Abstract:Itis believed that authentic reading materials can link students to contextualuse of English, as they can improve students’ communicative and culturalcompetences. Related to point, this is very important to highlight theinvestigation on teachers’ beliefs about authentic reading materials as it isreflected through the teachers’ expectation and how they manifest them inclassroom practices. This is a case study of four teachers who teach English atpublic senior high school in Samarinda, East Kalimantan.
The study explores thebeliefs of these teachers about authentic reading materials in their classroompractices. The data were taken from a semi structured interview, classroomobservation, and teachers’ written documents. The study revealed that therewere three themes of teachers’ beliefs emerged, (1) types of authentic readingmaterials, (2) skills to be improved after reading, and (3) teachers’challenges of using authentic reading materials for the classroom-bases. It isnoted that some of classroom activities do not match with the teachers’ beliefsin terms of classroom policy, teaching strategy, and reading stages.
Keywords:beliefs, Englishteachers, authentic materials, case study I. INTRODUCTIONManystudies believed that students should have abundance exposures to use ofEnglish in real context (Beresova, 2015; Ersanli, 2016, Ahmed, 2017). Theseexposures are used to fill the need for being able to communicate confidentlyin English.
In fact, Hymes (cited in Beresova, 2015) argued that communicativecompetence does not merely involve understanding of the language but thenecessitate for contextualized communicated and soon it leads to the influencesof linguistic and social norm in discourse and speech acts which later on itwill act in relation to social structure, values, and social cultural order andthe rules of a community. Teachers mustprovide as many as possible materials with relevant contexts for theirstudents. This is done to provide the choice of words in constructing ofmeaning.
One of materials used is authentic materials. Infact, selecting authentic materials for language learning, especially forteaching reading in EFL context becomes an issue in language teaching. Teachersare put their concerns on this. They are aware that the use of authentic readingmaterials can support students to learn and read language in a natural way.From the researcher’ observation, it is quite often teachers struggle tosearch, select, and modify authentic reading materials in their teachingpractices. It is necessary for teachers to consider authentic reading materialsconsist of extensive vocabularies and appropriate sentence structure for theirstudents’ level.
Learning to read a language in a natural way is conducted bybringing the world outside into a classroom language. This becomes the focus ofthe functional use of authentic reading materials. Itis often, if not many, when teaching reading text teachers integrated authenticmaterials in their teaching practices. They are aware that familiarizingreading texts in the real usage contexts provide students with real exposuresof English.
Students are able to link the knowledge of world outside with thetheir classroom knowledge (Abdulhussein, 2014; Harmer, 2001; Wong, Kwok, , 1995). In addition, authentic reading materials support students toacquire their communicative competence in using English (Guariento , 2001). Nevertheless,authentic reading materials are often found to be culturally biased. Teachersadmitted that they have to adjust the semantic structure of authentic materialswith their students’ level (Kilickaya, 2004).
This means teachers have toparaphrase certain words found in authentic materials which beyond thestudents’ knowledge with the words that their students familiar with.Certainly, it takes time. Teachers need some effort to take authentic materialsas their teaching material. For that reason, this study aims to explore thebeliefs held by Indonesian teachers about the use of authentic materials forteaching reading in EFL context. Borg(in Paltridge & Phakiti, 2015) argued that beliefs held by teachers is partof teacher cognition that defined as social mental image of experiences whichwere reflected in teachers’ decision of language instruction in their teachingpractices.
On the other hand, beliefs are considered as a set of proportionswhich are obtained from one’s previous experience as a learner (Thomas, 2013).Inteaching a language, beliefs are the bridge between knowledge and action;between what have been known with what will be presented. Beliefs can presentwhat knowledge which worth and should be presented in action (Larenas, et al.,2015). In fact, Kumaravadivelu (2012) discerned beliefs into two types, coreand peripheral. Core beliefs is assumed to be more influential in shapingteachers’ language instruction, while peripheral can cause incompatibilitybetween what teachers assert they do and what they actually practice in theclassroom.
