The concept map as a learning tool. Improvement of students' motivation to learn English literature

Master's Thesis, 2011

84 Pages, Grade: 3.33 (B+)



1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background of the study
1.2 Statement of problem
1.3 Objectives of the research
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Limitations of study
1.6 Operational Definitions
1.7 Significant of study
1.8 Theoretical Framework
1.9 Summary of the chapter

2.0 Introduction
2.1 Concept map
2.2 Concept map in education
2.2.1 Concept map as a learning tool
2.3 KBSM Syllabus
2.3.1 Learning Literature
2.3.2 Alternative approaches to the teaching of literature
2.4 Motivation
2.4.1 Motivation for Learning
2.5 Summary of this chapter

3.0 Introduction
3.1 Research Design
3.2 Participants
3.3 Instruments
3.3.1 Essay test
3.3.2 Students’ Motivation Questionnaire
3.4 Procedure of the study
3.4.1 Qualitative concept map content analysis
3.5 Data Collection
3.6 Data Analysis
3.7 Summary of this chapter

4.0 Introduction
4.1 Findings
4.1.1 Demographic Information
4.1.2 The effect of using concept map
4.1.3 The motivation of using concept map
4.1.4 Gender
4.1.5 Ethnicity
4.2 Summary of this chapter

5.0 Introduction
5.1 Discussions
5.2 Summary of this chapter

6.0 Introduction
6.1 Limitations of the study
6.2 Implications of the study
6.3 Suggestions for future research
6.4 Conclusion



Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E


Table 4.1 Language preferences at home

Table 4.2 Language preferences in school

Table 4.3 T-test results of the pretest and posttest scores on Characters and Moral Values

Table 4.4 Participants’ perception on motivation in using concept map

Table 4.5 Posttest for Characters on Gender

Table 4.6 Posttest for Moral Values on Gender

Table 4.7 ANOVA on Ethnicities in using concept maps for both topics

Table 4.8 Multiple Comparisons on Ethnicities

Table 4.9 Comparisons Between Marks in Written Test and Concept Maps for both topics


Figure 1.1 The proposed model of the relationship between the Independent variables and dependent variables

Figure 2.1 Concept map describing what a concept map is

Figure 3.1 An example of an ‘ideal’ concept map

Figure 3.2 An example of a student-generated concept map

Figure 4.1 The different races of participants in this study

Figure 4.2 The percentage of male and female of this study

Figure 4.3 The percentage of different grades obtained by students in their PMR Examination in year 2009


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten



1.0 Introduction

With the advent of globalization due to the Information Age, our society has witnessed the democratization of education for the masses. School teachers have been trained to teach or use their expertise to convey required knowledge to school children regardless of their gender, ethnic, family background or social status. This diversity gives teachers the freedom to integrate all the appropriate teaching skills to suit the learning process within any subject.

However, teachers have to bear in mind that in a classroom, they have to consider many factors like classroom environment, learning styles and learning preferences. With the proper identification of these two types of learning (learning styles and learning preferences), teachers can easily plan a lesson which suits all the students and which achieves the objective(s) of that particular lesson.

Today, issues concerning the decreasing standard of English in school are rising with pressures from all sides definitely show that solutions should be achieved in order to have improvement. Thus, it is also essential for a language teacher to know the necessary skills to engage students with different learning styles and strategies in the classroom to help improve the standard of English. In the past, teaching was standing at the front of the room and having all students looking and “tuning” into you. The brain is not programmed to do that - at least for not very long. Student diversity has forced teachers to explore various strategies to meet individual needs.

Currently, with the enforcement of the “No Child Left Behind” Act, teachers are expected to meet every child’s needs, regardless of their diverse needs (Sousa, 2003).

Additionally, teachers are expected to deliver and exhibit quality teaching. With all of these tools and demands, how can teachers deliver effective instruction? For teachers and training seeking ways of stimulating and motivating a class or group, the concept map is a simple technique that can be used to encourage learning, for teaching, preparing presentations and lectures, decision-making and planning. A concept map is a top-down diagram showing the relationships between concepts, including cross connections among concepts, and their manifestations (Novak & Gowin, 1984).

