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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
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Vol.16 No.6
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VOLUME 16 NUMBER 6 June 2017

Table of Contents
The Discourse of School Dropout: Re-centering the Perceptions of School-based Service Providers ......................... 1
Deborah Ribera.

Is the Norwegian Armys View of Physical Education and Training Relevant for Modern Military Operations? 18
Ole Boe and John H. Nergrd

The Framework of an International MBA Blended Course for Learning About Business Through the Cinema .... 37
Alexander Franco

Learning Through Play in Speed School, an International Accelerated Learning Program ....................................... 52
Susan Rauchwerk

A Development of Students Worksheet Based on Contextual Teaching and Learning ............................................. 64


Identifying EFL Learners Essay Writing Difficulties and Sources: A Move towards Solution The Case of Second
Year EFL Learners at Tlemcen University ......................................................................................................................... 80

Conquering Worrisome Word Problems Algebra Success .......................................................................................... 89

Vicki-Lynn Holmes, Karla Spence, Jane Finn, Shelia McGee Ingram, and Libbey Horton

Saudi Arabian International Graduate Students' Lived Experiences Studying for the First Time in a
MixedGender, Non-Segregated U.S University ............................................................................................................. 101
Barbara N. Young, Ed. D., Donald Snead, Ed. D.

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 1-17, June 2017

The Discourse of School Dropout: Re-centering

the Perceptions of School-based Service

Deborah Ribera
California State University, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA, United States

Abstract. The purpose of this study is to qualitatively re-center the

perceptions of school-based service providers in the discourse of school
dropout. Interviews were conducted with a teacher, a dropout
prevention counselor, an assistant principal, and a district dropout
prevention counselor, all of who work or have worked with one urban
middle school in California (pseudonym: UMS). Through a case study
design, I analyze how Foucauldian ideas of power and truth emerge
from the experiences of these service providers. Results show that
although their answers reflected the dominant discourse of school
dropout, the actions of the school-based service providers resisted that
narrative. They did this by constructing counterstories within and
outside the classroom, by valuing and putting effort into qualitative
modes of education like relationships and student voice, by attempting
to diversify a culturally irrelevant curriculum, and by accepting
personal responsibility for their students.

Keywords: education; school dropout; critical race theory; Foucault


The US Department of Educations National Center for Education

Statistics tells us every year in the United States our public school system
produces over 1 million dropouts (2012). A disproportionate amount of these
dropouts are students of color (UCLA, 2007). According to the Civil Rights
Project at Harvard University, which analyzed cohort data for high schools
across the nation, the graduation rate for white students is 75% while students of
color (Black, Latino, and Native American) have only about a 50% chance of
graduating with regular diplomas in four years (Orfield, 2004). One in four
African American and one in six Hispanic students attend a high school
dropout factory while only one in 20 white students attend such a school
(Balfanz et. al., 2013, p. 18).
In the urban area I will be studying, the current dropout rate is about
26% according to the California Department of Education. The middle school at

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which my subjects work, UMS, feeds into a high school which has historically
had one of the city's highest dropout rates, averaging around 40%. Based on
grades, test scores, and behavioral patterns, the assistant principal at the middle
school estimates that 30-40% of the students currently enrolled at UMS are at-
risk for school dropout. This school had a student population of over 2,000 at the
time of this study and was 99% Latino.
Michel Foucault's ideas have been used to examine how knowledge,
truth, and power construct our discourses in education (Jardine, 2005). Foucault
believes that knowledge is not based on fact, but rather is a constructed truth
that varies based on historical and political contexts. It is key for those in power
to continuously legitimate their version of truth by maintaining control over the
discourse of various social constructions within education, politics, religion, sex,
and the economy. Maintaining control of the narratives that underlie the tenets
of American culture allow for social control. The apparatus of schooling is one
way that the discourse of education is sustained. Law and politics, by way of
educational policy, are other ways that the regime of truth is maintained and
regulated (Foucault, 2001; Jardine 2005).
Conceiving of education as a contested space of knowledge forces us to
examine the dominant discourse of dropout as failure. In my own experience as
a dropout prevention counselor, I found many of my students demonstrated
high levels of critical thinking, insight, and conceptual knowledge during our
one-on-one and group interactions; however, they consistently tested poorly and
received failing grades. From a Foucauldian point of view, the quantitative
assessment of students is not neutral, rather it reflects a space in which any so-
called fact would point to a coherent regime of knowledge in which it counts as
a fact, (Jardine, 2005, p. 86). Critical race theorists take this a step further,
arguing that education's invalidation of qualitative data in favor of a numbers
only approach has perpetually marginalized minority students (Dixson &
Rousseau, 2005).
Critical race theorists believe that researchers should look to the
bottom in order to re-center counterstories that expose the racial privilege
inherent in the educational system (Matsuda, 1995, p. 63). The purpose of this
case study is to qualitatively re-center the perceptions of four minority school
personnel in the discourse of dropout. In their experiences working at UMS and
other urban, minority schools, how do issues of power and truth influence their
service provision to and experiences with students? What, if anything, do they
believe needs to change in education in order for it to adequately address the
needs of urban, minority students at-risk for school dropout?
This study intends to re-center the individual participants as the subjects
of educational policy development. It aims to recognize the agency of the service
providers and give them a platform on which they can voice their opinions
about how national policy affects them and the students in their high-need
school. Ultimately, this study demonstrates how the frustrations expressed by
school-based staff can be interpreted as a reaction to the institutional racism
inherent in the US educational system.

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Literature Review

Foucault argued that knowledge is created to serve the interests and

circumstances of the human beings in each era (Jardine, 2005, p. 81). We see this
demonstrated in the Progressive Era, a period of time from the late 19th to early
20th century that institutionalized many tenets of the public school system that
we currently accept as true or necessary to schooling in the discourse of
education. During the Progessive Era, increased industrialization, urbanization,
and immigration caused leaders to reassess the cultural practices of the United
States. Reformers took Horace Mann's idea of the common school and expanded
it to create an institution that would assimilate incoming immigrants and train
them to participate in society. Reforms such as the professionalization of school
boards, compulsory attendance, standardization, and the cultural role of schools
as places of social assistance are all examples of educational policy implemented
during the Progressive Era that continues sustain the foundation of urban public
education today (Mattson, 1998; Jeynes, 2007).
The hierarchical approach of the US public education system has largely
worked for students who have the same cultural background as those in power,
white middle and upper class children. However it has consistently failed to
provide adequate services to urban, poor, minority students. Various works of
educational history have documented this failure (Katz, 1968, Cuban, 1990;
Ravitch, 2001; Apple, 2001; Kozol, 1992, 2006; Reese, 2005). David Tyacks The
One Best System: A History of Urban Education (1974) argues that by relinquishing
control of school districts from community boards to expert boards, schools
gave up control to state regulators. This shift from rural to urban, community
controlled to state controlled, took away the plurality of education. He
maintained that the search for the one best system has ill-served the pluralistic
character of American society and that if there is to be true change, Americans
needs to admit that the universal public school system has systemically failed in
its attempt to teach the urban poor (p. 11).
Using the historical context of the Progressive Era to illuminate the
current issue of urban minority school dropout helps to clarify how Foucault's
ideas can be useful in articulating the root cause of the dropout epidemic. It is
clear from the historiography that the discursive formation of education was
shaped by Progressive Era reformers. This discourse has been maintained by the
regime of truth through schooling, educational policy, and cultural beliefs and
norms. Foucault believed that the achievement of true discourses is one of the
fundamental problems of the West (1990, p. 112) because, as educational
historians have argued, it establishes one point of view as the norm and
mandates all others to conform to that view. If others do not conform, they are
disciplined, punished, and/or marginalized. Foucault's ideas thenthat
knowledge is subjective, constructed, sustained, and enforced by those in power
force us to consider how the constructions of power and truth in the
educational system may be affecting urban minority students.
The field of critical race theory in education offers ways to further
analyze Foucault's concepts by looking at how the construct of race and
resulting racism have and continue to shape the educational system. Studies
have shown that state-approved education textbooks are written mainly from a

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traditional White male perspective that tacitly perpetuates a heterosexist,

patriarchal point of view (Applebee, 1993; Sleeter, 2007). These textbooks are
likely to oversimplify the interplay of race, culture, and social class (Johnson,
1999, p. 258). The presence of racism in textbooks is quite easily identifiable,
though, compared to the racism that is institutionalized through educational
policy laws.
Legal scholar Cheryl Harris describes how the legal legitimation of
expectations of power and control that enshrine the status quo as a neutral
baseline has masked the white privilege and domination that oppresses
alternate truths, values, and cultural norms held by minorities (Harris, 1993, p.
1715). One example of this legal legitimation of white privilege is the legislation
of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which mandated evaluating and categorizing
students based on testing goals. Schools that did not achieve test score
benchmarks that officials deemed as Adequate Yearly Progress were
financially penalized under NCLB. Historically, the performance of English
Language Learners (ELLs), a majority non-white group of students, on these
tests is low and usually shows little improvement across many years (Abedi &
Dietel, 2004, p.782). Therefore, schools which have a higher percentage of ELL
students (read: students of color/minority students) had an increased chance
that they would be denied funding compared to a majority white school, simply
based on their higher population of ELL students.
The effect that subgroup underperformance has on minority students
and their schools is cited in scholarship: Although well-intentioned, NCLBs
subgroup accountability policies have the unintended effect of unfairly and
disproportionately sanctioning schools serving the most disadvantaged minority
students (Kim & Sunderman, 2004, p. 39). However critical race scholars would
argue that statements like this succumb to the rhetoric of the regime of truth.
The policy is not well-intentioned at all, but actually legislated white privilege.
By assuming that the policy is well-intentioned, racism goes unexamined in
determining solutions to the problem. ELL students' failure is looked at as a
quantitative fact based on test scores. Blame for their test scores is placed on
teachers and individual students as evidenced by the innumerable strategies
which are provided to help improve classroom instruction and student learning
(Abedi & Dietel, 2004).
Though the field is relatively young and still emerging, critical race
theory (CRT) uses several different constructs to examine racism in education.
One is voice. Critical race theory insists on recognition of the experiential
knowledge of people of color using personal narratives to counterbalance the
narrative of the dominant discourse (Dixson & Rosseau, 2005, p. 9). CRT also
problematizes commonly accepted truths such as neutrality, objectivity,
colorblindness, and meritocracy asserting that these ideas were constructed by
white people in power and are maintained through dominant discourses of truth
and power (Dixson & Rosseau, 2005, p. 9). By creating the assumption that these
constructs are somehow great equalizers laws and policy (such as the
aforementioned NCLB) are not interrogated through race. This results in the
establishment of cultural norms and a status quo that denies its ability to

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CRT examines whiteness as property. It argues that US society is based

on property rights and that white identity is the apex of property, possessing
inherent value and privilege even if one has no money or land (Ladson-Billings
& Tate, 1995, p. 48). The idea of individual rights is largely a ruse, as evidenced
in school desegregation efforts. Though Brown vs. Board of Education ruled that
separate was not equal when it came to black and white schools, whites'
resistance to school integration and bussing and the resulting phenomenon of
white flight from urban areas demonstrated that the law guaranteeing equality
was merely symbolic. Whiteness then, awards one with special citizenship status
which allows them rights to use and enjoyment (e.g., of their suburban schools
without minorities bussed into them) and the absolute right to exclude (e.g.,
from schools or Advanced Placement classes based on rules of meritocracy)
(Ladson-Billings, 1998, p. 15).
The historiography of education is rife with Foucault's conceptions of
power and truth, however many authors shy away from explicitly calling the US
educational system racist. Institutional racism is a term that has historically
existed to describe overtly prejudiced acts such as redlining and segregation,
however as times have changed, so have manifestations of this form of racism.
Beverly Tatum argues that a person or an institution need not be intentionally
prejudiced in order to perpetuate racism, stating that racism is not only a
personal ideology based on racial prejudice, but a system involving cultural
messages and institutional policies and practices...In the context of the United
States this system clearly operates to the advantage of Whites and to the
disadvantage of people of color (1997, p. 7). Tatum additionally specifies the
difference between active racism, in which prejudice and power are intentionally
wielded in order to oppress someone, and passive racism, which, as Tatum
describes, is more subtle (p. 11). It is seen when we avoid difficult race-
related issues and attempt to pass off these problems as business as usual (p.
11). The aforementioned example regarding No Child Left Behind and others
such as the continued practice of out-of-school suspension (Losen & Martinez,
2013) are evidence of that these "business as usual" policies disproportionately
affect students of color. By using a Foucauldian framework and employing
critical race theory as an interpretive lens to my data, I hope to shed light on
how power, truth, and race still matter and are leaving our most high-needs
students suffering.


Type of Qualitative Inquiry, Justification, and Research Procedure

In this case study, I conducted individual in-person interviews with each
participant, which lasted approximately one hour each in length. According to
Creswell, case studies allow for a wide array of procedures as the researcher
builds an in-depth picture of the case (Creswell, p. 132). In order to stay true to
the bottom up approach that critical race theory advocates, the flexibility of a
case study worked for this project.
Interview questions were developed with the conceptual lens of Foucault
in mind, however to ensure that the focus was placed on eliciting authentic
narratives from the participants, a semi-structured interview format was

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followed. According to Maxwell (2005), structured approaches help to ensure

the comparability of data while unstructured approaches allow for flexibility
and emergent insight (p. 80). This semi-structured approach, then, gave me the
structure to examine the hierarchical relationships between the participants, yet
it also allowed them space to voice their perceptions, tell stories, and relate
To select my specific participants, I used stratified purposeful sampling
because this method illustrates subgroups and facilitates comparisons
(Creswell, p. 127). In order to get a more comprehensive picture of the issues of
power and truth that play into the discourse of dropout, I felt it would be
important to interview staff members who served students in different
capacities. I was able to interview a teacher, a school-based counselor, a school-
based administrator, and a district-based counselor. The diversity of positions
within this group of service providers allowed me to compare and contrast their
views of the dropout discourse.
I also used elements of convenience sampling since in selecting
participants I first thought about who I already knew and who I thought would
be interested in being interviewed: individuals who are not hesitant to speak
and share ideas (Creswell, p. 133). Because this was a brief project, I felt it
would be best to have pre-established rapport with all of my interviewees. The
first people I identified were Kay, Selena, Joe, and Javier (pseudonyms). I gave
them each an outline of the project along with a consent form. Throughout the
informed consent process, I let them know that this was completely voluntary
and that they were under no expectation to participate. After establishing
consent, I went to their place of work and asked for their verbal consent to
audio-record the interview. I did three interviews in one day (Kay, Selena, Joe)
and one interview two days later (Javier). Participants were asked to participate
in an interview inquiring about their general perceptions and specific
perceptions about the dropout epidemic, dropout prevention strategies, and
students at-risk of dropout.

