading Teacher, 45(7), 516-523. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/20200912 Harris, T. L., & Hodges, R. E. (1995). The literacy dictionary: The vocabulary of reading and writing. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED385820 Hazita, A. (2016). Implementation and challenges of English language education reform in Malaysian primary schools. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies. 22(3), 650-678. doi:10.17576/3L-2016-2203-05 Jiang, X., Sawaki, Y., & Sabatini, J. (2012). Word reading efficiency and oral reading fluency in ESL reading comprehension. Reading Psychology, 33, 323–349. doi:10.1080/02702711.2010.526051 Johns, J., & Berglund, R. L. (2009). Fluency: Strategies and assessments (3rd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing. Johnson, R. C., & Tweedie, M. G. (2010). Could phonemic awareness instruction be (part of) the answer for young EFL learners? A report on the early literacy project in Malaysia. TESOL Quarterly, 44(4), 822-829. doi:10.5054/tq.2010.238131 Jolliffe, W., Waugh, D., & Gill, A. (2019). Teaching systematic synthetic phonics in primary schools (3rd ed.). London, England: Sage Publications. Malaysia Ministry of Education. (2011). Primary Standard-Based Curriculum Dokumen Standard Kurikulum Sekolah Rendah Bahasa Inggeris SK Tahun Satu & Dua. Putrajaya, Malaysia: Bahagian Pembangunan Kurikulum. Malaysia Ministry of Education. (2017). KSSR: Bahasa Inggeris Dokumen Standard Kurikulum dan Pentaksiran Tahun 2. Putrajaya, Malaysia: Bahagian Pembangunan Kurikulum. McGeown, S. P., Johnston, R. S., & Medford, E. (2012). Reading instruction affects the cognitive skills supporting early reading development. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(3), 360-364. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2012.01 Mesmer, H. A. E., & Griffith, P. L. (2005). Everybody's selling it: But just what is explicit, systematic phonics instruction?. The Reading Teacher, 59(4), 366-376. doi:10.1598/RT.59.4.6 Nadiah Yan, A., Napisah, K., & Mariyatunnitha, S. (2014). Implementing the teaching of phonics in Malaysian primary schools. Asian Journal of English Language and Pedagogy, 2, 95-111. Retrieved from https://ejournal.upsi.edu.my/index.php/ AJELP/article/view/1103 National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Reports of the subgroups. Washington, D.C., WA: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Purewal, S. (2008). Synthetic phonics and the literacy development of second language young learners. A literature review of literacy ideologies, policies, and research. (Master’s dissertation). University of Leeds, Leeds, England. Rabindra, D. P., Nooreiny, M., & Hamidah, Y. (2016). Implementing phonics in Malaysia. International Journal of English Language Teaching and Linguistics, 1(1), 1-18. Rose, J. (2006). Independent review of the teaching of early reading: Final report. Retrieved from www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/rosereview Sidhu, G. K., Kaur, S., & Chi, L. J. (2018). CEFR-aligned school-based assessment in the Malaysian primary ESL classroom. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8, 452- 463. doi:10.17509/ijal.v8i2.13311 Su, S. C. S., & Hawkins, J. (2013). THRASS phonics: A case study of Thomas as an emerging reader in English. The English Teacher, 42(1), 52-73. Retrieved from https://journals.melta.org. my/index.php/tet/article/view/231
  • 24. 18 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Ukrainetz, T. A., Cooney, M. H., Dyer, S. K., Kysar, A. J., & Harris, T. J. (2000). An investigation into teaching phonemic awareness through shared reading and writing. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15(3), 331–355. doi:10.1016/S0885- 2006(00)00070-3 UNICEF. (2008). Education is a human right. Literacy and education in Malaysia: Key actions. Retrieved from http://www. unicef.org/malaysia/index.html Wang, M., & Koda, K. (2005). Commonalities and differences in word identification skills among learners of English as a second language. Language Learning, 55, 71–98. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2007.00416.x Warid, M. (2015). The English language curriculum in Malaysian indigenous primary classrooms: The reality and the ideal. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies. 21(3), 1-12. Retrieved from http://ejournals.ukm.my/3l/article/view/8580 Watts, Z., & Gardner, P. (2012). Is systematic synthetic phonics enough? Examining the benefit of intensive teaching of high frequency words (HFW) in a year one class. Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, 1-10. doi:10.1080/03004279.2012.710105 Wyse, D., & Goswami, U. (2008). Synthetic phonics and the teaching of reading. British Educational Research Journal, 34(6), 691-710. doi:10.1080/01411920802268912 Yap, J. R. (2014). Using systematic synthetic phonics as an approach for early literacy. The case of rural indigenous children (Master’s thesis). University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). Retrieved from http://studentsrepo.um.edu.my/5425/ Zulkifli, A., & Melor, M. Y. (2019). The effectiveness of using Jolly Phonics blending phonemes to Year 3 English Language classroom. International Journal of Humanities, Philosophy and Language, 2(8), 150-162. doi:10.35631/ijhpl.280011
