«By Kirati Khuvasanond A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University ...»
Power Distance. Power distance is referred to as the acceptance of a hierarchical authority system, which Hofstede (1983) and Brown (1995) said could be related to the degree of centralization of authority and the degree of autocratic leadership. In other words, Hofstede (1991) explained that power distance referred to “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organization within a country expect and accept that power distributed unequally” (p. 28). Thai society is one of the places where the culture is considered as a higher power distance (Hofstede, 1983). Thai people usually concord with respect and feel obligations to their superiors or those who have higher ranking positions (McKenna, 1995). Hallinger and Kantamara (2001) included Kreng Jai and Kreng Klua elements under cultural concepts occurring in Thai society Kreng Jai. Literally, this word means “constricted heart.” This is one of the key concepts that Thai people use in describing their characteristic nature. To make this word easy to understand for English speakers, Klausner (1993) described this concept as to be considerate, to feel reluctant to impose upon another person, to take another person‟s feeling (and ego) into account, or to take every measure not no cause discomfort or inconvenience for another person.
(p. 199) In other words Kreng Jai is concerned with respect toward others.
Kreng jai could happen within any level of Thai society, especially toward people of higher rank and seniority. Kreng jai can be interpreted as respect. In addition, Kreng jai is more than just politeness but includes an active unwillingness to force upon or bother another person. In terms of higher status in society, such as teacher and student relationship, Kreng jai could mean shyness and being polite towards a senior. In the classroom situation, student questioning of the teacher may be viewed as an expression of ungratefulness and challenging the teacher, displaying a lack of etiquette, and showing disrespect, which is highly inappropriate (Adamson, 2003; Foley, 2005; Liu, 2001;
Kreng Klua. Kreng Klua’s definition is close to Kreng jai. Kreng Klua means the feeling of respectful fear (Mulder, 1979); the word Kreng Jai mean concern with respect but without fear involved.
Saving face. Saving face, or the avoidance of criticism, is a very common
characteristic of Thai people. Komin (1991) stated that:
The “face” is identical with “ego” and is very sensitive. Since the Thais give tremendous emphasis on “face” and “ego,” preserving one another‟s “ego” is the basic rule of all Thai interactions both on the continuum of familiarity unfamiliarity and the continuum of superior-inferior, with difference only in degree. (p. 135) It is of great consequence to Thais that they are seen as good and able people, worthy of respect and in a good standing in society. Thais want to do the right (good) thing and, if something bad happens, they worry that it will be seen as their fault.
Further, bad things need to be hidden in order to save face.
Thai interpersonal relationships code insist that no one be placed in an embarrassing or shameful situation. Every effort is taken to avoid causing other people to lose face. To put someone into the situation of losing face would be recognized as an act of aggression. Critique is often experienced as criticism, and seen as a social offense or personal insult (Mulder, 1978). In addition, Thai people believe that a junior should never challenge seniors, as people in Thai society respect seniority.
In Thailand, teachers have a much higher status than students and, most of the time, are regarded as second parents (Thamraksa, 2003). The duty is not only to teach students knowledge but also to teach morals and to mold the students to be good citizens in society as well. Teachers act as partners of parents‟ functions and are easily placed at the center in the classroom. They easily organize teaching-learning activities efficiently.
However, at the same time, this cultural positional relationship also promotes teaching methods as a spoon fed approach, where students wait for teachers to give them knowledge.
These cultural elements also influence Thai education in implementing more child-centered approaches, which is similar to a learner-centered approach in classrooms as well. Thai National Education Act 1999 was launched for Thai education reform to promote more learner-centered qualities in every subject and classroom. Thai students were not used to learning with active learning strategies and collaborative learning styles, which are the core included in these policy-shaped, learner-centered approaches. Some students have not adapted well to this new instructional approach. Thais newspapers (Bangkok Post, 2002) reported on the feedback of “the child-centered approach” that people compared as “Kwai-centered approach.” In Thai, “Kwai” refers to the cow, which can be implied when compared to people or an idea that is considered stupid. Thai students described the child-centered approach as a disappointing. Critics claimed it does not help students to become smarter but rather delays their progress. These criticisms may reflect the failure and mismatch of new instructional activities with the nature of Thai students‟ culture and the classroom, rather than the approach itself.
Storch (2007) pointed out that Southeast Asian students prefer to work individually. Students think that working individually provides them more opportunities to learn and practice the lesson. With limited resources and tough living environments, Southeast Asian societies are usually competitive. In attempts to gain a better life in the future, parents push their kids to be successful in academics. Students are urged to be their best in the class, and are likely to be highly competitive with each other. A welldeveloped sense of individual competition might be why they prefer to work as individuals rather than in a group.
Due to the fact that the curriculum for English language in Thailand tends to focus on memorizing vocabulary rather than applied vocabulary, teacher-centered approaches might be a good match for learning some vocabulary skills, but student-centered approaches would also assist students in some other part of knowledge attainment. As McCarthy (1984) explained, the purpose of vocabulary learning should involve both remembering words and the ability to use them in a wide range of language contexts. In maximizing students‟ benefit from instruction, a good match of instruction would be to match vocabulary learning and classroom character background.
