A Case Study at English Education Department of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta (EDUMY), Indonesia
Endro Dwi Hatmanto

Presented in the TEFL Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2011

 

Abstract


Institutions of higher education in Indonesia have mostly kept to the traditional curriculum of material based curriculum (MBC) in which students are to master several subjects dictated by a study program. MBC is always facing the problems that knowledge acquisition does not necessarily lead to the successful application of knowledge. One demand for more relevant education has been a stronger emphasis on the world of work, signified by more attention given to core skills and other personal transferable skills such as the ability to cooperate, communicate and solve problems. Facing this new challenge, the EDUMY Indonesia has been implementing the Competency Based- Curriculum (CBC). The research is interested in finding out the focus and the course design at EDUMY, the lecturers’ perception on the lecturers’ role, the students’ role, the learning process and challenges in implementing CBC. This case study uses the document analysis and interview to gather the data. The research reveals that EDUMY’s CBC focuses on five main competencies; English, education and teaching, information technology and research as well as supporting competencies, namely problem solving, communication and entrepreneurship. Lecturers act as facilitators and motivators while students are proactive learners and constructivists of knowledge in the students centered-learning setting. The challenges in the implementing CBC are concerned with the assessment and classroom management. 


Keywords: Competency based- curriculum, materials-based curriculum, hard skill, soft skill

1.   Background

The English teaching in Higher education in Indonesia has long been implementing the traditional education so called Material Based Curriculum (MBC). In this curriculum students are to master a number of subjects dictated by a study program. However, a criticism of the traditional MBC is that it always faces the problems that knowledge acquisition does not necessarily lead to the successful application of knowledge. In the same notion, citing the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, Miller (1990) argues that there is nothing more useless than well informed man. One expectation for more relevant education has been a stronger focus on the world of work, signified by more attention given to core skills and other personal transferable skills such as the ability to cooperate, communicate and solve problems. Facing this new challenge, the English Education Department, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta (EDUMY), Indonesia has been implementing the Competency Based- Curriculum (CBC). The implementation of CBC manifests EDUMY’s reaction to a discipline-oriented curriculum.

The transformation from MBC to CBC is a result of a paradigm shift from traditional view of knowledge to a more progressive one. The traditional view of knowledge asserts that knowledge acquisition in itself is the major goal of education. This understanding leads to the classical concept of knowledge as school-based and discipline-based.

On the contrary, the progressive paradigm suggests that knowledge should be applied in order to solve the problem. Gibbon (1998) strengthens this proposition by introducing the term “mode 2 of knowledge development”. Contrary to mode 1 of knowledge production which focuses on the discipline-based taught in the classical universities, mode 2 of knowledge production stresses knowledge in the context of its application.

In respect to the English teaching in higher education in Indonesia, the mode of knowledge development is still vague. On the one hand, many English study programs still put a strong emphasis on traditional disciplinary knowledge production. On the other hand, few English Study Programs recognize the needs to incorporate competences as the aim of teaching and learning process. However, global developments in society and economy encourage English Study Program in Indonesia to close the gap between classical disciplinary knowledge and know-how required for the new job market. One feature on the demand for more relevant education has been a stronger emphasize on the world of work with a great deal of attention given to core and personal transferable skills including the ability to communicative, solve problems and cooperate (Bennet, 1999).

Along with the shift toward competence oriented education, the space between vocational and academic education is narrower signified by dynamic collaboration between educational institutions and the worlds of public service and industry. One way to conceptualize the relation between education and the world of work is through competency based curriculum.

This research is aimed at investigating the implementation of competency based curriculum at English Education Department, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta. The research questions are formulated as follows; how is the formulation of the course in the competency based curriculum scheme at EDUMY?; how are the perception of lecturers on the lecturers’ role in the CBC scheme?; how are the perception of lecturers on the students’ role in the CBC scheme? And how is the learning process and challenges facing the lecturers in implementing CBC?

In order to achieve this aim, paper is structured as follows; first the literatures on competency based curriculum will be explored; second, the methodology of the research will be described; third, the finding of the research and the analysis will be presented and finally some suggestions will be offered.