My first interview was with Kay, a 33 year old Asian-American female.
She worked as a Dropout Prevention Counselor (DPC) at UMS for two years.
Her position was cut due to a change in funding allocation at the district level.
She was subsequently transferred and is now a DPC at a high school. I selected
her because she is the only counselor who worked directly with students at-risk
of dropout at UMS. She is also one of the few DPCs who stayed in the unit after
they reorganized, despite political pressure to reclassify to an attendance
counselor or academic counselor. Her decision to stay with the unit has made
her one of the most experienced DPCs in the district. I worked in the same unit
as Kay for three years, so I have built a rapport with her as a colleague.
My next interview was with Selena, a 36 year old Latina. Selena works as
a Dropout Prevention Counselor at the district level. She helps to oversee the
work that the Office of Pupil Services (which recently merged with the Office of
Dropout Prevention and Recovery) does with students at risk of dropping out.
She is responsible for developing district-level programming in order to help
these students. I selected Selena because she is the only district-level counselor

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who was formerly a DPC at a middle school. I felt that her experience at the
middle school level as well as the district level would give her unique insight
into the discourse surrounding our at- risk students. I worked in the same unit
as Selena for three years, so I have built a rapport with her as a colleague.
My third interview was with Joe, a 37 year old Latino. Joe is an 8th grade
English, Journalism, and AVID teacher at UMS. AVID is a program designed to
specifically target students who are towing the line between success and failure
in school. The goal of the program is to put them on a college-going track. I
selected Joe because he is a teacher who is involved in his students' lives and is
an advocate for their needs. Also, it is important to my study to interview a
teacher. Teachers are with students for over 6 hours a day and they are the only
ones (other than the students) who know the complete story of what is
happening in the classrooms. I have worked in Joe's classroom several times
over the past year. I have been able to establish rapport with him as a colleague.
My last interview was with Javier. Javier is in his fourth year as the
Assistant Principal over Counseling at UMS. I selected Javier because he has a
unique perspectivehe has been a teacher, a counselor, and now an
administrator. I knew his comprehensive understanding of student needs from
multiple perspectives would help shed light on the discourse surrounding youth
at-risk of dropout. Javier also has worked for another district as a teacher. I felt
that this experience would also enrich his perspective in terms of how different
districts address students' needs. I attended graduate school with Javier and
have worked with him though UMS at least once a year for the past four years,
so we have established a good rapport as colleagues.

Personal Subjectivities and Validity

I believe that my pre-established rapport with my participants as well as
my own experience as a service-provider to youth at-risk of dropping out of
school has allowed me to go deeper into this topic and extrapolate more
complex themes from the data. However I can also see how this could
compromise the study's validity. As Creswell states, I certainly have a particular
stance in the dropout discourse, which may keep me from acknowledging all
dimensions and experiences (p. 139).
The fact that I have a vested interest in the site at which I am
performing this research may also limit my ability to develop diverse
perspectives on coding data or developing themes (p. 139). For instance,
though I sensed a tension between Joe, the teacher, and the administration, I did
not explore that theme too explicitly. One reason is of course because personality
issues are not the focus of my studyif there is tension with a superior, I am
more interested in examining it as a structural issue perpetuated by hierarchical
roles in the educational system. However there are additional issues at play. I
work at the school and have established rapport with the administration. I
would not want to publish something that disrespected them in any way, even if
I am using pseudonyms. I honestly coded what was said, but did not use any
incendiary quotes. In that way, I was able to maintain the integrity of the data
while avoiding any harm that could be caused.

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Coding System and Data Analysis

After conducting the interviews, I filled out a variation of Miles and
Huberman's Case Analysis Meeting Form. This served as my memo of the
interview experience and was my first step to discovering themes. After
conducting the interviews, I transcribed the interviews I had completed.
Foucault's ideas of discourse, power, knowledge, and truth served as my
theoretical lens. Defining power as what enforces knowledge I used
Foucault's theory to identify all of the things used in the educational system to
enforce knowledge: grades, standardized tests, attendance laws, hierarchical
relationships, discipline, and dissemination of information to parents through
meetings or mailings identification. Defining truth as what constructs
knowledge I identified things like standards, curriculum, cultural views of
education, and research/expert data as being used to construct knowledge in the
educational system (Foucault, 1995).
I coded my data using Nvivo9, a qualitative analysis software program.
Power and Truth became what Nvivo refers to as Parent Nodes and the
subcategories of each became Child Nodes. In order to preserve the semi-
structured balance, I also identified and coded additional emergent themes as I
read through the interviews.
After reviewing the interviews and coding the data, I performed word
frequency queries and relationship queries in Nvivo to construct themes.
Because of the patterns I saw, I decided to use Critical Race Theory to shape my
analysis and themes. As themes and key quotes emerged, I conducted member
checks in order to ensure that my participants understood and agreed with how
I used their data.


The participants' perceptions of the dropout discourse resulted in several

themes. First, they placed great importance on student voice. Second, they
described a constant struggle to balance quantitative educational approaches
with qualitative ones and saw quantitative mandates as contested cultural
spaces. Third, they all attempted to establish counternarratives to the dominant
quantitative educational approach in their work with their students. Lastly, they
value relationships above all else when assessing the success and effectiveness of
their own work with students. These themes greatly overlap. In order to convey
the totality of the participants' messages, I will not overtly demarcate different
Participants repeatedly discussed how student voice is essential to the
learning process. They felt that the current state-mandated curriculum and
standards needed enriching to make up for their cultural irrelevancy because
although the truth that students are being taught may be factually accurate, it
does not represent the totality of minority student experience. Participants
echoed the tenets of Critical Race Theory, discussing how the curriculum should
be more inclusive of their students' own narratives. Here, Joe, the 8th grade
teacher, describes how using the student voice in the curriculum can motivate
students and contribute to positive relationships between the student and

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teacher. He finds just as much validity in students' qualitative experiences than

he does in commonly known literature.
Joe: We have not fully made a conscious effort to really change or tie in
more of that cultural environment into our curriculum. I think were so
set on sometimes teaching literature that is so commonly known but we
dont really look at Is there anything else we can teach now? Why not
use their own stories to teach you know? I think sharing personal
experiences, its one of the greatest ways to really motivate these kids.
You know thats one thing I like to do is that I always like to share
personal experience where I came from and where I am and hopefully,
eventually they start opening up, which I think they do. They eventually
start opening up and that becomes our discussion, that becomes our
literature and then we write our own pieces from there.
Selena, who currently works in the district's administrative offices as a
dropout prevention counselor, is attempting to bring the student voice into her
macro-level dropout prevention interventions.
Selena: Im currently working on a program called A Students Life
where we get students' stories...students that have struggles...I feel like if
you would only know their stories and if you would only know the
barriers that they faced, if you would only know the shoes they have to
walk in every single day maybe you would just have a slighter ounce of
compassion. Maybe you would give that student a second chance if you
knew what they are up against. And so this documentary series really
does that. Its goal is to create awareness. Its to create awareness for
teachers. Its to create awareness for administrators, for parents, for
community members, everybody to help them understand some of the
struggles that these young kids are going through and despite these
struggles they continue to maintain...If we can create an awareness about
that I think that its just the beginning to have a culture shift of the way
that we perceive these students that they are not all gang bangers. That
theyre not all drug dealers but that the student actually has a voice and
has a story and that's a story he brings it to school every day.
The approach that Joe and Selena are detailing, centering the minority
student voice in education, is constructing what critical race theorists call a
counternarrative, or counterstory, that is a means to counteract or challenge the
dominant story (Dixson & Rousseau, 2005, p. 11). In Joe's case, the students'
voices present a counterstory to the narrative represented in commonly
known literaturethe literature authored by majority white writers who are
labeled in the curriculum as important, classic contributors to American literary
culture. Selena's documentary project is constructing a counterstory to the
dominant dropout discourse that dropouts are individually responsible for their
inability to succeed in school. Selena points out that we need a cultural shift
away from categorizing dropouts as "drug dealers" or "gang bangers" towards a
narrative of compassion, insight, and understanding.
Interestingly, when asked about what their perceptions of the root causes
of school dropout were, none of the participants mentioned institutional racism.
Their answers reflected the dominant discourse of school dropout being caused
by factors outside of the school's control, such as poverty and parent support.

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Kay: I think with the schools that Ive been at, low-income schools, I think
first and foremost it has to do with parent participation. I think more
parents that are involved in their students lives not just in school but in
their personal lives probably can minimize their at-risk situation.
However upon further inquiry, it was clear that Kay's reasoning went deeper.
Kay: Parents have to work. I mean you have parents that have multiple
jobs and I cant tell the parents, you know what you have to quit your
job so can come to school and meet with me. You know thats the
hardest thing, it's like they know they have to come but they cant...I
think there are very few parents who just dont care...The district, the
state, the federal government, everybody wants to increase the
graduation level rate and they see the data. They see Well if you do X, Y
and Z less with this program and with these resources then why not,
why wouldnt it work? But they dont look deeper into the issue
because at the school level were dealing with more than just Well I
have laptop for you if you just go to school. You know, why cant you
come to school? Why arent you coming to school? Whats preventing
you from coming to school? They dont see anything like that or even if
they do they ignore it. They think that it can be fixed, if we put more
personnel in that school or we give them more stuff or we give them
more money to buy more stuff, you know. So I think thats a huge
disconnect and I dont know if thatll ever be fixed.
So although initially Kay states that schools are not responsible for student
dropout, her actual beliefs show a far more complex set of factors at play in the
educational system: a system that does not accommodate the needs of the
working poor, a hierarchical power structure out of touch with the challenges
their urban, poor, minority students face, and a stubborn commitment to the
interventions developed by the dominant population. The belief is that if these
interventions are quantitatively proven, evidence-based strategies, then they
should work with urban, poor, minority students. Critical race theorists would
say that the hierarchical power structure that Kay is describing is exemplifying a
restrictive understanding of the nature of equity (Dixson & Rousseau, 2005,
14). This understanding fails to identify the distinction between the equality of
process versus the equality of outcome.
Selena further illustrates this idea of equality of process versus equality
of outcome.
Selena: I believe the student attendance goal is at 96% so they really
want the kids to understand and parents and families to know the goal is
less than seven days a year. I know that they based that goal based on
the research that has come out in the recent years...and basically shows
that students with less than seven days attendance do better that
attendance is linked to student achievement.
Here, Selena reiterates the dominant discourse: that dropout is an individual
and family matter and that if students simply attended school they would not
dropout. However later in the interview, Selena strays from the party line as she
reflects on her own experiences with students.
Selena: In my experience in working with dropout prevention there is
that one type of student...when you see a student thats having

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


attendance problems youre going to see lots of other things that are
going on and barriers to that student getting their education. But theres
another type of dropout which is one of the ones that really bothers me
and its kids that come to school every day, but theyre failing all their
classes. And how can you have a student that comes to school that has
perfect attendance, that is failing six classes? That student will be a
dropout. Because they wont be able to accumulate credits, they wont be
able to continue through the grades. How is it that schools are not
picking up on those students? How is it that they are being allowed to
just continue semester after semester after semester failing everything
and nothing is being done? ...I mean what can we do as a school, as a
district to, to figure out why, why is it that theyre failing through and
figure out what are the causes? If its not attendance then what is it? It
has to be something.
When Selena reflects on her qualitative experience as a service provider
to describe the needs of students at risk of dropping out, as opposed to reflecting
on the quantitative measure of attendance, she paints a picture of a system that
is not paying attention to the needs of its students. One that does not always
educate the students, whether they attend everyday or not. She also points out
though, that admitting that the system has and is failing its students would
create a public relations problem for those in power.
Interveiwer: Why do you think that it is acceptable to have a district
wide campaign for attendance but maybe not a district wide campaign
for push outs (dropouts who are pushed out not because they choose not
to attend school, but because they have too many fails or are not wanted
at school due to poor behavior)?

Selena: Well I think because thats not something that, its not something
that Im sure that they want to advertise. Its not something that they
want to bring to the limelight. Its something Im sure that would be
better to be addressed in the top down approach. Its not like they want
to have an immediate campaign saying Hey this is what weve been
doing all this years and lets fix it. I think that theres a lot of political
things going on there. And Im not sure that that would be the approach
or the solution to it anyways. I feel like that through attendance it [is
addressed], because it is a form of attendance because when most kids
are pushed out theyre not attending. So it does in a way address that
issue without explicitly, you know, advertising it. But I think that the
educating and creating awareness and then having the support from the
top down and creating accountability I think that will be, thats the best.
The idea that major tenets of education such as school curriculum, policy, and
law (specifically attendance laws) are color-blind instruments that are enacted
through an equitable process is fundamentally flawed according to critical race
theorists. They maintain that these constructs are culturally specific ways of
enforcing white privilege. The number of dropouts in the United States proves
that these tenets of education do not result in an equal outcome for students of
color. However those in power refuse to stray from the dominant discourse.
Here, we see that the dominant discourse has infiltrated the schema of minority

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teachers and counselors as well, despite the fact that their experiences reinforce a
counterstory to this narrative.
Javier, the assistant principal at UMS, describes how the inflexibility of
the educational power structure trickles down from law to student/teacher
relationships. In this case, we see how good administrators can use laws (such as
the compulsory education law) to mitigate power struggles that emerge between
students and teachers.
Javier: Theres a sense of entitlement from the teachers that they can
demand certain things and expect certain things that they wouldnt
expect of themselves. Or their children you know? Like I had a teacher
who was saying, Oh I dont want this kid back to my classroom because
she hasnt written me a letter of apology and I want a letter of apology
because she was rude to me. Wheres her right to that? Discipline
policy? Where is that in the ed code, that you can deny a kid his public
education because you want a letter of apology? Oh he called me a fat
bitch. I was like Whoa, sorry. How many times have I been called a
bitch, have I been called an asshole? And if I demanded a letter of
apology do you think that thats gonna happen? And then I said Do
you think a police officer demands a letter of apology from a suspect?
That hes entitled to have a letter of apology? Hes not." (laughs) Hes
In this example, Javier has created a counterstory to the dominant narrative
where compulsory attendance laws are used to simply ensure an equitable
process: that all students are expected to come to school. By re-centering the
student above the teacher in this power struggle, he used the law to ensure not
just an equitable process, but an equitable outcome. Using his own power and
agency, he set his own standard that we cannot create the pushouts Selena
referred to. According to the law, we must educate them, even when it's hard.
Javier further demonstrates his method for turning racist practices that
hide under the guise of equitable access into counterstories that demand
equitable outcome:
Javier: Each classroom is different. You dont teach them the exact same
thing, each class is going to have a different group dynamic...you have to
adjust and I think that thats what a lot of teachers dont likethat they
have to change. They think they are doing it all right all the time and the
reality is they are not doing it right all the time or half the time. Or you
may be doing it right if youre teaching college students. But youre not
teaching college students, youre teaching 11, 12, 13 year olds...And there
is that pressurewe do have to teach, there is certain amount of stuff
that you have to teach. There is that pressure of yeah I have my
standards, I have this and there is that expectation but you do have that
opportunity to adjust, you do have that opportunity to make it
work...but you have to adjust and you cant just be fixed in your way of
like..you know These kids cant learn.
Like the rest of the participants, Javier states here and throughout his interview
that urban minority students at-risk for dropout are indeed capable of learning.
Javier in particular believes that students can learn the dominant curriculum.
However it takes a creative teacher and administration to create an environment

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that supports this cultural pluralism. Like Joe, he believes that it is the
responsibility of the teachers and administrators to adapt the dominant
methodology to the lived cultural experiences of their students.
Every participant agreed that when it came down to measuring
effectiveness, quantitative measures count for very littleit is the relationship
that matters.
Javier: Apart from teaching them how to be good citizens and good
adults, I mean it all stems from just the relationships we have with the
kids...Ive worked really hard to try to create positive relationship with
kids and model and really work at talking to them and saying Hi and
Good morning and doing those sort of things and trying to bring
people here to school who are going to help our kids and try bring
resources and and try bring other leaders on the campus to help our kids
be successful and try to help try to build capacity and try to just do
things differently because I know that it wasnt working before.

Kay: I dont even look at them [quantitative assessments of her students]

because they dont even mean anything. Because at the end of the day
you cant control whether or not the child is gonna do their homework
or pass his class. You do your best [as a counselor] right? And then with
all the different formulas they use and all of the different things like I
don't know whats what. But I think people know, or a lot of people
know, that it is just bogus. Like, it means more to me if a child reaches
out to me or a parent. Yesterday a parent says Im really glad I came
tonight. I learned something new, and thats what youre there for.
Thats why you want to do that more...the reality is you cant always
depend on the numbers because theyre not always accurate.