This becomes the indication as teachers’ reflection of theirbeliefs. It is assumed that the compatibility between what beliefs held byteachers and how they practice their beliefs in classroom bases can help peopleunderstand of what teachers have understood and how they put the knowledge intoaction in teaching and learning process (Farrell, 2013). Relatedto authentic reading materials use for teaching reading, beliefs held byteachers becomes the issue in EFL context. Teachers are expected to useauthentic reading to stimulate their students’ interest to read English textsince the students will be assessed in the end of their learning stage.Therefore, in this study, the research question is addressed to explore themanifestation of teachers’ beliefs about authentic reading materials:RQ1.What are beliefs held by teachers about authentic reading materials? II. METHOD Theresearch subjects for this study were four English teachers who teach Englishat senior high schools in Samarind.
Theresearcher set the criteria for the sake of this study. All research subjectswho were willing to take part in this study have more than 10 years teachingexperience. They should be certified and followed more than one trainings or seminarsin teacher’s professional development.
Before the interview and classroomobservation were conducted, the teachers had submitted their consent form. Theymay in any time withdraw from this study as well, if they did feel comfortable.Classroomobservation, teaching documents prepared by the teachers, pre and postinterview were used to obtain the data. The researcher made an audio recordingand field note of the teaching reading practice and also transcribe thepre-interview and post-interview in order to make the observation accurate.
Before the researcher examined the classroom practices, pre interview to eachteacher was conducted. This was done to administer the teachers’ conceptions ofauthentic materials for reading used in the classroom practices. After that,the researcher observed the teachers’ classroom practices to see themanifestation of teachers’ beliefs about authentic materials for reading. Postinterview was conducted to verify teachers’ classroom activities with the datataken from the pre-interview and to clarify activities that do not compatiblewith the teachers’ beliefs. The researcher classified and grouped the databased on themes emerged in this study. III.FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONRelated to teachers’ beliefs in usingauthentic materials for reading, three themes emerged, (1) types of authenticmaterials, (2) skills to be improved after reading, and (3) teachers’challenges of using authentic materials for teaching reading.
(1) Types of authentic materialsThere are two types of authentic readingmaterials used by teachers in teaching literacy, print (in a form of flyer, flight schedule, menus) andauditory (songs) materials. It isassumed that authentic reading materials are not created specifically to beused in the classroom, but they are believed to become excellent learning toolsfor students to have an exposure to the real uses of language. It is revealed from the interview, teachersbelieved that they quite often rely on their teaching materials from thetextbook. It is a well prepared material for teaching. They admitted that theyalso used authentic materials to support their teaching practices, especiallywhen they want to introduce their students how English words are used as a meanof communication. They believed such printed authenticmaterials such as newspaper, flyers, magazines, maps, brochures, and invitationwill assist students to be familiar with the real uses of English. The students will also learn new vocabulariesfrom such text. They believed that by providing authentic materials studentswill be able to understand the text by looking at the medium used (Laurillard,2013).
This can be seen in the excerpt below. …..familiar with the real uses of English can helpstudents to understand when and how to use words of English. (it is) easy forthem understand the text when they see the real form…you know.
.for example whenI teach the topic about “Giving information”, it is easy when I bring like ..aninvitation..and ask my student to give the information about the invitation…it’slike catching their mind to speak about the topic… In fact, based on classroom observation,it is noted that teachers mostly used song as authentic materials in theclassroom. After the students listened to the song for several times, the teachersasked students to complete the missing words from the lyrics.
Then two or threestudents were asked to read it aloud. In one of several meetings, the teachershighlighted some unfamiliar words to their students, or sometimes the teachersaddressed to their students to identify unfamiliar words to be discussedclassically. Based on the information from the lyrics, the teachers constructedquestions. They did this to assess their students understanding of the song(Carter, et al, 2016).