1.1 Background of the study

It is an alarming issue nowadays that the standard of English among Malaysian students in rural areas is moribund. Education Ministry, Tan Sri Muyiddin (2009) stated his concern on the declining standard of English language in Malaysia by proposing a ‘must pass’ subject in SPM. Most Malaysians recognize that proficiency in English is important if the country wants to stay competitive. So, there is no doubt that teaching English in a non-English speaking country is challenging. English is the language officially considered as second in importance to Bahasa Malaysia as it regarded as a vital link with the rest of the world. English was once used as a medium of instruction in the Malaysian educational system. But when English was phased out as a medium of instruction beginning in the 1970s, it was taught only as a subject in the school curriculum. As a result, standards of English have declined drastically (Gill, 2002).

English is a compulsory subject in both primary and secondary school, and is generally taught in mainstream public schools from the first year of school until the last (eleven years in all). There are usually five periods of English in a week, totaling up to 200 minutes or roughly three and a half hours. There are three major examinations throughout the school years, all of which feature English as a core paper. The first is at the end of primary school in Year Six (UPSR or Primary School Evaluation Certificate), the second at the end of lower secondary in Form Three (PMR or Lower Secondary School Certificate), and the third at the end of upper secondary in Form Five (SPM or Malaysian School Certificate).

Even so, future developments in English language teaching in Malaysia depend to a great extent on the educational policies of the government and opportunities for using English outside the classroom. However, there have been cases where teachers with a non-English major are posted to rural schools and are asked to teach English which may not as one would expect be as effective as trained English teachers. This scenario has become the norm in the teaching profession due to a shortage of English teachers.

Lack of interest in learning English language in the classroom is another contribution to the failure of mastering the language. Students from rural regions are not exposed to the second language which creates a barrier in understanding the language. They only learn the English language in school but because of the existence of barrier, they eventually cut themselves off from the language. Furthermore, when students have no interest in learning English in the classroom, it is even harder for them to absorb the content as well as the grammatical rules outside of school.

In relation to this, lack of motivation among the students may also contribute to the lack of learning English, inside or outside the classroom. Students may be also concerned about the degree of preparation required for success in English language. When students are not motivated to learn, the learning of literature is a waste of time even though the methods of teaching are interesting and fun. Thus, it is imperative that students need to be motivated because without motivation, teachers would have a hard time teaching the lesson effectively. Demands which the students cannot meet should not be made, in order to avoid frustrations. With the right motivation, learning could take place in a fascinating and fun way. Thus, teachers play an important role here as the motivator. Getting the desired motivation would help students to perform better in their studies. Learning would be enjoyable when teachers are able to capture students’ interests.

With our current education system, the Form Four and Five students are required to study at least ten subjects per year. Therefore, there are a large number of students who experience major problems in such areas as thinking, memory, concentration, motivation, organization of ideas, planning and decision-making when studying English.

The role of teachers has also changed throughout the years. Nowadays teachers are in a trap, from filling paperwork to organizing events and managing irate parents, in addition to focusing on the core business. They are feeling pressured from everything else contributing to improper lesson planning and ultimately ends in uninteresting and ineffective teaching and learning.

English teachers especially are faced with great challenges in the second language context because students usually have to deal with the complexity of the content and style of literary texts and also confront with unfamiliar linguistics and aesthetic. If teachers are reluctant to plan their lessons properly, the complexity of the subject matter is indurate. Hence, while planning, teachers have to consider the students’ need and interest. How teachers develop their literature lesson and present it to the classroom can greatly affect the students’ learning process.

To a great extent, any interactions in classrooms would be successful depending on the teachers’ ability to initiate and promote communication among students. It is vital that teachers design the class lesson in such a way that it creates interest in students. As a result, teachers are responsible in creating an effective teaching process and a very conducive learning environment of the classroom. Meaning to say, teachers’ enthusiasm which is generally translated in their actions and decisions is a salient determinant of students’ interest.

