Resvina Imelda Pardede
Universitas Kristen Indonesia
Applying storytelling as one of the language teaching strategies has become an interesting issue as previous studies have convincingly shown its effectiveness. To respond to low students’ listening performance of eight grade of Sekolah Menengah Pertama (SMP) 3 PSKD, a two-cycled action research was systematically employed. Initial students’ listening ability, taken through a 20-objective-items test, which met the success criterion was 36.00%. After applying the storytelling technique, the listening skill got improved. There are found 40.75% of the participants achieving the success criterion, or 4.75% higher than the initial one. More interestingly, the post-test of the second cycle of the action research results developed almost twice higher than the previous post-test result, or 41% better than of the initial listening performance. With reference to its effectiveness in teaching and learning listening skill, the observation results showed that an interactive and interesting teaching atmosphere were more likely achievable through the storytelling application. Therefore, it is suggested to consider the application of storytelling in EFL learning in Indonesian contexts. To respond to this, identification of local histories and storytelling application strengthened by teaching policy at schools are worthy.
Keywords: storytelling technique, local wisdom, action research, listening skill.
Applying storytelling as one of the language teaching techniques has become an interesting way to overcome students’ problem in learning language skills, namely listening, speaking, reading and writing. A reviewed previous studies on storytelling shows a positive effect on language teaching process atmosphere that was always attractive and engaging language learners. Hemmati, Gholamrezapour, and Hessamy (2015) claimed that the experimental group of 66 Iranian EFL learners found the storytelling more effective in learning the listening skill. According to them, it was due to the influence of the teacher’s body language and eye contact when learning and teaching. A pretest-postest control group of the quasi-experimental design of Oduolowu & Oluwakemi (2014) indicated that there was a positive significant contribution of the storytelling on the listening performance of primary one students in Ibadan North Local Government Area of Oyo State, Nigeria. Another similar research finding also corresponds to those two reports. Mulyani’s (2009) work concluded that teaching listening through storytelling in the classroom seemed to be more effective. Pardede’s (2011b) study focusing on university EFL students’ interest and perception in the use of short story in language skills development revealed that most participants supported the incorporation of short stories in language skills classes because it can help learners achieve better mastery of language skill. Additionally, the study of Kim (2010) showed that the participants who were interested and pleased in participating in storytelling activities got better language skills improvement than those having little and no interest in storytelling.
Many reasons for making storytelling technique effective in positively determining the success of the aforementioned teaching of listening as the most active receptive language skill. It includes appropriateness, delight, improvisation, and effective involvement. First, the appropriateness of storytelling in the language teaching has been supported by Pardede (2011). He argued the storytelling is viewed as the most appropriate literary genre implemented in the language teaching. Second, Joy and delight are usually experienced by the EFL students while learning through the storytelling. While defining it as an art in which a teller conveys a message, truths, information, knowledge, or wisdom to an audience-often subliminally- in an entertaining way, using whatever skills, (musical, artistic, creative) or props the chooses, Dudley (1996) stated that the storytelling is more likely to be told purely for joy and delight. Another equally important reason for storytelling is the improvisation for which the learners are not restricted to given words in the story. Accentuated by Yadav (2014), the storytelling is improvised to gain the listeners’ attention during the expression of words and images of the narratives being told. To end, James (2014) evidenced the effective involvement of students to better inquire, wonder, and think when learning through the storytelling. He claimed that it makes listeners’ mind to better inquire, wonder, and think.
To have the same frame of reference to the listening skill which received a positive impact according to the findings, it is crucial to define it and give some characteristics it contains. Simply stated, Thomlinson (1984) defined listening as an act of hearing attentively. Such a view suggests that a listening process requires serious attention to build an interactive conversation. This is due to the fact that the attention in conversation shows our positive attitude and sympathy toward a speaker’s talk. Additionally, according to Vandergrift (1999) listening is anything but a passive activity, it is a complex, active process in which the listener must discriminate between sounds, understand vocabulary and grammatical structures, interpret stress and intonation, retain what was gathered in all of the above and interpret it within the immediate as well as the larger sociocultural context of the utterance. Reed (1985) stated that listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communicative skill and is an active process for a conscious decision. This is to say that attentive listening seems to be useful in acquiring the communicative ability and decision making. As a listener, you should remain neutral and non-judgemental unless a comprehensive understanding is gained.
