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«By Kirati Khuvasanond A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University ...»

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Outcome between Teacher and Learner-centered Pair and Group Activities Interaction in pair or group work activities, one of the techniques used in the learner-centered approach, allows students more opportunities to use English they already know to engage in the learning process (Storch, 2007; Garrett & Shortall, 2002). Even though pair work activity takes more time for students to accomplish the activity, in her study, Storch (1999) found that the pair completed the activity more accurately than the students who worked alone. The results showed that students who worked individually seemed to overlook some of their mistakes or weak points more than those working in pairs. Moreover, results from Storch (2007) and other researchers have also confirmed that students working in pairs are paid more attention than students who work individually on tasks that need improvement. Schmitt (2008) made a comparison of task from 1992 to 1998 showing the results for the method effectiveness when methods were applied with vocabulary learning (see Table 4).

Table 4 Relative Effectiveness of Vocabulary Learning Methods

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Educators generally agree that to create effective teaching requires mastery of content knowledge and pedagogical skill. Many scholars (Hollins, King, & Hayman, 1994; King, Hollins, & Hayman, 1997; Pai & Adler, 1997; Smith, 1998) agree that an understanding of the cultural characteristics of ethnic groups is part of the knowledge that teachers should possess. Pai and Adler (1997) concluded that both educative process and product are influenced by culture. Some specific components of culture are very important for teachers to know and understand because these components have direct implications in teaching and learning in their classroom.

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Definitions of “culture” have changed from time to time. In addition, there is some variance in the definition of culture from different perspectives. Tylor (1871) defined culture as a complex whole, which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by humans as a member of society.

Another similar definition was given by Kroeber (1948), who said that culture consists of speech, knowledge, beliefs, customs, art, technologies, ideals, and rules that are learned from respected others.

Looking at culture from another perspective, it may be defined as that which is shared and has distinctive form in peoples‟ lives. It is one of the factors that breaks through and shapes every human life. As Maehr (1974) stated, culture represents a group‟s preferred way of understanding, evaluating and organizing the ideas or situation that comes into their daily lives. In addition, culture also represents the rules, guidelines, or customs used by individuals who share a common history or geography setting in judging their interaction with the environment. Culture also involves loyalty to religion, use of language, and style of communication. Moreover, preferences for various communicative methods to represent people‟s perception of the world also reflect their culture.

To a person, culture is often described as learned behavior and, certainly, provides the basic materials for personality development, knowledge, systems of belief, and fundamental values. Alexander and Kumaran (1992) stated that “culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior, obtained and transmitted by symbols, which make up the distinctive achievements of human groups including their embodiment in artifact” (p. 11-12). In short, culture is the total social tradition acquired by a member of a society. It is transmitted from person to person and from generation to generation.

From another perspective, culture is a complex tool. Every individual person needs to learn the context of his or her culture to survive in a society. It takes action in a subconscious way, and whatever we see, judge, and perceive seems to be normal and natural. Each person grows up in a different family and different background; therefore, each member of the society is unique in some ways. We could say that culture plays the role of the basic background for a form of life. People from different cultures might feel a little strange when they are put in another society or surrounded by people who are from a dissimilar culture. This may be because the norm of each culture is not exactly the same.

Cultural Effects on Instruction Gay (2002) stated that the elements of culture a teacher should know when teaching are cultural values, traditions, communication, learning styles, contributions, and

relational patterns. Gay (2001) also noted that:

teachers need to know (a) which ethnic groups give priority to communal living and cooperative problem solving and how these preferences affect educational motivation, aspiration, and task performance; (b) how different ethnic groups‟ protocols of appropriate way for children to interact with adults are exhibited in instructional settings. (p. 107) These elements and examples, Gay explained, shed light on culture as an important factor that affects the use of instructional models in classroom teaching-learning. Especially, understanding students‟ cultural background that affects their performance and motivation could help a teacher to choose a better-matching instructional model to use in the classroom. Knowing students‟ ways of interaction enhances a teacher‟s ability to adapt the chosen instruction model to be more appropriate and effective. Allen and Butler (1996) recommended that teachers should learn and understand students‟ cultural backgrounds that would impact their learning style because teachers could increase task engagement and task performance better when content conditions for learning are matched to students‟ culture.

Learning style has core structures and specific patterns by ethnic groups. Shade (1989) explained structures of ethnic learning style include (a) preferred content; (b) ways of working through learning tasks; (c) techniques for organizing and conveying ideas and thoughts; (d) physical and social settings for task performance; (e) structural arrangements of work, study, and performance space; (f) perceptual stimulation for receiving, processing, and demonstrating comprehension and competence; (g) motivations, incentives, and rewards for learning; and (h) interpersonal interactional styles. Most of the elements that Shade mentioned are similar to the cultural elements that affect the effectiveness of instruction applied in the classroom.

Culture in the Classroom Culture in a classroom emerges within the teaching-learning relationships, which are built with teachers‟ and students‟ cultural awareness. In other words, cultural parameters in a classroom can be understood from two perspectives. One is the teachers‟ teaching modes, which are affected by the group‟s or the society‟s cultural views. The other one is students‟ individual background, which includes their families or previous educational environments. In terms of the classroom situation, Samovar et al. (1981) stated that culture influences the way students perceive, organize, and process information. In addition, culture also impacts how students communicate, interact with each other, and solve problems (Terpstra, & David, 1985).

