About Me

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Salatiga, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia
I am an English Teacher Educator who is always curious to finding ways for improving the quality of ELT/TEAFL in Indonesian School Context

Contribution to ELTIS

Contribution to ELTIS
Surabaya and Mataram

Sunday, June 14, 2009

“From Teacher-centered to Students-centered to Internet Assisted Learning”

Illuminating my teacher knowledge through narrative inquiry

There is still a strong dispute on whether the content knowledge or the pedagogical knowledge is the most important attribute of a quality teacher. A research done by Kukla-acevedo proves that both are equally important in effective teaching (2009). As an English teacher who is not a graduate of an English teacher college, I often find it very challenging to prove for myself that I am able to teach. I read books and research reports on pedagogical theory and practices and I like to apply some recommendations on effective teaching provided by educational experts in my own classroom. Nevertheless, I never find myself as a confident teacher who feels all right with all that have happened in the classroom. I feel like there is always a gap between realities in my classroom and the ideal teaching practices as described in the books and research reports. Xu and Connely argue that teachers’ knowledge is more critical than knowledge-for-teachers (2009, p. 223). Bearing in mind that content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge as knowledge-for-teachers, I believe it is time for me to know about my own teacher knowledge in order to gain more confidence in teaching. By definition, teacher knowledge is “a narrative construct which references the totality of a person’s personal practical knowledge gained from formal and informal educational experience” (Xu & Connelly 2009, p. 221). Teacher knowledge refers to the ways teachers know themselves and their professional work situations. This paper applies the narrative inquiry method to illuminate my own teacher knowledge. The narrative inquiry itself is adopted here because through thinking narratively, I can see everything that I experienced as happening in particular time and place and so I see each experience in sequential flow and that “inquiry itself is a narrative process”(Xu & Connelly 2009, p. 223). On the following are vignettes narrating my experiences in learning English, in becoming a novice teacher-educator, in joining the 6 months International In-service Teacher Certification organized by Cambridge University in Bali, in lessening the gap between the ideals and the realities of teaching English in my own classrooms, in taking leaves from teaching routines while pursuing a master degree on Educational Leadership and Management at La Trobe University, Australia. In each vignette, I will inquire into what I know and feel about English teaching-learning process and illuminate my teacher knowledge by referring to what education experts say regarding particular concepts of English teaching-learning.
My English learning
I had learnt English for six years prior to my study at the university. In my school times, students learnt English through classroom learning activities highly controlled by the teachers. Students were therefore so dependent on the classroom learning pace. I learnt English in ways very common to any English teaching in schools at that time, by focusing on the structures of discrete English, generally presented from the simple to complex structures, then to compare the structures to their counterparts in bahasa and used this knowledge to translate texts, principally designed for school usages, from English into bahasa or vice versa. Reading skill and writing skill were emphasized than the speaking and listening skills since students would unlikely use their English for other purposes than the academic purpose. Students’ performance in English was measured from their test results which items were mostly close ended questions and multiple choices.
I was accepted at the Department of English Literature at the Faculty of Letters of the Gadjah Mada university in 1993 as I was one among the 28 out of 10.600 applicants passing the very competitive selection test to the Department. My performance in English was above the average English performance of senior high-school students because the selection test itself was designed to qualify very limited top achiever to major in English Literature, where students would very likely study different kind of English, the more complex and extraordinary English as used in literary works. Nevertheless, in the university, I learnt English much in the same traditions of English teaching-learning where students tried to gain as many advantages as possible from classroom activities highly controlled by teachers. The difference was that students were exposed to more examples of English usages outside the academic world. Through my extensive readings on the prescribed English novels, poems, dramas, and short stories, and lecture sessions on appreciating and analysing meticulous literary works I was involved in learning English as the inseparable part of cultures and values of the English natives. I might have instilled some values of the western people, such as egalitarianism and critical thinking, even though the classroom activities might not be designed to invoke those values.
The vignette above shows that the prevalent view of teaching adjoining my learning English is that teachers believe students will learn nothing unless teachers make effort to teach them what to learn therefore the classroom activities are so structured (Raz 1982, p. 110). The rampant learning styles adopted by students in my school time is what so called as surface learning where students understand and remember knowledge already exist as it is provided by teachers, and absorb new information that do not change students engraved thinking process (Offir et al. 2008, p. 1175)
From the vignette of my learning English above, I like to accentuate on three things as follow.
1. I tagged along similar path of English learning like other students in Indonesia did 6 six years of formal classroom sessions with learning activities highly controlled by teachers except that I also joined English course outside school that provided less controlled learning activities.
2. At the university, I studied English as both a means of communication and expressions of cultures and values.
3. To certain degree, I was integrating myself to the values and cultures of English native speakers. It would be really hard for me to look into the worth of any literary works in particular community if I failed to understand the values and cultures of that community.
The fact that I also joined English course outside school may become one of the reasons why I managed to always score higher than the average. This course gave me additional learning activities that other students could not have in their formal education. Lier (1996, p. 43) says to guarantee improvement in language learning students must occupy their minds with that language between lessons as well as in lessons. My involvement in the course was also an indicator of my having higher motivation to learn English that helped me much in my learning (Bernaus & Gardner 2008). However, there is also another explanation for this. Perhaps I was one of what Jeffrey calls as high assessment focus students or students who win the games of learning by following exactly all rules prescribed by teachers (2009, p. 199). High assessment focus students are the successful ones in surface learning.
My learning English at the university makes me believe that discussion on English structures must not serve as the most important section in textbooks or classroom activities since as expressions of cultures, English usage is very dependent on the users. I know that the choices for the use of particular forms or structures of English do not depend merely on the information content, time of events, etc but also on the purposes, identities, and social variables of the users (McConachy 2009, p. 117). My attitude toward teaching-learning English has also changed through my experience studying in the faculty of English literature. I preferred to look at the purposes of someone using particular chunk of English rather than the structures of that discrete English. Literary persons are very skilful in their choices of language and so if I am to teach English I believe I will let my students to study variety of possible pieces of English to achieve the users’ purposes to communicate in English. This is in line to what Cadman (2008, p. 30) says that teachers’ attitude and priority influence the teaching learning process.
Being a novice English teacher-educator
It was indeed startling, or other might look at it as silly, for me to get the position as teacher-educator as I was not a graduate of a teacher-college. Soon as I got the position, I knew that I had chosen the right profession. My father and mother were teachers and I felt like I was born to be a teacher too. I was impressed with the value of egalitarianism shared by English spoken communities as described in the literary works that on my first day teaching, I came to the class earlier hoping that students could see me as different teacher since other teachers generally came to class only after all students sat in the class and showed readiness for their sessions. That first thing I did in my first teaching and my other behaviours to show that I liked to be treated more as a friend for their learning rather than as a teacher having higher authority in classroom activities did not work as what I expected. Very few students felt quite at ease with this changing value in my classroom. Consequently, the teaching-learning process in my classroom went in the same direction taken by other classrooms, where learning was still very dependent on teachers’ control and performance. Even though, I taught them more on the usage of English than on its structures, I did not really encourage my students to challenge the curriculum that emphasized on the teaching of English structures. Indeed, by playing a role as knowledge provider, I felt more secure. I felt like I was on the stage showing off my skills, my English, to compensate for my lacks of pedagogical knowledge. Besides, I believed most of my students were still lacks of content knowledge and my role as knowledge provider would boost up their English mastery. Anyway, they could learn how to teach later when people put trust on their English mastery, just like what had happened to me.
The content knowledge or the pedagogical knowledge influences on teachers’ performances were not parts of the considerations for appointing me as teaching staff at STAIN Salatiga. My being alumni of a reputable English Department of Gadjah Mada University plainly convinced the selection committee that I would be able to fulfil my jobs. Albeit no complaints from my students so far, I did face some problems of teaching due to my lack of prior knowledge and experiences on pedagogical practices.