Selena: Its all about relationships and I go back to that like this whole
[process of] disengagement from school. I really do think that it has to
do with not having relationships at the school site. Not having positive
relationships, not having someone to say I know you came to school
today, good job. You know sometimes just having students knowing
that they have somewhere that they can go to when theyre having a bad
day. Having students know that someone knows their name. Therere so
many little things that can happen, that you can do that can make a
difference in how that student feels about school. And I think it all boils
down to relationships and us knowing our kids. Knowing that theyre
gonna make mistakes but believing in them that they can do better, and
that they will do better.

Joe: I mean numbers can be forged, numbers can lie you know And I
think reaching my kids and really establishing that relationship with
them is much more important...If they walked away from my class better
than what they were when they walked in, that would be a step forward
regardless of what level they were at when they walked in or what level
they end up; as long as they can produce more. If my kids can walk
away from this level of education being able to get along socially and be

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respectful to others? Thats good education. If a child comes to me not

really wanting to learn or not really caring about learning, but at least
walks away with some curiosity? I think thats a good education. If my
kids walk away feeling proud of who they are and where they came
from? Thats good education. I wouldnt care what the numbers say if
they walked away with some confidence in who they are...They can
learn to read, they can learn to write, but if they dont have the
motivation, if they dont have that self-worth theyre not going to do
anything about that. Because even now I have kids that are so bright but
because nobody has ever told them that they can do it, or that its worth
something, they still dont care for it. So I think those things would be
great education.
Each participant placed much greater value on their qualitative relationships
with students and parents than they did the quantitative performance standards.
Interestingly, many of them regarded quantitative assessments and curriculum
as culturally-contested constructs (bogus numbers can lie don't mean
anything). They did not dismiss the academic necessity of standards, though.
Rather, they maintained that qualitative educational approaches and
assessments were necessary counterparts or precursors to quantitative success.
But balancing the quantitative and qualitative approaches in an educational
system so focused on the numbers game can be a defeating experience for
both student and teacher, as Joe articulates:
Joe: I would like to believe that I am effective but in terms of feeling that
way, sometimes I feel good about this, sometimes I feel like a failure. A
lot of times, especially when it comes to giving grades, sometimes I feel
like, you know, when I see so many Fs and...Its simple if I could give a
child a grade based on the way we have discussion in class, but if I dont
have anything concrete to show that they're producing, I cant give them
that grade. So theres times when Im feeling that Im failing kids
because I wish I could reach every single one of them. Show every single
one of them that they can succeed, that there is opportunity.
In examining these interviews from a Foucauldian perspecitive, four
major, overlapping themes emerged that tell us how these service providers
negotiated issues of power and truth in their work. These themes demonstrated
a resistance to the dominant discourse of school dropout, which centers the
failure of the individual and family. First, the service providers placed great
importance on student voice. Second, they described a constant struggle to
balance quantitative educational approaches with qualitative ones and saw
quantitative mandates as contested cultural spaces. Third, they all attempted to
establish counternarratives to the dominant quantitative educational approach
in their work with their students. Lastly, they valued relationships above all else
when assessing the success and effectiveness of their own work with students.
These results show that although participants' verbal answers often reflected the
dominant discourse of school dropout, the actions they described taking with
their students resisted that narrative.

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Throughout this study, we can see the challenges that service providers
face in adapting the dominant curriculum to urban students of color at-risk of
school dropout. In critical race theory, their struggles with curriculum, equality
of outcome, and quantitative modes of education and assessment serve as
examples of how white privilege and therefore institutional racism are encoded
into the U.S. public educational system.
It was surprising to me that none of the participants explicitly recognized
these constructs as inherently racist. Critical race scholars may say that by
ignoring racism, they are missing the root cause of the issues they struggle with
and perhaps even complicit in it. However it is clear that each participant
demonstrated that they are fighting institutional racism every day, whether they
acknowledge it or not. By constructing counterstories within and outside the
classroom, by valuing and putting effort into qualitative modes of education like
relationships and student voice, by attempting to diversify a culturally irrelevant
curriculum, and by accepting personal responsibility for their students, they act
against the social injustices of racism every day. They do not do this because
they have to, in fact, the dominant discourse does not reward them for these
efforts (unless they result in higher test scores). Their courageous actions,
unbridled creativity, and commitment to educating ALL of their students is,
within this climate of education, nothing short of heroic.
Though Michel Foucault's ideas of power and truth guided my study
and critical race theory helped me to analyze it, both theories, to some extent,
believe that true progress is difficult, if not impossible, while caught in
Foucault's panopticon or CRT's institutional racism. These service providers,
though, demonstrate that resistance to oppression does not have to be a pre-
meditated, politically motivated act. Rather, it can be motivated by emotions.
Each participant conveyed that they genuinely love children and that they are
willing to try anything to help them be the best people they can possibly be.
Certainly this does not mean that their work is easy. As John Dewey stated: The
path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires
troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs (1986, p. 136). It is
no wonder then that the teaching profession has such a high rate of burnout,
especially in high need urban areas. For this reason, intentional action in student
organizing and teacher and administrator training will be essential elements to
bringing about lasting systemic change in our educational system.
There is much hope for such systemic change. Grassroots and student-
led organizations have recently been leading efforts for more culturally relevant
curriculum, advocating for access to ethnic studies classes (Nelson, 2015;
Szymanski, 2016). The pushback against such efforts by many in power only
draws more attention to the need for such organizing. Administrators,
counselors, teachers, and teacher preparation programs have been and can
continue to support these efforts by seeking out professional development in
critical, anti-racist pedagogy. Incorporating an interdisciplinary approach into
school-based work will allow them to understand the impact historical context
and societal factors have on the public school system, school dropout, individual
schools, and communities. Teachers can also work from the bottom up by

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


advocating for more qualitative measures of formative assessment throughout

their courses in order to construct more holistic summative assessments of their
If we understand our educational institutions as socially constructed
spaces, it is a very real possibility that we could have another era that (re)shapes
our public school system as much as modernity and specifically the Progressive
Era have. As we observe the various educational reform debates of today
(charter schools, vouchers, privatization, de-centralization, unions, Common
Core), it is important to reflect on issues of power and truth. Where are the
urban, minority student voices and the family voices in these debates? Where
are the voices of service providers in these debates? Who is representing the
interests all of these parties? The academy must continue to help urban, minority
students at-risk of dropout by going to the bottom" and conducting more
qualitative studies that center the perceptions of service providers, students, and
parents. Such scholarship will give us insight into the discourse of dropout, but
tough questions regarding systemic issues such as power, poverty, race, and
equality in the United States must be asked. Everyday heroes such as the
participants of this study deserve to have their voices heard. And their students
deserve an educational system that is equal not only in process, but also in


This research was conducted under the author's previous affiliation at Bowling
Green State University. The author wishes to thank the university and the
Human Subjects Review Board for their support.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 18-36, June 2017

Is the Norwegian Armys View of Physical

Education and Training Relevant for Modern
Military Operations?

Ole Boe
Department of Military Leadership and Management,
Norwegian Defence Staff and Command College, Norwegian Defence
University College, Oslo, Norway

John H. Nergrd
Norwegian Military Academy
Oslo, Norway

Abstract. The demands of war consist of several dimensions that has to

be considered during a military officers education and training.
Considering the nature of modern military operations, physical training
is an important dimension. Participating in modern military operations
and wars is definitely a physically demanding task. The present study
was conducted in order to answer the question whether the Norwegian
Armys view of physical education and training is relevant for modern
military operations. In order to answer the research question in the
present study, we used a qualitative method that included document
analysis. The results of the document analyses yielded three interesting
findings. First, we found that the Norwegian Army seems to learn to
slow from its experiences from participating in military operations. Our
second finding was that the physical demands in modern military
operations seem to have increased. Our third finding was that
individuals entering into military service in Norway seemed to be less
robust than before. We therefore draw a conclusion that the Norwegian
Army seem to be facing some challenges with physical education and
training in relation to modern military operations.

Keywords: Demands of war; physical education; physical training;

military operations

Within the military profession, many soldiers and officers do not reflect
upon the soldier's true role in society. Even less reflected upon are all the aspects
of the demands a soldier must fulfil. In Norway, this is normal not an issue until
young Norwegian Army officers meet the Norwegian Military Academys

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


curriculum and education. An example is the concept of war. War can have
multiple meanings depending on, for example, who is experiencing it. Today
Norwegian Armed Forces are talking mostly about combat or fighting when
conducting military operations abroad. The Norwegian Armed Forces Joint
Operational Doctrine (NAFJOD) states that this is a synonym for war, just put
into a different context than the conventional war itself (Forsvarsstaben, 2007).
To be able to survive in conflict zones as a soldier there are a number of
measurable requirements that must be achieved. These requirements are
referred to in the military as the demands of war and are seen as the
existential features a soldier must possess to survive in combat. The demands of
war are related to the requirements of hardiness in a soldier so that he or she
will cope with combat (Sfvenbom, 2008; Sfvenbom, & McD Sookermany,
2008). This is dependent upon good leadership. The U.S. Armys field manual 6-
22 on army leadership emphasises presence as one of the requirement for
military leadership. Within the requirement of presence, one finds both
professional and military bearing, meaning how to conduct oneself. Also
included is an emphasis on confidence, resilience, and fitness. Fitness is in FM 6-
22 further seen as strength and endurance that supports emotional health and
conceptual abilities under prolonged stress (U.S. Department of the Army, 2015).
The core of the military professions is about mastering the domain of
war. Educating soldiers and officers who are able to master this domain is thus
the most essential task of military training and education. We therefore consider
the theme certainly relevant for any soldier, officer and officer in the Norwegian
Army, as the Norwegian Army is becoming increasingly more professional.
The rigors in combat can be extreme. In our profession, the will to succeed and
to strive towards results that exceed the expected, is the difference between
success and failure (Forsvarsstaben, 2007, p. 160, authors translation). This
quotation from the NAFJOD give a good picture of why soldiers and officers
need a strong physical base while conducting their professional practice. In
addition, aggressiveness training is also important in order to face the rigors in
combat. A previous study of how to train aggression and aggression control in
professional soldiers has shown this type of training to be very effective (Boe &
Ingdahl, 2017). The willingness to exercise kill can also be increased, and the role
of the group and the aggressive predisposition of the individual soldier has been
found to be important factors in order to train aggression and aggression control
(Boe & Johannessen, 2015). Aggression is related to the ability to exercise
physical effort. Physical exercise is a thus an important dimension within the
demands of war. With physical exercise, we mean a systematic influence of the
athlete over time with a view to improving or maintaining the physical, mental,
technical and tactical assumptions underlying the performer's performance
(NIH/F, 2005, p. 6, authors translation). By constantly exposing the soldiers to
more challenging tasks, it is possible to increase the individual soldiers physical
fitness skills. This will increase the possibility to respond effectively when facing
a dangerous situation (Matthews, 2014).
In 2008, the Norwegian Armed Forces introduced a new curriculum for
physical training, referred to as body, movement and energy (BME). This
curriculum replaced the curriculum for physical education from 1992. BME
builds on what the conscripts previously have learned in the Norwegian school

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system (Sfvenbom & McD Sookermany, 2008). At the same time, we see that
the youth of today's society are less physically active than previously, and that
their physical shape has become worse (Dyrstad, 2006). A question then arises, is
BME the correct way to go regarding physical education for the Norwegian
Armed Forces?
The basis for the curriculum for BME is the Norwegian Armed Forces
doctrines and education plans, in addition to the report Project BASIC (GIH,
2005; 2006). Project BASIC provides guidance and views on how to train before
and during operations. Project BASIC was written by several officers with
extensive experience within the field of military profession. Other nations that
perhaps we ought to look at, because of their similarities with our concepts, are
also making changes in their physical training. The Danish military forces has as
an example has established a Military Physical Training Team (MPTT) that looks
at all aspects within physical exercise. Against this background, one may
wonder if the Norwegian Armed Forces take into account the physical demands
placed on the individual soldier in current operations. In other words, do the
Norwegian Armed Forces take into account the demands of war in its education
and training?

The research question

The research question in this article was the following: Is the current
understanding of physical training in the Norwegian Army relevant for the demands of
war in contemporary military operations abroad? In this article, we restricted
ourselves to just look at military forces in Norway, Denmark, and the USA. The
military forces in Denmark is very similar to the Norwegian Armed Forces in
most cultural aspects. In addition, all four nations are members of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with relatively similar operational
patterns and similar materials and equipment. We will however investigate only
the domain of physical training, and especially the basic view of how one should
conduct physical training. In order to answer our research question, we will
discuss three factors: 1. Has the physical demands of the soldier changed when
one looks at the demands of war of modern military operations? 2. Is the
Norwegian Army's viewpoint on physical training relevant compared to what
other nations have experienced? 3. Is the physical training in the Norwegian
Army relevant, compared to the demands from participating in modern military

To answer our research question, we decided to use a qualitative study
of existing military governing documents (Johannessen, Tufte, & Christoffersen,
2010). We could have chosen to interview different officers and ask them if they
felt that the physical education and training they had received in the Norwegian
Army had been relevant for participating in modern military operations.
However, we decided not to do this. The reason for this was that we were
interested in the Norwegian Armys view as an organization on physical
education and training for modern military operations, and not the individual
officers view regarding the same themes. In addition, by using interviews we
could encounter several methodological problems with finding officers that had

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participated in modern military operations. We would also face some difficulties

in defining what participation in a modern military operation meant, thus
rendering our informants answers less valid. Choosing interviews as our
method, we would probably have ended up with only a limited number of
informants, indicating that very little could be said about the generalizability of
the results.
Another possibility would have been to use a more quantitative
approach, for instance by using a questionnaire. This approach would probably
have substantiated our assertions and arguments in a more quantitative way.
However, possible challenges with using for instance a 5 point Likert-scale could
be that there exists a social desirability bias where the respondents do not want
to give a socially unacceptable answer: The result of this can be that respondents
often answer with the mid-point instead of what they actually thought (Garland,
1991). Silvera and Seger (2004) have also discovered that Norwegians in
particular tend to shy away from the extremes of rating scales. Also, according
to Elstad (2010), if respondents are left to themselves they will risk losing focus.
Continuing this line of thinking, Vaitl et al. (2005) argue that general cognitive
impairment may affect the ability to focus. Considering these challenges and
that our research question dealt with an organizational view (as in the
Norwegian Armed Forces), we decided to use document analysis as our data
collection method in order to answer our research question.

Data collection method and literature search

During our literature search, we used several sources. Using the
Norwegian library service (BIBSYS) we found relevant literature. In addition, we
used the Internet to find websites of other nations military forces. We also used
the Norwegian systems Doculive and FOBID to find relevant military
documents. The basis for this literature search was the following questions: Does
the development of the world and its conflicts lead to a change in the demands
of war for the individual soldier in a combat situation? What are the demands of
war in current military operations? What governs the physical training in the
Norwegian Army? How do other relevant NATO nations conduct their physical

Data analysis method

When analyzing the documents, we used a method based upon the
grounded theory approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Starrin, Dahlgren, Larsson, &
Styrborn, 1997). The aim with our approach was to look for similar statements in
the documents found in the literature search. The method was based upon that
when we had found enough similar statements, we would then continue to
other documents to look for contradictory statements. The idea behind this was
to discover differences in the approaches towards physical education and
training and the demands of war.