 

  1. 2.   Literature Review

2.1 The concept of Competence and Competency Based Education

2.1.1 Competency Revisited

It is acknowledged that the term competency lack of generally accepted operational definition. Generally, competency can be defined as the capacity to choose and utilize an integrated combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes with the goal to do a task. Knowledge, skills and attitudes serve to realize the standard to perform job-related tasks that typify profession. Several authors offer competence definitions. For example, Garavan and McGuire (2000) define competence as an action, behavior and outcome a person should be able to demonstrate. This definition constitutes what a person can do. Competency might also be viewed from the possession of certain attributes such as knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This matches the definition of competence given by AAPA (1996) stating that competence reflects the amalgamation of knowledge, skills and abilities demanded for professional practice. While APPA defines the competence only in the level of possession, Kricher et al (1997) view competency as the ability to choose and use the attributes suggesting that competence is the capability to choose a set of available behavior and to execute suitable skills to meet certain goals. The comprehensive definition covering all aforementioned is offered by Mulder (2001):

“Competence is the ability of a person or an organization to reach specific achievements. Personal competence comprise: integrated performance oriented capabilities, which consist of clusters of knowledge structures and also cognitive, interactive, affective an where necessary psychomotor capabilities, and attitudes and values, which are conditional for carrying out tasks, solving problems and more generally, effectively functioning a certain profession, organization, position or role”.

Kouwenhoven (2003) suggests that the execution of tasks involves a cognitive process comprising the utilization of knowledge, skills and attitudes; personal characteristics of professional, and the meta-cognition. The knowledge, skills, attitudes and personal characteristics should be present in realizing the task since these elements reflect the deliberate actions. Kouwenhoven (2003) also holds that the knowledge, skills and attitudes should be used in an integrated manner albeit they might be used in varying degrees, depending on the task to be performed. Aschrott (1994) adds that the mental processing of performing tasks requires cognitive monitoring which is called meta-cognition.

Competence can be broken down into two types, the core competency and the generic competency (Kouwenhoven, 2003). The former relates to the set of appropriate competencies required to realize a key professional job at a satisfactory level. The latter is associated with ‘life skills’ including self-concept, values and personality traits.

2.1.2 Competence Based Curriculum

The integration and employment of competency in education setting leads to competence-based curriculum (CBC). The point of departure of the CBC is that the curriculum should be based on the appliance of current studies of the cognitive sciences to the concept of competence.

The implementation of CBC leads to new paradigm on the goals, learning process, learning approach, roles of teachers, learning environment, and assessment in education. Regarding the goals of the curriculum, CBC is aimed at reaching the professional practice. The curriculum, therefore, has an integral arrangement in which the profession is fundamental (Boyatziz et al, 1996). In terms of learning process, the CBC advocates the learner-centered approach. Field and Drysdale (1991) posits that included in the learning process of CBC are the use of individualized materials, flexible learning time and continued feedback to the students. In addition to the core competence, the generic competence is cultivated and integrated throughout the whole curriculum. The learning environment in the CBC is, therefore, directed toward enhancing the development of competence at the end the study program (Kirschner et al, 1997). As many proponents of the students-centered approach suggest, CBC encourages the transfer capacity and foster the innovations and problem solving process. Furthermore, self-reflection and self-assessment play an essential role. Concerned with learning approach, CBC advocates the deployment of constructivist approach in which students are motivated to actively construct knowledge. Viewing the constructivist approach, Mostching-Pitrik and Holzinger (2002) argue that the chief goal of constructivism is competence, not knowledge acquisition as in behaviorism. Since the end goal of the CBC is the competence, the assessment is not on the acquisition of fact, information and knowledge. Rather it focuses on the performed competencies. Assessment is an integral part of the learning process in the development of competencies.

In education the focus on the competency can be fostered by competence thinking. Dochy and Nickmans (2005) point out four categories of competence-based curricula that demonstrate a rising degree of competence-based characteristics. The first category is framed as purposeful education, new objectives and new teaching and learning approaches. This categories dictate several propositions to be involve; 1) professional practice is the point of departure; 2) competencies are decomposed into knowledge, skills and attitude; 3) more attention is given for knowledge application; 4) the inclusion of generic competences is required; 4) active learning is encouraged.

