Enhancing Teaching English though Three Mnemonic Techniques at Basic Education High School Level in Myanmar
The current study aimed to explore the effects of using three mnemonic techniques in teaching English to Grade 10 students in Zabuthiri Township, Naypyitaw Union Territory, Myanmar. To achieve this aim, the design applied in this study was the posttest-only control group design employing two equivalent groups: control group and experimental one. It included independent variables (Cornell notes, outlines and mind map) and dependent variable (English achievement test). The sample schools were selected by using simple random sampling method. Besides, the subjects in each school were selected by using systematic sampling method and were randomly assigned into two equivalent groups: each group consisted of 30 students. To elicit the students‟ achievement, the control group was taught with conventional method, while the experimental one was instructed by using three mnemonic techniques. Regarding the instrumentation, an English achievement test was administered. The two groups‟ scores were analyzed and treated statistically through the use of SPSS program version 22. The results of the study revealed that three mnemonic techniques were effective to enhance teaching English to Grade 10 students. Therefore, the study findings confirmed that there were statistically significant differences between two groups. In the light of these results, EFL teachers should be used mnemonic techniques for enhancing teaching English.
1. Background of the Problem
Al-Zahrani (2011) points out that language is one of the most essential means of communication between communities and individuals. Language is usually used in daily lives to convey messages or feeling whether orally or in a written It is known that English language is considered by many people to be one of the important languages all over the world. In order to achieve the process of learning English, one must acquire the basic skills such as vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and the four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Realizing the importance of English, the Ministry of Education of Myanmar is promoting the teaching of English to enhance teaching and learning. English as a Foreign Language, EFL is not only a compulsory subject in Myanmar Basic Education Sector but also a crucial language in lifelong education.
Therefore, English teachers should create and investigate the instructional methods to enable the students to be effective in learning English. The reason for investigating about teaching methods is that education is seen as a “tool”. It is obvious that certain patterns of teaching methods reinforce certain types of learning. Mnemonics play a central role in learning a second/foreign language and their historical background can be traced to Yates' (1966) book The Art of Memory. For many centuries, there has been a great emphasis on working with images and mnemonics to facilitate language learning (Yates, 1966, cited in Baleghizadeh & Ashoori, 2010). Therefore, English teachers in Myanmar should systematically use the mnemonic techniques as an instructional method. However, there has been little research about mnemonic techniques. Thus, this study aimed at investigating the effects of using three mnemonic techniques in teaching English at the basic education high school level in Myanmar. The main purpose of this study was to examine whether a method of using mnemonics can improve students‟ achievement in learning English. The results of learning by mnemonic techniques were expected to be better than those by conventional teaching. Thus, the following research questions were examined.
1. Are there significant differences between the achievement of the experimental group taught by Cornell system and that of control one taught conventionally in relation to the “Reading Comprehension”?
2. Are there significant differences between the achievement of the experimental group taught by Cornell system and that of control one taught conventionally in relation to the “Cloze Items”?
3. Are there significant differences between the achievement of the experimental group taught by Cornell system and that of control one taught conventionally in relation to the “Completion Items”?
4. Are there significant differences between the achievement of the experimental group taught by outline mnemonic and that of control one taught conventionally in relation to the “Sentence Transformation”?
5. Are there significant differences between the achievement of the experimental group taught by mind map and that of control one taught conventionally in relation to the “Essay Writing”?
2. Language Teaching Approaches and Methods
Language teaching has a lasting and endless history in which a discussion on teaching methods has evolved particularly over the last hundred years. The methods such as Grammar-Translation Method, Direct Method, Audio-Lingual Method, Communicative Teaching Method, etc are familiar and close enough with teachers, yet the methods are not easy to grasp in practice because a method is more than a single strategy or a particular technique (Qing-xue & Jin-fang, 2007).
Grammar-Translation Method remains so popular in language teaching. Tests of grammar rules and of translations are easy to build and can be objectively account. And it is sometimes successful in leading a student toward a reading knowledge of a second language. The Direct Method enjoyed extended popularity at the root age of the earlier time, but there are the constraints of budget, classroom size, time, and teacher background in public education (Brown, 2000). Zainuddin, Yahya, Morales-Jones and Ariza (2011) criticize the audio-lingual method emphasizing on the memorization of a series of dialogues and the rote practice of language structures. The basic premises on which the method was based were that language is speech, not writing, and language is a set of habits. The Community Language Learning Method takes its principles from the more general Counseling-Learning approach developed by Charles A. Curran (1972), influencing by Carl Rogers‟ humanistic psychology. By understanding students‟ fears and worries, students can be assisted to overcome the negative feelings as positive energy in further learning (Larsen-Freeman, 2000).