It was told in the vignette that I was carried away with the dominant local cultures that put me as the master in the classroom, instead of me instilling new values to my classroom. This diminished my initial intention to promote new learning through new teacher-students relationship which was more egalitarian. According to Sowden, non-native English teacher often face obstacles for implementing particular teaching methodologies when students perceived that there are some imported values in the methodologies (2007, p. 304) this is perhaps a reason why not all my students feel secure with my new approach in our interaction. Regarding the array of experiences that students have at school in a whole, students may not remember all what their teachers taught but they will very likely not forget how they are treated (Nguyen 2009, p. 655). While other teachers are still keeping the hierarchy, it will be hard for students to treat me differently so as to lessen the power distance between me and my students. I was also unable to share the egalitarian value because I enjoyed my role as knowledge provider, which automatically positions my students as the ones need the learning, not me. Bernaus and Gardner (2008, p. 399) say teachers may apply any teaching strategy they think as of value for students but students have to perceived it as such in order for this strategy to be effective. Furthermore, since the prevailing cultures in my classroom still inhibit the desirable situations of my planned changes, the possibility for me to fail in implementing my plan is bigger (Wang & Cheng 2005, p. 20).
Joining an international in-service English teacher certification
From March to August 2005 I joined The Cambridge International In-service English Teacher Certification organized by Indonesia-Australia Language Foundation Bali (IALF Bali). I expected that this training would focus on upgrading my teaching skills than my English skills because the committee has standardized the level of the participants’ English proficiency through IELTS. This training really improved my teaching skills in many ways. I experienced teaching as well as observing many classroom practices that used variety of approaches, methods and techniques as offered by many experts in English teaching in their publications and research. I knew the importance of real communications, authentic materials, and opportunities for students to engage in the tasks as active English users through conversations, discussion, or team works. I also developed the habit of careful planning for each lesson I would have by sequencing classroom activities and allocating the time for each activity to be done and ensuring students talking time to be much higher than my talking time so students would have more chances to use their English.
From the training, I developed more skills in teaching English and I learnt the new trends in teaching English called as student-centered education, which put more weight on active learning experiences than on lectures, on critical thinking and open ended questions than on memorization and close ended questions, on simulations and role plays than on drills and imitating, and on self-paced or team-based learning than on teacher-control learning and competition-based learning (Felder and Brent 1996 in Isikoglu et al. 2009, p. 351). This training put me to new learning situation where students were the center of the teaching-learning process as this training was delivered this way, for example by letting the trainees do peer-assessment and self-assessment through peer-observation and self-reflection on their microteaching practices. This also changed my belief and attitude to teaching-learning. Attitude and belief are dynamic and situated and they change as product of new situational experience (Ellis 2008, p. 23).
Lessening the gap between the Ideals and the Realities of Teaching English in my own classrooms
The International certificate for teaching English from Cambridge University had boosted my self-confidence to teach even more. I had very little doubt on my ability to be an effective teacher-educator since I had equipped myself with satisfactory content knowledge of English, adequate pedagogical knowledge and a belief that I had chosen the right profession. I was contented with my efforts to practice what I had learnt in the training until the time when I had to choose once again on which one to follow, my lesson plans or my classroom dynamic. Very often I could not implement my lesson plans because my students were so distinct in their abilities and learning styles that doing all the planned activities in my lesson plans could let some students gain more advantages in learning and make others struggle to keep up with the pace of learning. My purpose to use a well-planned lesson to promote a more students-centred approach to learning English came to no avail because some students were still unable to be more responsible with their learning. For examples, lively discussion was still hard to occur because weak students would rather say nothing rather than to be seen as poor students who always made mistake because they were accustomed to classroom practice that avoids mistakes whatsoever.
Dardjowijoyo argues that it is indeed hard for teachers in Indonesia to make students talk because ‘to talk’ can mean ‘to lessen’ teachers’ authority (2001, p. 315). Team works and peer conversations could not provide same chances for all students to learn because strong students would be made dominant by the shared value that the more knowledgeable people were in the higher level of the social hierarchy and therefore had the authority to control the group. Indeed, my gradual shift of roles from a depositor of knowledge to a facilitator of knowledge gaining through involving students in classroom decision making and frequent peer teaching was taken by many students as a form of aversion to share my knowledge with them. My changing classroom practices are often blocked by the sociocultural values in Indonesia where teachers are considered as the fountain of knowledge that pour into students’ mind all that students need to study and students deposit all without reserve (Lewis 1997, p. 14). I cannot neglect both the discrepancies between the ideals and the realities of teaching English in my own classrooms or the discrepancies between my personal and my students’ collective view of learning in order to create changes in learning and to address them one by one can cause minimum impact (Jeffrey 2009, p. 195)
Pursuing a further study at La Trobe University, Australia.
I was taking two years leave from doing my teaching jobs when I got an Australian Partnership Scholarship (APS) to study at La Trobe University Melbourne from July 2007 to July 2009. I was enrolled at a Master’s program of Educational Leadership and Management. Here, I found very different practices of education than what I had experienced while I was studying at Gadjah Mada University. I had more choices of courses to take based on my own preferences. I needed to finish 12 courses in all in two years and only six of them were compulsory while in Gadjah Mada, I had to finish 16 compulsory courses out of 18 total courses. At La Trobe, I could access the on-line library resources in 24 hours and there was a huge amount of electronic journals and books and links to multiple databases that I could always count whenever I had to do research to complete the tasks, which generally required students to produce knowledge, by critically analysed theories and conceptions, and to relate them to students previous knowledge and local contexts, not merely preserved knowledge by doing exams. I was also given freedom to choose among variety of tasks that I would like to perform to measure the outcomes of my learning. There were lots of discussion in the classrooms and I could see that most students were ready to contribute to the discussion because lecturers had notified the various questions to discuss and resources to help students do research on those questions from the beginning of the semester and all was done with the LMS (the learning management system), an online computer program that linked all students taking the same course and used for all members of the class to communicate and most importantly to share knowledge. Here, in Australia, I was not dependent on lecturers in my learning because lecturers themselves never wanted to control students learning and they served students well by becoming facilitator, motivator, and collaborator in students’ learning through maximizing the use of library and the internet. On the Technology for Education course, I worked with 4 other students in online discussion facilitated by the Internet to complete a task. I did not even need to leave my home for the discussion. I also practiced creating my own web quest, an online program in which I build up learning resources available in the internet for the users to accomplish certain learning tasks.
My learning at La Trobe is the reality of what I could only imagine before as the kind of learning fostered by students-centered education. I have never experienced or seen myself a classroom teaching-learning process where students really have autonomy and responsibility in their learning. I could only envision the learning activities promoted by students-centered education from the books. In my training as told previously, I could only apprehend half of the teaching-learning practices in students-centered education since I was trained as a teacher and my students were my fellow trainees so our classrooms were not real. Below are very noticeable things in my learning at La Trobe that sustain the description of student-centered education.
1. I have more freedom in choosing what to learn
2. I have more choices in doing tasks to measure my learning outcomes
3. I am able to learn on my own pace through the availability of huge learning resources and the facilitation of lecturers.
Thank to the pre-departure training that I took part in before leaving to Australia that I was not stunned by my real first experience as a student in the students-centered education. I could develop my autonomy in learning as required by this kind of education because I was made to take control in my own learning by lecturers’ attitudes and facilitation. I was given all the opportunities to consult my learning problems with lecturers and they would do their best to address my learning needs, even though it was quite personal, like I needed to leave their classroom earlier as I was worried to take public transport late in the evening when the course was held in the evening, but they also remind me of my learning tasks during the weeks to come. According to Healey (2007, p. 384) taking the control in their own hands is the prerequisite for students’ autonomy.
At La Trobe, I have even undergone a new kind of learning, which I have known very little thing about it from books I read before I came to Australia, a learning which is facilitated mostly by the Internet. In this new learning, I hit upon three features so dissimilar to my previous learning experiences. Those are:
1. The use of the Internet as more than just an educational tool because the Internet very often serves as provider of knowledge, a facilitator, organisator, and other roles that teacher commonly play in teacher-centered as well as students-centered education.
2. Learners are not united by the four walls of the classroom because they are taking the same course. They are united by the same interest in learning particular area of study with unlimited people around the world.
3. Students-teacher interactions do not occur at schools only. They can be anywhere but they can still interact for the sake of learning facilitated by the Internet.