Criticism of selected literature and theory

Since much of the assessed literature and theory is discussed in general
terms, the question of how one should train for operations had to be interpreted.
Much of the theory indirectly answer questions related to the physical demands
of war. The sports science theory we found was largely specific and had to be

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analysed and simplified based on the questions we wanted to answer. Much of

the professional military literature in this field is based upon personal
observations of officers who have been in conflict or war. Therefore, we consider
this literature to be more experience-based and thus less objectively.
This experienced-based literature also contains generally little that
directly relates to the demands of war and the associated physical requirements.
However, much is transferable. The sports science literature relies increasingly
on the use of quantitative research in the form of statistics, tests, measurements
and surveys. The sports science is thus largely credible from a scientific point of
view. The challenges of this literature are that it is not to the same extent based
on recent experiences from the operational environment. Instead, it is based on
general training principles and relates this to the doctrines and regulations of the
Norwegian Armed Forces. When it comes to BME (Sfvenbom & McD
Sookermany, 2008), it is too early to say anything about the effect this will give
in relation to the physical training of soldiers. The more specific literature on
demands of war (Bratland, 1954; Marshall, 1947) was written over 60 years ago,
and was based on observations made during WWII.
A challenge related to most documents from the Norwegian Armed
Forces is that they do not provide references and sources. The Norwegian
Armed Forces has also a general challenge of making what they write in their
documents credible considering the lack of use of quantitative data. For
example, quantitative data is in general lacking when it comes to describe
physical damage of soldiers in operations and physical performance of the
soldiers participating in operations.

Theoretical perspectives on military education and physical training

Physical exercise is a systematic influence of an athlete conducted over
time. This with the aim of improving or maintaining the characteristics that
underlie the athlete's performance (NIH/F, 2005). The training may be general to
improve the capacity in areas that are important no matter the sport, or the
training can be specific and targeted at a particular sport or exercise (Gjerset,
Haugen, Holmstad, & Giske, 2006). In the Norwegian Armed Forces, physical
education is synonymous with physical exercise. Physical education can be
described as the following from the Norwegian Army's educational and training
regulations; "With physical education means all activity during the daily service
and in time helps to elevate or maintain the physical performance" (GIH, 2007b,
authors translation).

Endurance training
A definition of endurance training is the ability to work with relatively
high intensity for a long time (Gjerset, Haugen, Holmstad, & Giske, 2006).
Furthermore, endurance is divided into two types, aerobic and anaerobic. These
are defined as respectively; Aerobic stands for the organism's ability to work
with relatively high intensity for a long time and anaerobic endurance i.e. the
organism's ability to work with very high intensity in a relatively short time
(Gjerset, Haugen, Holmstad, & Giske, 2006, p. 48, authors translation).

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Strength training
Muscle strength is defined as a muscle's ability to develop power under
different conditions, or that muscle even to develop maximum power (NIH/F,
2005, p. 18, authors translation). Muscle strength can be divided into three
different categories. These are maximum, explosive and endurance strength
(Haugen, 2002). Explosive strength is the muscles ability to develop power while
they contract. Maximum strength is the muscles ability to develop sufficient
power to perform an exercise one time with the greatest possible load. Persistent
muscle strength is the muscles ability to develop power several times in
succession (Gjerset, Haugen, Holmstad, & Giske, 2006). The work your muscles
can do is further divided into two types of work, which is static and dynamic
muscle work. The static muscle work revolves around keeping the same position
over time, meaning that muscle is a holder for the position. Dynamic muscular
work refers to the muscles used to carry out an exercise. This is divided into
concentric (towards the centre of the body) and eccentric (from the centre of the
body) movements. An example would be using a weight in which one performs
two dynamic movements when one raises and lowers the weight (Gjerset,
Haugen, Holmstad, & Giske, 2006).

The demands of war before and now

War can have different meanings depending on who uses the term and
what the term is to be used for. The most common use of the term is that it
portrays the use of violent aggression between states or groups who want to
follow up their interests by force (Matthews, 2014). War is therefore essentially a
matter of human behaviour. In human terms, the concept of war is used to
reflect the intense physical and psychological experiences in terms of cruelty and
chaos. War is a part of the spectrum of armed conflict. Within this, we also find
combat situations (Forsvarsstaben, 2007). In recent decades, the conflicts that the
Norwegian Armed Forces have participated in, has evolved from regular combat
operations through stabilization operations to complex peace operations
(Forsvarsstaben, 2014). Still, the demands of war will be evident even in complex
peace operations with different fractions or actors inside a fallen state fights for
supremacy and power. Several of the situations facing soldiers in the future will
be volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (known as VUCA) (Matthews,
In the report Project BASIC, Borkhus (2006) writes about the war's
character as something that changes our society. This change of society affects
how the military train; organize themselves, and how military operations are
conducted. With this, he argues that the war's character is possible to change
over time. He describes the current conflicts as more complex to deal with than
the former, but he points out, however, that the profession as soldiers is to
master the most complex; War in the form of combat operations. For instance,
being in good physical shape and being intelligent is important for passing the
selection to Special Forces units (Boe, 2011; Boe, Woolley, & Durkin, 2011). This
in order to cope with complex combat operations.
The Norwegian general Sverre Bratland (1954) concluded his treatise in
military psychology with the following: The psychological impact a platoon
commander is exposed to in the conflict area is extensive and impair his
efficiency greatly. This means that the tactical possibilities available to beat the

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enemy are not fully being utilized because of the troop commander's reduced
working capacity. Our current officer training should therefore be radically
changed so it is based upon the mental demands on the squad leader from the
beginning and thus trains the aspirants' mental resilience under circumstances
that most resembles the combat situation (Boe, Kjrstad, & Werner-Hagen,
2012, p. 49, authors translation). Bratland also wrote a lot about the vision he had
as an officer in training after having participated in World War II (WWII) as a
platoon leader. Bratland wrote in his treatise about physical endurance and why
this was important in the military profession. Bratland who at the time was
platoon leader in a British military unit described his own physical condition as
satisfactory in a self-assessment before he entered into the war. He later claimed
that the physical rigors he was subjected to on the European continent never
came up against the physical hardships of training. Furthermore, Bratland wrote
that even the most fine-tuned soldiers were psychologically affected and tired
during the war. He pointed out the relevance to train with noise, friction and
external influences to make the training as realistic as possible (Bratland, 1954).
After reading Bratlands considerations one can ask the question whether the
physical demands of the soldiers and officers actually have changed since WWII.
Rekkedal (2001) wrote that in conventional warfare soldiers' physical
capacity and performance is seen as an operational constraint for any armed
forces. Moreover, he further states that in today's high-tech and motorized
armed forces, physical capacity is equally important. This is justified in that it
can seem less important in today's doctrines and thus the concept of physical
fitness is given different meanings in different military environments. To
consider this further, a look at this quote; There is reason to believe that the
requirements for robustness of today's soldiers are at least as large as before.
Flexibility and unpredictability characterize today's military operations, and this
requires that soldiers possess a set of various integrated skills (Aandstad &
McD Sookermany, 2008, p. 229, authors translation). This tells us a lot about the
basic idea behind the physical education in the military, where the military
seems aware that the demands are largely as before, but that greater demands
are imposed in other arenas.
The modern soldier is no longer only evaluated solely on the basis of
military matters, but also in relation to ethical and moral standards in society
(GIH, 2005). In the book Men against fire (Marshall, 1947) the soldier's body is
a theme. Having a healthy and trained body is essential in the face of modern
war, in line with the soldier's weapon. A soldier's hardness and resilience is
something that can be trained. Marshall further noted that all physical exercise
helps to boost morale in the military units. Willpower and physical strength is
something that goes hand in hand and if is not present the unit will experience
major challenges in combat.

Physical demands of modern soldiers

A soldier's performance is determined by several different factors. It is in
many ways similarities between soldier and an athlete since there are similarities
with what is found in the various forms of sport. Today's the soldier education
must meet a number of requirements that meets the Norwegian Armed Forces
requirements in peace, crisis and war. The main elements of such demands, or

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work requirements, consists of physical and mental performance and military

technical and tactical skills (Hjellset, 2003). In today's high-tech army trained for
efforts worldwide the human factor is more important than ever. This is also in
line with the revised Norwegian Armed Forces Joint Operational Doctrine
(Forsvarsstaben, 2014) that aims to develop robust soldiers who are physically
and mentally robust and can handle all types of operations and operational
environments worldwide.
The soldiers of the Norwegian Army will have to be able to act in a fast
pace with demanding environments and challenges. This means that a solid
physical fitness and good health is required (GIH, 2007b). To this, Lt. Col.
Gundersen describes how the British Army makes itself adaptable to a wide
range of challenges and areas of operation. The reason for this is soldier training.
In a world of constant improvements in the soldiers equipment, a more complex
situation picture and a greater degree of flexibility is also required and this
reflects the training for operations (Gundersen, 2006).
A new challenge for today's soldiers relates to the weight of the
equipment. A soldier carries a lot of equipment on or with him when he goes to
battle. Knapik, Reynolds, and Harman (2004) states that the overall weight of
soldier equipment has increased steadily if one look at developments from the
1800s to the present day. This is something that affects the demands we need to
ask of the soldiers we send out to operations. One of the five initiatives the U.S.
military have set out to do is to prepare special training programs. Furthermore,
the context of the demands of war in terms of marching and marching speed
must be analysed against the soldier and the weight of the equipment the soldier
carries (Knapik, Reynolds, and Harman, 2004). The Norwegian Armed Forces
need robust and active people who are in a good physical and mental condition.
It is crucial that the individual soldier and the unit is developed and
given the necessary physical basis and skills that will enable them to make the
right decisions. This will give the capacity to solve both mandatory and
unforeseen tasks (NIH/F, 2006). This gives a clear indication of what is required,
although the specific requirements are not yet established, these phrases say a
lot about what is expected. Just as elite athletes live in a continuous cycle from
championship to championship, future professional soldiers will spend much
time out in the real operational area (NIH/F, 2006).

Experiences from other nations

Sweat saves blood argues the Danish lieutenant colonel Kim
Kristensen (personal communication, February 24, 2009). The Danish military
has been involved in fighting in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan
since 2007. By participating in south Afghanistan, the Danes have gained several
experiences that have influenced their views on physical training of their
soldiers. These lessons are just as relevant for us in Norway as for the Danes,
since Norway and Denmark are culturally quite similar. K. Kristensen (personal
communication, February 24, 2009) claims that physical exercise traditionally is
something soldiers have been doing less conscious of what they would
encounter in the operational area. The focus has mainly been on building
stamina, something that is not wrong, but strength training has been given too
little focus and been conducted too sporadic. Experiences from Helmand in

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Afghanistan have shown that the Danes need robust soldiers with great physical
strength and explosiveness.
The Danish Armed Forces (DAF) conducted surveys on its personnel in
Afghanistan over two contingents (ISAF 6 and 7). The DAF found that six
months of deployment in Afghanistan led to several health problems. The
primary health problems were related to muscles and joints in the form of back,
knee and shoulder problems. The DAFs conclusion was that more focus should
be on these muscle groups during training and that one should look at measures
to prevent muscle loss under the duration of a contingent (K. G. Srensen,
personal communication, October 10, 2009). This has led to a greater focus on
both diet and which exercises the military units should use. In addition, the DAF
now look at their soldiers as top athletes. These are the most significant changes
the DAF have made is in the revision of the military training regime. To
accomplish this, they created the MPTT composed of specialists in all fields that
affect a soldier's physical performance capacity (K. Kristensen, personal
communication, February 24, 2009).
In the field manual FM 21-10 (U.S. Department of the Army, 1998) it is
stated that there are many benefits of a good physical exercise program. This can
for example lead to less sickness among the personnel, increased efficiency and
better mental health, in addition to a greater team spirit and combat persistence
in the unit. The field manual further states that the physical shape of the
individual soldier is related to how well he will do when facing combat. It has
also been proven that good physics help to increase the soldiers' mobility.
Training that includes aerobic conditioning; strength training targeted at the
specific muscle groups, and regular marching exercises will achieve the best
results. This means that if one is to be good at carry heavy equipment one must
train with strain or load that corresponds to the weight of the heavy equipment.
In other words, "train as you fight".
The field manual also highlights the following five physical features as
important for a soldier. 1. Oxygen uptake - the body's ability to transport and
use oxygen. 2. Explosive strength - the ability to carry out lifts that requires great
strength. 3. Muscle endurance - the ability to perform activities that require
maximum power for a limited time. 4. Mobility - the body to be agile enough to
move around with heavy equipment. 5. Body Mass Index (BMI) - that this is
consistent with body size and goals. The entire field manual FM 21-20 (U.S.
Department of the Army, 1998) is devoted to how to train soldiers within these
parameters. This is done by training in different phases throughout the entire
service period, so that one gets a steady progression towards being able to
withstand the maximum load when using all the equipment in harsh
The American colonel Brian P. McCoy talks about six principles of how
to train a unit to go into combat. The first of these is: You should always use
100% of your combat gear (helmet, vest, ammunition, water and other
equipment (McCoy, 2007, p. 26) This underscores McCoys fundamental idea of
that he believes that one should train as close to the realistic war environment as
possible, also in terms of physical strain. He elaborates this further on this in
mentioning several habits that units should take into consideration in their
physical exercise routines. One of these is combat conditioning. By this,

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McCoy means physical exercise that does not involve training with regular
training clothes and sneakers, but training with the equipment one will use in
combat in line with the aforementioned principle of physical exercise. This
allows the soldiers to build physical strength, based upon the muscles that are
important for the soldier in order to function well in combat situations. As a
bonus, this will also increase the psychological strength of the individual soldier.
McCoy (2007) argues that physical strength and mental strength relates closely
to each other.

The later development of the Norwegian Army

The Norwegian Armed Forces have the last 20 years changed from being
a large, static defense force against invasion, where the aim was to defend
Norwegian territory. Now, the Norwegian Armed Forces is a smaller and more
flexible military force being able to participate in multinational operations and
solve complex conflicts, both in Norway and abroad (Sfvenbom & McD
Sookermany, 2008). As a member of NATO, Norway will have to fulfil certain
obligations that has to be met by each member country. This might for instance
be to participate in multinational operations abroad in a NATO coalition.
Whether it is ethical for the Norwegian Armed Forces to participate in
multinational operations abroad is a question reserved for the Norwegian
politicians, and will not be discussed in this article.
The big change in the current situation in Norway is that military units
are no longer produced for the mobilization defense. Today's units will deliver
its efforts immediately after their education is accomplished. The efforts will be
delivered in the form of single men and women and units in operations abroad
(Skuggedal, 2006). The basic idea in the Norwegian Army today is that; The
army should educate and train individual soldiers in the conflict environment
Army operate in - both nationally and internationally. It is a measure for the
Army to encompass personnel and units that can cope with large amounts of
stress and simultaneously solve the missions (GIH 2007a, p. 4, authors

The operational training of the Norwegian Army

The basic idea for all the training in the Norwegian Army's project
BASIC (GIH, 2005) is defined as "bottom-up". The principle outline is the vision
that one should begin with the education of single men and women, and then
continue to building systems of single men, such as squads, platoons and
companies. For this to work, the basic modules, i.e. the single soldier must be so
robust that he or she can withstand further supplementary training and external
influences. Furthermore, the principle train as you fight must always underlie
the training conducted in the Norwegian Army. This is a recognition of war as a
psychological phenomenon and that if one trains differently, the soldiers will
not be able to cope with the domain of war. As a consequence of this, the
Norwegian Army will always conduct realistic training and the demands of war
will be governing all training. It is further underlined that the main priority is to
master combat operations (GIH, 2005).
In the Project BASIC (GIH, 2005; 2006) focus is on how the Norwegian
Army should train towards operations and draw lessons from it. This should be
done through analyzing and evaluating all phases of the training. Also, pointed

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out is that everything the Norwegian Army do is training, and therefore all
training must be of high quality and be effective (GIH, 2005). Asak (2006) writes
about the handling of military experiences. The models outlined by Asak will
link experiences to the knowledge and further towards the preparations and
conduct of operations. Asak points out that this is something that is not
satisfactory in the Norwegian Army today.

