According to (Brown, et al., 1989), blended language education implementation comprises the following elements: the tutorials on the use of the online platforms, the introduction to the fields of educational technology, the methods for implementation of educational technology; use of online resources, and practicing with the online educational activities, the case studies on the Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, reflections on the learning processes. The focus of this paper is the appropriateness of the application of the Constructivist theory by Piagets, Constructionism by Papert, and behaviorism by Skinner (Wells, 1994; Emerson, 1983) in an EFL classroom.
According to (Ackermann, 2001), the constructivist theory is based on the assumption that learners effectively acquire new knowledge and skills when they are actively involved in working on tasks and challenges in real-life situations, which correspondingly advocates for applying the experimental approach in teaching. In his theory, Piaget, the father of Constructivism, explained the focus of the learners’ interest and discussed their ability to achieve what they are interested in at different stages of their learning; the scholar provided the evidence for his theory based on the arguments on the case of children who were acquiring new knowledge; the core of the argumentation was the description children’s cognitive processes evolution. Thus, it is possible to conclude that the application of this theory is not appropriate in EFL teaching, as its effect is limited by students’ inner constructions only and does not imply the emergence of those external, which is extremely significant for EFL learning. This disadvantage is eliminated in the Constructionist approach which is discussed below.
The Constructionist theory is based on the assumption that the learners are expected to be able to create the mental models for themselves according to how they understand the world around themselves; thus, Papert’s theory presents the process of learning as that reconstructive. Therefore, learning is viewed as a process of manipulation with materials, which means that students learn effectively when the activities are modeled in such a way that they can construct a meaningful item (Harel & Papert, 1991).
Through this theory, Papert sought to introduce Information Technology in the usual classroom learning, which was supposed to allow learners to use their own acquired knowledge to carry out creative experimentation; it was also assumed that they would be able to draw their own conclusions. Thus, under this theory, a teacher obtains the role of a mediator rather than an instructor, which should be incarnated in his/her approach to teaching. Papert focused on the art of learning and the significance of the process of formulating ideas in learning: the scholar investigated how learners are able to be engaged in the learning activities, and the way in which these activities boost their self direction in learning new information hence in order to outline the way to facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge.
Papert indicated the learning tools and emphasized the role of the educational media and the context in human development. Thus, it is possible to state that the Constructionist theory is the most appropriate in EFL learning, as it provides an opportunity for involvement of students into the learning process through construction of ideas or items, criticize and make use of it. The learners encounter challenging situations and tasks and can put in more efforts to solve them; as a result, they acquire more knowledge through the experience that they earn during the construction process (Gary, 2005 & Ackermann, 2001).
The Constructionist theory is the most effective in teaching English as a foreign language in the classroom environment due to a series of elements that stimulate students’ initiative (Ackermann, 2001). Not only do teachers conduct the learning process through giving guidance to students, but a learner is assigned the tasks that involve investigation and development of solutions to the problems. The theory provides the following language learning elements which are suitable for the blended implementation of the EFL;
- The presentation of the rubrics that outlines the expectations
- A dialogue to help in the interpretation of the assignment
- The opportunities for discussion
- Individual presentations of the work
- The learners are engaged in a kind of authentic real-world tasks
According to (Ackermann, 2001), the Constructionist approach offers and corroborates multiple strategies that provide learners with a variety of the means to solve the problems. The learners can obtain the feedback through the presentations and the discussions as a means for the revisions. The involvement of learners into application of knowledge in the real life situations creates effective instruments for the English learning process.
The element of learning by design in this theory raises the learning value by creation, programming and participation; learning by design is effective due to its “authenticity”: the tasks offered to students are based on simulation of real life situations, which includes discussion and collaboration sessions, experimentation and reflection, etc (Punya & Koehler, 2006). Correspondingly, the tasks in an EFL class are based on experience which is applicable in the real life environment. Constructionism gives the learners multiple contexts which enable application of variety of strategies by using problem solving processes (Lucy & Wertsch, 1987).
