In the introduction section of English KBSM Curriculum Specifications, it is mentioned that a small literature component has been added to the curriculum to enable learners to engage in wider reading of good works for enjoyment and for self-development. In addition, through the introduction of the literature component in the English language subject, students are expected to develop an understanding of other societies, cultures, values and traditions that will contribute to their emotional and spiritual growth.
It is also stated in the curriculum content that one of the learning outcomes of the English language curriculum is to use language for aesthetic purposes. The curriculum developer at the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) expects students to be able to enjoy literary texts, to express ideas, thoughts, beliefs and feelings creatively and imaginatively along side with the incorporation of moral
values in this area of language use. CDC also outlined the aim of LiE is to enhance students’ proficiency in the English language through the study of a set of prescribed literary texts, contribute to personal development and character building, and broaden students’ outlook through reading about other cultures and world views.
However, how far does the literature component achieve its purpose? Nowadays, there are more research taking place to investigate the effectiveness of literature component as language tool in developing students’ English proficiency. In Malaysia, numbers of research has been made in order to study the relationship between teachers’ teaching method and students’ acceptance towards literature which results in contrasting findings. For example, Fauziah and Jamaluddin (2009) found that teachers used more student-centred approach which created a better learning atmosphere and improved students’ perception and motivation towards literature. In contrast, Daimah (2001) found that teachers mostly adopt teacher-centred methods in literature classes so that they can complete the syllabus in time for examination.
Approaches in the teaching of literature
First of all, it is crucial to define clearly what is meant by ‘approach’? Anthony’s (1963, as cited in Rosli, 1995) basic premise of his definition of method is that “it is based on approach and implemented by techniques”. Thus, he defines approach as “the level at which assumptions and beliefs about language and language learning are specified”. Approach therefore, is the underlying foundation in the construction of activities in teaching literature.
Basically, there are three fundamental models of teaching literature as presented by Carter and Long (1991) which are:
The Cultural Model views literature works as relics of culture since it preserves cultural and artistic heritage. This model requires students to explore and interpret the culture of the text which includes the social, political, literary and historical context of a specific text. Thus, reading is an act of obtaining information for this particular model. This model has been associated with traditional approach to teaching literature, which tends to be more teacher-centred when teachers merely transmit knowledge and information to the students.
The Language Model integrates literature and language. Undoubtedly, literature is made up of language. So, this model emphasis language as the literary medium whereby the literary texts are exploited for the teaching of vocabulary or structures or language manipulation. When students are exposed to the works of literature, they can develop literary competence and improve their language proficiency at the same time.
The Personal Growth Model bridges the cultural model and the language model which highlights the need of the students’ personal engagement with the reading of literary texts. Students are encouraged to express their opinions, feelings and make connections between their real life experiences with the themes and issues related to the literary texts. It gives personal touch to the text when students are able to connect with the text and makes the process of reading as enjoyable and responsive. This model relates to the theories of reading (Goodman, 1970) which emphasize the interaction of the reader with the text. Therefore, learning takes place when students are able to interpret text and construct meaning on the basis of their own experiences which develop their personal growth, emotional growth as well as language growth. The teaching practice of this model is more towards learner-centredness (Tudor, 1996).
Approaches employed by secondary school teachers to teaching the literature component in English.
Secondary school teachers possess great role in designing activities when it comes to teaching literature. Literature teachers have to analyze their students’ level of proficiency and look for a suitable approach that can give maximum input towards students. Yet, teachers also have their own philosophy and belief on how to teach literature. Research were conducted over the years on approaches to the teaching of literature and Carter (1988, as cited in Rosli, 1995) underlines three main approaches to literature teaching which are:
Information-based approaches that aims to teach knowledge about literature and treat literature mainly as a source of facts or information about a target country or literature. This approach can be linked with the cultural model in teaching literature as provided by Carter and Long (1990) since reading is largely for information especially when students need to look at the culture and ideologies different from their own time and space that ranges from every aspects of socio-cultural and historical background of the text.