I am so amazed with my learning experiences facilitated by the Internet. I feel like I have everything I possibly need to gain as many benefit as possible from my learning in Australia. I am very motivated to utilize various learning materials provided by the Internet such as videos, podcasts, journals, discussion forums, games, blogs, web quests, etc. to accelerate my learning. I agree entirely to list of advantages proposed by Egbert, Paulus, and Nakamichy (2002, p. 112) on the learning facilitated by the Internet, such as supported experiential learning, enabled individual, pair or team works, promoted exploratory and global learning, enhanced student achievement, availability of authentic materials, facilitation of greater interaction, individualized instruction and independence and increased motivation.
Regarding particularly to my experience involved in online discussion, I think I like it better than the face-to-face discussions. As a non-native English speakers, I sometimes feel doubtful whether I am articulate enough in expressing my opinions upon certain issues worrying that my classmates may not really apprehend what I am saying due to my pronunciation or wrong dictions. I do not feel this doubt in on line discussion because I can always check and recheck my sentences, without worrying my pronunciations, and I also have more time to provide data for my arguments. In their research, Coffin, North, and Martin (2009, p. 87) find that in online discussion students select evidences more carefully, reticent students become more involved, and students have more time to think before replying. In on line discussion the present of lecturers can also be maintained in order not to interfere with students’ autonomy. In my on line discussion told above, the lecturer just gave the starting questions to discuss but did not involve in the discussion, because she wanted us to take control of the discussion and responsible for the outcomes. This method is suggested by Arnold and Ducati (2006, p. 46) for teachers facilitating online discussion. The learning skills developed from learning activities facilitated by the Internet are various. The definition of literacy as one of the basic skills in learning includes more than just an ability to access information from written texts. Digital literacies involve other skills such as importing texts, dragging, dropping, editing, scanning and deciding what is important and what is not, and being able to process that information in the given time (Kinnane 2008, p. 2).
My learning activities at La Trobe University I believe are more adaptable cross-culturally than learning activities frequently mentioned in textbooks describing the students-centered education. I think many concepts in the students-centered education, such as autonomy, independence, self-assessment, and so on are easier to apprehend than to practice for many students at schools whose prevalent culture values are harmony, hierarchy, and indirectness. In the new learning facilitated by the Internet, the conceptions of collaboration, community of learning, and connectedness, may sound less threatening to students’ from communal type of cultures as Asian students generally. The conception of learning community is indeed very fundamental in this new learning. The new learning is the practice of a new theory of learning called as the connectivism theory. Kop and Hill (2008, p. 1) argue that in the theory of connectivism knowledge is “actuated through the process of a learner connecting to and feeding information into a learning community”. Kop and Hill (2008, p. 6) further argue knowledge is “situated within a community in which a ‘more knowledgeable other’ facilitates the move from the periphery to the centre of the community”. In connectivism, the conceptions of ‘transferring knowledge’ or ‘building knowledge’ are no longer the centre of discussion because learning activities are more like growing or developing ‘selves’ and ‘community’ (Kop & Hill 2008, p. 9). The recognition of ‘community of learning’ and ‘more knowledgeable other’ as basic elements of this new learning I think will give this new learning more values conforming to values in communal cultures therefore it will not create more cultural challenges for any type of cultures to adopt this new learning.
I am also enthusiast to think of what can I do more in my classroom after having this new learning facilitated by the Internet and being able to develop my web quest. I do not question on the benefits of implementing this new learning to my English teaching. Clarke and Bowe (2007, p. 19) claim that the far-reaching use of visuals, either still or moving, animations, sound effects, interactivity, and the text supported with voice over instructions are all very helpful for English as Second language students. Besides, students can always go back to their favourite sites of learning as many as they like and they can also have direct feedback on their performance when they are doing games, quizzes, or tests provided. The most anticipated problems in implementing this new learning in my work contexts are that first, we may not have good internet connection and second, that my students are not culturally prepared for this new learning. Egbert et al (2002, p. 112) warns teachers of these potential problems that prevent them from implementing the learning facilitated by technology. Those are:
1. Time pressures outside and during class
2. Lack of resources and materials
3. Insufficient guidelines, standards, and curricula
4. Lack of support for integrating computers
5. A clash between new and old technologies
6. Lack of leadership
7. Inadequate training and technical support
In order to be successful in a learning facilitated by the Internet, my students should first apprehend that this learning is different to their traditional learning in a sense that to compensate for the flexibility of time and place of this learning, being independence in their learning is a must (Felix 1998, p. 217). Rendering to the students’ autonomy in a learning facilitated by the Internet, Healey (2007, p. 385) says to be autonomous students must know their learning goals, their preferred ways of learning, ways to be motivated, and they also need to develop learning community that enable the members achieve their goals in various ways and to be able to make decisions in learning as adults.
With the ever increasing roles of the Internet in education in Australia, I think that lecturers at La Trobe University have done their best to play their possible roles in learning facilitated by the Internet. As a student, I do not see that lecturers here are lack of confidences or feeling anxious to the possibilities that students pay less respect to their profession or that the Internet will eventually replace them for the teaching jobs at the University. I even notice that they have become more effective lecturers by maximizing the advantages for learning provided by the Internet. According to Yang (2001, p. 91) learning cannot be done just by exposing students to the Internet since there are students who find learning facilitated by the Internet as terrifying so they need sufficient technological as well as pedagogical supports necessary for this learning, besides, teachers can always ensure the effectiveness of students learning by their choices of the learning materials so as to maintain that those materials are not to difficult or to easy for the students to learn or to scaffold the learning materials. This is perhaps the reason why teachers should not worry at all about being replaced by the Internet in students’ learning since the ability to scaffold depends on the ability to know the treats of students as individuals not as groups and teachers’ having the direct social interactions with their students is certainly an advantage that the Internet may not be able to provide.
Connecting New Learning with Previous Knowledge
It is obvious that I need to find a new way to cope with the learning situation in my own classroom to eventually see that my students treat me more like a friend in learning than a provider of knowledge and that they are autonomous in their learning so they will all take advantages of any classroom activities that are compromised to serve their learning needs. I have to restart my personal project to create a classroom interaction that promote a mutual relationship where every one of us, not to exclude me as the teacher learn and gain advantages from all classroom learning activities, with or without facilitation of the Internet, as a community of learning. I have learnt from what I have done so far in my classroom that:
1. The initiative to shift from a teacher-centered to students-centered approach was not shared by all students. It belonged to me and few strong students who took the shift as an opportunity to accelerate their learning.
2. My students were so diverse in their learning styles and abilities that blatantly following activities in lessons plan could favour some students learning styles and do unjust to the others’.
3. My open-mindedness to what happens in my classroom dynamics and to individual treat of my students can become very helpful for me to encourage students autonomy in their learning and to keep them secure with any changes necessary for the shift from a teacher-centered to students-centered classroom interaction.
Why do I think that my students will learn better when they are autonomous? Why do I feel cosy with the students-centered classroom interaction while many of my students felt threatened by it? Why cannot I just teach in the ways familiar to my students, the “chalk and talk” method? One answer satisfies all these questions. I have experienced my self this kind of learning. I learnt from many English literary works the value of egalitarianism, which I believe is one of the basic values in students-centered classroom interaction. I was trained how to practice students-centered education in my own teaching in an international training implementing the students-centered education and now I am studying in Australia, in which the students-centered education is the common approach and indeed there has been a shift to new learning as the advancement of the students-centered education and is facilitated by the Internet. I have the opportunity to constantly challenge my view of learning, to compare my traditional view of learning with my new learning. The key point is that I have undergone a situation where I keep connecting my previous knowledge on teaching-learning practices with my new learning on teaching-learning practices and that this connecting process is personal.
In order to have classroom situations in which I become a friend in learning not a sole provider of learning, students become autonomous and responsible for their own learning, and teaching-learning become a shared activity for people everywhere and anytime not limited to school building or school time, I know I have to ensure that all my students involve in personal activity to connect their previous knowledge with their new learning. My students and I will have greater chance to share the values behind the students-centered classroom interaction, the Internet-based learning, or other kind of learning to follow in the future when ‘we’, not only ‘I’ redefine education practices at schools and we have to redefine it through continuous collaborative learning.