The second category is called integration via cases. This needs fundamental understanding on the teaching and learning to enhance competences; 1) knowledge, skills and attitude are always strongly related professional practice; 2) the use of realistic situations is advised; 3) cases and problem-based learning are often used in teaching.

The third category is learning and development trajectories. This requires several strategies and condition; 1) the insertion of learning development pathway in the curriculum; 2) systematic and continuing development of competencies; 3) focus on generic competencies; 4) decreasing guidance and coaching and increasing complexity; 5) learning to learn as the significant purpose; 6) the comprehensive assessment of knowledge, skills, attitude and personal development.

The fourth category is the demand-driven, aimed at the development of competencies. This necessitates several processes; 1) teachers need to create authentic tasks, and practical problems with increasing complexity and decreasing guidance; 2) teachers need to start with a broad and open assignment; 3) students are to formulate learning questions 4) students need to formulate personal development plan and related competency matrix; students determine what competencies will be enhanced, when and what level.

  1. 3.   Methodology

This research is qualitative, hence naturalist and interpretative. It is called naturalist, in the sense that it studies the participant real life setting without the researcher intrusion or manipulation. Thus the data emerge from natural context (Bogdan and Biklen, 2003). It is interpretative since the researcher should interpret the data from the participants’ perspective and experience. Some scholars also argue that qualitative research is constructivist since the researcher should build the understanding and meaning through the participant’s story and experience.

The design of the research is a case study. According to Stake in Creswell (2003) in case study, the researcher explores in depth a program, an event, activity and a process. The term case study is also related with ‘some unit or set of units, in relation to which data re collected or analyzed; it is a specific from of inquiry that investigates a few cases, often just one, in considerable depth (Hammersley and Gomn, 2000).

My research setting took place in the English Education Department of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta (EDUMY), Indonesia. The reason why I chose this site was primarily because the setting is accessible and manageable to collect the data. The data is taken through the interview with four English lecturers of EDUMY. The interview was transcribed and analyzed. In addition to the data taken from interview, the documents concerned with the implementation of CBC at EDUMY will also be analyzed leading to the use of document analysis technique.

The sampling used is purposeful sampling as it is selected by purpose. The sampling used was not intended as the representation of the population rather to be used as the attempt to view different perspective to present wholeness in gaining sound description (Holliday, 2007).

In reporting the finding, this research used descriptive and narrative writing. I observed and explored human behavior in particular context and then weaved a narrative that accurately and honestly reflected the lives and voices of a group of people.

  1. 4.   Finding and Discussion

4.1       The Competencies and Courses to Achieve the Competencies

The EDUMY has been using the Competency- Based curriculum. The subjects taught is based on the competency needed by graduates to effectively perform their occupational tasks as teacher, researcher, linguists and English-based entrepreneurs. In order to meet the demand of the job market, the EDUMY equips its students with five core competences, three supporting competences and three other competences.

The core competency 1 is an ability to communicate in English using the correct rules of English. This competency is achieved through such courses as Listening and Speaking for Daily Communication, Listening and Speaking for Formal Setting, Listening and Speaking for Academic Purposes, Listening and Speaking for Career Development, Basic Reading and Writing, Academic Reading and Writing, Interpretive Reading and Argumentative Writing, Reading and Writing for Career Development, Computer Literacy (offline computer), Computer Literacy (online computer) and Capita Selecta on Grammar.

The core competency 2 is the ability to teach and educate students effectively. The achievement of this competency is done through the following courses; principle of teaching and learning, language learning and acquisition, teaching English as a foreign language, language assessment and evaluation and ICT in language teaching.

The core competency 3 is the ability to utilize educational technology. This is attained through several courses such as Curriculum Design, Material Design, Instructional Design and Teaching Practice.

The core competency 4 is the ability to design and conduct research and interpret data professionally. This requires students to learn courses such as Research Method, Thesis, Language Research and Academic Presentation.

The core competency 5 is the ability to innovate and apply technology in language and language learning. In order to achieve this competency students are to learn courses such as Innovative Technology and Digital Technology in Education.

The supporting competency 1 is the ability to identify, analyze and formulate problems of language and language teaching accurately. To achieve this competency, the course which should be learnt by students is Issues in Language Teaching and Learning.