Personal response-based approaches elicit students’ individual response towards the text. Therefore, it is more student-centred. The basic premise of this approach is that students are encouraged to give meaning to the text by relating their own experience to the themes and issues in the literary texts. Hirvela (1996) further explains that responses are personal as they are concerned with students’ feelings and opinions about the literary texts. This approach emphasis on question-discussion methodologies which includes activities such as brainstorming, guided fantasy, small group discussions and journal writing (Lazar, 1993) plus activities which are interpretative in nature generation views and opinions on the text (Hirvela, 1996).
Language-based approaches, just like the language model of teaching literature seek integration between the language and the culture. These approaches help students to focus more on the way language is used. Savvidou (2004) asserts that such an approach enables students to access a text in a systematic and methodical way in order to exemplify specific linguistic features (e.g. literal and figurative language, direct and indirect speech) thus lend itself well to the repertoire of strategies used in language teaching namely cloze procedure, prediction, role play, jumbled sentences, debate and discussions thus, the approach is student-centred. Lazar (1993, as cited in Hwang and Mohamed Amin, 2007) further elaborates that language-based approaches see literary texts as resources that cater for language practices through series of language activities rather than studying literature for the purpose of acquiring facts and information.
In addition, there are several other approaches that Rosli (1995) points out such as:
Paraphrastic Approach that the discussions mainly revolve around what the author has said. Basically, the teacher will have to re-tell the story in a simpler language. There are also occurrences in which the teacher translates the story into other languages. This approach is suitable for beginners as Rosli (1995) says that it serves as a stepping-stone to formulating original assumptions of the author’s work. In addition, based on a study conducted among 87 English teachers teaching literature in 15 urban secondary schools in Sandakan, Hwang and Mohamed Amin (2007) found that, this approach is popularly employed by them. Activities such as reading aloud and going through unfamiliar terms help students with better understanding of the text.
Moral-philosophical Approach that emerges based on the belief that morality could be taught through literature. The value of moral and philosophical considerations is elements to be focused on while reading literary works. Rosli (1995) asserts that students will find reading worthwhile which assist in the understanding of and the formulation if more complex themes in future readings. Therefore, this approach can increase students’ awareness of values. According to Wang (2003), activities for this approach include the incorporation of moral values at the end of the literature lesson, reflections and getting students to identify values while reading.
Literary Stylistics Approach that is undertaken to explain the relationship between language and artistic function of literature. Leech and Short (1981, as cited in Rosli, 1995) stated that stylistics is more concerned with the way language is used in a text and how meanings are constructed and communicated (Carter and Long, 1991 as cited in Ganakumaran, 2003). Thus, students will look at the ways in which literary text function in conveying meanings to the readers. Ganakumaran (2003) claims that, in the Malaysian ESL context, stylistics approach may be views as an excellent extension to language-based strategies and to activities in the language classroom because its nature of using linguistics as a tool of analysis allows teacher to use forms and structures focused on in the language classroom as starting points to analyse literary texts.
Socio-psychological Approach aims (1) to enhance students’ knowledge of people; (2) to understand the age in which the literature was written; and (3) to apply this knowledge and understanding to current living. The underlying idea of this approach is the demonstration that humanistic values are essentially universal and still valid in the present despite the changes of time and place.
Relationship between motivation and interest with learning
Motivation is the study of why people think and behave as they do. In learning, motivation is an important drive that determines whether or not student will want to accomplish the tasks given and achieve success in the future. Students need a little bit of motivation, encouragement and support from their teachers when learning literature thus, teachers should create learning environment that promote students’ cognitive engagement and self-responsibility for learning (Blumenfeld, Krajcik and Kempler, 2006).
Interest is subjective and varies from one person to another. It involves the cognitive and affective relationship between a student and particular subject matter. Interest can hold student’s attention, encourage effort, and support learning (Renninger, 2009). More interesting the tasks and activities are, the more effectively they will learn (Vishnu, 2000). Educational psychologists’ studies on interest has focused mainly on how interest is related to learning whereas it is especially linked to measures of deep learning, such as recall of main ideas and responses to more difficult comprehension questions, than to surface learning, such as responses to simple questions and verbatim recall of text (Schiefele, 1996; Wigfield et. al, 2006) as cited in Santrock (2008).