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“There should be a room for self-initiated activity”

Hanung Triyoko

As a non-native English Teachers (NNET) involved in the teaching of English as a foreign language for Islamic Studies in Schools in Indonesia, I find myself perplexed with the rapid changing of the pedagogical as well the content knowledge of English teaching. This paper is my endeavour to shorten the gap between the realities in my own teaching practices and those practices presented in books and research reports as effective English teaching. Instead of looking outside to the recommended practices in other classrooms and to characteristics of effective teaching performed by other teachers, I will start by looking inside of me and of my own classroom to ensure that I have the full explanation to the dynamic of my professional practices. Cadman (2008), Hewson (2007), Tripp (1998), and Reed-Danahey (1997) have ascertained in some extent that it is necessary for teachers to reflect on their own practices and to adopt narrative inquiry in order to finds solutions to their context-specific problems.
Narrative Inquiry
According to Reed-Danahey (1997, p. 9), the teacher doing the narrative methodology does not present his/her perceptions and feelings in isolation but locate them in the contexts. In this paper, I will refer to my experiences to show my way of knowing as well as my way of writing the specific contexts of my teaching of English. This kind of writing is called by Alvermann (2000 in Hewson, 2007, p. i) as narrative inquiry. Here and then, I may show my subjectivity upon certain issues in the English teaching-learning process but I do this to enable myself go deeper to my personal values. Indeed, subjectivity is the benefit of doing the narrative inquiry and is not separable from the realities of being a researcher (Hewson, 2007, p. 31). Furthermore, according to Cadmann (2008, p. 30) through analysing my own reflections upon my own contexts, I can give another example of process taken by an English teacher to personalize the continuous demand of professional development. Since I find a book written by Leo Van Lier ‘Interaction in the Language Curriculum; Awareness, autonomy, and authenticity’ as an appropriate framework to look into my current teaching contexts, I use Lier’s theoretical perspective and refer to many of his conceptions of language learning to illustrate how I may make changes to my professional practices.
I Taught English the Way I learnt it
I was convinced by what my parent said about the advantages of being able to master English when I knew that my first English teacher was a very respectable rich woman. Since then, I was highly motivated to learn English. For many years, the most dominant motivation for Indonesian students to learn English was to obtain well-paid job (Bradford, 2007, p. 113). The very first thing I could show to other that I was good in English was to master all the rules of English structures. I learnt English structures from pieces to pieces, from simple to complex structures. Generally, I was exposed to reading texts or dialogues in written form where particular structures of English used and then I should answer some reading comprehension questions that forced me to exercise my translation skills and to write few paragraphs on some topics recommended that also required me to utilize the introduced structures. Learning English this way, I developed gradually my reading and my writing skills so when I was at university, I had developed the skills to appreciate and translate English classic novels, poems, and drama into bahasa, my mother tongue. My listening and speaking skills were developed outside schools. I loved paying attention to the lyrics of many Western songs as well as to listen to English radio broadcasting. I also joined an English course run by a private for profit institution that facilitated me to develop my speaking ability through occasionally involved in conversations with native speakers assigned in the institution and very often with my peers who were also motivated to use their English. Students’ involvement in English course outside school, according to Dubin and Olsthain (1986, p. 30), can be one indicator of a failure in the teaching English at schools.
I often taught more than six classes every semester since I was first appointed as a teaching staff at Salatiga State Institute for Islamic Studies (STAIN Salatiga), Indonesia. I was too busy ensuring that I had covered up all the prescribed curriculum and materials of each subject I taught. The easiest way for me to look into my teaching performance was to look at my students’ achievement, resulted from summative assessment in the form of tests in the middle and the end of semester.
Thank to the opportunity I have to pursue a higher study in Australia that now I have been off from any teaching routines for two years. Only now, I can see quite clearly that I taught my student English the way I learnt it. The prescribed curriculum to teach English for Islamic Studies in my University used framework similar to the curriculum framework of my school age English, in which the speaking and listening were given very little emphasise. The belief that students learnt English as a means to involve in global academic discourse dominated by English speaking countries was still dominant that the few authoritative people designing the curriculum focused on developing students reading and writing skills. The textbook English for Islamic Studies written by Djamaludin Darwis recommended as the main source provided many reading passages about the teaching of Islam and the social and historical aspect of Moslem communities in Indonesia and all those reading were there to introduce students to certain discrete English structures. The author sequenced each chapter of the book in this order: reading passages, reading comprehension questions, language focus, glossary, and writing task. The way I learnt English, the prescribed curriculum and the recommended textbook, and the excessive workload had altogether led me to teach English the way I learnt it. My classroom activities forced students to master English structures and I provided very little opportunity for them to use their English in real communication.
The contexts of my teaching differ to the contexts of teaching when I learnt English. Even though English is still considered as foreign language taught in schools, students nowadays have more opportunities to use their English outside schools. There are more English-speaking expatriates and tourists in Indonesia and more access to internet where students may involve in authentic communication with English users. Through the internet, students get many chances to use their English to communicate with any people, not necessarily native speakers, in any part of the world. Furthermore, my students may be motivated to learn English for enormous reasons different to mine described above. To initiate some changes to my teaching practices I certainly need to consider influential factors in teaching and learning such as context, curriculum and materials, students’ treats, and assessment. The following section is how I look at those factors by using the Lier’s theoretical perspective of Language teaching and learning.
The AAA Curriculum as a Framework to Look upon My Teaching Contexts and to Initiate some Changes in My Teaching Practices.
In his book ‘Interaction in the Language Curriculum; Awareness, autonomy, and authenticity’, Leo van Lier builds his arguments on the English teaching-learning process upon the admition that there are always some constraints in the teaching- learning setting but there are also some sources and that sometimes actions intended to help can turn to control students’ learning (1996, pp. 7-8). Teachers are required to distinguish between constraints inseparable to the teaching-learning setting or the intrinsic constraints and those perceived to be constraints due to enforcement of certain system adopted by the institution or the artificial constraints (Lier, 1996, p. 8). To use my teaching contexts as an example, I have to know whether the prescribed curriculum, the recommended textbook, and the excessive workload are parts of the intrinsic or the artificial constraints. When I am sure that these constraints are artificial then I can appropriately cope with them. Teachers also need to be aware of the implications of activities in the classrooms in order to avoid misfit between the purposes and the procedures to achieve them. In my case, students’ activities built around the unauthentic texts that contain chunks of English carefully chosen to help them learn English may control students’ creativity and eventually slow down the pace of their learning. Bernaus and Gardner (2008, p. 388) assert that class anxiety increases and students motivation intensity decrease when the teacher is perceived as controlling.
Curriculum and Syllabus
Curriculum is a journey to particular destination and syllabus is a guide to that destination. Curriculum may be more or less clearly described but syllabus must be sensitive to constraints and sources specific to the institution where learning takes place (Lier, 1996, p. 21). According to Lier (1996, p. 29), curriculum should be open to teachers’ dimension of practices rather than that of the higher authority. Therefore, curriculum can also be seen as the teachers’ theory of practice to transform their professionalism from an authority-based into a research-based one. Unless I see myself as having the choices to modify the prescribed curriculum in my university, my endeavour to reflect on my own teaching practices will not be off any value to my professionalism. The obvious problem for me implementing the prescribed curriculum is that very often I feel I do not own the curriculum, a feeling commonly shared by teachers in this situation (El-Okda, 2005, p. 36). To follow blatantly all sequences of my classroom activities as prescribed in the textbook also means to ignore the function of syllabus in Lier’s perspective because syllabus, like a map, does not control the distance and the speed of someone’s journey but to provide options and panoramas to be explored (Lier, 1996, pp. 20-22). The learning tasks planned in the syllabus shall promote the self-actualization of every learner and that the performance required doing the task is adjustable to local constraints and sources (Lier, 1996, p. 206). Lier (1996, p. 208) suggests that textbook is only one strand among many other strands in the course. Using Lier’s conceptions on the curriculum and the syllabus, the opportunity to adjust my classroom activities on the spot is always open since one of the characteristics of a good syllabus is its ability to balance between planned and improvised elements, and between stability and variety (Lier, 1996, p. 204). Hence, I can also let my students bring their own materials or choose their own preferred learning activities while at the same time direct them to the purposes of their learning. Besides, if we see learning materials as text, the designing of text is always shifting, it involves interactional process, and is being determined by the context (Derewianka, 2003, p. 141). I shall not worry to provide similar materials, in kind and amount, to every class I teach, since students will also play more roles in the realization of the syllabus. Consequently, I have to vary the assessment in order to address the specificity of each class. In the next paragraphs to follow, I will discuss why and how I may adopt Lier’s conception on assessment in language learning.
Awareness, Autonomy, and Authenticity.