…A song is a good medium to teach English. Everybodyloves singing. This always success bring the mood of my class.. …it’s pretty easy to find a song for teachingEnglish words, the students learn how to pronounce, the vocabularies, thetenses…yes…I used some of sentences taken in a song to teach grammar….it alwayscatch my students’ attention….
in fact, I have to be careful in choosing thesong… Onlyone teacher initiated to bring a travel magazine in her classroom. She admittedthat she got the magazine when she travelled with a certain flight. She took itfrom the plane. She did that because she thought that she could make a use ofthe travel magazine in her class. ….I had this when I travelled by plain… I think this magazine can be used in my class…it iscolorful, full of pictures and information about places in the world…I wantstudents to be familiar with English by bringing the world to them… Despitethe use of newspaper written in English can be one of sources of authenticmaterials, teachers found difficulties to find one in Samarinda.
…..For teaching reading, I knew I should usenewspaper written in English because it has lots of texts which I could use toteach the comprehension of the text…however, it is difficult to find newsagency selling that kind of newspaper… 2. Skills to be improved after reading.There are some skills improved afterreading authentic materials, vocabulary knowledge, Scanning-skimming readingstrategy, and critical thinking.
2.1 Vocabulary Knowledge All teachers believed that authenticmaterials for teaching reading can increase their students’ vocabularyknowledge (Kennedy, 2014). They offer wide range of vocabularies. Students canexpand their knowledge of how to use the words in appropriate contexts.
Teachers noted that authentic texts motivate students to acquire new words. Itis often found that authentic texts use a variety of different text structures. ……authentic materials covers a lot of vocabulariescompare to textbooks, students may experience themselves with a wide range ofwords which they can learn when and what to use the words in ( which) context… Thisis one of good exposure for teaching students about latest information from thenewspaper.
Since textbooks need a long time before having revisions, magazinesor newspaper are believed to have the most current information (Sham, 2016).Authentic reading materials can empower students with abundance of words thatwill enhance their use in the target language. Guo (2012) investigated thatauthentic materials can improve vocabulary knowledge, reading speed and readinghabits. It is concluded that an increase of vocabulary affect students readingcomprehension.
2.2 Scanning-skimming strategyStudentsare believed to be able to practice scanning and skimming strategy when theyread authentic reading materials. As a way to look at a text rapidly to get ageneral idea of the texts, skimming is needed for students. Teachers believedthat students can improve their skimming strategy ability after they havemassive exposure to authentic materials because it needs a greater degree ofreading and word recognition skills (Urquhart & Weir, 1998). ….
Although skimming is always introduced everytime….my students must have as many as possible exposure of real texts becauseI want them familiar with the real uses of English….you know I believed it canhelp them since the students will find information that interest them… Authenticmaterials provide interesting information for students about many things indaily bases. Therefore, they can practice skimming important information fromauthentic texts that interest them. Students can practice how to look only forgeneral or main ideas, gather the information to get the summary about thetext. …..
It is a good practice for students in whichthey can practice for their real life…they don’t have to read foreverything…just find the gist from the news… Teachersbelieved that students can manage the time efficiently when they students howto skim the information. They are aware that this strategy can help studentswhen they have to read a text in a specific time, such as in a reading test(Liaw, 2017). Along with skimming, scanning is another beneficial strategy thatcan be utilized. To comprehend the text, sometimes students have to be awarewith specific information provided. Through scanning, students can practice howto get specific piece of information about the text. 3.Critical thinking Comprehending complex, content-richtext critically is an important necessity for students’ academic performanceand their life-long skill. However, they often fight very hard to comprehendthese texts.
As a matter of fact, this skill is required to complete suchreading tasks, for example identifying information, analyze arguments, derivinginferences, or acknowledging the sources (Li, et al, 2016). The complexity invocabulary and structures of authentic materials train students to understandthe text. Consequently it leads students to think critically about the text. ……Yes it (authentic reading materials) consists ofcomplex vocabulary and structure, but this is a good a way for my students topractice their critical thinking over the text….you know sometimes they have agood imagination about the text…this happens when they are interested with thetext or when they have known about the text…I mean they have previous knowledgeabout information provided in the text..