The supporting competency 2 is the ability to perform as an effective facilitator, motivator and mediator. This competency is attained through the Classroom Management course.

The supporting competency 3 is the ability to recommend solutions to problems facing language education. Students are to learn Education and Teaching Practice and Community Service course to achieve this competency.

In addition to core and supporting competency, EDUMY has also  included what is called ‘additional competencies’ in the CBC setting comprising 3 competencies including ability to be an entrepreneur, ability to implement Islamic values and ability to understand and practice international testing system. In order to obtain the entrepreneurial competence, students are obliged to study entrepreneurship. The ability to implement the Islamic values are covered by two courses, namely Education in Qur’an and Language in Qur’an while to acquire the competency to understand the international testing system students are to undergo the learning of International Language Testing.

The courses taught each semester focus on strengthening each competence. In order to master the language skills, in the first year students learn the four language skills comprising speaking, listening, writing and reading.  For instance, in the course of ‘Listening and speaking for daily conversation, students are trained to comprehend simple oral discourse through both recorded and live voice of native speakers. Since this course is integrated with speaking, it also aims to develop the basic English speaking skills and competency of students. The objectives in particular that will be focused on are self confidence, pronunciation, vocabulary expansion, function and fluency.

In the second year, the focus is the strengthening of students’ skills in teaching method and approach. Hence the students are to learn the teaching methods and approach and practice teaching through various simulations. For example the outcome expected in the course Principles of Teaching and Learning is that students are able to understand learning principles. Therefore, students will be conditioned to understand the learners’ development, teaching and learning process as well as educational psychology.

In the third year, students learn the principles of teaching and learning process in order to apply them in the real classroom situation. For example, in the course of Teaching English as a Foreign Language, the areas of studies students will learn are teaching methodology, classroom management, instructional methodology as well as assessment and evaluation. These areas of study will equip students to build a solid understanding of language teaching principles. Armed with this understanding, students will be able to perform their occupational tasks as being effective teachers.

In the fourth year, the focus is to develop students’ competence in conducting research. Hence, the course on research writing is given in the last two semesters. For instance, a course taught in this semester is curriculum design. Learning this course, students will develop such areas of study as the principles of curriculum development and syllabus development. The outcome of this course is that students will acquire competence to design curriculum, syllabus and lesson plans.

The uniqueness of EDUMY lies in the integration of the language, teaching, and research skills with the ability to utilize the information technology. Thus the course given at EDUMY also covers computer and internet technology. For one example, through the ‘Computer Literacy’ subject, the students are enabled to have sufficient knowledge on computer skills such as Microsoft Office and implement them in their professional life. For another example, the course of ‘innovative technology’ aims to provide students with ability to use, apply and develop the strategies in teaching process by incorporating the web designing, e-learning, and use of other digital technology.

Embodied in the CBC at EDUMY are the supporting skills comprising problem solving, communication and entrepreneurship. Communication ability is an essential skills which helps the graduates to perform their occupational job in teaching. A graduate of EDUMY has the competence of being able to work with and for others. This demands not only adequate interaction, a sense of responsibility, and leadership, but good communication with students, colleagues and non-colleagues as well.

4.2       The Lecturers’ and Students’ role and the Learning Process in the CBC Setting

The data obtained from the interview reveal that the implantation of CBC has brought the new spectrum compared with the teacher-centered or conventional teaching method. This notion of this new spectrum applies to the dimension of lectures’ and students’ role as well as the learning process in CBC.

The first role of the lecturers in the CBC setting is as facilitator. This is expressed by the respondent 1:

In the class lecturers’ time talking is less. Students actually have more times for talking. I think this redefines the role of KBK as a new method. You know in the more traditional method the center is lecturers, but in KBK the center is students. I think lecturers should act as facilitators. For example, when the students get difficulty lecturers should help them. So you know the students should be very active. We just monitor, give feedback and motivate. If we see some students are not very encouraged we then give them motivation so that they will be involved in the learning process. So as facilitators, we have to be alert with the needs of students.