Awareness, autonomy, and authenticity in language learning must be seen as interconnected, in which each necessitates and influences the present of other. In order to learn a language, one must be in the state of awareness or the condition when s/he is being aware that her or his experience to new learning is connected to her or his existing knowledge (Lier, 1996, p. 12). To explain this conception of awareness simply, let me use an anecdote. I liked singing a Japanese song ‘kokoronotomo’ but I could not say I was involved in any activities of learning Japanese language. I might learn something else from my singing of that song but I might not learn at all about Japanese language. This situation changed though when I met a friend from Japan and started talking about the song and so I learnt little Japanese from that song. Autonomy means the present of choices and the acceptance of responsibilities for every language learner to develop their own sense of direction in learning language (Lier, 1996, p. 19). Smith argues that making students autonomous in the learning is a cross-culturally valid pedagogical goal (2008, p. 396). I learnt very little thing about the Japanese language even though I liked singing ‘kokoronotomo’ because I did not have sense of direction of what I might do next with my Japanese. Authenticity in Lier’s perspective goes beyond the discussion of authentic materials and authentic tasks. Lier (1996, p. 128) says authenticity is the result of validation of classroom events and language by students and teacher and the endorsement of the relevance of things said and done, and of the ways in which they are said and done. Authenticity is more about action performed in class and cannot automatically be aroused from authentic materials therefore Lier (1996, p. 136) questions the uncritical preference upon authentic materials than materials audience-designed for classroom learners. An authentic action is intrinsically motivated and it is the realization of free choices and the expression of what a person feels and believes (Lier, 1996, p. 13). Helping students create their own vision of ideal L2 learners can be the first step to foster students intrinsic motivation (Dornyei, 2009, p. 33). One advantage of teaching English for Islamic studies to Moslem students is offcourse the absence of any disconformities regarding the content of the textbook with what my students believe as Moslem. However, obliging students do all the planned learning tasks in the textbook will diminish the potential of students taking authentic action.
Taking the AAA perspective above into considerations, the best thing that a teacher may do is to encourage and guide learning since a teacher can never cause or force learning (Lier, 1996, p. 12). Specific to language learning, Lier (1996, p. 35) advices teachers lay emphasis on facilitating access to language, knowledge, and skill, than to simplify tasks, in order to assist students’ learning. When rich variety of exposure to language is provided, the awareness, autonomy, and authenticity perspective will likely assist students learning. Nevertheless, teachers cannot just bring to the classroom all language resources since the language exposed to students is usable when the learner can make sense of it, is receptive to it and makes an effort to process it (Lier, 1996, p. 45). The role of the teachers in this sense is like providing temporary support in Vigotsky’s concept of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). However, teachers should maintain that the help from the teacher as the more competent other does not lead to external control since internal control of the learner is the prerequisite of the AAA perspective of language learning (Lier, 1996, p. 117).
Interaction and Conversation
Lier (1996, p. 5) emphasizes on the quality of interaction in the language learning as to ensure that no forms of interactions lead to superficial communication or even pseudo communication. For Lier, interaction is the most visible manifestation of learning processes at work, in the classroom, although inner speech may well be equally crucial (Lier, 1996, p. 35). The conception of interaction in Lier’s perspective necessitates the present of conversation between two people or between a person and his or her inner self, in case of inner speech. Furthermore, Lier (1996, p. 54) says conversation as part of social interaction is the basic environment for the processing of language. To depend heavily on the sequences of activities, or the unit of analysis presented in the handbooks, especially when the handbook provides little chances for students to involve in social interaction among them or to have conversations between them means to deny students the basic environment for language learning. I can see now that my frequent involvement in conversations when I joined English course outside schools really compensated the lack of interactions in my schools. This is probably one of the reasons that quite a few students in my classrooms have the confidence to speak in English even though they have sufficient skills to read and write in English. If I had known that students themselves could organize the conversations and they did not have to stick to the planned activities in the textbook, I would have provided more peer conversations in my classrooms. Besides, conversation needs to be locally assembled rather than to be planned since it has its own dynamic (Lier, 1996, p. 168).
Assessment and Motivation
Assessment correlates in various degrees to student motivation in learning either positively or negatively. The effects of assessment may impinge on more stakeholders, rather than just our students and may impose in students learning longer than what teachers may expect. Lier (1996, p. 16) provides some guidance for teachers to reduce the unexpected effects of doing assessment. Teacher must prioritize:
1. Personal considerations upon political and institutional ones
2. Self-knowledge upon evaluation by others
3. Intrinsic upon extrinsic motivation
4. Self-assessment upon institutional assessment
Looking back to what I had done in assessing my students learning, none of the above priorities was present. I kept trying to teach by the textbook and assessed my students’ achievement based on similar type and items of tests. I did not know that all my students might achieve more, even to their highest potential, if I never assigned similar type and items of test and I involved students in the assessment process instead, from the very beginning. Lier (1996, p. 119) argues that by letting students involved in the assessment process, students will feel that any feedbacks as the results of the assessment make sense because they belong to the process. Bureaucratic demands and practices, external controls in the form of tests and grades may motivate students in learning, in the sense that students will work hard to achieve the standards and to feel success when they make it, but according to Lier (1996, p. 121), this is just ‘surrogate motivation’ and it will hinder authenticity. This is in accordance to McDonough’s claim that learners developing effective motivational thinking maximize their own resources than count on externally imposed structures and strategy (McDonough, 2007, p. 369). A common problem faced by teachers is the perceived conflict between fulfilling their personal security and satisfying pedagogical needs of students (Pachler, Barnes, & Field, 2009, p. 44). The four prioritises above, I think, can balance both teacher’s and students’ need therefore, help teachers solve this problem.
Principles to Follow
One of the goals listed in the prescribed curriculum in teaching English for Islamic studies is to develop Moslem speakers and writers who will take advantages of their mastery of English to represent the noble virtues of Islam and the identity of Indonesian Moslem. The pedagogical practices facilitating the achievement of this goal allow students to become themselves through the language they are learning (Ushioda, 2009, p. 223). This particular goal can also be an example of what Jenkins (2006:174) argues as prioritizing intelligibility than conformity in becoming successful English users because students will become themselves as the representations of Moslem community rather then immerge in new cultural identities. Furthermore, at the present teachers face a challenge to shift their teaching from system-based and form-based to language use and meaning orientation (Byrnes, 2002, p. 420). In doing this shift, Freeman and Freeman (1998, p. 80) suggest teachers embed the linguistics elements of communication in a rich non-linguistics context. Rather than starting with introducing a discrete language form, I can describe particular situation where students will use their English to communicate something about them as Moslem. In setting the scene for students to use their English in real communication, I may use students L1 to make sure that students can connect their new learning with their existing knowledge. I may also use the downward technique, in which teachers establish what students might already know about the topic and build their comprehension on the text from that point onward (Mangubhai, 2005, p. 205). To use Lier’s AAA perspective in language teaching and learning, I suggest that this can be achieved only if students are treated as having their own social and historical dynamics and every student is treated as individual. Addressing feeling of individual in any classrooms is as important as addressing the cognitive aspects of the individuals (Ellis, 2008, p. 22). Anxiety in language learning will decrease too when students feel comfortable to discuss about themselves and their feeling (Underwood, 1984, p. 17). I am aware now that my students have more variety in terms of motivations, resources, strategies, tools, and purposes that influence their learning of English. Below are some principles that I will follow to initiate changes in my teaching practices:
1. To reflect more in order to create a room for self-initiated activity that balance the intrinsic and extrinsic constraints and resources.
2. To place curriculum as a journey and syllabus as a map, not an end in itself, therefore I can deal with the prescribed curriculum and syllabus as describing destinations and directions so that my students and I always have choices regarding the ways and the speed of our learning journey.
3. To use textbook as one among many resources available to learn English and to allow students have their own learning materials to ensure the present of awareness, autonomy, and authenticity in my classrooms.
4. To expose students to variety of language forms and usage, not merely focus on structures, and to play role as a more competent other to let students pick what they need but at the same time place them on their ZPD.
5. To practice assessment that is sensitive to students’ need of self-actualization, self-determination, personal investment, and optimal experience.
6. To promote students’ internal control of their learning and to avoid fake motivations.
There are offcourse some practical things to elaborate further on how I can actually adopt the AAA perspective of language teaching learning to my classrooms of English for Islamic studies in Indonesia, which education system is characterised by its hierarchical decision making process. Nonetheless, for the betterment of my classroom practices specifically and the teaching of English for Islamic studies in Indonesia, in general, my inquiry on my own professional practices and the insights on how I should see and make some changes in my teaching as specified by the AAA perspective discussed above, I am sure, will become a very good start.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