Physical training in the Norwegian Army

The demands for physical capacity or ability to care for themselves or
others in demanding conditions are not visible in the daily service. We see in
part the result of this in operations abroad, where some staff officers have a very
limited level of soldier- and basic skills (Eide, 2006, p. 117, authors translation).
Skjetne (2006) argues that there are structural similarities between developing
achievements in the Norwegian Army and engaging in elite sports. The reason
for this is that both soldiers and athletes spend almost all their time in training.
Dyrstad (2006) argues that the personnel in the Norwegian Armed Forces are
less active than before and therefore the personnel gain weight and are in a
poorer physical shape. In conclusion, Dyrstad concludes that the poorer physical
shape found among young people in 2002 compared with 1980 lead to that the
young people have become fatter. According to Dyrstad, the mean average of
weight gain has been 5 kg (approximately 2,3 lbs) over these 22 years.

Documents governing physical training in the Norwegian Army

The governing document of how the Norwegian Army educates and
trains its soldiers and officers is the Norwegian Army's educational and training
regulations. The aim of education and training in the Norwegian Army is to
have; Professionally skilled personnel with high physical and mental
endurance that effectively exploits its weapons and its materials (GIH, 2007a, p.
4, authors translation). This document state that a targeted systematic training is
one of the Norwegian Army's premier cultural traits. A systematic training is a
hallmark of professionalism and a common feature of winners (GIH, 2007b).
The BME concept was introduced in the Norwegian Armed Forces in
2008. The reason for this was the Norwegian Armed Forces faced new challenges
related to work and competence. These new challenges were taken into account
when introducing the BME concept and its new curriculum of intentions and
objectives. The development was a consequence of the changes in the
Norwegian society and the Norwegian Armed Forces increased emphasis upon
independence, consciousness and initiative of the individual soldier (Sfvenbom
& McD Sookermany, 2008).

Physical requirements in the Norwegian Army

Today the Norwegian Armed Forces and thus, The Norwegian Army,
employs a test endurance (3000 meter running test for time) and a variety of
dynamic muscle strengthening exercises (number of repetitions in sit-ups, push-
ups, squats and chins) with a defined minimum number of repetitions for
soldiers' physical fitness (Hjellset, 2003). That the exercises are general and
involves several major muscle groups that are appropriate for military activity
could give indications of how muscle characteristics should be improved
(Dyrstad 2006). When one tests maximum dynamic muscle strength in

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standardized tests with a measuring device, such as one does in the Norwegian
Armed Forces, these tests put great demands on technical performance.
However, it is also possible to perform strength tests in various technical ways,
which undermines the validity of the tests (Bahr, Hallen, & Medbo, 1991). The
3000-meter running test was introduced in the Norwegian Armed Forces in 1980
as the main measuring tool on aerobic endurance and fitness. Similarly running
tests have been used in most other NATO countries. The intention was that
during a soldier's mandatory conscript military service the individual soldier
should complete the 3000-meter running test three times. This would provide
answers to whether the soldiers achieved the desired running persistence during
their service period. Previously a bicycle ergometer test was used to measure
endurance, but this test was too resource-intensive and contained too many
errors. The 3000-meter running test is viewed today as an indirect assessment of
a soldiers physical form, although one does not have sufficient research to
substantiate this. There is also doubt that this test provides an accurate picture of
maximal oxygen uptake (Bahr, Hallen, & Medbo, 1991; Dale et al., 1979).

If we compare the before mentioned physical tests with the thinking that
physical requirements are easier because of available assistive technology, we
can state that the demands of war for the modern soldier has been reduced.
Sverre Bratland (Boe, Kjrstad, & Werner-Hagen, 2012) who during WWII was a
platoon leader in a British military unit wrote that even the most well-
educated soldiers also became affected psychologically and tired during the
war. Bratland (1954) also stated that the physical condition was crucial as to
whether you broke down or not. On the other side, McD Sookermany (2008)
claims that there is reason to assume that the demands of today's soldiers are at
least as large as before. He speaks here about the demands of robustness, i.e. a
physical hardiness (Aandstad & McD Sookermany, 2008). When one reads that;
The Norwegian Army should educate and train individual soldiers in the
conflict environment it operates in - both nationally and internationally. It is a
goal for the Norwegian Army to be equipped with personnel and units that can
cope with major stresses and simultaneously solve missions (GIH, 2007a, p. 4,
authors translation). When seen against the statement that it is essential to give
the individual soldier and unit the necessary basic physical skills that will enable
them to make the right decisions and solve both mandatory and unforeseen
military tasks, one start to grasp the importance of physical training (NIH/F,

A change in the demands of war in modern operations

Something that underlines the increased complexity of the modern
battlefield it is that the modern soldier is no longer evaluated only on defined
military matters, but also on the ethical and moral standards found in society.
Success for Norwegian soldiers is no longer seen as only what is obtained in
combat, but also in accordance with the ethical and moral standards in the
Norwegian civil society (GIH, 2005). This is supported by Borkhus (2006) in
what he writes about the character of war. He argues that when society changed,
the Norwegian Armed Forces organization, equipment, and not least how the

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conduct of operations also changed. This also changed the military profession,
since the core is to master the most complex operations, i.e. combat. Borkhus
further describes today's conflicts as more complex, and confirms that the
character of war and thus the demand of war have changed. As an example of
this change, in maneuver warfare with a complex situation picture, one is
dependent upon speed to win. Speed relates to situational awareness and the
physical and psychological available resources. We can say that this indirectly
impose greater demands on the individual to perform in this type of operations.
This also changes the demands of war, i.e. the requirements to cope with
A new challenge for soldiers in current operations is the weight of the
equipment that soldiers use in operations and in combat. To train soldiers to
carry this extra weight is a crucial factor for how well they will cope (Knapik,
Reynolds, & Harman, 2004). This affects the physical demands placed on
soldiers in the direction that it has become more difficult to be a soldier today. If
one only looks at the physical requirements, they have become harder for the
To return to the demands of war, Hjellset (2003) writes that in
conventional warfare the soldiers' physical capacity and performance is seen as
an operational constraint in any military organization. Hjellset shows that
previously physical capacity was decisive for operational capability. McD
Sookermany (2008) argues that sport is part of the military legacy, since it is
logical that the soldier depends on their body to perform. Throughout history,
physical form has been regarded as a prerequisite for a good army and thus also
for a good soldier (GIH, 2007b). Marshall (1947) supports this when he argues
that it is essential to maintain a healthy body as a soldier faces the demands of
Moreover, Marshall argues that willpower and physical strength is
something that goes hand in hand. Without a sufficient physical capacity, one
will not have an equally strong willpower, and both of these will have to be
present to survive in combat. If a soldier does not function in combat, the unit
will lose the battle. Although Marshalls book is from WWII, it shows us that
soldiers of all times will have to have a trained body to survive in combat. It also
shows that the basic principles of the demands of war are the same, since a
satisfying physique must be present. Experiences form WWII was that training
and education had to be realistic, and the content of the training had to be in line
with the demands of war. This means that the education of the single soldier and
physical robustness is part of this.
The introduction of the reformed Norwegian Armed Forces with its
focus on international operations has probably changed the ideal of what it
means to be a good or skilled soldier. The Norwegian Armed Forces have gone
from a focus where the task was to create power in a battle, to the ability to
create tempo as the main focus. This change is also supported in that the BME
(Sfvenbom & McD Sookermany, 2008) is desired to anchor the training in the
Norwegian Armed Forces in a more scientific perspective in the wake of this
shift of focus. In today's soldiers, a greater range of skills is demanded and the
individual has become more independent (GIH, 2005, Skaret, 2006).

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Is the physical training in the Norwegian Army relevant when compared to

the demands of war in modern operations?
Dyrstad (2006) points out that all activity that involved some form of
physical activity in the Norwegian Armed Forces was only nine hours a week
during basic training and five hours a week during the remaining part of the
initial service. This says a lot about the low priority of physical exercise in the
military. This means that one has to more aware of other arenas where one can
train the soldiers physical capacity and this is highlighted in the BME concept
(Sfvenbom & McD Sookermany, 2008). In addition, the soldiers want to
influence what they do with their time while serving in a unit (Skuggedal, 2006).
This can be said to be one of the biggest challenges. The consequence of
educating soldiers to master a wide range of tasks and to fulfil a number of
demands is that this affects the quality within the whole spectrum, leaving you
with less time to do each thing well.
An important part of being able to measure a soldiers physical
robustness are the physical tests. The Norwegian Armed Forces uses several
different tests such as strength exercises measuring dynamic muscular strength
and all tests that have a defined minimum (Hjellset, 2003). This is something that
does not corresponded to other nations' experiences of what is important in
strength. Both the Americans (U.S. Department of the Army, 1998) and the
Danish (K. Kristensen, personal communication, February 24, 2009) highlights
explosive strength and endurance strength as important.
The purpose of the tests used by the Norwegian Armed Forces is to
measure physical fitness and progress in the soldiers. Considering that the tests
do not reflect the demands of war as tests in other nations do, is the thinking
wrong? Dyrstad (2006) argues that even if the exercises are general and involve
multiple muscle groups, where each is appropriate for military activity, they are
good tools to provide indications of how muscle properties are improved.
Hjellset (2003) partly agrees, but argues further that when one tests the
maximum dynamic muscle strength in standardized tests as measuring devices,
such as one does in Norway, these tests set high demands on technical
A technical execution must be practiced specifically and thus
performance is dependent upon technique training. A further critical point is
that the Norwegian Armed Forces tests are exercises that can be performed in
different ways, which undermines the validity of the tests (Hjellset, 2003).
Today's 3000-meter running test is seen as the indirect goal of physical fitness,
although one does not have sufficient research to substantiate this. One may
wonder if this test gives the Norwegian Army what it need. In addition, for the
individual soldier it takes time to be able to perform well during the tests.
Therefore, if the tests are not relevant to the physical characteristics and the
skills one would want in a soldier, then the training is a waste of time. As a sign
of change in Norway, the Telemark Battalion in the Norwegian Army has
adopted training programs from the Danish military. The reason for this
adoption was that the training introduced in the Norwegian Army is not aimed
at the physical rigors soldiers expose themselves to during operations. This can
be seen as a sign that the most professional unit in the Norwegian Army is in the
process of learning and adapting their training to the demands of war. This shift
in focus the Telemark Battalion regarding physical training also corroborates

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


well with the finding that aggressiveness training is important in order to face
the rigors in combat (Boe & Ingdahl, 2017; Boe & Johannessen, 2015). The reason
for this is that there exists a clear link between aggression and the ability to
exercise physical effort.

The research question in this article was the following: Is the current
understanding of physical training in the Norwegian Army relevant for the demands of
war in contemporary military operations abroad? In an attempt to answer our
research question, we have discussed three factors: 1. Has the physical demands
of the soldier changed when one looks at the demands of war of modern
military operations? 2. Is the Norwegian Army's viewpoint on physical training
relevant compared to what other nations have experienced? 3. Is the physical
training in the Norwegian Army relevant, compared to the demands arising
from participating in modern military operations?
The first challenge is that that the Norwegian Army does not seem to
learn fast enough. Other nations have made their experiences from operations,
operations that are physically demanding, have made changes in their views on
training and thus also their specific training and their physical requirements.
Their experiences are just as relevant for the Norwegian Army. Especially the
Danish military experiences we think are relevant for the Norwegian Army. This
since we are culturally similar and our armed forces are relatively equal, in both
capacities and sizes. The two principles of bottom up and train as you fight
is appropriate in relation to how other nations also look at their training.
However, the challenge in Norway is that this is not enough reflected in how the
Norwegian Army conducts physical training. Both these principles highlight the
robustness and realism as important, and here we think the Norwegian Army
still has more work to do.
At the same time the demands of today's operations has become harder
physically for the individual soldier. An example of this is Knapik, Reynolds,
and Harmans (2004) issue around equipment weight. Another factor in this is
the requirement for physical and mental capacity in order to cope with combat.
The speed of operations is higher today and therefore one is dependent on more
capacity to be faster and to make the best decisions in order to win. Since the
physical and mental are so closely associated as Marshall (1947) and McCoy
(2007) claims, preparing a soldier physically is even more important today.
Today in Norway we also have a disadvantage with the soldiers entering
into compulsory service compared to before. The Norwegian Armed Forces tests
skills that are questionable in terms of the values and gains that are provided
from the tests. This goes for both strength and endurance. In addition, when
measurements show that the time spent on physical training does not lead to the
desired results as stated by the Norwegian Army, a conclusion is that the
Norwegian Army probably does not achieve what they want with their physical
The complexity of the role of the soldier and the Norwegian Armed
Forces understanding of the physical demands is hampering the effort to
educate Norwegian Army soldiers to be able to cope in domain of war in the

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current operations. Whether this is due to a change in priorities or lack of

experiences one can only speculate.
However, one can see that the Norwegian Armys view of physical
training is changing in a positive direction. Nevertheless, the Norwegian Army
is falling behind compared to other nations. This is especially apparent in the
physical tests, where the Norwegian selects other skills than other nations say is
relevant. The basic idea around physical training in the Norwegian Army does
not match how the physical training should be carried out, especially if one
looks at other nations' experiences and the BME concept (Sfvenbom & McD
Sookermany, 2008). Therefore, we conclude that the Norwegian Army does not
train in a relevant way towards meeting the demands of war in modern military
operations. A notable exception to this is the Telemark battalion in the
Norwegian Army.
Potential practical implications of our findings may include physical
education and training of Norwegian Army officers according to the principles
used in the Danish military, the U.S. Army, and in the Telemark battalion. On
the other hand, we recognize that the validity and reliability of our findings are
limited, since we only have investigated what has been found in the different
documents. More research into this topic is needed, as the consequences of not
educating and training officers to physically cope with the demands of modern
military operations could have fatal implications.

The authors wish to thank Senior Lecturer Merete Ruud at the
Norwegian Military Academy for valuable help with the language of this work.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent
any official position held by the Norwegian Armed Forces.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational

Research Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 37-51, June 2017

The Framework of an International MBA

Blended Course for Learning About Business
Through the Cinema

Alexander Franco
Stamford International University, Graduate School of Business
Bangkok, Thailand

Abstract. The primary goal of this study was to construct a business

course that allows for the learning of business lessons by watching
selected films. A self-administered questionnaire was utilized to obtain
empirical verification on the reading and film watching habits of a
sample of MBA students at an international university. The results
indicated preference for audio-visual products over reading in order to
obtain information on business. A course was then designed for the
timeframe of a blended course where approximately half of the time
invested by students consists of self-learning at home while the other
half consists of traditional, face-to-face class sessions. A literature review
revealed that the following business topics have been extensively
addressed in the studying of cinema: cross-cultural management, ethics,
entrepreneurship, managerial leadership and lifestyle choices within the
business world. The framework of a course syllabus is presented based
on these five subject areas.