Despite their position as facilitators, lecturers cannot stay silent and ignorant about what is being discussed by students. Instead, the respondent 3 told that lecturers should be able to give the right track to students. “It can be done only if lecturers understand the body of knowledge”.  This is supported by respondents 2 arguing that lectures still should have adequate knowledge about the subject. Hence, as stated by respondent 4:

Lecturers should shoulder responsibility to ensure that the learning process will run well. For example, lecturers should be good at facilitating the class by scaffolding scheme so that the class is enriched with various activities. So, I think lectures should really spend ample times to make preparation before teaching. They should also read the materials extensively. Otherwise, the students will be smarter than them because students can do extensive reading from many resources.

While the main role of lectures is as facilitator, the roles of students are active participants in the classroom. This is in line with Mayer’s view concerned with active learning. According to Mayer (2004, p. 14) ‘As constructivism has become the dominant view of how students learn, it may seem obvious to equate active learning with active methods of instruction’. This necessitates teaching methods that focus primarily on learners playing the active and major role in acquiring information and developing concepts and skills while interacting with their social and physical environment. Mayer added that the role of teacher becomes one of facilitator and supporter, rather than instructor.  In fact, response of the participant 1 reflects Mayer’s messages:

In the CBC class, students are expected to be active participants in the class, otherwise the will not obtain the maximum result. For example, they have to be involved in the class discussion. Hence in the class they have to think and be creative. As expected by the curriculum scheme, students should also be active outside the class.  They have to proactively find the material as many of the class assignments require students to do independent study to find resources in the library and internet.

In the discourse of teaching method, the aforementioned first respondent’s explanation reflects, to certain extent, the student-centered method. For Westwood (2008), student-centered method are deemed best practice in situations where the teaching objectives for the lesson include acquisition of independent study skills, greater student autonomy, working collaboratively with others, the construction of knowledge from firsthand experience, and the application of basic academic skills for authentic purposes.

Such an activity as discussion presupposes the importance of cooperation leading to the autonomous and cooperative learning. This is observed by the respondent 3:

Because students are proactive in searching information through references they become responsible to their own learning. By this effort, they will be autonomous learners. After they get the information and knowledge from a number of references, they share their ideas to other students. This enables the cooperative learning to occur. The students who are not active will be influenced by those who are active. Students who do not feel confident will be more confident because they get help and motivation from their friends.

The roles of proactive participants imply the position of students as the constructivist of knowledge. The respondent 2 points out that rather than being informed about knowledge by lectures, students positions themselves as the knowledge seekers.  This view is also shared by respondent 3 adding that efforts to studies independently will, in turn, lead them to be long-life learners.

The points of view of respondent 2 and 3 concerned with the position of students as a constructivist of knowledge are in consonant with the theory of constructivism. The underlying principle of students as knowledge constructer can be traced back to the learning theories of John Dewey with his ‘cognitive constructivism’. Dewey (1933) stressed the vital role of activity and firsthand experience in shaping human learning and understanding. With the knowledge schemata in their cognition, students are able to construct knowledge.

In addition to manifesting cognitive constructivism, the cooperation done by students in activities in the class has demonstrated the practice of social constructivism (Vygotsky, 1978). For Vygotsky, the view that learning is greatly enhanced by collaborative social interaction and communication are powerful influences on learning. Thus, discussion, feedback and sharing of ideas are powerful influences on learning.

To expect the interactive learning to occur, it is implied by respondents that instructors are to be good designers in the class activities accommodating students’ interaction. For example, respondents 1 mentions some teaching techniques teachers can develop in the CBC scheme when asked about how she conducts the learning process:

I usually start with the warming up by asking some topic related questions to stimulate students. After that, I like to group students to discuss the unanswered questions. In the discussion I always keep monitoring students and ensure that they can give contribution of ideas to the groups. Besides grouping, I also use other techniques such as pair work, individual work and simulation.

Another teaching technique mentioned by another respondent is problem solving activity. This is shared by respondent 3:

I often given problems to my students and then they should try to find the solutions. In finding the solution I ask them to find references from the provided materials in the library and internet. By doing so, they develop systematic way of thinking. I think this problem solving process if very important for them because it will train them to solve the real problem when they work.

The adoption of problem solving process described by the respondent 3 actually suggests one teaching method advocated by CBC scheme, namely the problem based learning. Regarding the problem based learning, Lee (2001) has suggested that, ‘Learning through problem solving may be much more effective than traditional didactic methods of learning in crating in the student’s mind a body of knowledge that is useful in the future’.