It is believed that authentic materialsprovide greater opportunities for real uses of English as a means ofcommunication (Sánchez, P?rex, & Gómes, 2010).In addition, through authentic materials students are able to develop theirunderstanding of cultures which it can derive their motivation to learn thelanguage.Teachersargued that critical thinking is very important when teaching a language innowadays classroom. As the illustration, students were used to learnlisten-repeat patter to acquire basic vocabularies when they were in a verybasic level. It does not require critical thinking at all. However, as thestudents begin to progress their language understanding skill, they enter morecomplicated tasks which contains elements such as personalization,investigation and problem solving then they must have critical thinking toovercome them.
To this point, authentic reading materials provide authenticcommunication which brings students’ creativity to analyze and respond. 3. Teachers’challenges of using authentic materials for teaching reading. Authentic materials can be used as amedium for teaching a language since it can bring the content of life. Thismakes the language learning more meaningful. However, this is not easy toutilize authentic materials in classroom bases. This study identifiedchallenges faced by teachers when utilizing authentic materials, they are (1)students’ unfamiliarity to the topic, (2) cultural awareness introduction tostudents, and (3) lack of time in searching, selecting and modifying thematerials.
3.1 Students’ unfamiliarity to the topics Students need their previousknowledge to help them understand the text. However, authentic materials oftenprovide less familiar topic for students. Therefore, it is a teacher’sresponsibility to modify the topic of authentic materials to be suited to thestudents’ background knowledge. ….the topics (of authentic materials) sometimesbeyond students understanding, so, before I used it for my students I alwaysmodify it first…. Studentsoften experience difficulty to understand the information provided in the textwhen they are unfamiliar with the topic (AlAzri, 2014). Reading a text needs anextensive background knowledge.
This helps students to understand the topic ofa text. 3.2 Cultural awareness introduction tostudents Authentic materials often exposeculture of English with less proportional to students’ understanding.Therefore, teachers need to introduce the cultural awareness to students. Thecultural background information is needed to understand the content of a text. …..explaining the cultural is a must, you knowsometimes it is the text discussed about the topic that my students never haveexperienced before…like “Halloween”, so I have to describe the culture beforeasking them reading the text.
. Knowing the culture of targetlanguage can make students understood the adequately (Godwin-Jones, 2015). Itis noted culture is part of language. Teachers should integrate culture whenthey teach a language.
This is done so that students can build their linguisticand cultural competence of English. 3.3 Lack of time in searching,selecting, and modifying the authentic materials Teachers need effort to search,select, and modifying the authentic materials. They admitted that they wereable to do it in their spare time during teaching hour. In fact, the time isvery limited because they found abundance of authentic materials that they canuse (Asmari, 2015).
However, they cannot use them all. They have to be selectedand modified carefully to be suited to students’ level. …..I have to be smart managing my time to findauthentic materials for my teaching….
yes they are many…but still I can use themdirectly…I still need a modification so my students can learn from it… IV. CONCLUSIONItis assumed that beliefs aligned with the real practices. In fact, there aresome conditions that make beliefs have to be adjusted to be implemented inclassroom practices.
This study revealed that teachers performedself-adjustment toward their own beliefs about the use of authentic materialsfor teaching reading. They limited their beliefs on students’ capability todigest information and technical challenges when searching, selecting andmodifying the authentic materials. Teachersshould have a good self-management in utilizing authentic materials. There aremany aspects needed to be considered such as the vocabulary level, topicfamiliarity, cultural awareness, sufficient time, and technological pedagogicalknowledge.
For the latter, it is needed when teachers wanted to integrateauthentic materials in a form of technology for their students.