Keywords: Blended course, cinema, cross-cultural management, ethics,

entrepreneurship, managerial leadership, pedagogy, teaching with


The incorporation of media technology into the traditional classroom and into
blended courses has allowed for the use of films to teach lessons regarding
business. This is in addition to the reality that new generations entering higher
education have increasingly come to obtain their knowledge by audio-visual
means as much, if not more so, then through the printed word (Addams, Fan, &
Morgan, 2013; Bates & Poole, 2003; Ballera, Lukandu, & Radwan, 2014; Butler,
Zaromb, Lyle, & Rosediger, 2009; Callender & McDaniel, 2009; Champoux, 1999;
Dunphy & Meyer, 2012; Huczynski & Buchanan, 2004; Jones, 2004; Parker, 2009).

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This study is divided into three parts. The first is an empirical analysis of
reading and film watching patterns of a sample of MBA students. The second
part provides a literature review that explores the subject areas being studied by
those who use or advocate movies to teach lessons about business. The third part
presents the framework for a blended course since such a course structure is
highly conducive to the watching and analysis of films.

Literature Review

Exploring the possibility of using film for educational purposes has occurred
almost since the creation of cinema itself (Hansen, 1933; Sumstine, 1918; Wood &
Freeman, 1929). The body of literature addressing the use or analysis of films to
study particular subjects is large and expanding. Subjects include
communications (Kavan & Burne, 2009; criminology (Rafter & Brown, 2011),
culture (Belton, 2013; Bodnar, 2003), economics (Bookman & Bookman, 2009;
Macy & Terry, 2008; Valentine, Mujumdar, & Elkhal, 2012; Whaples, 2014),
ethics/morality, (Downing & Saxton, 2010; Gillett, 2012; Good, 2008; Kowalski,
2012; Norden, 2007; Shaw, 2012), history (Carnes, Mico, & Miller-Monzon, 1996;
Hughes-Warrington, 2007; Marcus, 2007; Marcus, Metzger, Paxton, & Stoddard,
2010; OConnor, 1987; Smyth, 2006; Toplin, 1996), human development (Harper
& Rogers, 1999), international relations (Engert & Spencer, 2009), journalism
(Ehrlich, 2004; Good, 2008); law (Bergman & Asimow, 1996; Greenfield, Osborn,
& Robson, 2001; Huang, 2008), mathematics (Borko & Pittman, 2008; Polster &
Ross, 2012), philosophy (Cox & Levine, 2012; Falzon, 2002; Gilmore, 2005;
Livingston & Plantinga, 2009), psychology (Anderson, 1992; Bolt, 1976; Hyler &
Moore, 1996; Nissim-Sabat, 1979; Young, 2012), religion (Marsh, 2007; Marsh &
Ortiz, 1998; Watkins, 2008), social issues (Benshoff & Griffin, 2009; Russell, 2009),
and strategy (Huczynski, 1994).

A more direct body of literature focuses specifically on the use of cinema to

teach lessons regarding business. A review found five major subject areas in the

1. Cross-cultural managerial issues (Briam, 2010; Cardon, 2010; Filby, 2010;

Mallinger & Rossy, 2003; Pandey, 2012; Roell, 2010; Summerfield, 1993;
Verluyten, 2008).

2. Business ethics (Arsenault, 1998; Belden, 1992; Berger & Pratt, 1998; Chan,
Weber, & Johnson, 1995; Dunphy, 2011, 2013; Dyl, 1991; Higgins & Striegel, 2003;
Kester, 2013; Kester, Cooper, Dean, Gianiodis & Goldsby, 2012; Teays, 2015).

3. Entrepreneurship (Eikhof, Summers, & Carter, 2013; Hang & van Weezel,
2015; Higgins & Striegel, 2003; Llander, 2010; van Gelderen & Verduyn, 2003;
Zampetakis, Lerakis, Kafetsios, & Moutakis, 2015).

4. Managerial leadership (Ambrosini, Billsberry, & Collier, 2008; Bumpus, 2005;

Carringer, 1985; Champoux, 2000; Clements & Wolff, 1999; Coupe & Sansolo,
2010; DiSibio, 2006; Dunphy, 2007; Dunphy, Meyer, & Linton, 2008; Serey, 1992).

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5. Lifestyle choices within the business world (Coupe & Sansolo, 2010; Frymer,
Kashani, Nocella, & Heertum, 2010; Levinson, 2012; Naremore, 2004; Shugan,
2006; Theberge, 1981; Thomas & LeShay, 1992; Younkins, 2014).

Based on this information, a determination was made to create a course that

chose films that addressed the topics listed above. The construction of the course
is presented after the section on the research design and findings.

Research Design and Findings

A self-administered questionnaire (closed-ended questions with a Likert scale

construct) was utilized to determine the frequency of book reading and film
watching by MBA students as well as their preference for using audio-visual
products (in this case, films) over reading in order to understand principles and
practices of business. Cronbachs alpha reliability scores ranged from .80 to .91,
thus indicating sufficient reliability (DeVellis, 1991; Tavakol & Dennick, 2011) As
per Krejcie & Morgans (1970) table for determining sample size, 212 students
were chosen from a population of 470 students in an MBA program at an
international university. 97 of the sample were male (46%) and 115 were female
(54%). All the respondents were students in MBA classes taught in English and
their English proficiency levels were sufficient to answer the questionnaire.

Table 1: Frequency of reading books* (What was the last time you finished reading a complete book?)
Period of Time Male (#) Male (%) Female (#) Female (%)
A week ago 1 1 0 0

A month ago 4 4 3 2

3 months ago 12 12 9 8

Greater than 3 months 80 83 103 90

Total 97 100% 115 100%
*Books are defined as non-comic or graphic novel and would include a textbook if the entire
contents (i.e., all chapters) were read.

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Table 2: Frequency of watching films* (What was the last time you finished watching a complete film?)
Period of Time Male (#) Male (%) Female (#) Female (%)
A week ago 28 29 21 18

A month ago 68 70 90 79

3 months ago 1 1 4 3

Greater than 3 months 0 0 0 0

Total 97 100% 115 100%
*Films are defined as a full-length film, excluding documentaries or television programs.

A comparison of Table 1 with Table 2 indicates dramatic differences in terms of

frequencies in behavior. Though the implications of this comparison are valid for
this study and for an argument in favor of using films to teach business lessons,
the comparison is limited in terms of the time commitment between watching a
film (which is usually between 1 to 2 hours) and reading an average length
book (which takes much longer with more concentration). Table 3 shows a
majority preferring an audio-visual product over a book with about one-quarter
expressing uncertainty due to lack of exposure to a blended course. All three
tables indicate no significant differences based on gender. No generational gap
existed within the respondents since the ages ranged from 22 to 31, with 25.5 as
the calculated mean age.

Table 3: Preference of Films Over Books (Would you prefer watching a film over reading a book in
order to learn lessons about the business world?)
Preference Male (#) Male (%) Female (#) Female (%)
Yes 63 65 66 57

No 12 12 19 17

Not sure 22 23 30 26

Total 97 100% 115 100%

Construction of the Course

This study chose the timeframe of a blended (or hybrid) course. Blended courses,
which are growing in popularity around the world, are designed wherein an
equal portion of the face-to-face time spent in the traditional classroom between
the teacher and the student is allocated with web-based, online resources, and
other technologies for learning at home and preparing for face-to-face sessions
(Arbaugh 2010; Bicen, Ozdamli, & Uzunboylu, 2012; Bleed, 2001; Carre, 2015;
Garrison & Kanuka, 2004; Garrison & Vaughan, 2008; Hew & Cheung, 2014;
Keengwe & Agamba, 2014; McGee & Reis, 2012; Tseng & Walsh,

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2016). The goal is to provide for more effective and efficient learning by
providing for more adaptive and personalized instruction that is customized to
suit the learning style, speed, and capabilities of the learner and to encourage
greater interactive participation so that the learner encounters a more
meaningful learning experience (Bonk & Graham, 2006; Cho & Cho, 2014; Lim &
Morris, 2009; Tseng & Walsh, 2016; Woo & Reeves, 2007).

The construct of a blended course poses a significant pedagogical challenge since

a blended format is neither exclusively distance learning nor traditional in its
approach (Carre, 2015; Dziuban, Hartman, & Moskal, 2004). The ultimate goal is
in creating a hybridization that improves student success and learning over a
non-blended approach while addressing the challenges of time management
through non-classroom study, the mistaken expectation that less class time
means less work, and the possibility that students may disengage within the
blended structure (Fairchild, 2015).

A blended course within the timeframe of five weeks (six hours on five different
Saturday, face-to-face classes) was used for the development of this course. This
is based on the blended course structure in the international university whose
MBA population was surveyed in this study. (Note, however, that flexibility
exists for a similar blended course that is not as concentrated in time, say, for
example, eight weeks.) Two films would be assigned for each week: one to be
viewed and analyzed at home (with a discussion in the morning session of the
Saturday class) and a second to be viewed and analyzed in the afternoon session
of the face-to-face Saturday class. A paper, answering specific questions
germane for each specific film, would be required. Grading would consist of
these papers (totaling ten) as well as class participation in the face-to-face
discussions. This ensures that students will learn from the cinema world while
also improving their writing and speaking communication skills. Each film is
linked to specific scholarly articles that are to be read and referred to in the
respective papers.

Selection of the films chosen was based on the following criteria:

Only feature films were selected and not documentaries since both have
distinct differences as to style and approach. Films convey ideas subtlety
through fictional story lines and characters that provide escape;
documentaries are direct and formal.

Three films would be available for each of the following five subject areas
chosen as result of the literature review: cross-cultural managerial issues,
business ethics, entrepreneurship, managerial leadership, and lifestyle
choices within the business world.

The instructor would choose the movie, in each subject area, that will be
shown in the face-to-face portion of the weekly session; students would
be allowed to choose from one of the two other movies to view and
analyze at home.

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The films chosen are limited to about two hours each to make them more
manageable as to viewing and analyzing at home and to allow for
sufficient discussion time during the Saturday afternoon, face-to-face

Films that minimize profanity and adult content were chosen to conform to
school standards and to student sensitivities. Using this criterion, for
example, the film Wall Street (1987) was chosen over The Wolf of Wall Street
(2013) which re-defined the word gratuitous. Moral considerations over
learning from organized crime personalities exempted the Godfather movie
trilogy (1972, 1974 and 1990) and films such as Scarface (1983) and American
Gangster (2007), to cite a few examples.

Films were chosen from the rich span of cinematic history despite the
perception by many contemporary students that black-and-white films
belong in a museum.

Films were chosen, as much as possible, with a storyline directly relating

to the world of business. However, two exceptions exist in this list:
Twelve Angry Men (1957) and Thirteen Days (2000) because of their
exceptional examples of leadership that can be applied in the business

The researchers viewing and examination of forty-five films resulted in the

following movies being chosen for the course:

Cross-cultural managerial issues:

1. Gung Ho (1986)
2. Lost in Translation (2003)
3. Outsourced (2006)

Gung Ho (1986) involves the clash of two corporate cultures when a Japanese
corporation purchases an auto manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania. Lost in
Translation (2003) portrays an aging actor from the United States who goes to
promote a whisky brand in Japan and becomes a stranger in a foreign land.
Outsourced (2006) deals with an American novelty products salesman who goes
to India to manage an office after his department is outsourced to that country.

Business ethics:
1. Wall Street (1987)
2. The Insider (1999)
3. Margin Call (2011)

In Wall Street (1987), an ambitious stockbroker falls under the influence of an

unscrupulous corporate raider. The Insider (1999) portrays the struggles of a
whistleblower against Big Tobacco and a CBS news producers attempt to
reveal the whistleblowers expos on the 60 Minutes news

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show. Margin Call (2011) focuses on the desperate actions of a group of

employees in a Wall Street investment bank as the bank faces economic collapse
during the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008.

1. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
2. Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)
3. The Founder (2016)

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) depicts the behavior of four real estate salesmen who
are pressured by their corporate office to meet their sales quota at all costs.
Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) portrays the struggles of entrepreneur
Preston Tucker to create and market the 1948 Tucker Sedan. The Founder (2016)
presents the story of how Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds, built the company
into a multinational, billion-dollar franchise empire through creativity, ambition,
persistence, and a degree of ruthlessness.

Managerial leadership:
1. Executive Suite (1954)
2. Twelve Angry Men (original 1957 version)
3. Thirteen Days (2000)

Executive Suite (1954) depicts the inner struggle for executive control of a
furniture company after the president unexpectedly dies. Twelve Angry Men
(1957) deals with twelve jurors deciding on a case. The film demonstrates skills
of leadership, communication and consensus building. Thirteen Days (2000)
recalls the leadership and decision-making challenges of the Kennedy brothers
as they explored and analyzed different recommendations to deal with the
Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Lifestyle choices within the business world:

1. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)
2. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
3. Up in the Air (2009)

In The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), a businessman in post-World War II
America struggles to find a balance between his career and his family. The Devil
Wear Prada (2006) depicts a recent college graduate whose life is consumed in
working for the demanding editor of a fashion magazine. Up in the Air (2009)
focuses on a corporate downsizer who re-examines his philosophy of isolation
and non-commitment.

Samples of Analytical Questions

Each movie would have questions that are specific to the context of that
particular film. Students would be required to answer the questions, in writing,
while also referring to specific scholarly material related to the subject matter.

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


For example, questions and references for the film The Insider (1999) would

Executives at Brown & Williamson could have made an argument to themselves

and others that nondisclosure of information was in the best interest of the
company and its shareholders. Can an ethical argument be made that they were
protecting company jobs and assets?

Jeffrey Wigand did become a whistleblower, but he only became one after he was
fired. In your opinion, does this make any difference? Is he a hero to you? Why
or why not?

You have a nice job with very good compensation and you have a future in your
company. However, you are convinced that company activities are harming
people in some significant way (e.g., exposing the environment to some toxicity).
Would you whistle blow if no one in the company responded to your concerns?
Why or why not?

There are two other major characters in the movie beside Jeffrey Wigand: Lowell
Bergman and Mike Wallace, both within CBS. What is your opinion about these
two characters? Do you think that CBS acted in an ethical matter when they
decided to edit out Wigands interview from the original 60 Minutes broadcast?

Did this film affect you emotionally in any significant way? If yes, how so and

What did you learn from this film? How could you apply the new knowledge
from this film to your life and career?

The references for the film are below:

1. Lennane, J. (2012). What happens to whistleblowers, and why? Social Medicine

6(4), 249- 258.

2. Near, J. P., & Miceli, M. (2016). After the wrongdoing: What managers should
know about whistleblowing. Business Horizons 59(1), 105-114.

3. OSullivan, P., & Ola, N. (2014). Whistleblowing: A critical philosophical

analysis of the component moral decisions of the act and some new
perspectives on its moral significance. Business Ethics A European Review
23(4), 401-415.

4. Van Es, R. (2003). Inside and outside The Insider: A film workshop in
practical ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 48(1), 89-97.

5. Whistleblowing: The inside story. A study of the experiences of 1000 whistleblowers.

(2013). London: University of Greenwich & Public Concern at Work.

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Conclusions and Suggestions for Future Research

Films can serve as a pedagogical tool to bring subjects alive and to provide for a
rich context of analysis by way of well-written scripts with good characters, and
good acting. The use of film, along with other media, is particularly useful for
blended courses which are structured for
significant commitment by the student as to self-study. While a student in
another blended course may decide not to fulfill reading assignments, a student
in the course developed for this study cannot forsake viewing and analyzing
films at home or in class since this task affects the bulk of the course grade. Time
management is structured and maintained by requiring a series of papers to be
written (in this case, two per week). Discussion of films during the face-to-face
sessions primarily would be in the form of elicitation of commentary rather than
reliance on commentary that is made voluntarily. This provides for further
incentive to carefully watch a film.