Fauziah and Jamaluddin (2009) assert that the enthusiasm of teachers, their actions and decisions determine students’ interest. Therefore, instead of mind-setting that students have low interest in learning literature because they have low proficiency in English language, teachers should listen to students since their perception and observation towards their teachings as students can provide suggestions and directions for teachers’ future improvement.
Teacher’s Role in the Teaching of LiE
Teachers have a very important role to play in ensuring that students actually learn in the LiE classroom. Although it is crucial for students to be interested in a subject matter, it is at the utmost importance that students go through a learning experience and that they understand what the teacher present in the classroom.
Fauziah and Jamaluddin (2009) claim that teacher play an important role in cultivation the love and interest for literature in students. Since teachers are exposed and equipped with methodologies and approaches in the teaching of literature, they have the power to influence the students’ interest and perception of life. Thus, it gives teacher autonomy to create and promote a positive environment and learning attitude for the students to feel comfortable with literature learning and not to feel scared and intimidated by the complexity of the texts chosen.
It is unquestionable that teacher’s creativity in approaching certain texts or themes is crucial when it comes to teaching literature. Lloyd Fernando (2000, as cited in Fauziah and Jamaluddin, 2009) stated that “in the hands of a creative, dedicated teacher, even the mundane of language activities can come alive in the classroom with the effective learning transfer taking place”.
Lopez (1998) as cited in Fauziah and Jamaluddin (2009) stress the importance of employing different teaching technique also concurs that students generally have a poor grasp of the English language and part of the problem lies with the conventional teaching methods employed. Therefore, Fauziah and Jamaluddin (2009) concludes that “teachers of literature have extra responsibility of being innovative and creative to ensure that students, especially in the Second Language context, to not only understand but also internalize literary texts”.
Creative Teaching Methods
Students learn in their very own unique manner. Therefore, teachers should apply teaching methods that are appealing to their learning preferences. No doubt that it is impossible to cater to each student’ learning preferences in a forty-five minute lesson that comprises more than thirty students in a classroom. Thus, teachers should employ creative teaching methods so that students are actively engaged in the activities and learn from the lesson.
“The best and most efficient teachers use creative teaching methods so that they can reach all of their students, and engage them effectively. A good teacher will take the material that is to be covered through the curriculum, and will take ownership of it, and make it their own. A good teacher will get creative and figure out new and exciting methods to teach the material. As time marches forth, the need for teachers to stay current with the times looms larger now than ever.” (Coles, 2008)
Teachers are encouraged to use creative teaching methods because must be involved in interesting, interactive and applicable activities so that the learning is meaningful for the students.
Students’ Attitude in the LiE classroom
Based on a discussion thread posted on January 24th, 2008, in Malaysia English Language Teaching Association (MELTA) forum on the topic Why Do Most Students Got Depressed During Literature Classrooms? Can You Share Your Opinion… most teachers point out that their students simple dislike literature therefore, fail to build interest towards that component. Students easily get bored when they are not engaged with the lesson so, they might either sleep while the teacher is explaining or disappear from the class. These attitude and behaviour illustrates the need of teacher to be alive and has genuine passion towards literature themselves.
Therefore, it is important to keep students engaged with the activities in the classroom. Students will pay more attention when they get excited about their learning. Activities that involve and engage students are ones where they are manipulating the information physically and mentally. Fauziah and Jamaluddin (2009) found that, when students are personally and physically involved, learning has a more dramatizing impact.
Since students are the primary clients and stakeholders in the education system, it is vital for teachers reflecting on students’ perception towards their teachings. It is also important to bear in mind that teaching is not a one-way process in which teachers deliver and students absorb the information. Thus, teachers should involve students in the teaching-learning approach as students’ thinking and perception will determine success of the lesson.
This chapter elaborates related researches pertaining to the problem area. Profound views from previous researhers in the related area are referred to as basis to support this research regarding teachers’ role in stimulating students’ interest towards the learning of LiE by introducing creative ways in teaching literature.