To solve an observed low listening performance of eighth graders at Sekolah Menengah Pertama (SMP) 3 PSKD and to maximize the contribution of instruction quality as one of the external factors of language learning (Dakhi, 2014), an implementation of the storytelling was systematically undertaken. It was designed to improve the students’ listening performance and attractive teaching atmosphere.
The Teaching of Listening Skill
What is Listening?
Despite many views on what listening is, it is more likely to define the listening as comprehension. This is based on the basic assumption about its fundamental function as a means to facilitate understanding of spoken discourse (Richards, 2009). Such view, therefore, results in many further definitions of listening. Taken, for example, Thomlinson (1984) defined listening as an act of hearing attentively. This suggests that a listening process requires serious attention to build an interactive conversation. It is because the attention in the conversation shows our positive attitude and sympathy toward a speaker’s talk. Reed (1985) stated that listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communicative skill and is an active process for a conscious decision. This is to say that attentive listening seems to be useful in acquiring the communicative ability and decision making. As a listener, you should remain neutral and non-judgemental unless a comprehensive understanding is gained
Not merely a passive skill to receive verbally given messages is the listening, it is a complex one. The listener must discriminate between sounds, understand vocabulary and grammatical structures, interpret stress and intonation, retain what was gathered in all of the above and interpret it within the immediate as well as the larger sociocultural context of the utterance (Vandergrift, 1999). More precisely, Saricoban (1999) proposes nine enabling skills in the listening. They are predicting what people are going to talk about, guessing at unknown words or phrases without panic, using one’s own knowledge of the subject to help one understand, identifying relevant points; rejecting irrelevant information, retaining relevant points (note-taking, summarizing), recognizing discourse markers, recognizing cohesive devices, e. g. , such as and which, including linking words, pronouns, references, etc., understanding different intonation patterns and uses of stress, etc., which give clues to meaning and social setting, and understanding inferred information, e. g. , speakers’ attitude or intentions.
The Importance of Listening
A reviewed importance of listening by Iwankovitsch (2001) believing Rankin’s finding indicates that listening was the highest frequent skill used, 45%, followed by speaking (30%), reading (16%), and writing (9%). This means that listening skill is the most important language skill since person averagely spends on the verge of half of his time to listen. Besides its function to recall information and to meet listening competence required at schools, it was also known that the listening ability makes people easier to understand and be satisfied and attractive. Weger Jr, Bell, Minei, and Robison (2014) reported 115 participants who were actively listened appeared to be more understood and satisfied with a conversation, and were more socially attractive.
More interestingly, Iwankovitsch (2001) said that poor listening is the leading factor of marital conflict. Emphasizing the argument, it was proved that more than three-fourths (87%) of marital problems were found related to poor or no communication. In a workplace, Doyle (2017) also stated that listening is a highly valuable skill in the workplace. This is supported by Cooper (1997) proposing that listening is a desirable skill in the workplaces as it seems to positively improve worker productivity and satisfaction.
Application of Storytelling Technique in Teaching Listening
Not only as a means to share moral values and entertain, but storytelling is also applied to share knowledge. Accentuated by Yadav (2014), it is understood that stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values.
The storytelling technique is a process of teaching by telling stories. The stories are found to be ideas, beliefs, personal experience, and life-lessons. Such argument is credited Serrat’s (2008) work. She characterizes the storytelling as a vivid description of ideas, beliefs, personal experience, and life-lesson through stories or narratives that evoke powerful emotions and insights.
Its application in language teaching activity is still debatable. However, amongst of the reviewed writings and reports, the application of storytelling in English listening teaching is found plausible to refer to Serrat’s (2008) and Pardede’s (2011). Dennis emphasized that the types of story are based on storyteller’s purpose. To share knowledge, for instance, it needs to focus on mistakes made and show details how it was corrected. Furthermore, to develop listening skill using a short story, Pardede (2011) suggests two important ways. First, read the story out loud so students have the opportunity to listen to a native speaker of English (if at all possible); or second, play the story if a recording is available.
This two-cycled Classroom Action Research (CAR) was conducted at Sekolah Menengah Pertama (SMP) 3 PSKD, a private junior high school in Indonesia. Thirty students, who were in the eighth grade, were research participants. Instruments of data collection consisted of test and observation. The test was administered to record students’ listening performance. An objective test containing 20 test items were the instrument conducted to collect quantitative data. It was administered three times, namely pre-test of the first cycle, post-test of the first cycle, and post-test of the second cycle.