  • 25. 19 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research Vol. 19, No. 10, pp. 19-31, October 2020 https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.19.10.2 Active Learning in Economic Subject: A Case Study at Secondary School Ramlee Ismail*, Marinah Awang and Seow Yea Pyng Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Perak, Malaysia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0511-0343 https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7734-6366 https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7720-4875 Muhammad Ridhuan Bos Abdullah Universiti Utara Malaysia, Malaysia https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2018-8605 Abstract. This study aims to investigate the impact of active learning in the economics subject in Perak secondary school on students’ achievement, motivation, interest, and social interaction. This study applies a quasi-experimental research design, which involves the control and the treatment groups with thirty and thirty-four participants, respectively. The active learning materials for the treatment group were based on active learning methods provided by the Ministry of Education with support from structured lesson plans namely: simulations, discussions, brainstorming, case studies, and visits in the school’s compound. A questionnaire is also used to measure students’ motivation, interest and social interaction before and after the intervention. The results showed that students who had experienced active learning activities score higher than their counterparts significantly for topic 1 and 2. Besides, findings show that they were motivated and interested in learning economics through active learning compared to the traditional approach. However, the researchers find that the social interaction element is not as significant as the others. It has been concluded that the active learning method attracts student’s interest and motivation in the economic subject and subsequently improves their achievement. Students also will get benefit from the varieties of teaching method with a focus of learning outcomes to enrich student-learning activities. Keywords: active learning; economics education; experimental study; teaching economic * Corresponding author: Ramlee Ismail; Email: ramlee@fpe.upsi.edu.my
  • 26. 20 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction The subject of Economics has long been taught in Malaysian secondary schools under the Secondary Schools Integrated Curriculum since 1991. This subject aims to provide the basic knowledge to students to enable them to understand its principles in the modern world. The fundamentals of economics for secondary schools will assist students in making rational economic decisions in their daily lives. It helps also to train them to be more critical and creative in their thinking (Ministry of Education, 2015). Add to this, Generic skills such as interpersonal skills, managing and problem solving would be emphasised through this subject (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 2005). Typically, the economic subject is more likely to use traditional methods such as lectures (chalk and talk), note-taking and it is teacher-centered. Benzing and Christ (1997) and Allgood, Walstad and Siegfried (2013) emphasised that economics courses feature more chalk and talks than other courses. However, the survey done by Watt and Beckers (2008) had pointed out that some of the changes in the teaching method have slowed down, especially in the use of technologies among young economist. In this vein, the notion of active learning pedagogies, including peer learning, flipped classroom, problem-based learning, cooperative learning, and blended learning, has shaped the teaching learning process. Accordingly, many studies revealed that the active learning method is successfully increasing the students’ understanding of economics contents (Tatsumi, 2012; Johnson & Meder, 2019). However, few studies investigate the effect of active learning in secondary or high school. In the secondary school contexts, learning economics is associated with the fact of memorising activities to prepare for the national examination, compared to student-centered learning process. Consequently, students are less likely to be motivated and are reluctant to its learning. In comparison with another subject such as the Principle of Accounts or Business, the academic achievement in Economics subject is still behind and unsatisfactory. For example, the average numbers of students who passed this subject in the national examination (Malaysian Education Certificate) was 63%, from 2000 to 2010. In contrast, those who passed the Principle of Accounts and Business have scored 69.9% and 76.2% in the same period (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 2010). Nevertheless, for the last five years, the results have increased by 5%to give 75.7% in 2014 and 80.20% in 2015. A lower achievement in the economic subject is to certain extent related to students’ poor academic background in calculation, the negative attitudes towards the subject , unattractive teaching methods, and the teaching load (Becker & Watts, 1996, 2001a, 2001b; Watts & Becker, 2008; Backhouse, 2012). Many educationists believe that students’ attitude and motivation towards this subject should cooperate with an attractive teaching method. However, the likelihood of economic teachers using other methods of teaching is lower than teachers of other subjects (Becker, 1998; Watts & Schaur, 2011). As a reaction, the Ministry of Education in Malaysia (MoE) promotes and encourages active learning because it betters students' performance. Additionally, the teaching learning process that involves active learning in a classroom is more enjoyable
  • 27. 21 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. and exciting (Becker, 1997; Zheng, 2017; Schlehuber, 2017). Therefore, the MoE has introduced a module of Active Learning Practices in Economics since 2005 to help teachers involve in active learning in the classroom (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 2005). This module covers all topics in the syllabus and teaching materials to support all activities. Yet, it has been observed that there have been no recent developments in active-learning module in the secondary school economic subject. Therefore, the present paper aims to determine whether active learning in the Economics Module could improve secondary school students’ interest, motivation, social interaction, and their achievement. 2. Literature Review Simply put, active learning is a method of teaching and learning that involves direct participation of students in the learning process (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 2005). Students not only learn to do something, but they also think about the actions and decisions taken in those activities (Bonwell & Eison, 1991; Roach, 2014). According to Silberman (1996) and McLaughin et al. (2013), learning is not about a plain absorption of information into the students’ minds, but it also needs the involvement of their minds and actions. The outcomes of active learning will be permanent because they are engaged in tasks that involve higher cognitive thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Bonwell & Eison, 1991; McLaughin, 2013). Thus, students can solve problems that require higher cognitive levels as well as strengthening the skills to think critically and creatively. The benefits of active learning documented with the economics education literature have always been highlighted as one of the teaching method principals (Carlson & Skaggs, 2000; Ginsburg, 2009; Jensen & Owen, 2003; Maier & Keenan, 1994; Manning & Riordan, 2000; Watts & Schaur, 2011, Moon, Wold & Francom, 2017; Zheng, 2017; Bryan & Jett, 2018). Therefore, active learning in economics education is mandatory (Becker, 1997; Becker & Watts, 2001a; Hansen, 2001; Salemi, 2002) to be used in the classroom. This method of teaching requires the active involvement of students to achieve sustainable learning outcomes in the economics subject (Cross, 1987; MOE, 2005; Siegfried et al.; 1991; Whiting, 2006). Some empirical studies on active learning find that students who are involved in teaching and learning using this approach performed better than in the traditional approach (Gratton-Lavoie & Stanley, 2009). Moreover, students’ interaction and collaboration in small groups do not only increase, but also will contribute to greater subject materials (Yamarik, 2007; Bryan & Jett, 2018). With regard to the above said, the traditional learning process carried out by teachers in the classroom does not highlight the concept of independent learning. Rather, in the teacher-centered learning process, students are given less opportunity to apply or develop their cognitive and affective skills. They only receive the information from their teachers passively and are required to act on what is instructed by the teachers (Prince, 2004). This philosophy is old- fashioned and does not align with the actual role students need to play to survive in the teaching learning process. In this respect, active learning activities such as group discussions, problem-solving, simulations, games and case studies provide students with the opportunity to express and support their ideas as well