From the perspective of the individual student, Guild (1994) indicated in the article The Culture/Learning Connection that even though distinctive leaning style patterns existed, educator must use diverse teaching technique or strategies with their students due to the fact that there is a great variation among individuals in a culture. In the other word “effective educational decisions and practices must emanate from an understanding of the ways that individuals learn” (p.16). In addition, “although people connected by culture do exhibit a characteristic pattern of style preferences, it is a serious error to conclude that all members of the group have the same style traits as the group taken as a whole.” Language learning is a good example of the cultural relationships between teaching and learning. Byram & Fleming (1998) explained that language reflects culture, and language is part of culture. It also constitutes culture and, in language learning, there are very few aspects of cultural life that are comprehensible without considering cultural ways of speaking. Atkinson (1999) also defined six principles of culture when talking

about learning language:

1. All humans are individuals

2. Individuality is also cultural

3. Social group membership and identity are multiple, contradictory, and dynamic

4. Social group membership is consequential

5. Methods of studying culture knowledge and behavior are unlikely to fit a

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Hollins (1996) stated that a classroom teacher would bring his or her own cultural norms into professional practice. That means the teacher‟s teaching behavior would become an extension of the teacher‟s own culture exclusively or would be included the cultures of the students. In other words, a teacher‟s teaching may be influenced by his or her perceptions of the relationship between culture and school practices. Personalizing culture also refers to a process of deep introspection that reveals the centrality of culture in the teacher‟s own life.

Hollins (1996), in describing culture‟s roles in classroom, said that culture is an essential part of human existence that becomes invisible characters to direct our personal lives which make us view other people who are culturally different as aberrant, quaint, or exotic. Overall, the preceding discussion of the relationship between culture and information processing points to an important link between culture and classroom instruction. Hollins also explained that the link between culture and classroom instruction is resulting from evidence that cultural practices shape the development of memory structures and mental operations, both of which are tools for learning within and outside of school.

Hollins (1996) explained that the basic premise underlying the theory of cultural mediation in instruction has two components based on the centrality of the students‟

home-culture in framing memory structures and mental operations:

1. Teaching and learning are more meaningful and productive when curriculum content and instructional processes include culturally mediated cognition, culturally appropriate social situations for learning, and culturally valued

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2. The authenticity of schooling is validated for students by the interactions and relationship between adult members of their community and school personnel.(p.

159) On the other hand, research done by Vita (2001) showed that ineffective instruction might be caused by a mismatch of students‟ background and different approaches in the classroom. Gay (2001) also noted about the concept of culturally responsive teaching which is defined as “using cultural characteristic, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively” (p. 106). This concept is based on the assumption that knowledge and skills are related to the lived experiences within students‟ frames of reference. In other words, students will improve their academic achievement when they are taught through their own cultural and experiential filters (Au & Kawakami, 1994; Foster, 1995; Gay, 2000 Hollins, 1996; Kleinfeld, 1975; Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1995). One of the critical components of preparation for culturally responsive teaching is to create a classroom climate which would encourage students to learn (Gay, 2001). Gay wrote that a useful way to prepare for culturally responsive teaching is for the teacher to try to match his or her instructional techniques to the learning styles and cultures of her students. Examples of techniques that Gay (2000, 1995) suggested using with Asian students are a communication style conducive to storytelling, cooperative group learning, and peer coaching.

Cultural Context Influence The cultural background of learners and teachers also plays an important role in the classroom when applying a traditional technique such as lecture, which is categorized under teacher-centered, or a non-traditional technique such as cooperative learning, which is categorized under learner-centered. Students‟ and teachers‟ cultures reflect on their behaviors and the styles of learning and instruction in classrooms. Most Asian students tend to be shy and not speak up, in large part because they are taught to pay respect to elders and teachers. One way to show their respect to elder people is to be polite and remain silent. Students who argue or disagree with elders, especially teachers, are thought to be impolite and disrespectful. For that reason, many Asian students seem passive, remain silent in the classroom, and feel uncomfortable initiating class discussion unless they are called on by their teacher.

Thai is a high power distance society, which involves a perceived level of dominance of one group over another, for example teachers over students (Hofstede, 1997). This idea is reinforced by traditional education from the days when classes were taught by monks in local temples. Saengboon (2004) explained that Thai education valued “cooperation to preserve a natural, hierarchical, and social order” (p. 24). This claim is based on the concept of detachment and acceptance of status in order to avoid confrontation, which is known as “Karma” (Adamson, 2003; Foley, 2005; Klausner, 1993). This concept‟s effect on Thai people is to avoid confrontation with people in higher status. In Thai society, there are multitudes of relationships that bear on relative seniority. Superior-inferior relationships are clearly defined by acceptance and implicit recognition of age, birth, title, rank, status, position, or achievement. Some of the characteristics used in describing Thai people‟s personality reflect on these superiorinferior relationships. Those characteristics include (a) Power Distance; (b) Kreng Jai;

(c) Kreng Klua; and (d) Saving Face.

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