Zainuddin et al., (2011) also criticize about the Suggestopedia like that. Despite the advancements over the audio-lingual method, Suggestopedia is impractical for large classes and difficult for teachers to apply the principles in regular classrooms. In addition, current textbooks do not embrace this methodology. The Silent Way is a fairly complex method that requires the teacher to receive extensive training in the use of the methodology. Most of the teachers are uncomfortable with the required silence of the Silent Way (Zainuddin et al., 2011). In a Total Physical Response classroom, students are limited to reading and writing activities although students overcame the fear of speaking out, classroom conversations and other activities (Brown, 2000). In the Natural Approach, the teachers provide comprehensive input and the creator of an interesting and stimulating variety of classroom activities-commands, games, skits, and small-group work (Brown, 2000). The communicative approach embraces the principle of learning by doing, encouraging the use of English from the beginning of instruction. Language acquisition takes place as a result of using the second language in meaningful communication from the onset in the process (Zainuddin et al., 2011).
In English as a Foreign Language, EFL classrooms, the teachers need to know about the usefulness and effectiveness of the aforementioned methods. Moreover, in order to achieve effective teaching and learning, the teachers should apply not only these methods also some techniques in language teaching. Some of these methods can be applied with mnemonic techniques. Mnemonic helps in language learning and teaching.
2.1 Mnemonics and Language Learning
Higbee (2001) mentions that the word Mnemonic (pronounced "ni-mon-ik") is derived from Mnemosyne, the name of the ancient Greek goddess of memory and it is defined as any technique that aids memory. Mnemonic techniques improve memory and enhance oratory skills and so effective in learning. (Butcher, 2000, cited in Seay & McAlum, 2010). This is accomplished by making associations between items to be learned and items already stored in long-term memory. Mnemonics require the learner to pay attention to relevant features of the material and to process the material more deeply than by simply rehearsing or memorizing it. Mnemonics empower students to learn by cuing memory through association (Seay & McAlum, 2010). Mnemonic techniques involve physically transferring to-be-learned materials into a form that makes them easier to learn and to remember. The mnemonic techniques, thus, enable learners to organize the to-be-learned materials in the best way they find most helpful to their retention ( Belleza 1981, cited in Chan, Lai-ping & Ivy, 2000).
Bolich and McLaughlin (2001, cited in Yek, 2006)claimed that mnemonic strategies include peg words (words associated with numbers, used to remember lists of items; e.g., one for bun, and two for shoe), keywords (associating a similar sounding word with a targeted word; e.g., the word „carline‟ can be remembered via the sound of word “car” with the imaginative picture of a witch in the car.), acronyms (using the first letter of each word in a list to construct a word; e.g., HOMES to represent the five great lakes: H for Huron, O for Ontario, M for Michigan, E for Erie, and S for Superior), and acrostics (creating a sentence with the first letter of each word in the targeted information; e.g., A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream to remember the word “arithmetic” ).
Dmitsak (2007, cited in Al-Zahrani , 2011) mentions that mnemonic strategies are useful because they allow for chunking of information in ways that reduce memory load and are overall more memorable. So, it can be concluded that mnemonics are procedures, techniques, or methods that enhance memory to store the new information and recall it easily at anytime the learners need. This process helps learners to achieve learning successfully.
2.2 Classification of Mnemonics
Many types of mnemonics exist and which type works best is limited only by the imagination of each individual learner. They have been differently classified by different scholars. Thompson (1987), for example, arranges mnemonic strategies into five classes; linguistic mnemonics (peg word method and key word method), spatial mnemonics (loci method, spatial grouping and finger method), visual mnemonics (pictures and visualization or imagery), verbal methods (grouping or semantic organization and story-telling or the narrative chain) and physical responses methods (physical response method and physical sensation method). Higbee (2001), on the other hand, identifies four major classifications, namely, first-letter method (acronym and acrostic), loci method, keyword method and rhyming. Despite the mentioned classifications, Congos (2006) from University of Central Florida classified mnemonic techniques in nine categorizations for better memory. They are Music Mnemonics, Name Mnemonics, Expression or Word Mnemonics, Model Mnemonics, Ode or Rhyme Mnemonics, Note Organization Mnemonics, Image Mnemonics, Connection Mnemonics and Spelling Mnemonics.