1.2 Statement of problem

One of the factors contributing to the declining standard of English language in Malaysian schools is the students themselves. They have no interest in learning English and may regard the language as a boring subject. This is not surprising as students are not being exposed to English language at home. Some of them are living well below the poverty line and their parents are not too bothered about whether they do well in school or not. Instead, they develop an interest in other subjects, apparently more relevant to them. Students have a negative impression of the English language which leads to meaningless and ineffective learning. They do not realize the importance of English and are not motivated to learn English.

Furthermore, English is not an easy subject to learn if students have limited understanding of the language itself. Students perceive that it is difficult for them to master the English language, especially literature in English. In 1990, the incorporation of literature in English was part of the English language programme beginning at the lower secondary level. Positive and negative attitudes of teachers and students were invoked by the introduction of literature. Zyngier and Shepherd (2003:7) in their survey of 74 first year Brazilian undergraduates point out that

Few students are emotionally moved by literature and even fewer actually enjoy the subject … it would be interesting why students maintain an emotional distance from literature, despite the fact that they report that they find literature relevant.

Havoc was seen among the teachers too as most of them were not fully equipped or trained to teach literature. One probable reason why language teachers are reluctant to engage literature is their lack of knowledge and guidance on how to exploit literary texts (Baba, 2009). Kelliney (1993:116) in his survey of 35 language instructors in Bahrain concurs that some ESL teachers have rejected the idea of using literature in curriculum because they did not know either to select or teach literature in the ESL/EFL situation, never having had training in this area or never having taught or studied English literature before, and many had not had any informal training in literature since secondary school and therefore felt uncomfortable with the prospect of including literature in the curriculum.

With this implementation, it has been a dilemma to teachers as they have to come up with various methods to teach literature but usually they ended up teaching meaningless lesson. This could be worse if teachers do not come out with effective methods to teach literature in English. Students usually get bored easily when the literature lesson is taught using chalk and talk. This was proven by recent studies by Gurnam, 2003; Siti Norliana, 2003; Suriya Kumar, 2004 that students were seen to be passive and were unable to respond critically and literature lessons were often too teacher-centered and thus, labeling teachers to be dull and less creative. They regard literature as a boring subject and this is not surprising as students have never been exposed to any literary text since the beginning of their school days. What is even worse is when students do not understand anything about the language itself thus require teachers to put in extra effort to make it more exciting.

However, due to the multiple roles that teachers have to juggle like doing clerical work, teachers have little time for lesson preparation. Furthermore, since some schools are now ‘School of High Performance’, they are required to do plenty of documentation work every day which cause them to be unable to focus in class.

In relation to this, learning cannot take place when students are not motivated to learn. Nowadays, chalk and talk in a classroom cannot lead to maximum learning. The world is changing and so do the education and the approach to teaching process as well as the students in schools. They need the right motivation for learning. In order to have effective learning, students must be actively involved in the learning process (Shuell, 1993; Matlin, 1994). Learning is active when students have to carry out operations on the newly presented information. Therefore, concept mapping is one of the learning tools that may be useful in a literature classroom.

1.3 Objectives of the research

The objectives of the research are:-

1) to explore the effect of concept map as a learning tool in an English literature classroom.
2) to find out whether the use of concept maps can help motivate students in learning English literature.
3) to identify if there is any significant difference between male and female students in using concept maps in learning English literature.
4) to identify if there is any significant difference between different ethnicities in using concept maps in learning English literature.

1.4 Research Questions

The research questions for this study are as follows:-

1) What is the effect of using a concept map as a learning tool in an English literature classroom?
2) To what extend do students perceive that a concept map will motivate them in learning English literature?
3) Is there any significant difference between male and female students in using a concept map in learning English literature?
4) Is there any significant difference between different ethnicities in using concept maps in learning English literature?

1.5 Limitations of study

There may be a problem arising from the generalization of the research findings of the study due to the nature of action research. The samples were the researcher’s students from three Form Four classes, so caution in generalizing the results of the action research to other students is called for. Variation may occur between one class or another and may in fact be different in other schools in terms of the sample characteristics e.g. students’ background, ability, learning styles and preferences. What is applicable in the current study may not be valid in other studies. Nevertheless, the results of the current study will be insightful data for further adjustment and modification of future studies.