As a form of student-centered learning, PBL presents students with a real-life issue that requires a decision, or with a real-life problem that requires a solution. With older learners, the problem or issue is often intentionally left ill defined and ‘messy’ so that there is no clear path of procedure to follow. This is why King (2001, p. 3) states:

Problem based learning offers a mode of learning which might be considered closer to real life. This real life link is twofold: firstly, the projects of problems used often reflect or are based on real-life scenarios; secondly, the processes of team working, research, data collection, critical thinking and so on are those which will be of use to the students in their further careers.

In fact, the King’s view re-strengthen the ultimate purpose of CBC in enhancing students’ competences. Trained and equipped well with the occupational expertise such as problem solving skill, students are expected to be ready in real life working situation.

 

 

4.3 Challenges Facing the Lecturers in Implementing CBC  

The implementation of CBC is not without challenges. The responses of the participants reveal that the sources of challenge comprise the assessment and the classroom management.

Respondent 1 refers to difficulties  managing the class due to the large number of students:

The number of students which is 30 students is oftentimes difficult for me to manage the class. This is because I have to pay individualized attention to students. I have to motivate and give stimulus to them. In addition, I think it is very difficult for every teacher to develop soft skills to a large number of students. If I can choose, I will choose teaching a less number of students.

Readiness is another issue revealing the challenge in the CBC setting. Acknowledged by respondent 2, readiness applies for both teachers and students in order that they can undergo successful teaching and learning process. The respondent 2 details:

The ideal condition of CBC is that both lecturers and students should be ready to undergo the teaching and learning process in the class, but in reality the opposite condition happens. I mean there are some students and teachers who are not ready, so that the result is not maximum. If the students are ready they can participate fully in class, but if they are not ready they cannot develop their critical thinking in the class discussion.

Respondent 2 added that students attending the CBC class should be proactive although she also acknowledged that many students still position themselves as passive learners. Hence, it becomes lecturers’ responsibility to encourage them to be more active, as shared by respondent 3:

Our challenge is when we find that the students are not ‘tune in’ in the class. So it is our responsibility to motivate them by stimulating their meta-cognitive.

Assessment is the final challenge perceived by the lecturers. The respondent 4 pointed out that it is more difficult to assess students’ performance in the CBC class than in the conventional class, arguing that:

In the conventional class we just assess the students’ hard skill through the fixed mechanism of examination. But in the CBC class, we have to assess both hard skills and soft skills of the students. This really gives us very a complex process. For example, we have to be attentive in the students activity in the class so that we can assess their soft skills such as communication and teamwork. For another example, to assess the hard skills, we have to, you know, assess the students work based on their daily basis assignment which really time consuming. You see, they have a lot of assignment on writing and we have to check them one by one. And in the final score, we have to examine all their assignment in the form of portfolio.

The complexity of the assessment in CBC has actually been suggested by Pitrik and Holzinger (2002) arguing since the end purpose of the CBC is the competence, the assessment is not on the acquisition of fact, information and knowledge. Rather it emphasizes on the performed competencies. In fact assessment is an inseparable part of the learning process in the development of competencies.

  1. 5.   Conclusion

The paper has identified that, using the CBC EDUMY has designed the courses based on the core competencies, supporting competencies and additional competency. It is clear that the competencies developed through the courses are the ones needed for the occupational job the EDUMY’s students will do after they graduate from the University. The focus of the course varies each year, comprising the skills focus in the year 1, the pedagogical focus in the year 2 and the research focus in the year 3.

It is obvious that the teaching and learning process at EDUM has placed lectures as the facilitator and students as active participants in the class. Employing the students-centered learning method, lecturers has used several techniques matching with the CBC spirit namely, constructivist teaching and learning, cooperative and social learning and problem based learning.

Challenges facing the lecturers in implementing CBC in EDUMY involves class management, teachers’ and students’ readiness as well as the assessment. However, the paper suggests that with the improved understanding of the lecturers in the CBC process, the problems and challenges can be overcome. Such programs as training, discussion and professional reading might lead to the lecturers’ improved understanding on the CBC practice.

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