As Lawson and Hogben (1996) stated, “Other strategies, such as rehearsal, may be important for maintaining a particular item, but simple rehearsal alone should not be very effective for long-term use, because it does not involve extensive elaboration of the word-meaning complex” (p. 104). Since learning vocabulary consists of many tasks, such as spelling, meaning, and use of word, a different teaching approach would fit well with the different tasks of vocabulary learning. Basically, the more teachers know which instructional approach could better help improve students‟ vocabulary knowledge, the more students should improve in vocabulary and other language skills.
Slavin’s Methods and Thai culture Slavin created many instructional techniques under the concept of cooperative learning. Among those methods, Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition (CIRC) is recommended by Slavin (1985) when teaching spelling, decoding, and vocabulary. In this method, teams are composed of pairs of students from two different ability levels. Students work in pairs within their teams on a series of cognitively engaging activities, including reading to one another; making predictions about how narrative stories will be resolved; summarizing stories to one another; writing responses;
and practicing spelling, decoding, and vocabulary. Students also work in their teams to master a main idea and other comprehension skills. In this method, students follow a sequence of teacher instruction, team practice, team pre-assessments, and a quiz.
Another technique that might match Thai students‟ culture (saving face and gaining the respect of others) would be Jigsaw. Slavin (1995) explained that, in this method, students would be assigned material to read, usually social studies, biographies, or expository material. Each team member is then randomly assigned to become an “expert” on some aspect of the material assigned. After reading the material, experts from different teams meet to discuss their common topics, and then they return to teach topics to their teammates. Finally, there is an individual quiz over all topics.
Knowing and understanding students‟ culture is not enough. Rather, teachers need to know how to convert it into culturally responsive instructional strategies as well as curriculum. Tharp and Gallimore (1988) argue that culturally responsive teachers need to understand how conflict between different styles of working may interfere with academic efforts and results; responsive teachers need to understand how to design more appropriate communal learning environments. Gay (2002) suggested that a useful way to deal with cultural elements in education is to match instructional techniques to the learning styles of students. The idea of “matching” is also suggested by Messick (1976) under the term aptitude-treatment interaction, that linking of specific treatment components to characteristics of learners is the key concept of the “matching.” Salomon (1972) pointed out that preferential matching treatments are sought that draw on the strengths of learners, allow students to exercise their strongest, which is usually also their most preferred, mode of functioning. In addition, Salomon (1972) and Snow (1970) stated that interactions occur when preferential matching is used because students perform best in the treatment that calls upon students‟ strong or preferred styles.
Some authors, such Adamson (2003, 2005), Foley (2005), and Saengboon (2004) agree that part of the difficulties of implementing new curriculum according to the 1999 Education Act is the mismatch between Thai culture and western values of education reform. Being more specific in terms of language education, Muhlhausler (1996) suggested that language learning should only accept and reflect the values of linguistic and cultural diversity, not favor blind modernization and streamlining. This is similar to Kachru (1998), who suggested that English language teaching materials in Asia should be less reliant on material or ideals from English-speaking countries. Material should be developed from or within the region. This could be reflected in the instructional technique as well. Teaching techniques used in English-speaking countries might not match well to non-English speaking countries due to many factors, such as cultural characteristics which pointed to carefully choosing or adjusting techniques to best match with the students‟ culture in the specific classroom environment. Those western techniques, such as communicative language teaching, learner-centered, cooperative learning, and so forth, will need to be carefully adapted to be matched with Thai cultural practices.
Summary Chapter two shed light on such issues of mismatching instruction and students‟ cultural background in Thai classrooms. The chapter also explored characteristics of teaching strategies (traditional and cooperative learning) and their relation to the Thai cultural context. The present study explored the identified the need of a better match of classroom instruction and Thai students‟ culture. The larger goal of the study was to identify the best match of classroom instruction to the cultural norms of Thai students as a mean of enhancing effectiveness of instruction in teaching English vocabulary.
This study was focused on three different techniques used for teaching vocabulary to EFL students in Thailand. Specifically the study compared and contrasted the effectiveness of teacher-centered (traditional, lecture) versus learner-centered (cooperative learning; Jigsaw, and CIRC) in Thai classrooms by analyzing Thai students‟ objective learning outcomes and subjective learning cognition under the learner-centered (cooperative learning) and teacher-centered (traditional) approaches. In addition, the results from the comparison could help identify an optimal match between instructional technique and the Thai cultural context in classrooms. The results could also help demonstrate the effectiveness of learning vocabulary when an optional match between background culture and teaching method are applied in the classroom. Data on test scores, questionnaires, and interview questions with Thai students in Bangkok were collected. The vocabulary test scores (spelling, meaning, and use of words) under each approach were compared and contrasted. Results from the questionnaires were used to analyze the students‟ experience of culture norm attitudes within each method they experienced.
Participants Participants for the study were recruited from schools in Bangkok, Thailand.
Sixth-grade classrooms were selected to participate in this research. Sixth grade in Thailand is considered the highest level of elementary school in which students have studied the English language for a few years.
The final samples included 599 students. Students were separated into three groups. One group received vocabulary teaching in a teacher-centered (TC) approach while the other two groups received learner-centered (CIRC and Jigsaw) approaches.
Procedures for Gathering Data The study used a mixed-methods approach for interpreting, comparing, and contrasting the findings. In the quantitative phase, schools were selected as convenience samples. Students who participated in this research were randomly assigned into each classroom by the school at the beginning of the academic year. Vocabulary pretests and posttests were given to students at the beginning and the end of the experimental period.
Questionnaires were given to students together (with the posttest) asking students about their cultural norms and how it “fits” when each instructional method is applied.