  • 28. 22 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. as to consider the thoughts and the opinions of others (Meyers & Jones, 1993; McCarty, Ford & Ludes, 2018). With this in mind, students can exchange their ideas and interact freely with their classmates. Additionally, active learning activities can attract students' interest and create a fun, lively and cheerful classroom atmosphere (Salemi, 2002). In fact, active learning is not only useful in enhancing students' understanding, but it also increases students’ achievement (Carlson & Velenchik, 2006; Bartlett, 2006; Buckles & Hoyt, 2006; Yamarik, 2007; Filio et al., 2013; Calimaries & Sauer, 2015; Cavigllia-Harris, 2016; Rita et al., 2016). Carlson and Velenchik (2006) demonstrate that the technique of discussions in the economics class could develop students' analytical thinking skills. Students can apply the economic theory using the information and data provided by their instructor. Meanwhile, Bartlett (2006) finds that the cooperative learning technique in economics education is effective in improving students' academic performances in examinations. Active learning activities provide opportunities for students to acquire higher thinking skills when interpreting economic concepts. In this sense, Rupp (2014) comes across the fact that elementary school students have significant improvements in their understanding of fundamental economic concepts. This situation sharply contrasts with the traditional learning situation where students are merely asked to understand the precise concept from the teacher's explanation (Salemi, 2002). In the same line of thought, many scholars also realized that active learning can improve students’ interest towards the economics subject (Brokaw & Merz, 2004; Dixit, 2006; Rotgans & Schmidt, 2011; Strow & Strow, 2006). Brokaw & Merz (2004) show that active learning could trigger students' interest in the critical concepts of the economy. Games technique, for example, can improve student's understanding of economic theories that are too abstract for them to comprehend (Dixit, 2006). Furthermore, role-play can also enhance student's interest in the subject, as well as prevents boredom and sleepiness in the classroom. In parallel, teachers should provide guidance, coaching, and motivation that are necessary for students who have difficulties with active learning activities in class (Buckles & Hoyt, 2006). Also, rewards that are given by teachers to those who did well in a particular activity either in verbal forms, such as praises and encouragement or in material forms such as chocolates or small gifts, will make students more motivated to actively participate in group activities (Slavin, 1990). The latter do not only foster intrapersonal and interpersonal skills among the students, but also inculcate ethical values such as respecting the opinion of others, collaborating and, to be fair and equitable in emphasizing logical facts. In doing so, learner's autonomy and collaboration will increase (Becker, 1997; Bonwell & Eison, 1991; Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1998; Salemi, 2010; Toh Wah Seng; 2008; Bailey et al., 2013; Bergmann et al., 2013), and their interaction improves academic achievement and interest (Brooks & Kandler, 2002). Which in return give more opportunities and flexibilities to identify their learning style, interests, and abilities (Fuller et al., 2015 & Mazur et al., 2015).
  • 29. 23 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Though the significant endeavour done by the MoE and the outstanding materials for effective outcomes, some economics teachers have almost forgotten the existence of this module as most of them prefer the traditional method of instruction which is ‘chalk and talk,'. In this context, Hansen at al. (2002) contended that economics teachers or instructors have been slow to adopt the new teaching methods. The common reasons for using the traditional approach in the economics subject includes the large class size, lack of materials, and the many topics covered in the syllabus. Goffe and Kauper (2014) suggest that the predominant reason why teachers prefer to use the lecturing method in the economics subject is the ability to control the delivery and coverage of content. In the Malaysian context, teachers complained that they are reluctant with non- related teaching activities at school such as too much clerical work, data entering, and preparing the students for various competitions at school, district, state and national levels. A survey has been carried out on the teacher’s workload in Malaysia and findings show that the average number of hours is 57 hours per week, but some of them have workload up to 76 hours per week. Unfortunately, the proportions of time spent in preparing teaching activities were low (MoE, 2013). Indeed, when the educational system is streaming into so-called science and art, economics students then fall into the ‘second category’ wherein the likelihood of passivity and anonymity exists and therefore becomes a barrier of active teaching and learning ( Hoyt at al., 2010; Roach, 2014). The quality of learning also depends on learners' abilities to steer and control their learning processes (Niemi, 2002) and past performance (Denny, 2014). The outcome of students’ achievement is measured by “how many got A’s or how many per cent passed the economics subject” which is in fact not an encouraging statement teachers appreciate to spend more time on effective classroom management, solid planning teaching materials, and activities. However, these are not the ultimate reasons why the active teaching and learning module by MoE should be left behind. Hence, the researcher’s rationale is to study the effectiveness of the current teaching method, using the materials provided by the MoE, to improve students’ interest, motivation, social interaction and achievement in the Economics subject at secondary schools. 