Hybridization through the blended course format, as a progenitor of

transformation, is seen as a significant pedagogical innovation of the 21st century
(Bates & Sangra, 2011). However, it is also perceived as a dangerous idea
(Moskal, Dziuban, & Hartman, 2013; Seife, 2000) in its potentially monumental
challenge of the status quo and the consequential expectations of increased
student performance and positive institutional transformation with its

Because of the stakes involved, future research should monitor the gradual
implementation of blending courses in order to assess the perceptions and
experience of students and the level of learning motivation as well as learning
outcomes and achievement (Owston, York, & Murtha, 2013; Tseng & Walsh,
2016). In addition, purposive designs of blended courses should be based on a
learning partnership built on an iterative process of reflective practice and post-
intervention, leading to continuous improvement (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta,
2000; McDonald, Straker, Schlumpf, & Plack, 2014; Owston, York, & Murtha,
2013; Tseng & Walsh, 2016; Vaughn, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison, 2013).

Following the implementation of the blended course proposed in this study, its
impact should be empirically assessed as to factors such as student perception,
experience, and overall academic outcomes. A meta-analysis of over one million
students by Moskal, Dzuban and Hartman (2013) indicated that improved
student satisfaction and learning success were vital for the continued adoption
and implementation of blended courses. Empirical verification of enacted hybrid
courses, by way of an iterative framework, can allow instructors to facilitate
learning and improve their communication skills.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 52-63, June 2017

Learning Through Play in Speed School, an

International Accelerated Learning Program

Susan Rauchwerk
Lesley University
Cambridge, Mssachusetts, USA

Abstract. This paper documents how play serves as a foundation for

learning in Speed School, an accelerated learning program initiative of
the Luminos fund. Speed school provides three years of primary
education, grades 1-3, through an intensive ten-month program for out-
of- school children between the ages of eight and fourteen who have
never attended or who have dropped out of school, living in rural or
remote areas of Ethiopia and Liberia. Literature was reviewed using a
narrative review of Speed School program evaluations conducted by the
University of Sussex, and literature on play pedagogy to identify search
terms. Key strengths of the Speed School pedagogy implemented
through playgroup work, questioning, hands-on materials,
demonstration and explanation, use of native tongue, and flexible
planningsupport social constructivism. Speed School facilitators and
learning environments that promote constructivist play pedagogy are
discussed. Knowledge acquisition, relationships, social engagement,
testing out ideas, and skills building are identified as outcomes from the
incorporation of play pedagogy in speed school. The paper concludes
by highlighting how play pedagogy in Speed School contributes to the
development of life-long learning.

Keywords: accelerated learning, speed school, play pedagogy, activity-

based learning, Ethiopia education

Kkalama helps the other children in her group draw the hop-scotch spaces
using only multiples of three as the teacher instructed. She hums the counting
song she learned yesterday and tosses her rock which lands on the number 12.
She hops while her group excitedly shouts 3, 6, 9, 12! Firew, the student
recorder, asks how many spaces it took to get to 12. Together they count 4, and
Firew scratches 3x4=12 in the dirt. Simhal is next, it lands on 21, and they start
the process over. In the distance Kkalamas hears her brother Abush count 5, 10,
15, 20 as he jumps rope with another group across the yard. She helped him
practice at home last night, will he make it to 100?
Kkalama and her classmates are participating in Ethiopia Speed School, an
accelerated learning program for out-of- school children between the ages of
eight and fourteen, living in rural or remote areas of Ethiopia, who have never
attended or who have dropped out of school. Students cover the first three years

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


of the national curriculum in just ten months, and prepare to rejoin government
schools at the third or fourth grade level. In this model, students spend a good
portion of each day moving through the curriculum independent of the teacher,
playing games designed to encourage collaboration and stimulate learning
through both the mind and the body. Speed School leverages successes from
other accelerated learning models (Longden, 2013, Stansbury, 2001, Westbrook,
et al., 2013) and supplements the academic module with parent and community
engagement groups that catalyze long term support for their childrens
Speed School refers to an accelerated learning program funded by the
Liminos fund which is Managed by Geneva Global. Faculty in the Center for
International Education at the University of Sussex serve as the evaluators for
this project. At the time of this review, University of Sussex reports focused only
on Ethiopia Speed Schools where 85% of the more than 100,000 Speed School
children have transitioned to, and remained in Ethiopia government schools.
(Legatum Foundation, 2006-2017).
This paper provides background on schooling in Ethiopia, a brief overview
of Speed School success, and closely considers the impacts of play and play
pedagogy within the Speed School curriculum.

Ethiopian Government Schools

Public education in Ethiopia is free, but education is not compensatory. Families
must pay about $10/year for uniforms, books, pencils and paper, which can be
prohibitive for impoverished families. Print material is limited, and many
teachers and students work without any texts. Text books are now available for
download from the Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MOE) website, but only
1.5% of the population currently use the internet. Student workbooks and
readers have not been translated into mother tongue. School proximity, access
to fresh water and sanitary facilities, teacher quality and parental support vary
greatly in government run schools.
Primary school is taught in two phases: functional literacy in grades 1-4 and
general education in grades 5-8. Children ages 6-14 are expected to attend
primary school and generally enter school between the ages of 6 and 9. There is
a national curriculum with established minimum learning competencies (MLCs)
for grades 1-4 in literacy skills, Amharic, English, environmental science, and
mathematics that all public, private and alternative schools in Ethiopia must
follow. Primary school is taught in the mother tongue (local native language).
Children begin to learn English in first grade and Amharic in third. English is
the medium of instruction for grade 9 and above.
Official class size in Ethiopia is 50, but average class size is closer to 70, and 100
is not unusual. In many regions, school is taught for 3-4 hours a day in two
shifts. Government policy recommends a longer school day, but teacher
shortages, teacher absenteeism, and a lack of structure and accountability result
in large classes and academics for less than 6 hours a day in most schools.
Enrollment in school at age 7 is as high as 100%, but 8th grade completion
rates are as low as 41%. Corruption, corporal punishment, discrimination by
gender, ability, minority and financial status, are not unusual. Corporal
punishment is prohibited, but is still widespread due to cultural beliefs and lack

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


of systems for documentation or enforcement. Child labor, particularly in rural

agrarian communities, contributes to school drop-out at all ages. Retention rates
are lower overall for girls, and lower in rural schools. In Ethiopia over 3 million
children do not attend school, or have had to drop out of school.
Instructional delivery in Ethiopian government schools is traditional, where
teachers talk and children listen, write and recite. Every year children take a
promotion exam. In addition to the government issued MLCs, children are
assessed in mother tongue literacy, visual arts and/or physical education. There
is a national exam given in grade 8 to determine whether children may pass on
to secondary school. If they do not pass after their first attempt, they repeat year
8. Failure after their second attempt means they can no longer attend a
government school. 80% of students who take the 8th grade exam pass on to
secondary school (Gebreselassie, 2012; All Our Children, n.d.; Ethiopia Speed
School Fund, 2015. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Ministry of
Education, 2016.; Legatum Foundation, 2006-2017; National Association of
Foreign Student Advisors, 2012; Roots Ethiopia, 2012; Save the Children Sweden
Ethiopia Program, 2011). USAID, AIR, TELL, 2012).

Speed School Success

Concluding statements in the University of Sussex report entitled Research
into the Speed School Curriculum and Pedagogy in Ethiopia noted that The
whole experience over the ten months appears to create learners who are not only
reflexive but autonomous and resilient, having learnt how to learn over the ten months
of their immersion in the Speed School. In knowing how to process and make creative
and intellectual use of new concepts learnt, and how to problem- solve and work
collaboratively in groups, graduates are well set up to succeed in the contrasting
classrooms and social environment of the Link School when they integrate. (University
of Sussex, 2016a, p.25). This powerful statement is supported by data that
includes reviewer observations of Speed School classrooms. The Ethiopian
Speed School model of small class size, student engagement and collaboration
sits in stark contrast to more traditional classrooms where large class sizes,
teacher absenteeism, and chalk and talk pedagogy lead to many children
dropping out of school.
Speed School children come from impoverished, often illiterate families, and
their education may have been disrupted or absent due to family needs and
values. Because of the persistent, pernicious belief that without basics early on in
life, the rest of the curriculum is inaccessible, Speed School children are
considered among the least educable by local teachers and school administrators
(Pritchett & Beatty, 2012). This model re-conceptualizes who can learn and why.
Facilitators accept the premise that ALL children can learn. Training utilizes
current pedagogies that encourage students to interact in small groups.
Teaching and learning are fluid, allowing students to learn from the teacher,
local experts, community members and peers. Rather than focusing on
memorization and recitation, Speed School teaches skills that encourage the
development of thinking, and acquisition of new knowledge and skills.
(University of Sussex, 2016a). It is because of what I learned in Speed School that I can
read better and know how to study. It helps me to have confidence in my academic
performance, which I did not have previously. (University of Sussex, 2016b, p.77.).

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The Speed School curriculum uses the same Ethiopian government textbooks
and Minimum Learning Competencies (MLCs) for grades 1-3 in literacy skills,
Amharic, English, environmental science, and mathematics that are used in
traditional government classrooms. Yet, Speed School graduates comprehension
and aptitude levels are much higher than peers in government schools. Speed
School graduates exceed their government school peers on placement exams.
Ethiopia woreda (district) and kebele (neighborhood) officials, school principals,
and even the students themselves recognize this, highlighting greater
motivation, better attendance, classroom participation, and good behavior as
contributing to their success (University of Sussex, 2016b).

This paper uses a narrative literature review. Speed School evaluation reports
written by the Centre for International Education at the University of Sussex,
United Kingdom, and research on the role of play in learning were reviewed.
Search criteria were developed based on a critical review of the documented
teaching practices and learning outcomes articulated in Speed School program
evaluations, as well as research about learning through play and primary
research on play-based learning. Search criteria focused on play in an academic
setting, including social/emotional and cognitive learning in relation to learning
standards and expectations. Criteria such as play pedagogy, play-based
learning, playful learning, play and learning, and learning through play formed
the nexus. Play referring to recess, sports, athletics, fitness, and outdoor group
games were excluded. Literature that provide a foundation for understanding
the Speed School learning model were identified using the same narrative
review process. Search criteria included accelerated learning, educational
development programs. sub-Saharan Africa education, out-of-school children,
Ethiopia education, indigenous learning, and youth at risk. Learning outcomes
related to self-help and social capital were not examined. Qualitative analysis of
evaluation reports, empirical research about play, and accelerated learning
programs for at-risk youth resulted in the identification of four key topics that
are discussed; what play looks like; talk, movement, and materials. The study is
intended to provide a clear look at the structures and outcomes of Speed School
that relate to play in the context of current research. The scope of the study is
limited as it does not look at research that disputes the effectiveness of the
model, or of play as a pedagogy.

Speed School Approach

Analysis of Speed School classroom observations revealed that facilitators
emphasize learning through group activities and processing skills. They develop
lessons that use a wide range of learning resources and activities within and
outside the classroom, keeping lessons lively and engaging. Classroom
observations and interviews provide evidence that facilitators support students
sense of belonging to a learning community both in school and at home.
Facilitators meet students where they are, relying upon social interactions and
local resources that are both contextual and relevant. (University of Sussex, 2015,
2016a). Independent work and small group instruction rich in play and
discourse sit in stark contrast to the current Ethiopian government classrooms

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where 60-100 children learn through lecture and drills. Speed School facilitators
serve as the primary teacher for small classes of 25 students, allowing for
individual attention and follow up (University of Sussex, 2016b). In Speed
School, communicative strategies are embedded within the interactive
pedagogic practices that include group work, questioning, teaching resources,
using a local language as medium of instruction, lesson planning, and sound

Even in the hands of less experienced teachers, pupils engage with the content
through a variety of activities that include social interactions, ensuring that
learning far more likely to take place. An Ethiopian student who successfully
transitioned from Speed School to the local government articulated how these
multiple modalities supported her learning. The difference between Speed School
classes and here [government school] is in the Speed School we learn and re-learn the
points until all of us understand... the teacher explains but [in government schools] there
are teachers who simply write notes and do not explain (University of Sussex, 2016b,
p. 90). In addition to the 21day training prior to the start of the ten-month
program, facilitators receive professional development, ongoing supervision,
and evaluation, factors known to be critical supports in teacher preparation
(Beare, Marshall, Torgerson, Tracz, & Chiero, 2012). This model translates
directly to student success (University of Sussex, 2015).

Facilitator (Teacher) Training

Research strongly suggests that a combination of intensive and principled
teacher training and pedagogic structure enables Speed School students to
access the curriculum and achieve high levels of attainment by the end of the ten
months (University of Sussex, 2016a). Speed school facilitators are not
government-certified teachers. They are tenth grade completers, recruited from
each local community to attend an intensive, 21-day training equivalent to three
college-level teaching courses. The content of the facilitator training focuses on
language and literacy development and mathematics, critical elements of early
learning (Ball & Forzani, 2010; Foorman & Torgesen, 2001). Inquiry, discussion,
practice, and collaboration are emphasized as well. Facilitators review teaching
strategies and curricula, ask questions, practice teach, and build content
knowledge and skills (Pang & Ling, 2010) through activities and lessons that
include flash cards, movement, singing, small group discussions, hands- on
investigations, activity-based learning, community engagement, authentic
materials, and indoor/outdoor play. In small groups, facilitators learn how to
help students become active, independent learners and problem solvers,
mirroring the pedagogical frameworks they are expected to apply in their
classrooms (Dinsmore & Wenger, 2006). Westbrook et al., (2013) found that
when teachers formed more positive attitudes towards their pupils and the
pedagogy promoted in their training, they were more likely to use three
important communicative strategies: paying inclusive attention and giving
feedback; creating a safe learning environment; drawing on pupils

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Play as Pedagogy
A pedagogy of play is central to the Speed School curriculum, evolving in
sophistication as children move through grade levels in months rather than
years. For example, in a grade one lesson on numeracy, children learn how to
follow directions and work with others while playing counting and sorting
games with natural objects. By grade two, children engage in discourse and
argumentation through ball-tossing games that teach multi-digit operations and
probability. In grade three, students might construct tools and toys that illustrate
fractions, multiples, or relative events over time. In the process of designing and
building these objects, students learn to analyze reflect, and revise. Play is
essential to the success of the Speed School model at all levels, providing a
framework for cohesive learning experiences and inspiring creativity, risk-
taking, and initiative. With a focus on small group play, students not only catch
up on their basic skills, they become proficient learners (University of Sussex,
2016a; Mardell et al., 2016). The power of this approach is illustrated through
this students comment; We were learning like playing and the things we learned as
play have remained inside us like heritage. (University of Sussex, 2016b, p. 76).
Play conjures up images of children using toys to create and tell stories,
running, laughing, negotiating rules, etc. We see it as tactile and kinesthetic, and
synonymous with exuberance and creativity. Play is usually associated with free
time rather than school, however research shows that play paves the way for
learning, leading to cognitive and social maturity. When there are other children
to play with and adults who can encourage and guide children to play
effectively with each other, play inspires and even drives learning (Bodrova &
Leong, 2010; Smith, 2009). Play as a medium for learning promotes foundational
skills, making it possible for children to achieve higher levels of mastery of
specific academic content (Bodroba & Leong, 2010). Collaborative play builds
cross-curricular knowledge and skills by making the most of students
backgrounds, promoting a safe learning environment and encouraging
inclusiveness and constructive feedback.
In Speed Schools, play is a platform for communication between teachers and
students where teachers actively draw upon students life experiences and
promote an environment where students feel safe and supported, ultimately
leading to positive student outcomes. Play provides a pedagogical framework
(Baker, et al., 2016) that shapes both the social structure and content delivery
within the Speed School classroom. Classrooms are interactive, and learning is a
process rather than an outcome (Krug, 2011). In Speed Schools, the
student/teacher paradigm shifts from authoritative to collaborative, from
teacher- centered to student-focused. Speed School facilitators emphasize how
learning happens and are shaped by their own experiences and understanding
of the teaching and learning process. Communication with students is the
priority, and play is at the center of that communication (University of Sussex,

Pay in The Speed School Classroom

What Play Looks Like
Play takes many forms, and elements of play are most commonly integrated
within and across an activity, stimulating physical, social, emotional, and

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intellectual learning. Facilitators present the same concept through many

different forms and activities, using a variety of real objects, body movement,
and analogies. Students are encouraged to work together, and it is common for
children to learn from one another. We work in a group when there are points not
clear for me I learn from my friends too We show and compare what we do and these
helped me to understand what we learn. (University of Sussex, 2016b, p. 76).
Students process compelling questions through activities that employ flash
cards, pictures, natural objects, toys, and music to illustrate concepts. Exposure
to content through multiple modalities enables students to create multiple
associations with familiar materials in their communities and the use of their
own body. Play allows students to personalize content understandings (Bodrova
& Leong, 2010; NAEYC, 2012; Smith, 2009; Thomas et al,.2011).
The University of Sussex (2016a) cites a Speed School lesson on Sources of
Power that illustrates the many forms of play in the classroom. The facilitator
gave out group discussion questions, and allocated different content to each
group by asking the music group to focus on natural sources of power, the
card group on electricity, the game group on liquid fuels, and the handcraft
group on solar power. Observations showed that students were very engaged
with the group activity. The level of noise varied with the task in hand, and the
facilitator understood that the boisterous talk, inspired by the manipulation of
materials and social interactions, was productive and supported learning. While
enhanced student cognition is key, changes in confidence, participation, values,
and social indicators such as teacher-student interaction, inclusion, higher
student attendance, and stakeholder satisfaction are also outcomes associated
with play pedagogy. (Westbrook, et al., 2013). Talk, movement, materials and
social engagement provide unique platforms for the incorporation of play within
the curriculum.