In-Service Teacher Certification in Indonesia;

A policy for professionalization or professionalism?

The teaching workforce in Indonesia has for very long been seen as unique for two main reasons. First, because becoming teacher generally means willingness to abide the higher ascribed cultural status but to earn lower payment than many other occupations. Second, because Indonesian government regards teaching as no more important than any other jobs. Indeed, only recently, through the enactment of Law on Teachers and Lecturers Year 2005, teachers are officially stated as professionals. This paper argues that the national education policy to boost teachers’ professional development through the In-Service Teachers Certification reflects professionalization more than professionalism. These two words often used as synonym and sometimes when they are conceptually seen as different they are variously defined. The author specifically refers to Hoyle’s (2001, p. 146) description of professionalization as ‘the pursuit of status’ while professionalism as ‘enhancement of the quality of service’. The social, cultural, as well as political context of teaching in Indonesia and the objectives and on going implementation of the In-Service Teachers Certification are discussed to see the possible outcomes in regard to the concept of professionalization or professionalism.

Teaching in Indonesian Context
Very few teachers in Indonesia, the author believes, do not find themselves always on the spot of people’s attention. Culturally, teachers are seen as moral guardian and source of knowledge (Lewis, 1997, p. 14). People look at teachers as being in the higher position in the hierarchy of knowledge pursuit and moral authority. People trust teachers for making their younger generations literate, educated and morally dependable. Thus, teachers traditionally get pressure not only for doing their jobs to transfer knowledge but also for behaving themselves in accordance to people perception of their high moral.
In their communities, teachers also play significant roles. Their being teachers are not limited to schools environment. People expect them to also share their knowledge and wisdom in social life. It is not unnatural to have teachers as community leaders in Indonesia. Teachers are accustomed to taking first responsibility and frequently to provide ideas for maintaining the harmony of their communities. This status of teachers in Indonesian societies put those people doing the teaching jobs in a situation where they always have to negotiate their personal needs and the needs of the communities, not only when they are at work but also when they are out of work. Many teachers eventually live in the middle of the continuum between personal and communal lives. Not many teachers are able to differentiate what are good for themselves only and what are good for the communities only because everything seems intermingled. This is probably the reason why the number of teachers leaving their jobs or taking other career steps is comparatively lower than other countries (Basikin, 2007, p.1). Teachers know they are not well paid but they feel they make good sacrifice for the welfare of their communities.
For very long time after the Indonesian independent, teachers were seen more as political agents than as educational agents. The Old Order as well as New Order Regime assigned teachers with some political agenda like being the promoters of the unity of the nation and the spoke persons for the national ideology. Both regimes paid many teachers as civil servants. In the New Order era, the government emphasized the teachers’ being civil servants rather than educators and it created a teaching culture where being faithful followers of their superiors’ instructions was more appreciated than being competent teachers (Bjork, 2004, p. 252). In this political context, Government provided the curriculum and teachers implemented them without protest; Even government controlled the teachers union and teachers training; Teachers were evaluated more on their contributions outside their classrooms that they shared an understanding that what they were teaching were not the government concerns (Bjork, 2004, p. 257). Teachers became functionaries of the state (Graham, 1998, p. 9) since the nation considered them as helpful to strengthen its power and authority but not as group of professionals that can self-manage themselves and contribute to wider purposes.
Teachers in Indonesian social, cultural, and political context are group of people that are trapped in between the opposing demands of being individuals who pursue their own happiness and of being parts of communal societies that expect them to eagerly forfeit their being individuals whenever they have to for the sake of the goodness of the community; and in between the opposing demands of being competent educators and of faithful government agents. It is not surprising that people seem not to worry too much on the outcomes of their children education; teachers themselves look as if they do their jobs for the sake of routines; and the government appears to neglect the professional development of teachers because teachers, communities, and the nation are involved in making teaching jobs fragile for too many interest outside the scope of education. On a research report on teachers’ absenteeism in 2002 to 2003, it is revealed that from Indonesian 19 % rate of teachers absenteeism annually, 45 % is without any reasons (Usman, Akhmadi, and Suryadarma, 2004, p. iii). It shows that many teachers were still unable to fulfil the least requirement of their profession; to be in their classroom on their teaching times. This of course serves as bad role model for new teaching workforce (Toh, Diong, Boo, Hong-Kwen and Chia, 1996, p. 232).

Recent Educational Policies
Consisted of 33 provinces and 440 districts and municipals, Indonesia faces huge challenges in coordinating its teaching workforce. Indonesia always finds it really difficult to guaranty the sufficient supply for teachers for all parts of the nation and to ensure that the qualification and competence gap between teachers in urban, sub urban and rural areas is not widening. In order to immediately supply teachers for regions lack of teaching workforce and to maintain ratio of student-teacher, there were times when applicants were made easy to become teachers regardless of their qualification and competence. In 2006, there were 2.7 million teachers around Indonesia and student-teacher ratios are: 18:1 for Elementary Schools, 12:1 for Junior High Schools, and 11:1 for Senior High Schools. However, the statistics also shows that 84.70 % or 1.140. 836 of Elementary School Teachers, 39.66 % or 244.437 of Junior High School Teachers, 17.39 % or 46.517 of Senior High School Teachers, and 24.46 % or 49.389 of Senior High Vocational Schools Teachers do not have bachelor or S1 degree. (Education Statistics, Ministry of National Education).
It is clear that due to the above problems Indonesia belongs to what OECD calls as countries with greatest difficulties since at the same time Indonesia needs to provide enough teaching workforce therefore it attracts as many candidates as possible and to ensure that those prospective teachers as well as current teachers have the required skills to become competent teachers (OECD, 2002, p. 66). In 1999 through the issuance of Law no 22 on Local Governance, the government started all efforts to distribute its centralized power to local governments. Since then, local authorities have exercised their autonomies in many aspects, including education. Districts and municipalities have been active to solve problems related to expanding, retaining, and improving the quality of teaching workforce but still their endeavours are only partial and unable to address the complexities of the problems.
In the year 2005, seven years after the downfall of the New Order Regime, by enacting Law no 14 on Teacher and Lecturer, the central government provided all local governments an umbrella policy for tackling various problems concerning teaching workforce. This Law immediately ignited a feeling of joy and optimism for many people, not only teachers, because it officially acknowledges teaching as profession and it requires all local government to increase teachers’ salary 100 % percent as soon as they were rewarded the educator certificate. It had been a question for many people why teachers did not deserve well payment.
Other things that not many people are aware of as consequences of the Law are: First, for getting the educator certificate, teachers must fulfil some requirements that make many of them ineligible to apply for the certificate. Second, Government needs lots of money to implement this policy therefore it needs 10 years to accomplish this project. Third, government agencies and infrastructures to support this policy are very limited in regard to the number of teachers that this policy is aimed at. Based on the Law No. 14/2005 about teachers and lecturers (UU No. 14 2005) Section IV Item No. 8 and 9 in order to realize the goal of national education, beside being healthy physically and spiritually, teachers must have academic qualification, competencies, and educator certificates. What is referred as academic qualification is a bachelor (S1) or a 4-year diploma (D4) degree. The statistics above shows that more than 1.6 out of 2.7 millions teachers are ineligible for being teachers. Even though they will not be dismissed and they have teen years to acquire the S1 or D4 degree but these teachers are surely put into more complicated situation because they have to afford the degree on their own expenses and they earn only half of the recommended national teachers’ salary before they get the educator certificate.