The observation was undertaken to collect participants’ perception toward the application of the storytelling method. In addition to its functions to record the effectiveness of the storytelling, it was also used to assure and validate the improvement of the listening skill measured through the test, and the methodological technique of data triangulation. The observation sheet made was according to the procedure of teaching and learning listening. A teacher-collaborator assisted the researcher to record the mentioned procedure.
To analyze the quantitative data, data reduction, display, discussion, and conclusion were done. In the data reduction phase, the researchers scored the students’ answer sheets and grouped them according to the intended category. While in the display step, the data was tabulated in tables. After displaying them, interpreting the findings using the previous studies and related theories were executed as a precondition for conclusion drawing.
FINDINGS AND DISUCSSION
Referring to general procedures of classroom action research which typically treated to improve the quality teaching process and language learners’ competence, the current study applied: planning, action, observation, and reflection. First, planning. In the planning phase of the first cycle, the researchers analyzed listening teaching materials through which the material selection could be conducted. In addition to preparation of test, teaching aids, and lesson plan, the researchers designed the observation sheet. The second planning was conducted based on evaluation and reflection of the first cycle result. Leading factors as a basis for replanning it was weakness and strengths of the previous cycle. Source of the mentioned weakness and strengths were the test result of listening performance and observation.
Second, acting. The entire planned activities were consistently employed. The lesson plan was used as a guideline for the listening teaching and learning in which both students’ and teacher’s activities were prescribed. The first meeting teaching narrative was conducted on Monday, 17th April 2017. The number of students who attended in teaching learning process was 30. The material taught was about narrative, asking and giving opinion, and description.
Third, observation. The objective of the observation conducted by English teacher-collaborator was to record the teaching and learning activities. It was to assure that it was based on the lesson plan. On the other hand, it functioned to collect the qualitative data of the teaching atmosphere. Accentuated by Lewin (1994), it was designed to enable the researchers to assess the effectiveness of storytelling. Fourth, reflection. The reflection is an integral phase of the study. It was to evaluate the teaching process and improvement of the listening performance that was taken through the test and observation. A focus-group discussion by researchers and teacher-collaborator (Lewin, 1994) was the method employed. Three main points discussed in this phase, namely the weakness and strength of the storytelling, and the students’ listening performance. The reflection result acted as a key to deciding whether or not the action would be continued.
As shown in Table 3, no found is an excellent listening achievement of the students. However, three students in the pre-test of the first cycle did very well, and nine of them received “good” score meaning between 70-79. Surprisingly, it was also found nine students who had a poor and fair score. This indicates that there is exactly the same number of poor, fair, and good ability in the pre-test of the first cycle, nice students. Another equally important meaning to figure out is that more than half of the participants did not meet the success criterion, the total number of students whose scores are below 70, and one-third of the students who did poorly are those who did very well.
With reference to listening performance in the post-test of the first cycle, it was found no significant difference with the pre-test of the first cycle. According to the finding displayed in Table 5, sixteen out of the students performed an unexpected listening ability meaning that they did not achieve the success criterion. Yet, 7% of the post-test of the first cycle outperformed that of the pre-test result.
The previous description of the listening performance shows that the first cycle of the study failed, and therefore it was improved in the second cycle. Such a decision was based on the focus-group discussion in the reflection phase. As reported by the observer, it was found no meaningful interaction in the classroom. Apart from the learning process, the teacher’s performance in applying the technique was not interesting.
Similar to the result of the first cycle, it was found no excellent student finishing the test. Eleven students did the test very well, or 25.56% higher than of the pre-test in the first cycle. More interestingly, regardless of slightly different percentage of both cycles in the “fair” and “good” category, only one, 3.33%, did student the test very poorly. Furthermore, the cycle II result showed a better improvement, 70% out of the 30 students met the success criterion. It is 30% higher than the post-test of the first cycle, or 36.26% better than of the pre-test of the first cycle. Finally, due to the consistent result of the post-test of both cycles, it seems to conclude that the second cycle has successfully improved the listening performance of the eighth graders at Sekolah Menengah Pertama (SMP) 3 PSKD.