3. Methodology The conceptual framework for this study adopted the three-phase learning model introduced by Biggs (1978). The first phase of the survey is a pre-study, which refers to the pre-review factors of active learning namely: student’s achievement, interest, motivation and social interaction of students in an Economic subject. The second phase involves the process of teaching and learning (T&L), which is active learning that was carried out in the Form Four economics classes. In hope to meet the intended results, discussions, simulations, brainstorming, case studies and visits within the school’s compound are the five active learning activities the researchers have used in this research paper. These learning activities are indeed extracted from the “Best Active Learning Practices in Fundamental Economics” as provided by MoE. The materials and tools for these learning activities will further enhance the effectiveness of student's learning in the final phase. Figure 1 shows the three phases.
  • 30. 24 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. Pre-review of the effectiveness Teaching & learning process - Active learning Output • Academic achievement • Interest • Motivation • Social interaction • Discussions • Simulations • Brainstorming • Case studies • Visit school compound • Academic achievement • Interest • Motivation • Social interaction Figure 1. Active Learning Process in Teaching and Learning of Fundamental Economics This research is a quasi-experimental design which is used to test whether there are any significant effects of active learning and the traditional methods on the academic achievement of students in the Form Four FE subject. Also, the researchers used a questionnaire to obtain students’ feedback on the effectiveness of active learning methods in their economics class. The questionnaire is administered to sixty-three participants and it consists of two sections. The first section covers information on the personal background of the respondents such as gender, parent’s educational level, and others. Whereas, section two is meant to collect data on the respondents’ interest, motivation, and social interaction using the five Likert scale. The questionnaire is adapted from Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire – MSLQ research tool, which was developed by Pintrich and DeGroot (1990). This MSLQ survey tool has been widely used to measure the level of motivation in students' learning. Meanwhile, social interaction instruments have been modified from the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA) survey by Armsden and Greenberg (1987). Preliminary test (pretest) and performance tests (posttest) are used to measure students’ basic knowledge, and evaluate their academic achievement, respectively. These tests are developed by the researchers in which they are based on the Malaysian Certificate Education Examination and certified by an expert from the same state. Indeed, the preliminary test is used as a covariate to streamline the fundamental difference between treatment and control groups. The present study takes place in Perak secondary school where the researchers explicitly introduced the studied criteria and the materials to be used in both groups (treatment group, N=34 and Control group, N=30). The investigators have used random sampling method to group the participants based on their registration number, but those with odd registration number are reallocated to the treatment group, including those with registration number who are in the control group. The control class is used to eliminate the variation effect of the student's knowledge and economics background. The same teacher teaches both classes on the same topics but with different methods. The experiment lasts for four weeks, which covers Unit 5 with the Topic: Market. The teaching load is "2 + 1" per week, which is 80 and 40 minutes for each session. The materials and lesson plans used were Active Learning Module from page 148 to 167; covering