2.3 Cornell System, Outlines and Mind Map
Cornell system and outlines, two of note organization mnemonics, and mind map, one of the model mnemonics, were used in the experimental groups. These mnemonic techniques were applied in this study.
Steps in the Cornell Note Taking
The Cornell System is one way to use a note organization mnemonic to promote recall. In the 1950s, a professor of education at Cornell University, Walter Pauk, developed the Cornell note‐taking method. It provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes without laborious recopying.
Pauk (1989) formulates the rules for using the Cornell system in the classroom. Use 8½ by 11 paper to create note sheet (see Table 2.1 in the Appendix). Down the left side, draw a vertical line 2½ inches from the edge of the paper. End this line 2 inches above the bottom of the paper. Draw a horizontal line across the bottom of the paper, 2 inches above the paper‟s edge. The narrow (2½") column on the left (the cue column) is filled in later with cue words or questions matching the main points. The wide (6") column on the right (the note taking column) is used to “capture the lecturer‟s ideas and facts”, with students‟ taking notes during a lecture class. At the bottom of the page, a two inch-space is left for summarizing the main point(s) of the page, which again clarifies meanings and also makes review easier.
Development of Cornell Notes
In essence, with the Cornell method, a sample Cornell note was created.
Steps in Outlines
Outlines clearly separate main ideas in details. This helps organize the information in the mind making it easier to remember. According to University of Washington (2007), there are four principles to make the outlines.
1. Identify the topic. The topic of paper is important. Try to sum up the point of paper in one sentence or phrase.
2. Identify the main categories. The introduction usually introduces all of the main points, and then the rest of paper can be spent developing those points.
3. Create the first category. If the paper centers on a complicated term, a definition is often a good place to start. For a paper about a particular theory, giving the general background on the theory can be a good place to begin.
4. Create subcategories. After having the main point, create points under it that provide support for the main point.
Development of Outlines
1. Either---or : a conjunction
1.1 any one of the two: this one or that one
1.2 using to express alternatives and or choice between two things/items
1.3 connecting items which are the same grammatical type, e.g. words, phrases, clauses
2.1 We can either pre- or post-date the document. I don‟t mind. (Connecting prefixes)
2.2 It‟s either black or grey. I can‟t remember. (Connecting words)
2.3 You can stay either with me or with Janet. (Connecting phrases)
2.4 Either I drive to the airport or I get a taxi. (Connecting clauses)
Source: Adapted from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/either-or
Ways for Using Mind Map
Mind Maps were developed by the British psychologist Tony Buzan in the late 60´s in an attempt to help students take notes effectively. According to Buzan, a Mind Map is an associative network of images and words which harnesses the full range of cortical skills: word, image, number, logic, rhythm, colour and spatial awareness in a single, uniquely powerful technique (Buzan & Buzan 1996, cited in Casco, 2009).
Mind maps comprise a network of connected and related concepts. However, in mind mapping, any idea can be connected to any other. Free-form, spontaneous thinking is required when creating a mind map and the aim of mind mapping is to find creative associations between ideas. Thus, mind maps are principally association maps (Davies, 2010). Buzan and Buzan (2000, cited in Davies, 2010) makes the following mind map guidelines.
1. Place an image or topic in the center using at least three colors
2. Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout the Mind Map.
3. Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
4. Each word/image is alone and sitting on its own line.
5. Connect the lines starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the center.
6. Make the lines the same length as the word/image.
7. Use colors throughout the Mind Map.
8. Develop the own personal style of Mind Mapping.
9. Use emphasis and show associations in the Mind Map.
10. Keep the Mind Map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace the branches.
Development of Essay by Using the Mind Map
Figure 2.1 in the appendix is a sample development of essay by using the mind map. It was developed deal with the travel.