The theory by Skinner is based on the assumption that learners’ behaviors can be considered their responses to the stimuli. It is argued by the scholar that what we do is determined by our current external environment that provides the stimuli to which we respond, as well as the previous environment in which we responded to the stimuli in certain ways (Al-Asmari, 2008). The proponents of this theory support the idea that the learners are born with a minimum of the innate reflexes, and the rest of an individual’s complex behaviors are the result of constant interaction with the environment, which determines a concept of learning (Punya & Koehler, 2006).
According to (Brown et al,1989), the theory implements the processes of classical conditioning where two different stimuli are associated with a given response, and the operant conditioning where new behaviors are adopted through the consequences, positive reinforcement increase the likelihood of the behavior being repeated, while negative reinforcement reduces the likelihood of that behavior being repeated.
This theory, as suggested by Sehlaoui (1999), explains human behavior in terms of the stimuli that produce it and the events that encourage a learner to acquire that type of response. The theory possesses the elements of reliability through the methods which insist on objectivity, the control over the variables and the preciseness. Behaviourism theory is not appropriate in EFL due to the lack of validity of the stimuli/response analogy in a range of situations that imply changes, for example, the cultural barriers associated with language teaching (Lynch & Purnawarman, 2004).
Literature review for cultural issues
AL-Hunaiyyan, AL-Huwail & AL-Sharhan (2008) present culture as a complex and broad concept that has many definitions; it includes intangible (“what people think”) and tangible (“what people do”) manifestations of people’s activity. The role of culture involves formation of people’s values and beliefs, their perceptions behaviors (Brown et al., 1989). EFL teaching requires a unified educational approach to the culturally diverse populations (Sehlaoui, 1999). In the multi-cultural settings, such as those involving the EFL, learners need a new approach to education and training which involves advanced psychological knowledge in cultures and cultural differences that it brings to the workplace globally. Culture has great impact on design and development of the educational software applied in EFL teaching with implementation of the blended e-learning approach (Bai & Ertmer; Bruckman, 2002).
In particular, more advanced research is required on the culture and the impacts it has on information search, design of the user interface, usability, the mode of content delivery and access, interactivity and the learning style. Whorf and Vygotsky emphasized that language can be considered a social and cultural phenomenon (Lucy & Wertsch, 1987). Understanding English as a cultural tool is critical for global e-learning (Wells, 1994): the language usage varies thereby setting a given group apart. In the context of blended e-learning, EFL instructors and learners must expertly understand the language used in a classroom; otherwise, the value of an educational program decreases. One has to comprehend various meanings, as well as inferences and connotations. In most cases, the computer-related materials such as the manuals, keyboards, and the software are designed for English speakers but lack the features which can add the symbols or the punctuation marks (Delfino & Persico, 2007).
As suggested by Turkle (1984), the most challenging task in EFL education is to turn the materials used in teaching of English as a foreign language into those culturally sensitive, make them intellectually stimulating, and enable them to transfer knowledge and skills into a different language. However, if EFL is blended with the technological advancements such as e-learning, it helps to bring solutions to the local facilitators who conduct learning by ensuring proper translation of the learning materials.
Sehlaoui (1999) discusses use of the computer technology as the means of developing the critical cross-cultural communicative competence in the ESL/EFL teaching; the author advocates for the development of the computer literacy in cross-cultural communicative competence in the ESL/EFL teaching, especially at the pre-service program, which is aimed at providing a significant basis for teachers in ESL/EFL by recognizing the cultural power of the computer assisted language learning. The ESL/EFL teacher education programs have strongly incorporated computer-based technologies into their curricula (Al-Asmari, 2008); however, the issue of cultural impact needs to be taken into consideration since culture has the impact on the ESL/EFL instruction and the ramification of technology (Cazden, 1994 & Albirini, 2006).
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