In-Service Teacher Certification; Objectives and Implementations
To follow up the mandate to position teachers as professionals and to ascribe them with the educator certificate, the Central Government issued Regulation No 19 Year 2005 on the National Education Standard, Ministry of Education Rule No 16 Year 2005 on Teaching Staff Qualification and Competency Standard, Regulation of the Minister of Education No 18 Year 2007 on In-service Teacher Certification through portfolio Assessment , and Regulation of the Minister of Education No 40 Year 2007 on In-service Teacher Certification through Education and Training. Those rules and regulations are the legal aspects of the In-Service Teacher Certification. Whitty (2000, p. 282) refers to this type of action as ‘professionalization’ or ‘professional project’, by which government ensures all involved in particular profession have all the required characteristics.
The rules and regulations above demand teachers who already have S1 or D4 degree to involve in all process for getting the educator certificate. They can either join the In-service Teacher Certification through portfolio Assessment or In-service Teacher Certification through Education and Training. However, teachers do not have real choice as suggested because government gives quota for each region in each certification project due to its financial limitation. In addition, teachers may have to join both types of in-service certification because when they fail in their portfolio assessment, they are highly recommended to take the education and training.
The objectives of the In-Service Teacher Certification are:
1. To fit and proper teachers in doing their jobs as the agent of learning
2. To enhance teachers professionalism
3. To boost process and outcomes of education
4. To accelerate the realization of National Education Goals
(Source: Regulation of the Minister of Education No 18 and 40 Year 2007)
These four objectives seem to address both the concepts of professionalization and professionalism as described in this paper. It looks like only the first objective is aimed at pursuing the status of teachers as professional while the remaining three are for enhancement of teachers’ quality service but the on going implementation of this policy as discussed below may prevent all stakeholders to become too optimistic in seeing the future of teaching profession.
In the year 2007, two years after the issuance of the Law, the Nominal National Education Expenditure was 135, 4 trillions from the Total Nominal National Expenditure of 785.4 trillions or 17, 2 % of Total National Expenditure. This is below what Indonesian constitution says that the minimum 20 % of national expenditure must be on national education expenditure (World Bank staff calculations base on MoF and SIKD data). In 2007, there were only 170.450 of teachers at elementary and junior high school across nation entitled the educator certificates. In 2006, the first year of the implementation, only 20.000 thousand teachers at elementary and junior high school across nation were entitled the educator certificates (http://www.sertifikasiguru.org/). Thus, they are still more than 1.5 million teachers waiting.
The time span for the accomplishment of the in-service teacher certification stated by the minister of education’s regulation is ten years, approximately 150.000 teachers every year for 1.5 million teachers who haven’t got their bachelor degree qualification. 278 teacher colleges across nation provide not enough seats for 150.000 teachers for their professional qualification upgrading because it means that at least every teacher college should have around 540 seats every year while at this moment even the biggest teacher college can only afford less than 200 students every year. To make it worse, there are only 23 teachers’ colleges plus 1 Open University assigned to cooperatively offer an in-service teacher training via distance learning mode called as HYLITE/Hybrid Learning for Indonesian Teachers in 2006-2007 (Panen, et. all. 2007, p.1). During the ten years implementation of the In-Service Teacher Certification project, the government is very likely focusing on the effectiveness of the certification process, through both portfolio assessment and education and training, so that no teachers are left behind in the project. It can be said that the government endeavours to achieve four objectives of the In-Service Certification will unavoidably focus on the first objective; To fit and proper teachers in their profession.

Professionalization or Professionalism?
The conceptual framework for the In-Service Teacher Certification project is in order to increase the quality of education in Indonesia all teaching activities in classroom must be effective; for creating teachers’ effectiveness government needs to increase teachers’ salary as incentive and teachers themselves have to develop their competencies necessary for doing their profession; educational certification is the formal document acknowledging the fit and proper of individuals in the teaching profession and a prove for their entitlement for getting the professional incentives of teachers. There are two questions to be asked regarding this conceptual framework. First, to what extent the educator certificate can be used to predict the effectiveness of teaching activities in classroom? Second, is the educator certificate an instrument for enhancing the teaching profession? Or is it in itself a final stage at the current teachers’ professional development?
Scholars may not debate on the important of teachers’ effectiveness and students’ performances as key indicators for quality teaching (Vongalis, 2005, p. 11). However, not many researches provide convincing results on the positive relation between certification project, teachers’ effectiveness in the classrooms, and students’ outcomes (Goldhaber&Brewer, 2000, Torff&Sessions, 2005, Hoyle, 2001, Ballou&Podgursky, 1998). Goldhaber and Brewer (2000, p. 130) say most researches reveal the positive relation between teachers educational background and experiences to students performance but few of them explicitly describe the influence of certification project to students performance. Torff and Sessions (2005, p. 531) argue that among the researches available on the phenomenon of teachers’ ineffectiveness, none of them focus on answering whether it is their lack of content knowledge or their lack of pedagogical knowledge that frequently cause the ineffectiveness. Therefore, there are not enough bases to confidently claim that certification is a must for improving teachers’ quality. Generally, teacher certification project emphasises on equipping teachers with adequate pedagogical skills although there are no convincing proofs that teachers with adequate content knowledge but are not certified as educators have lower performance than their counterparts who are certified as educators. Finn (1999b, p.3) argues:
…because teacher-preparation programs and state teacher-certification regulations “place low priority on deep subject matter mastery and heavy emphasis on things that colleges of education specialize in (i.e., pedagogical knowledge), many teachers get certified without having mastered the content they are expected to impart to their students”.

The complexity lies on the fact that teachers may depend on both content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge but not enough evidences to conclude which one is more important for creating teachers effectiveness and very often there are not enough time to address both knowledge in balance in certification project.
The procedures for getting the educator certificate outlined in the Rules and Regulations on In-Service Teacher Certification in Indonesia are time-consuming and indiscriminative. For obtaining the certificate through education and training the successful applicants must undergo seven steps as follow: administrative selection, academic selection, enlisted as candidate, joining the education and training, taking competencies examination, having passed the exam, getting the certificate while those candidates who have to do some remedies may undergo ten steps before finally get the certificate because they are recommended to redo the administrative selection and academic selection if they are not qualified for being the candidate for education and training and to remedy the examination until they pass. They may take the exam three times maximum. Whereas for joining the In-Service Certification through portfolio assessment, the flourishing candidates have to go through three steps as follow: portfolio assessment, having passed the assessment, getting the certificate. Once candidates’ portfolio fail the assessment, the candidates can add some more documents to the portfolio but if they fail again, they have to join professional training then take the competencies examination and still if they fail then they undergo the ten steps similar to those teachers taking the education and training type of the certification.
The procedures are indiscriminative in a sense that even teachers who graduated from teacher colleges before the enactment of the Law, they also have to undertake the same process. Their certificates as educators issued by their teacher colleges, publicly known as AKTA IV, are not valid for entitlement of their professional incentives. Ironically, the central government depends to the similar teacher colleges rather than to establish a new agency for providing the education and training as well as assessing teachers portfolios for certification. How can the central government disregard the certificate entitled to teachers who have studied in teacher colleges for four years minimum and then ask those teachers to obtain another certificate from the same teacher colleges in relatively shorter period? Those teachers certainly do all the procedures because they do not have choice. If the central government insists on implementing the procedures because of the belief that AKTA IV failed to contribute to the teachers’ effectiveness than on what base the central government now believes that the new certificate published by the consortium of 23 teacher colleges and 1 Open University will do more to create teachers’ effectiveness? It is reasonable to argue that the central government take all the risks for the sake of professionalization. All actions taken after the issuance of the Law seem to pursue the status of teachers as profession by addressing the formal requirements of professionalization, which are the enhancement of pedagogical skills through education, and training and examination rather than really changing the practices of ineffective teaching. Surprisingly, the common strategy chosen by districts and municipalities in the selection of the candidates for obtaining the educator certificates, which is so tough due to the given quota, is to prioritize teachers who are close to their retirement age, then those who have longer teaching experiences, and finally high achiever fresh teachers who have S1 or D4 degree. The consideration is perhaps to allow senior teachers to be paid doubled before they retire because for very long time they are all underpaid. If this certification project can really improve the teachers’ effectiveness, students may not get the advantages for long because soon many of those senior teachers will stop working. This certification project very likely helps teachers pursue their status as professionals but very unlikely enhances teachers’ quality service that leads to professionalism.

To sum up, to be happy with the central government recognition of what teachers are doing as profession is all right because it may be a good start for making huge change in the teaching practices in all schools as what Hoyle (2001, p. 149) says professionalization may create opportunities for professionalism and, conversely, deprofessionalization may constrain opportunities for professionalism. However, Indonesian teachers need to be aware that acquiring the status as professional is not enough. They have to start organizing themselves through a strong self-managed professional union and improve their professional skills in order to contribute to wider purposes of educating all human being in this world not just limited to their localities. Government needs to do lots of evaluation to ensure that the certification project can really influence teachers’ effectiveness in the classrooms and that the certification project can cover up more individuals, rather than just in-service teachers, because those individuals highly qualified and interested to become teachers are as important as in-service teachers in their potential to enhance the quality of education in Indonesia.