A quantitative research method wass used to compare students‟ achievement in learning English between two groups: control group and experimental group. The design applied in this study was one of the true experimental designs, viz. the posttest-only control group design. An English achievement test was developed based on the Grade 10 English textbook. This instrument was used as a posttest in this study.
An English achievement test was used as a posttest for both groups to measure the students‟ achievement. The test items consisted of ten reading comprehension items, twenty cloze items, ten completion items, ten sentence transformation items and an essay writing item based on Unit 8: How to Improve Your Study Habits from Grade 10 English textbook. The pilot test was administered with 40 Grade 10 students at No (10) Basic Education High School, Nay Pyi Taw. The test items were analyzed by reliability statistics with Cronbach‟s Alpha coefficient (0.764). After that difficulty index and discrimination index for each item was computed by the item analysis techniques. The difficulty indices and discrimination indices of the items were within the acceptable range of 0.20 to 0.80 and 0.30 and 0.80.
For theoretical framework, relevant data were explored and collected through educational journals, books, theses, dissertations and the Internet. Then literature review was made based on the obtained data. In order to carry out an experimental study, the posttest- only control group design was used. Experimental groups and control groups were randomly assigned.
In each school, the control group was taught conventionally and the experimental group was taught by three mnemonic techniques. The Cornell system, one of the note organization mnemonics, was applied in teaching the paragraphs of the unit. The Cornell notes as an example only in the first day of teaching was given to students. The students took notes in accordance with the Cornell in the next days.
Outline mnemonic was applied to teach sentence transformation. The outlines in dealing with the lesson, “either-or” were written to clear the instruction of sentence transformation on the white board before teaching. After teaching, the outlines were summarized and the students were asked to do additional exercises.
Lastly, mind map was exposed to write an essay. The researcher elicited ideas from the students as they suggested things and made a collective map on the whiteboard as the ideas suggested. When the map was reasonably complete, the students were asked to construct orally the sentences of the essay. And then the researcher wrote them down on the white board with colourful ideas of students.
On the other hand, the control group was taught through conventional teaching. The researcher taught conventionally the paragraphs. The researcher didn‟t apply the outlines in teaching sentence transformation. And the stereotyped essays were given to the students in the control group.
The treatment period was (20) days. One period per day was taken for each group in each school. One period was lasted (45) minutes. Therefore, the total time taken was (15:00) hours in each group for each school. At the end of the treatment period, the posttest was conducted for both groups.
The schools required for this study were selected by using simple random sampling method of Gay (1987). No. (5) Basic Education High School, Nay Pyi Taw was selected from downtown area and No. (11) Basic Education High School, Nay Pyi Taw was selected from inner-suburb area in Zabuthiri Township, Nay Pyi Taw Union Territory Area. Participants in this study were Grade 10 students from the selected schools. The sample students were selected by using systematic sampling method of Gay (1987). In order to select the required sample students, the scores of the mid-term test in October was used. The scores were arranged in the order from highest to lowest. Then the students from each school were divided into two equivalent groups: Experimental Group and Control Group. Each group contained (30) students. Thus, the sample size of each school was (60) students.
4. Analysis of the Data
In order to process the results of the study groups statistically, the researcher used the computer program: Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). Means, standardized deviations, and t-test for independent groups were used in this study. The posttest-only control group design was used to test the research questions. To show the results of the study regarding the research questions, t-test for independent groups was employed by using statistical program, IBM SPSS (2010).
4.1 Examining the Results for Research Question (1)
To examine the research question (1), means, standard deviation and mean differences of the experimental and the control groups' results on the posttest of the question were computed. The t-test for independent samples was applied to measure the significant differences. Table 4.1 in the appendix describes the results on reading comprehension.
Table 4.1 indicated that there were significant differences at p<0.01 in the mean scores of two groups. This meant that the Cornell system one of the mnemonic techniques had enhanced English achievement more than the conventional teaching.
4.2 Examining the Results for Research Question (2)
To examine this question, means, standard deviation and mean differences of the experimental and the control groups' results on the posttest of the question were computed. The t-test for independent samples was also used to measure the significant differences. Table 4.2 shows the findings on cloze items.
In Table 4.2, the experimental groups showed a clear superiority over the control groups in the total scores of cloze items. This proved that there were also significant differences at p<0.05 between the means of both groups in each school.
