Abstract:It
is believed that authentic reading materials can link students to contextual
use of English, as they can improve students’ communicative and cultural
competences. Related to point, this is very important to highlight the
investigation on teachers’ beliefs about authentic reading materials as it is
reflected through the teachers’ expectation and how they manifest them in
classroom practices. This is a case study of four teachers who teach English at
public senior high school in Samarinda, East Kalimantan. The study explores the
beliefs of these teachers about authentic reading materials in their classroom
practices. The data were taken from a semi structured interview, classroom
observation, and teachers’ written documents. The study revealed that there
were three themes of teachers’ beliefs emerged, (1) types of authentic reading
materials, (2) skills to be improved after reading, and (3) teachers’
challenges of using authentic reading materials for the classroom-bases. It is
noted that some of classroom activities do not match with the teachers’ beliefs
in terms of classroom policy, teaching strategy, and reading stages.

Keywords:
beliefs, English
teachers, authentic materials, case study

 

I.                
INTRODUCTION

Many
studies believed that students should have abundance exposures to use of
English in real context (Beresova, 2015; Ersanli, 2016, Ahmed, 2017). These
exposures are used to fill the need for being able to communicate confidently
in English. In fact, Hymes (cited in Beresova, 2015) argued that communicative
competence does not merely involve understanding of the language but the
necessitate for contextualized communicated and soon it leads to the influences
of linguistic and social norm in discourse and speech acts which later on it
will act in relation to social structure, values, and social cultural order and
the rules of a community.  Teachers must
provide as many as possible materials with relevant contexts for their
students. This is done to provide the choice of words in constructing of
meaning. One of materials used is authentic materials.

In
fact, selecting authentic materials for language learning, especially for
teaching reading in EFL context becomes an issue in language teaching. Teachers
are put their concerns on this. They are aware that the use of authentic reading
materials can support students to learn and read language in a natural way.
From the researcher’ observation, it is quite often teachers struggle to
search, select, and modify authentic reading materials in their teaching
practices. It is necessary for teachers to consider authentic reading materials
consist of extensive vocabularies and appropriate sentence structure for their
students’ level. Learning to read a language in a natural way is conducted by
bringing the world outside into a classroom language. This becomes the focus of
the functional use of authentic reading materials.

It
is often, if not many, when teaching reading text teachers integrated authentic
materials in their teaching practices. They are aware that familiarizing
reading texts in the real usage contexts provide students with real exposures
of English. Students are able to link the knowledge of world outside with the
their classroom knowledge (Abdulhussein, 2014; Harmer, 2001; Wong, Kwok, &
Choi, 1995). In addition, authentic reading materials support students to
acquire their communicative competence in using English (Guariento &
Morley, 2001).

Nevertheless,
authentic reading materials are often found to be culturally biased. Teachers
admitted that they have to adjust the semantic structure of authentic materials
with their students’ level (Kilickaya, 2004). This means teachers have to
paraphrase certain words found in authentic materials which beyond the
students’ knowledge with the words that their students familiar with.
Certainly, it takes time. Teachers need some effort to take authentic materials
as their teaching material. For that reason, this study aims to explore the
beliefs held by Indonesian teachers about the use of authentic materials for
teaching reading in EFL context.

Borg
(in Paltridge & Phakiti, 2015) argued that beliefs held by teachers is part
of teacher cognition that defined as social mental image of experiences which
were reflected in teachers’ decision of language instruction in their teaching
practices. On the other hand, beliefs are considered as a set of proportions
which are obtained from one’s previous experience as a learner (Thomas, 2013).

In
teaching a language, beliefs are the bridge between knowledge and action;
between what have been known with what will be presented. Beliefs can present
what knowledge which worth and should be presented in action (Larenas, et al.,
2015). In fact, Kumaravadivelu (2012) discerned beliefs into two types, core
and peripheral. Core beliefs is assumed to be more influential in shaping
teachers’ language instruction, while peripheral can cause incompatibility
between what teachers assert they do and what they actually practice in the
classroom. This becomes the indication as teachers’ reflection of their
beliefs. It is assumed that the compatibility between what beliefs held by
teachers and how they practice their beliefs in classroom bases can help people
understand of what teachers have understood and how they put the knowledge into
action in teaching and learning process (Farrell, 2013).

Related
to authentic reading materials use for teaching reading, beliefs held by
teachers becomes the issue in EFL context. Teachers are expected to use
authentic reading to stimulate their students’ interest to read English text
since the students will be assessed in the end of their learning stage.
Therefore, in this study, the research question is addressed to explore the
manifestation of teachers’ beliefs about authentic reading materials:

RQ1.
What are beliefs held by teachers about authentic reading materials?

 

 

II. METHOD

 

The
research subjects for this study were four English teachers who teach English
at senior high schools in Samarind.  The
researcher set the criteria for the sake of this study. All research subjects
who were willing to take part in this study have more than 10 years teaching
experience. They should be certified and followed more than one trainings or seminars
in teacher’s professional development. Before the interview and classroom
observation were conducted, the teachers had submitted their consent form. They
may in any time withdraw from this study as well, if they did feel comfortable.