Word Count: 3427 words


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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Aku adalah yang kupilih

Aku adalah apa yang kupilih

Aku teringat adagium 'aku adalah yang aku makan'
atau 'aku menjadi apa yang kupikirkan'
yang sebenarnya aku memilih yang kumakan dan kupikir
maka aku lebih menyukai perkataanku ini 'aku adalah apa yang kupilih'
Aku teringat betul
kala itu kutonton 'little house on the prairie' bukannya 'si unyil'
kubaca 'hello' bukannya 'hai'
dan sekarang aku tahu aku telah jauh hari memilih hidupku.
Aku pun teringat,sangat kuingat,
saat aku memutuskan pulang dari perantauanku mengadu nasib di Sumbawa,
meski baru sebentar saja disana,
malah belum sempat mengirimkan lamaran ke New Mount,
karena sebelumnya,
di kapal aku mendengar Iwan Fals menyanyikan lagu yang menantang pendirianku 'selamat jalan kawan, semoga kau benar'
aku memilih pulang
Aku tak melupakan, tak akan lupa,
seketika kakiku tiba di rumah, segera setelahnya aku terima jadwal mengajar,
dan aku memilih menerimanya.
Aku teringat, masih teringat,
haru biru perjuanganku memilih pendamping hidupku,
aku tak mungkin lupa,
ketika aku memilih menyerahkan anak laki pertamaku, usia dua bulan, ke dokter-dokter bedah otak.
Aku masih ingat, masih terus ingat,
doaku kepada Allah untuk mengijinkanku merawatnya kembali, apapun yang terjadi.
Aku teringat dan terus terus terus ingat aku telah memilih,
aku mengakui bahwa aku memilih dan bukan berdiam,
aku telah menjadi apa yang kupilih
dan bukan menyerah menyalahkan takdir.
Aku teringat, tak mungkin lupa, yang kupilih

Melbourne, 20 April 2009
Puisi untuk Anak Lelakiku tersayang, Senthforth Faizulhub
Senin, 2009 April 20 21:12:00 BNT

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Piece of Life with APS

It was started with a question “have you been abroad?” It was never easy to answer when students ask me this question. Not because I could not recollect where I went, in all trips I had had so far or that I was ignorance of the geographical location of those places in the globe but because I had to admit that I was no where but in Indonesia. As an English teacher, could you imagine how unpleasant it was to say, “No, I have never been abroad”?
I promised myself a scholarship. A hard but realistic way for a low-paid civil servant like me to go overseas was to compete with hundreds or even thousands of bright individuals all across archipelago to convince the team of interviewers for getting the predicate of awardees. I made it. I got the APS Scholarship in 2007. Thank to the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs that previously I joined the International Certification of English Teachers at Indonesia-Australia Language Foundation (IALF Bali) in which I also sat for the IELTS test with the ministry’s expense. I knew I would think twice for taking IELTS test if I had to pay by my self. My monthly earning was just enough for monthly basics. When the time was right, the gate was open. The funny thing was that I told the APS interviewers exactly what I felt whenever I was asked the question “have you been abroad?” as part of my reason to further my study in Australia. I believed they were convinced by that, in addition to my 7.5 IELTS Score.
Then I was preparing myself for being away from my beloved wife and two children. My wife and I had the deal. I would go and study in Australia and my wife would stay and take care of our children. It was all for the brighter future of our family. I was occupied with the hope of being able to proudly answer, “Yes, I have been abroad” that I left my beautiful wife, my severe disabled son, and my one year old daughter who had just started calling me ‘father’.
I had all the possibilities to enrol in any universities in Australia but I chose La Trobe University in Bundoora, Melbourne for a very personal reason, its beauty. There were many two-years Educational Master programs offered in Australian Universities and I picked one of them by judging which was the most beautiful campus displayed in the internet. Luckily, La Trobe provided me more than stunning peaceful location to study. When I was just arrived at the Tullamarine Airport, a pick up chauffeur hired by La Trobe University had been waiting for me. I thought he would take me to my temporary accommodation with a yellow cab but no, he led my way to a too-expensive car for a taxi, parked near the airport. It was not all. On the same day of my arrival, I arranged a meeting with the International liaison officer of the uni and I was surprised that she had managed all of my immediate necessities for my first week living in Australia. On my first visit to the uni, I had been registered as student and I could even draw my first Australian dollar from my living allowances. It was just spectacular.
I loved all parks in Melbourne. I enjoyed commuting one and half hours from Footscray to Bundoora. First, I took tram to Footscray station then train to Flinders station and finally bus to Bundoora and all for one metcard ticket. I was always amazed by the fact that so many people representing so many cultures around the world got together nicely in Melbourne public transport. I was in a peak of excitement living in a new culture when I felt so wrong not to share this experience with my family. I knew it could be tough for me to balance my time for studying and for taking care of my family in Australia. It could be harsher indeed, if my wife and I should go to work to fill in the gap between my fortnightly stipend and my family living expense. The urge to share with my family all moments of living in Australia was untamed. I though I was not the whole person I could be without my family in my side. No matter how nice it was my life in Melbourne, it was merely a piece of life that would never become a unity of life until I had my family with me.
What a wise consideration of APS officials in Canberra to allow me alter my contract from ‘single’ to ‘with family’. Perhaps, they foresaw that I would not be able to fulfil the expectations of an AUS aid student if I kept thinking of my family back home. Elena Dagis, the IPO at La Trobe, was so professional and thoughtful. I went home that time, on my first semester holiday, with all necessary documents from the university to apply for my family visa.
My wife and I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst though. I spent most of my time that holiday to indulge my family with things they might never imagine before APS selected me as an awardee. We spent a night at a luxurious hotel in Yogyakarta. My wife wondered why I did that and I told her, “You have to experience taking a shower of hot water or lying down on the bathtub. That is part of my daily delight living in Melbourne”. Honestly, it was the easiest why to compensate to my family for the difficult time they had without me. We invited all neighbours for religious congregation and we prepared for them two goats for the barbecue. We asked them to pray for our family visa application. Three weeks before my second departure to Melbourne we got the letter from the Australian embassy telling that my son could not get the visa. It seemed like we knew that this was what would happen to us that we generated plan b. We learnt to drive and we bought a used car. By the time I flew back to Melbourne, my wife was already a confident driver and I knew I had done my best to ease her worries taking care of our children by herself. Six months of my life with APS, things had changed a lot.
Many thanks again to APS Officials in Jakarta and Canberra that I could once again adjust my contract from ‘with family’ to ‘single’. This status entitled me for a ‘reunion fee’ in the form of a return ticket when I had finished my second semester. What else could I expect? I made myself busy reading new collections of books on Educational Leadership and Management and writing opinions for an international English newspaper The Jakarta Post. I deserved a new attribute on my second semester with APS, a part time journalist. I remembered well how proud I was googling my name and I found my name on many sites. I never knew what an online article could do until after The Jakarta Post published my article online. I also got email from APS director in Jakarta appreciating my writing on the newspaper. Until now, I could not really apprehend how all this could happen. I never sent any writing to any newspapers before and the first time I sent my article to the most reputable English newspaper in Indonesia, I got it published. Was it because I introduced my self as Indonesian student studying at La Trobe or was it because I gave my opinion on the lack of critical thinking practice in Indonesian schools? It did not bother me anymore as I had published three articles in the Jakarta post so far.
I would say at this moment things went to the direction that either the IPO at La Trobe or APS Officials in Jakarta or in Canberra expected. I was very grateful with all the facilities they provided for me to be able to finish my study well. I had satisfactory results of the six subjects I had taken in my first year study. I went home twice already and the second time I did it with the ‘reunion fee’. It was on the Semarang airport on my departure to Melbourne in June that I was aware of some blessings in disguise of my situation. I found new reason why I should make frequent trips from Indonesia to Australia, in addition to balancing my professional and personal life. The airport officer checking my passport remembered me as someone who was so lucky to be able to go overseas often. He said he was the one checking my passport five months before. Then I said to my self, “Yes I have been abroad, three times”. While I was writing this ‘good news’ with APS, I was three weeks away from my other trip back home and surely I would fly overseas again for the fourth times.
I believed I would not get extra attention from IPO at La Trobe or from APS officials now. There was nothing for them to worry. Despite my longing to my family, I managed to control my stress level and I was successful in adopting the culture outside and inside the university. How could I do that? My piece of life with APS was maybe a piece of pizza but it was definitely not a piece of cake. I did many little things to remind me of my objectives studying in Australia. One little thing I did recently was to take a picture of me with Mr. Paul Johnson, the vice chancellor of La Trobe. This picture would be the most expensive souvenir I could get from La trobe and it would become an example of what action the leaders of any universities could take in order to show their leadership vision. I was given five minutes. It was enough for the photo and enough for me to believe that a leader should always have time to serve others.