4.3 Examining the Results for Research Question (3)
To examine this question, means, standard deviation and mean differences of the experimental and the control groups' results on the posttest of the question were computed. The t-test for independent samples was also used to measure the significant differences. The results on completion items are shown in Table 4.3 (see appendix).
In Table 4.3, the values obtained by using statistical computation showed that the experimental groups were significantly higher than that of control groups. Therefore, it can be that there were significant differences between the mean scores of two groups in answering completion items.
4.4 Examining the Results for Research Question (4)
Moreover, means, standard deviation and mean differences of the experimental and the control groups' results on the posttest of the question were computed to test research question (4). The t-test for independent samples was applied to measure the significant differences. Table 4.3 states the findings on sentence transformation.
As shown in Table 4.4 (see appendix), the results revealed that the experimental groups did better than the control groups. This indicated that the outline mnemonic helped students to understand sentence transformation. Therefore, there were statistically significant differences at p<0.05 between the achievements of two groups.
4.5 Examining the Results for Research Question (5)
Means, standard deviation and mean differences of the experimental and the control groups' results on the posttest of the question were computed to test the research question (5). The t-test for independent samples was applied to measure the significant differences.
The findings on essay writing are shown in Table 4.5 (see appendix).
According to the results of Table 4.5, the mean scores of the experiment groups were significantly higher than the mean scores of the control groups. It meant that the results of using mind map were higher than the results of giving stereotyped essays in essay writing. Therefore, there were statistically significant differences at p<0.001 between the achievement of the experimental groups and the control groups on the posttest of essay writing.
5. Discussion, Suggestions and Conclusion
First of all, the results concerning reading comprehension revealed that there were significant differences at p<0.01 between the performances of both groups. Whereas the mean scores of the control groups were 5.13 and 4.78, the mean scores of the experimental groups were 6.62 and 6.22. As a result, it was shown that there were also significant differences between the means of both groups on „Reading Comprehension‟.
Furthermore, the comparisons of mean scores on cloze items showed that there were significant differences at p<0.05 between the performance of both groups. Whereas the mean scores of the control groups were 7.32 and 6.48, the mean scores of the experimental groups were 8.83 and 8.20. This proved that there was also a significant difference between the means of both groups on „Cloze Items‟.
At the same time, the findings relating the completion items indicated that there were significant differences at p<0.01 between the performance of both groups in HS1. Similarly, there were significant differences at p<0.05 between the performance of both groups in HS2. Whereas the mean scores of the control groups were 5.02 and 3.55, the mean scores of the experimental groups were 7.25 and 5.72. Therefore, there were significant differences between the results of the experimental groups and the control groups on „Completion Items‟.
Moreover, the results concerning sentence transformation mentioned that there were significant differences at p<0.05 between the performance of both groups. Whereas the mean scores of the control groups were 7.70 and 6.20, the mean scores of the experimental groups were 8.73 and 7.73. This affirmed that there was also a significant difference between the achievements of two groups on "Sentence Transformation‟.
Lastly, the findings on essay writing stated that there were significant differences at p<0.001 between the performance of both groups. Whereas the mean scores of the control groups were 2.63 and 1.90, the mean scores of the experimental groups were 6.10 and 3.93. This showed that there were significant differences between the means of both groups on "Essay Writing‟.
It was found that mnemonic techniques are more effective than conventional method according to the research study. Based on the findings described in the study, the following suggestions and recommendations are offered.
To be an effective teaching and learning, teachers play crucial roles in applying effective instructional methods as instructional alternatives. Therefore, more studies are needed to investigate the teachers‟ attitudes towards the effectiveness of mnemonic techniques for EFL learners.
This study deals with EFL learners at the high school level. Therefore, elaborated studies should be conducted with other levels of EFL learners rather than high school, whether primary or middle school levels.
In conclusion, as the findings of the results of students‟ performance from both schools indicate, there were statistically significant differences between the two groups in relation to each type of questions. The results of this current research highlighted that if the content area is taught using mnemonic strategies, the EFL learners are able to utilize them during tests. In EFL learning, mnemonic techniques facilitate the learners in their language skills. Therefore, it can conclude that the results of students‟ performance with mnemonic techniques did better than those with conventional method.
Please see the appendix attached below.