Classroom
observation, teaching documents prepared by the teachers, pre and post
interview were used to obtain the data. The researcher made an audio recording
and field note of the teaching reading practice and also transcribe the
pre-interview and post-interview in order to make the observation accurate.
Before the researcher examined the classroom practices, pre interview to each
teacher was conducted. This was done to administer the teachers’ conceptions of
authentic materials for reading used in the classroom practices. After that,
the researcher observed the teachers’ classroom practices to see the
manifestation of teachers’ beliefs about authentic materials for reading. Post
interview was conducted to verify teachers’ classroom activities with the data
taken from the pre-interview and to clarify activities that do not compatible
with the teachers’ beliefs. The researcher classified and grouped the data
based on themes emerged in this study.

 

 

III.
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION

Related to teachers’ beliefs in using
authentic materials for reading, three themes emerged, (1) types of authentic
materials, (2) skills to be improved after reading, and (3) teachers’
challenges of using authentic materials for teaching reading.

 

(1) Types of authentic materials

There are two types of authentic reading
materials used by teachers in teaching literacy, print (in a form of  flyer, flight schedule, menus) and
auditory  (songs) materials. It is
assumed that authentic reading materials are not created specifically to be
used in the classroom, but they are believed to become excellent learning tools
for students to have an exposure to the real uses of language.

It is revealed from the interview, teachers
believed that they quite often rely on their teaching materials from the
textbook. It is a well prepared material for teaching. They admitted that they
also used authentic materials to support their teaching practices, especially
when they want to introduce their students how English words are used as a mean
of communication.

They believed such printed authentic
materials such as newspaper, flyers, magazines, maps, brochures, and invitation
will assist students to be familiar with the real uses of English.  The students will also learn new vocabularies
from such text. They believed that by providing authentic materials students
will 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 help
students to understand when and how to use words of English. (it is) easy for
them understand the text when they see the real form…you know..for example when
I teach the topic about “Giving information”, it is easy when I bring like ..an
invitation..and ask my student to give the information about the invitation…it’s
like 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 the
classroom. After the students listened to the song for several times, the teachers
asked students to complete the missing words from the lyrics. Then two or three
students were asked to read it aloud. In one of several meetings, the teachers
highlighted some unfamiliar words to their students, or sometimes the teachers
addressed to their students to identify unfamiliar words to be discussed
classically. Based on the information from the lyrics, the teachers constructed
questions. They did this to assess their students understanding of the song
(Carter, et al, 2016).

 

…A song is a good medium to teach English. Everybody
loves singing. This always success bring the mood of my class..

 

…it’s pretty easy to find a song for teaching
English words, the students learn how to pronounce, the vocabularies, the
tenses…yes…I used some of sentences taken in a song to teach grammar….it always
catch my students’ attention….in fact, I have to be careful in choosing the
song…

 

Only
one teacher initiated to bring a travel magazine in her classroom. She admitted
that she got the magazine when she travelled with a certain flight. She took it
from the plane. She did that because she thought that she could make a use of
the travel magazine in her class.

 

….I had this when I travelled by plain… I think  this magazine can be used in my class…it is
colorful, full of pictures and information about places in the world…I want
students to be familiar with English by bringing the world to them…    

 

Despite
the use of newspaper written in English can be one of sources of authentic
materials, teachers found difficulties to find one in Samarinda.

 

…..For teaching reading, I knew I should use
newspaper written in English because it has lots of texts which I could use to
teach the comprehension of the text…however, it is difficult to find news
agency selling that kind of newspaper…

 

2. Skills to be improved after reading.

There are some skills improved after
reading authentic materials, vocabulary knowledge, Scanning-skimming reading
strategy, and critical thinking.

 

2.1 Vocabulary Knowledge

All teachers believed that authentic
materials for teaching reading can increase their students’ vocabulary
knowledge (Kennedy, 2014). They offer wide range of vocabularies. Students can
expand their knowledge of how to use the words in appropriate contexts.
Teachers noted that authentic texts motivate students to acquire new words. It
is often found that authentic texts use a variety of different text structures.

 

……authentic materials covers a lot of vocabularies
compare to textbooks, students may experience themselves with a wide range of
words which they can learn when and what to use the words in ( which) context…    

 

This
is one of good exposure for teaching students about latest information from the
newspaper. Since textbooks need a long time before having revisions, magazines
or newspaper are believed to have the most current information (Sham, 2016).
Authentic reading materials can empower students with abundance of words that
will enhance their use in the target language. Guo (2012) investigated that
authentic materials can improve vocabulary knowledge, reading speed and reading
habits. It is concluded that an increase of vocabulary affect students reading
comprehension.

 

2.2 Scanning-skimming strategy

Students
are believed to be able to practice scanning and skimming strategy when they
read authentic reading materials. As a way to look at a text rapidly to get a
general idea of the texts, skimming is needed for students. Teachers believed
that students can improve their skimming strategy ability after they have
massive exposure to authentic materials because it needs a greater degree of
reading and word recognition skills (Urquhart & Weir, 1998).