The success of the second cycle was in line with the reflection and observation results. The teacher-collaborator argued that there was quality progress of the teacher’s learning process and performance. Though the classroom interaction was found moderate, the way the teacher asked some questions to the students received more their interest. Overall, it was reported a 35% improvement of the teaching and learning atmosphere.
Chart 1 displays that the initial EFL students’ listening ability reaching the success criterion is 36.00%, or 4.75% lower than of the post-test of the first cycle. The second cycle received 77.00% out of the 30 students. This means it is on the verge of twice higher than the previous post-test result and 41.00% better than of the initial listening performance.
The current result is in line with Ciğerci and Gultekin’s (2017) finding who reported that the storytelling was found effective to more engage and motivate primary schoolers in Eskisehir city, Turkey. Though digital stories were the aids in teaching the listening, it reported that post-test of experimental group attained 5 points higher than the pre-test. Another similar report is Verdugo and Belmonte’s (2007). They concluded that experimental students at six state schools in Madrid who studied with digital stories outperformed that of those who studied with non-digital stories in understanding spoken language.
Other three findings correspond to the current study are Hemmati, Gholamrezapour, and Hessamy (2015), Oduolowu & Oluwakemi (2014), and Mulyani’s (2009). Regardless of different samples with Hemmati, Gholamrezapour, and Hessamy’s (2015) experimental study, their report testifies the contribution of the storytelling to 66 Iranian EFL learners. A pretest-postest control group of a quasi-experimental design of Oduolowu & Oluwakemi (2014) indicated that there was a positive significant effect of the storytelling on the listening performance of primary one students in Ibadan North Local Government Area of Oyo State, Nigeria. Investigating its effectiveness, Mulyani (2009) discovered it was more likely to be effective to apply the storytelling in listening teaching.
The Effectiveness of Storytelling
It is plausible to claim that storytelling is one of the powerful EFL teaching techniques. Therefore, an account of the effectiveness of storytelling is important to explain. A previous study review indicates that factors influencing the story in listening are attractiveness, repertoire, meaningful and contextual learning, body language and eye contact, creativity, engagement, and motivation. A survey in Collins and Ruhl’s (2008) action research revealed that eighty-six percent of the students enjoyed doing the storytelling. In addition, they reported that eighty-five percent of them used a broad English repertoire while telling stories.
Accentuated by Wallin (2015) in his qualitative study using an interview, the meaningful and contextual learning were other additional factors of the effectiveness of storytelling. It was reported that the storytelling provided the students with a better understanding since it was contextual. Telling them moral values through the stories seems to make the learning English listening meaningful.
Other equally important findings to which the storytelling effectiveness is understood are Hemmati, Gholamrezapour, and Hessamy’s (2015), Pinzón’s (2016), and Ciğerci and Gultekin’s (2017). The body language and eye contact used in storytelling are Hemmati, Gholamrezapour, and Hessamy’s (2015) reasons that make learning listening more effective to 66 Iranian EFL learners. To Pinzón (2016), the creativity and written language production were found increased by the use of storytelling. His action research showed that storytelling and story reading was beneficial to increase students’ creativity and writing ability. To end, a Ciğerci and Gultekin’s (2017) mixed method, quasi-experimental design, and interview, concluded that digital story to both students and teacher was more likely to be more engaging and motivating used to develop a positive attitude on learning.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTION
The current article was to improve the eighth graders’ listening performance through storytelling technique. The quantitative data analysis shows that the initial EFL students’ listening ability meeting the success criterion was 36.00%. After applying storytelling technique, the listening skill got improved. There are found 40.75% of the participants achieving the success criterion, or 4.75% higher than the initial one. More interestingly, the post-test of the second cycle of the action research results developed nearly twice higher than the previous post-test result, or 41% better than of the initial listening performance. It means that the storytelling facilitates the development of the listening performance growth of the participants. With reference to its effectiveness in teaching and learning listening skill, the observation results showed that an interactive and interesting teaching atmosphere were more likely achievable through the storytelling application. Therefore, It is suggested to consider the application of storytelling in EFL learning in Indonesian contexts. To respond to this, identification of local histories and storytelling application strengthened by teaching policy at schools are worthy.
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Note: This article was presented at UKI English Education Department Collegiate Forum held on Friday, December 8, 2017