  • 31. 25 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. 11 teaching materials with four main activities namely: brainstorming, role play, simulation and group work. The control group uses a traditional method. Source: Modified from Shadish, Cook, and Campbell (2002) Figure 2: The Intervention vs the Traditional Method The researchers have also provided plans to be used in daily lessons according to topics, reference materials, papers, and other group activities to help instruct others entirely. Also, guidance and answers for teachers are also provided to ensure that active learning activities are carried out smoothly in the economics class. A summary of the activities for both methods is shown in Table 1. Table 1: Comparison of Active and Traditional Learning Methods Active Learning Traditional Learning Students were introduced to study topics through an impressive set of Induction. The teacher introduced the lesson topic through a brief question and answer Teaching activities using active learning materials. The teacher presented the lesson content by using the lecture method. Students complete the individual and groups’ learning materials Students listen to while taking notes The conclusion made by students or teachers at the closing session The teacher made a summary at the closing session Students do the activities in the form of active learning The teacher gave a few questions for homework Sample (64 students) Quasi-experimental study and survey Treatment group (34 students) Control Group (30 students) Active learning Traditional learning Achievement Test Pre-test Post survey Data analysis Summary/discussion/recommendations Pre survey Achievement Test
  • 32. 26 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. 4. Results Descriptive statistics were used to describe the demographical factors of our sample. Table 2 depicts some students’ background for both groups. The male sample was slightly larger than the female sample in the treatment group compared to the control group. Table 2 summarises the collected data on the respondents’ background information. Table 2: Background Profile of the Study’s Respondents (n=64) Item Treatment Group Control Group n (%) n (%) Gender Male Female 19 (55.9) 15 (44.1) 13 (43.3) 17 (56.7) Parents’ education Primary school Secondary school Tertiary education 7 (20.6) 25 (73.5) 2 (5.9) 7 (23.3) 23 (76.7) - Parents’ / Guardian’s Employment Government Employees Private Sector Employees Self-employed Retirees 11 (32.4) 6 (17.6) 13 (38.2) 4 (11.8) 8 (26.7) 7 (23.3) 11(36.7) 4 (13.3) Total Monthly Household Income Less than RM 1000 RM 1000 – RM 1500 RM 1501 – RM 2000 More than RM 2000 21 (61.8) 8 (23.5) 4 (11.8) 1 (2.9) 20 (66.7) 7 (23.3) - 3 (10.0) The differential in the mean score of active learning activities in the classroom is tested by the Paired Sample T-Test and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) for the achievement test. The difference between the mean scores for the treatment group before and after involvement in the active learning process is compared and determined whether there were any significant differences between the two data sets. The Paired Sample t-test is used to test whether there is any significant increase in interest, motivation and social interaction in the treatment group after they have experienced the activities that were carried out using the active learning method. While, the ANCOVA technique is used to eliminate the existence of economics knowledge of the two groups that were involved in the current attempt (Shadish, Cook & Campbell, 2002). A covariate uses the latest monthly assessment for both groups as the pre-test. Column five in Table 3 depicts students’ achievement in the first and second topics. Table 3: Analysis of Covariance Experiment Topic Group N Mean Test Performance F p Active learning 1 Control Treatment 30 33 53.00 61.52 73.181 0.000 2 Control Treatment 30 33 56.00 67.42 92.659 0.000
  • 33. 27 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. As displayed, the mean score for the treatment group was higher than the control group in both topics. The findings show that the academic achievement of students who used active learning activities was significantly higher than their counterpart with the F=92.66. Table 4 reflects the results of students’ experience in active learning. The mean difference between pre and post-survey for "Interest, Motivation, and Social Interaction" are shown in column three. The positive value indicates that the average score for post-test is higher than the pre-test. Table 4: Paired Sample t-test Variables Mean difference after and before treatment df t value Sig. (two tails) Interest 1.817 33 14.240 0.000 Motivation 1.425 33 10.572 0.000 Social Interaction 0.225 33 1.688 0.101 The significant or the non-significant of the mean difference in these activities depends on the t value. Therefore, the t value for “Interest and Motivation” is, t (33, p = 0.000) = 14.24 and t (33, p = 0.00) = 10.57 respectively, which was smaller than 0.05 which indicates that both variables are significant. That is to say, the active learning activities conducted in the classroom enabled students to show more interest and motivation in learning the economics subject. However, as displayed, there is no significant difference in the mean score of “Social Interaction” before and after learning activities. 