 

….Although skimming is always introduced every
time….my students must have as many as possible exposure of real texts because
I want them familiar with the real uses of English….you know I believed it can
help them since the students will find information that interest them…

 

Authentic
materials provide interesting information for students about many things in
daily bases. Therefore, they can practice skimming important information from
authentic texts that interest them. Students can practice how to look only for
general or main ideas, gather the information to get the summary about the
text.

 

…..It is a good practice for students in which
they can practice for their real life…they don’t have to read for
everything…just find the gist from the news…

 

Teachers
believed that students can manage the time efficiently when they students how
to skim the information. They are aware that this strategy can help students
when 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 that
can be utilized. To comprehend the text, sometimes students have to be aware
with specific information provided. Through scanning, students can practice how
to get specific piece of information about the text.

 

3.
Critical thinking

            Comprehending complex, content-rich
text critically is an important necessity for students’ academic performance
and their life-long skill. However, they often fight very hard to comprehend
these texts. As a matter of fact, this skill is required to complete such
reading tasks, for example identifying information, analyze arguments, deriving
inferences, or acknowledging the sources (Li, et al, 2016). The complexity in
vocabulary and structures of authentic materials train students to understand
the text. Consequently it leads students to think critically about the text.

 

……Yes it (authentic reading materials) consists of
complex vocabulary and structure, but this is a good a way for my students to
practice their critical thinking over the text….you know sometimes they have a
good imagination about the text…this happens when they are interested with the
text or when they have known about the text…I mean they have previous knowledge
about information provided in the text..

 

It is believed that authentic materials
provide greater opportunities for real uses of English as a means of
communication (Sánchez, P?rex, & Gómes, 2010).
In addition, through authentic materials students are able to develop their
understanding of cultures which it can derive their motivation to learn the
language.

Teachers
argued that critical thinking is very important when teaching a language in
nowadays classroom. As the illustration, students were used to learn
listen-repeat patter to acquire basic vocabularies when they were in a very
basic level. It does not require critical thinking at all. However, as the
students begin to progress their language understanding skill, they enter more
complicated tasks which contains elements such as personalization,
investigation and problem solving then they must have critical thinking to
overcome them. To this point, authentic reading materials provide authentic
communication which brings students’ creativity to analyze and respond.

 

3. Teachers’
challenges of using authentic materials for teaching reading.

            Authentic materials can be used as a
medium for teaching a language since it can bring the content of life. This
makes the language learning more meaningful. However, this is not easy to
utilize authentic materials in classroom bases. This study identified
challenges faced by teachers when utilizing authentic materials, they are (1)
students’ unfamiliarity to the topic, (2) cultural awareness introduction to
students, and (3) lack of time in searching, selecting and modifying the
materials.

 

3.1 
Students’ unfamiliarity to the topics

            Students need their previous
knowledge to help them understand the text. However, authentic materials often
provide less familiar topic for students. Therefore, it is a teacher’s
responsibility to modify the topic of authentic materials to be suited to the
students’ background knowledge.

 

….the topics (of authentic materials) sometimes
beyond students understanding, so, before I used it for my students I always
modify it first….

 

Students
often experience difficulty to understand the information provided in the text
when they are unfamiliar with the topic (AlAzri, 2014). Reading a text needs an
extensive background knowledge. This helps students to understand the topic of
a text.

 

3.2 Cultural awareness introduction to
students

            Authentic materials often expose
culture of English with less proportional to students’ understanding.
Therefore, teachers need to introduce the cultural awareness to students. The
cultural background information is needed to understand the content of a text.

 

…..explaining the cultural is a must, you know
sometimes it is the text discussed about the topic that my students never have
experienced before…like “Halloween”, so I have to describe the culture before
asking them reading the text..

           

            Knowing the culture of target
language can make students understood the adequately (Godwin-Jones, 2015). It
is noted culture is part of language. Teachers should integrate culture when
they teach a language. This is done so that students can build their linguistic
and 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 were
able to do it in their spare time during teaching hour. In fact, the time is
very limited because they found abundance of authentic materials that they can
use (Asmari, 2015). However, they cannot use them all. They have to be selected
and modified carefully to be suited to students’ level.

 

…..I have to be smart managing my time to find
authentic materials for my teaching….yes they are many…but still I can use them
directly…I still need a modification so my students can learn from it… 

 

IV. CONCLUSION

It
is assumed that beliefs aligned with the real practices. In fact, there are
some conditions that make beliefs have to be adjusted to be implemented in
classroom practices. This study revealed that teachers performed
self-adjustment toward their own beliefs about the use of authentic materials
for teaching reading. They limited their beliefs on students’ capability to
digest information and technical challenges when searching, selecting and
modifying the authentic materials.

Teachers
should have a good self-management in utilizing authentic materials. There are
many aspects needed to be considered such as the vocabulary level, topic
familiarity, cultural awareness, sufficient time, and technological pedagogical
knowledge. For the latter, it is needed when teachers wanted to integrate
authentic materials in a form of technology for their students.