1.6 Operational Definitions

ESL (English as Second Language) - It is the use or study of English by speakers with a different native language. In Malaysia, our first language is Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language) so English is considered as our second language.

EFL (English as Foreign Language) - English is considered as a foreign language because of its use in a non-English speaking region. EFL is learnt for the purpose of fleeting certain exams or as a requirement of entry to higher institutions.

KBSM (Integrated Secondary School Curriculum) - The education system in Malaysia is based on the Integrated Secondary School Curriculum Syllabus for the secondary schools.

UPSR (Primary School Evaluation Certificate) - All sixth-year primary school students are required to sit for Primary School Evaluation Certificate at the end of the year before entering secondary school.

PMR (Lower Secondary School Certificate) - The Lower Secondary School Certificate is a national examination taken by all third-year secondary school students.

SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education) - The Malaysian Certificate of Education is a national examination taken by all fifth-year secondary school students.

Concept map - A top-down diagram showing the relationships between concepts, including cross connections among concepts, and their manifestations (Novak, 1994).

Learning tool - A learning tool can be anything, whether it is a tree branch or a iPad, that supports a particular lesson. The key word here is ‘support’.

Motivation to Learn - In this study, motivation to learn is defined as some kind of internal drive which pushes someone to do things in order to achieve learning (Harmer, 2001:51).

1.7 Significance of study

Witnessing the present scenario in Malaysia on the declining standard of the English language and especially with the sudden interest shown by the nation on improving the standard of English among students, calls for immediate attention is to be taken.

It is even more worrying with the poor performance by students in UPSR, PMR and SPM which reflects the diminishing interest in the language. Mastering English language is very much needed to achieve Vision 2020 and therefore measures must be taken to change the scenario.

Since very few studies concerning the use of concept map in learning literature, it is hoped that the current attempt of the researcher will raise the local English teachers’ awareness of the importance of literature and prompt their interest in using concept map as a learning tool to help students improve their English language. This study aims to find the possible effects of using concept maps as a learning tool in an English literature classroom which is hoped for the betterment of the standard of English language. The researcher also hopes that this study would provide teachers another new approach to educate students and motivate students to learn literature. The role of today’s teachers is not so much to impart knowledge, but to ensure that learning has taken place. Learning is the best achieved when the information is presented systematically and stored in the student’s brain in an organized, meaningful and useable manner (McElroy & Coughlin, 2009).

1.8 Theoretical Framework

A theoretical framework is a conceptual model of how one theorizes or makes logical sense of the relationships among several factors that have been identified as important to the problem (Sekaran, 2000). Many studies have been conducted to identify factors to the declining standard of English language. There have been some opinions that if a student does not feel the need of acquiring the second language to function either within or outside his/her community, most probably this student will have a negative attitude and will not be interested in learning the language (Baker, 1988).

Motivation comes into the picture when students lost interest to acquire knowledge in any classroom. It is a complex phenomenon to motivation in second language, which can be defined in terms of two factors which are the learner’s communicative needs and their attitudes towards the second language community. Therefore, teaching and learning tool is also essential in acquiring the second language as well as the personal characteristics of the students. All these three independent variables may be the key factors to achieve the purpose of this study. Therefore, the researcher would like to focus on motivation, using concept map as one of the learning tools and other personal characteristics that may lead to students’ positive performance in their English language. A proposed model of the relationship between the independent and dependent variables would give a clearer picture to the framework of this study.

Figure 1.1 The proposed model shows the relationship between the independent variables and dependent variable.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1.9 Summary of the chapter

Lack of interest to learn English could be because of students’ limited understanding on the target language. Meanwhile, teachers also play roles in imparting the learning of English language but most of them are not trained to teach literature and multiple roles of teachers hinder them to spend quality time to prepare for the lessons. As a result, students get bored with the dull and less creative lessons and thus they are not motivated to learn English literature. Overall, this chapter encapsulates the nature of the problem between teachers and students. Having known the different problems arise in most secondary schools, this study was conducted as an eye opener to teachers and students on another approach for new, effective teaching and learning of English literature. In the next chapter, the researcher will provide more-detailed findings from previous studies to support this study.