5. Discussion and Conclusions This study concludes that the treatment group with the notion of active learning method performs better than those following the traditional learning process in the control group. In this regard, some studies also showed that active learning had improved students’ academic achievement, (Budd, 2004; Johnson & Johnson, 1994; Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1998; Meyers & Jones, 1993; Roche, 2014 and Slavin, 1995). However, Malek, Hall and Hodget (2014) found that there is no statistically significant improvement when the traditional teaching methods were tested with the alternative teaching method. The findings of the current paper dictate that students become more motivated in learning economics using the active teaching and learning method. These findings are also found by other researchers namely, Bartlett (2006), Becker (1997), Bonwell and Eison (1991), Brokaw and Merz (2004), Carlson and Velenchik (2006), Dixit (2006), Hazlett (2006) and Salemi (2002).Students are fond of the active learning activities conducted in class mainly in simulations, group discussions, case studies and visits within the school’s compound. They approach these practices as being attractive and fun which help them to understand the concepts of economics better. More than that, active learning methods can also enhance students' motivation in the process of learning economics for Form Four. Although the application of motivational research to the economics subject is scarce, there is some evidence that motivation is an additional factor to successful output in economics among students (Arnold & Straten, 2012),
  • 34. 28 ©2020 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved. because the teaching aids and materials in active learning are rewarding and fun for students (Salemi, 2002). Nevertheless, results of the current endeavour do not show the mean difference before and after experiment on the aspect of social interaction. That is to say, it appears that there is no conclusive evidence that the active learning method is effective in improving the social interaction of students. Probably, changes in a class setting should be included in preparing class activities. Because, active learning classroom (ACL) is a common setting and arrangements for enhance effective learning process (Baepler & Walker, 2014; Metzger, 2015), the latter will contribute to make a significant impact on social interaction with new team members and foster a closer relationship with new friends. As far as economics teachers are concerned, they should not solely rely on traditional learning methods, as a reason, to complete the syllabus given for a large number of students in a class. The active teaching materials provided by educational department should be frequently used, diversified and blended with latest teaching and learning devices to motivate students. Indeed, further empirical studies should explore promising alternatives to enable learners understand the significant role social interaction plays and what pedagogies to develop for successful integration. References Allgood, S., Walstad, W. B., & Siegfried, J. J. (2015). Research on teaching economics to undergraduates. Journal of Economic Literature, 53(2), 285-325. Armsden, G. C., & Greenberg, M. T. (1987). The inventory of parent and peer attachment: relationships to well-being in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 16(5), 427-454. Arnold, I. J. M., & Straten, J. T. (2012). Motivation and math skills as determinants of first-year performance in economics. The Journal of Economic Education, 43(1), 33– 47. Baepler, P., & Walker, J. D. (2014). Active learning classrooms and educational alliances: Changing relationships to improve learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2014(137), 27–40. doi:10.1002/tl.20083 Bartlett, R. L. (2006). The evolution of cooperative learning and economics instruction. In W. E. Becker, M. Watts & S. R. Becker (Eds.), Teaching Economics: more alternatives to chalk and talk (pp. 39-58). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. Becker, W. E. (1997). Teaching economics to undergraduates. Journal of Economic Literature, 35(9), 1347-1373. Becker, W. E. (1998). Engaging student in quantitative analysis with the academic and popular press. In W. E. Becker & M. Watts (Eds.), Teaching Economics: more alternatives to chalk and talk (pp. 241-267). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. Becker, W. E., & Watts, M. (1996). Chalk and talk: A national survey on teaching undergraduate economics. American Economic Review, 86(2), 448–453. Becker, W. E., and M. Watts. (2001a). Teaching economics at the start of the 21st century: Still chalk-and-talk. American Economic Review, 91(2), 446–51. Becker, W. E., & M. Watts. (2001b). Teaching methods in U.S. undergraduate economics courses. Journal of Economic Education, 32, 269–279. Benzing, C., & Christ, P. (1997). A survey of teaching methods among economics faculty. The Journal of Economic Education, 28(2), 182-188. Biggs, J. B. (1978). Individual and group differences in study processes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 48, 266-279.
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