2.0 Introduction

In this chapter, some in-depth discussion on what is concept map, the use of concept map in education as a learning tool supported by findings and studies done for the past few years would be discussed. Furthermore, the researcher would also touch on the KBSM syllabus, the learning of literature as part of the requirement in the English subject and some alternative approaches to the teaching of literature. Finally, a better understanding on what is motivation and the motivation for learning would be discussed.

2.1 Concept Map

A concept map is a schematic device used to enable the learner to explicitly represent a number of concepts and their interrelationships and it is also a graphical tool for organizing and representing knowledge. It consists of just two concepts connected by a linking word to form a proposition. The example by Novak and Gowin (1984) says that “sky is blue” is a proposition consisting of two concepts, “sky” and “blue,” and a linking word, “is”. They are supported by Trepagnier (2002) who noted that concept maps are tools which allow users to represent knowledge by illustrating relationships among concepts through use of nodes, the ideas, links, and propositions. The links between the concepts can be one-way, two-way, or non- directional (Plotnick, 1997). Novak & Canas (2006) also explained that these maps include “concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts indicated by a connecting line linking two concepts.

Words on the line referred to as linking words or linking phrases, specify the relationship between the two concepts.”

Thus, concept mapping is a type of knowledge representation (Plotnick, 1997) and the process of organizing concepts and relationships between concepts in a hierarchical manner, from more inclusive concepts to more specific, less inclusive concepts (Novak & Gowin, 1984). Concept maps are hierarchical in that the more general, more inclusive concepts are at the top of the map, with progressively more specific, less inclusive concepts arranged below them (Wong, 1998).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2.1: Concept map describing what a concept map is (adapted from RuizPrimo, 2000)

2.2 Concept Map in Education

The use of concept map extends to a wide span of age group ranging from elementary/primary school children to scientists (Leake, Maguitman, Reichherzer, Canas, Carvalho, Arguuedas, Brenes & Eskridge, 2003). For teachers and training seeking ways of stimulating and motivating a class or group, a concept map is a simple technique that can be used to encourage learning, for teaching, preparing presentations and lectures, decision-making and planning. In education, studies have shown that concept maps have been identified as good representational tools for cognitive development change. Conceptual maps can be used to organize knowledge prior to instruction (Novak, 1998). According to Plotnick (1997), concept mapping can be used for several purposes such as to generate ideas (brainstorming), to design complex structures (long texts, hypermedia, large web sites), to communicate complex ideas, to aid learning by explicitly integrating new and old knowledge, and to assess understanding or to diagnose misunderstanding.

There are several advantages to concept mapping as visual symbols are quickly and easily recognized, minimal use of text makes it easy to scan for a word, phrase, or the general idea, and visual representation allows for development of a holistic understanding that words alone cannot convey (Plotnick, 1997).

Concept maps used in curriculum mapping help develop an overall framework of the curriculum or course, identify important concepts, determine prerequisite knowledge, and construct a course outline. Used within the instructional process, concept maps serve as scaffolds to organize and structure knowledge (Ausubel, 1968; Lin, 2001; Darmofal, Soderholm and Brodeur, 2002) to elicit prior knowledge, a component of meaningful learning (Novak & Canas, 2006), to bridge the gap between what students already know and new knowledge (Trepagnier, 2002), and to motivate critical thinking about a topic.

The method of concept mapping “has been developed specifically to tap into a learner’s cognitive structure and to externalise … what the learner already knows” (Novak & Govin, 1984, p. 40). According to Ausubel’s statement, “The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach him accordingly” (Ausubel et. al., 1980). Therefore, creating concept maps can be done as a large group or as individuals by brainstorming or representing what students already know about a given topic as a starting point for making decisions about teaching.

Concept maps are and were often applied for presenting learning material in the context of science education (Heinz-Fry, 2004; Novak, 2003, 2004). They have a large potential of effectively and appropriately communicating mathematical knowledge (Baroody & Bartels, 2000; Brinkmann, 2003, 2005). Concept maps representing learning material have also been successfully applied in the context of foreign language education (Bahr & Dansereau, 2001, 2005).

Study by Oliver (2009) about the effectiveness of concept mapping on students’ comprehension of science text structure found that students enjoyed concept and would prefer to read and map rather than just read without mapping. It is due to the concept map is particularly useful graphic that requires students to express in writing how to linked related concept, understand text structure and improve reading comprehension.

2.2.1 Concept Map as a Learning Tool

Learning can easily take place with appropriate teaching methods in the classroom. By using concept maps, students are taught to choose the concepts and linking words carefully to help them to organize their thinking, observe nuances of meaning and also to summarize subjects of study (Alberto J., Hill.G., Carff.R., Suri.N., Lott.J., Gómez,G., Eskridge,T.C., Arroyo.M., Carvajal.R., 2004). Novak’s original work with concept mapping also dealt with learning and so concept mapping is regarded as a learning tool. Constructivist learning theory argues that in order to remember and receive meaning, new knowledge has to be integrated into existing structures and thus concept mapping stimulates this process by making it explicit and requires learners to pay attention to the relationship between concepts.

Another point argued by Jonassen (1996) was that students show some of their best thinking when they try to represent something graphically and thinking is a necessary condition for learning. This can be supported with Novak experiments (1983) which show that subjects using concept mapping outperform non-concept mappers in longer term retention tests.

In education, concept mapping is also gaining inroads as a tool for problem-solving in terms of generating alternative solutions and options. Besides, learning should also benefit from the communication enhancing properties of concept mapping because problem-solving is usually done in small groups.

Concept mapping has also been found to be an effective learning tool through both the process of map construction (Fraser & Edwards, 1985; Jegede, Alaiyemola & Okebukola, 1990; Mason, 1992; Pankratius, 1990; Schmid & Telaro, 1990) and the product, that is, the completed map (Malone & Dekkers, 1984; Roth & Rodchoudhury, 1993; Willerman & Mac Harg, 1991).

2.3 KBSM Syllabus

English is a compulsory subject in all primary and secondary schools as a second language in Malaysia. The Cabinet Committee Report on the Review of the implementation of the Education Policy 1979 states that the teaching of English is to enable all school-leavers to use English in everyday and work situations. It is also to allow students to pursue higher education in the medium of English.

Literature has been a subject of study in many countries at a secondary or tertiary level but until recently has not been given much emphasis in the ESL classroom. It has only been since the 1980s that this area has attracted more interest among EFL teachers. Thus, a small literature component has been integrated in English as an integral part of language programmes in the Malaysian context. Many studies have demonstrated that literature is one of the most valueable resources and that it should be included in language classrooms (Lazar, 1996; Ghosn, 2002). The purpose here is to enable learners to engage in wider reading of good works for enjoyment and for self-development. It is also to develop an understanding of other societies, cultures, values and traditions that will contribute to their emotional and spiritual growth. More importantly, the introduction of literature in schools is to expose, motivate and develop appreciation and basic understanding of not only the English language, but the culture of the native speakers as well.

In the KBSM syllabus, three areas of language use are being emphasized. They are the interpersonal, the informational and the aesthetic. Language for interpersonal purposes is to enable students to establish and maintain friendships and also collaborate with people to do certain things. Language for informational purposes is to enable students to use language to obtain process and give information. Lastly, the purposes of language for an aesthetic reason would enable students to enjoy literary texts at a level suited to their language and to express themselves creatively.

The aesthetic purposes of language use involve the ability to enjoy literary texts at a level appropriate to student’s ability.


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The concept map as a learning tool. Improvement of students' motivation to learn English literature
Teaching English As Second Language
3.33 (B+)
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improvement, english
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Willie Nelson Ubie (Author), 2011, The concept map as a learning tool. Improvement of students' motivation to learn English literature, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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