In Speed School, using the learners first language and familiar context
provide cultural relevance and encourage questions and critical dialogue with
peers and teachers. Talk is rich and deep when play is at the center of a balanced
curriculum. Speaking or presenting in front of a group builds self-esteem and
confidence (Heckman & Rubinstein, 2001). Structuring lessons around games
and activities in small and large groups generate social interactions and helps
students build communication skills. In the process of developing a skit, song,
dance, or story, students learn to think, explain, and reflect. As differences of
opinion arise, they negotiate, building interpersonal skills, and learn how to
substantiate their claims with evidence.
Sharing reflections, discussing ideas, asking questions, brainstorming,
presenting, and responding are all ways in which facilitators generate student
talk through play scenarios. Speed school teachers allow freedom of expression
and tolerate levels of noise and movement, encouraging active participation of
students in the teaching and learning process (University of Sussex, 2016a).

Physical play stimulates learning through multiple modalities which, in turn,
helps to deepen and codify understanding (Cutter-Mackenzie & Edwards, 2013;
Thomas, Warren & deVries, 2011). The Speed School program encourages

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students to interact with and learn from people and the environment around
their school.
Working with tools or artifacts such as soil samples or stalks of corn; exploring a
local farm, blacksmith, potter, or market; playing with toys they construct from
found materials; and dancing and singing as they recite numbers or phrases are
some of the ways Speed School incorporates movement. Even a simple activity
such as flash cards require students to engage different cognitive pathways to
express and process knowledge. Working with peers, community members, or
text to verify the information that goes on each card; the physical act of writing
and drawing on the card; learning to read the card and respond to the prompt;
singing or acting out what is on the card; and taking turns to respond all
stimulate physical and cognitive processes that use and generate memory in the
mind and body (NAEYC, 2012).

While the government textbook is the sole reference point for the Speed
School curriculum, facilitators adapt the content for play pedagogy; local
materials such as clay, stones, and treesas well as chalk and paper are used
regularly to augment learning and make it meaningful (Westbrook, et al., 2013).
One Speed School facilitator links learning to many concrete real life examples in
the local environment, taking students outside to use the open space and maize
stems, and presenting the material in an alternative form for students with
special educational needs (University of Sussex, 2016a). Children learn naturally
from interacting with materials, and exploring and playing with everyday
objects leads to flexible and sophisticated thinkers (Gopnick, 2012). Tactile and
kinesthetic learning increases student understanding, and playing with these
materials whether through manipulation, interaction, or construction
increases learning opportunities (Klebanoff, 2009).

In Speed Schools, play serves as a foundation for learning. Ethiopian
government teachers and school officials recognize that Speed School pedagogy
is better at providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to
succeed. (University of Sussex, 2016b, p. 76). Through classroom talk, physical
movement, hands-on materials and social engagement with classroom
facilitators/teacher, peers and community members, Speed School students
acquire the skills and dispositions of life-long learners. Not only does this
enable them to succeed within the Speed School model, but positions them to
succeed and even excel in the more standardized learning environments of
Ethiopian government schools.
Practices described by the University of Sussex as the key strengths of the
Speed School pedagogygroup work, questioning, hands-on materials,
demonstration and explanation, use of native tongue, and flexible planning
illustrate how the pedagogy of play also supports social constructivism
(University of Sussex, 2016a). The student- centered learning environment of
Speed School encourages peer-to-peer learning. Speed School students learn in
classrooms where facilitators/teachers take on more democratic and less
authoritative role. Learning from facilitators who are from their own

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communities, and who share the same language and culture make the culture of
play more accessible to both facilitators and students. Constructivist play
pedagogy encourages students to test out ideas and build skills that form and
maintain quality relationships, resulting in a commitment to social engagement
and learning (Burriss & Burriss, 2011). Despite the lack of more formalized
teacher training, facilitators are able to establish opportunities for social
interactions which, in turn, makes learning more accessible to students.
(University of Sussex 2016a, p.3).
Individual and group play focused on problem solving and project work
stimulate more complex thinking and processing than listening to a lecture or
reciting text (WISE Channel, 2015). As children interactwhether in agreement,
discussion, or argumentationchildren engage in social interactions that
traditional approaches and settings rarely achieve (Westbrook, et al., 2013).
Many forms of play require social interactions which, in turn, provide students
both the opportunity and the time to engage, think, and rethink. Play enables
children to make connections to units of study, encourages social nature of
learning, and invites transfer of knowledge from life to classroom and vice versa
(Mardell et al., 2016). Children are experts at play. Starting in infancy, they
naturally interact with the world and others through play (Smith, 2009). Speed
school takes advantage of this innate skill, helping students become active,
independent learners and problem solvers through hands-on, interactive
activities, games, and toys. Rather than passively sitting and receiving
information, students develop games, toys, and activities that serve as both
assessments for student understanding and as a resource for further learning. In
the process, students transfer new knowledge into a different medium, enabling
visualization, and relate meaningfully and creatively to abstract concepts
through active participation. By incorporating play, Speed School facilitators
help learners to engage in complex thinking and manipulate concepts on
multiple levels. Play encourages students to construct knowledge rather than
memorize facts (University of Sussex, 2016a).
This report shows how play serves as an important pedagogical approach to
learning in Speed School. The incorporation of play across the curriculum fosters
the development of independent learning that can contribute to students long-
term academic success.

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


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2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 64-79, June 2017

A Development of Students Worksheet

Based on Contextual Teaching and Learning

Batanghari University, Indonesia

Abstract. This research is aimed at developing the students worksheet

to determine the quality of validity and practicality aspects based on
experts assessment of materials, experts design, media specialists, an
individual assessment of students testing, a small group assessment of
students trial, and a field trials assessment of students. This study is
adapted from the development of ADDIE model which consists of 5
stages: 1) Analysis, 2) design, 3) Development, 4) Implementation, and
5) evaluation. The results showed that the quality of students' worksheet
of mathematics on materials of factorization in algebra-based on
Contextual Teaching and Learning basically on the assessment of: 1) the
experts of subject materials is obtained a total average of 3.81 is
included in the category of "Good" or scored 76.2 % which is included in
the category of "Very Decent", 2) the experts design is obtained a total
average of 3.62 which is included in the category of "Good" or scored
72.4% which is included in the category "Decent", 3) the experts of
media is obtained scored 4:43 which is included in the category of
"Good" or scored 88.6% which is in the category of "Very Decent".
Whereas, the assessment by the students is done in three stages: 1) an
individual assessment of students testing is obtained average total of
4.75 which is included in the category of "Very Good" or 95% which is
included in the category of "Very Decent", 2) a small group assessment
of students trial is obtained total average of 4:58 which is included in the
category of "Very Good" or scored 91.6% thus it is included in the
category of "Very Decent", 3) a field trials assessment of students is
obtained a total average of 4:43 which is included in the category of
"Very Good" or scored 88.6% thus it is included in the category of "Very
Decent". Thus mathematics on materials of factorization in algebra-
based on Contextual Teaching and Learning (CTL) is declared valid and
practical so it can be used as the learning equipment of mathematics at
the factorization material algebra.

Keywords: Development, students worksheet, CTL, ADDIE

Mathematics is a subject that is learnt at all levels of education in
Indonesia it is started from primary school level to university level. Through the
study of mathematics, the students will learn how to give reason critically,
creatively and actively. Because mathematics is abstract ideas that contain

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


symbols, so the mathematical concept must be understood first before

manipulating symbols. But many students face some difficulties in learning
mathematics. According to Wittgenstein (Hasratuddin, 2014: 30) mathematics is
a way to find answers to the problems faced by humanity, such as a way to use
the information, using the knowledge of propagating shape and size, using the
knowledge of the counting and the most important thing is thinking about the
inside-self of human being and using its connections. Mathematics is one of the
disciplines that can improve the ability to think and argue, give a great
contribution in solving everyday problems in workplace, as well as to provide
support in the development of science and technology (Susanto, 2013: 185).
The process of learning mathematics in every level of education is very
important, therefore it is necessary to have fun to realize the role of teachers in
the implementation of the learning process to realize the goal of learning
mathematics. To have a fun learning process in the classroom, it is required an
innovative teaching materials. One of the teaching materials used by teachers to
support the learning process is students worksheet.
Students worksheet is one of the printed materials (other than handouts,
modules and books) that can be used in the teaching and learning process.
Through the use of students worksheet, teachers have a chance to lure the
students to actively engage with the material learnt in the classroom (Prastowo,
2015: 399). Students worksheet contains a set of basic activities that must be
performed by students in an effort to maximize the understanding of the
formation of basic capabilities of the students in corresponding indicators of
achievement of learning outcomes that must be taken. Students worksheet is the
efforts of teachers to guide students in a structured way, which the activities are
giving an incentive for the students to learn mathematics. It has already known
that the teachers are required to complete their duties and their roles are no
longer as informants of the knowledge but their roles should be as a motivator in
the process of teaching and learning so that students can construct their own
knowledge through various activities in the learning activities. Through the use
of the students worksheets in the learning process, the students are expected to
learn a subject matter independently.
One of the efforts to improve the students quality in learning
mathematics, the students should improve the quality of learning. According to
Fajar Sadiq (Setiawan, 2010: 1) one of a growing trend of mathematics education
in the world today is the shift in mathematics education from formal shape to its
application, processes of activities, and problem solving in a real situation. In
other words it is a process from deductive to inductive. One of the models that
can be applied to these demands is Contextual Teaching and Learning.
Rusman (2014: 188) states that the core of CTL is the linkage of any
content or subject of learning to real life. To relate CTL could be done in various
ways, as it relates to the factual conditions or a real-life experience. Thus,
Contextual Teaching and Learning will be more attractive in the classroom as
the students perceive the benefits of teaching and learning through Contextual
Teaching and Learning.
With this concept, Contextual Teaching and Learning is a suitable model
when applied in teaching materials of algebra factorization. This is because the
rate of algebra factorization is the material that is associated with the factual

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situation, although in teaching and learning process it is often used as symbols

to represent the factual situation. Similarly, CTL model which is also a concept
of study that links between what is taught in the classroom with the real-world
situations, it is also involving seven major components of effective learning, they
are constructivism, questioning, inquiry, learning community, modeling,
reflection, and authentic assessment.
Based on these problems, the researcher is interested in developing
teaching materials in the form of Student Worksheet which is based on
Contextual Teaching and Learning on the material algebra factorization.
Students Worksheets based on CTL for the material of algebra factorization rate
which corresponds to the characteristics of the students, the social environment
of students, that could enable the students motivation in learning mathematics.
The Students Worksheets which is meant in this study is the development of
teaching materials that is oriented on the appearance of problems related to real
life. Context issues raised must be in accordance with the concept of the material
being studied in the classroom. Context is meant situations or events in
accordance with the concept being studied. The students worksheets which is
based on CTL for the materials of algebra factorization could help students
understand the usefulness of the material of algebra factorization algebra in the
real life.

Research Methodology
This study is a Research and Development (R & D). Sugiyono (2014: 333)
argues that, methods of research and development is the research methods used
to produce a specific product and test the effectiveness of the product. In this
study, the results of the product is in the form of teaching materials in the form
of Students Worksheet (LKS) which is based on Contextual Teaching and
Learning (CTL) on the material of Form Algebra Factoring for Junior High
School students of Grade VIII. The Students Worksheet which is based on the
development of Contextual Teaching and Learning (CTL) on the material of
algebra factorization follows the ADDIE model. ADDIE Model consists of five
steps, namely: (1) analysis, (2) design, (3) development, (4) implementation, (5)

Data And Discussion

1. Data Collection
The Students Worksheet was the result of early development which is
then continues to the validation phase by the experts. The purpose of the
validation phase is to look at the quality of the students worksheet based on the
aspects of validity. At this stage, the students worksheet was validated by two
experts which are expertise on design and one media. These two experts were
provided on comments, suggestions, and assessment of the products.
Comments, suggestions and assessment of subject matter experts, expert design
and media experts were taken as the basis for revising the previous product of
the students worksheet in order to get a better product. The following
explanations and charts the results of the experts valuation and analysis.

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a. The expert of Content

Based on an expert assessment by the overall material the students
worksheet gets a total score of 80 with an average of 3.81 which is included as
Good category. While it is calculated by percentage the students worksheet
gets 76.2% which is included as Sufficient category.

Figure 1: Percentage Rate by Expert of Content on Every Aspect

Based on the chart above it can be seen that the percentage of eligibility
of the students worksheet by the expert of materials there is a highest feasibility
of its material which is percentage to 80% (first rank), the second rank is the
aspect of the precision of the content by with its percentage of 78%, the third
rank is the aspect of the completeness of the component with its percentage of
77.60%, the fourth rank is the aspect of language used in the students worksheet
with its percentage of 75%, and the fifth rank is the aspect of coverage accuracy
of the content by percentage of 70%. The experts results of the assessment on
the materials in all aspects of the assessment are in the category of a Decent
and Very Decent. Based on the results of these assessments, the quality of the
students worksheet materials is declared as Valid.

b. The Expert of Design

Based on the experts assessment the overall design of the students
worksheet gets a total score of 47 with an average of 3.62 which is included as
Good category. While it is calculated by percentage the students worksheet
gets 72.4% which is included as Eligible category to be used as a teaching and
learning material in the classroom.

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Figure 2: Percentage Rate by the Experts of Design in Every Aspect

Based on the above chart it can be seen that the percentage of eligibility
of the students worksheet the highest rank is on the CTL approach aspects, the
aspects of the layout, and the clarity of writing which are equal to 80% and the
lowest rank are in the aspect of layout and the clarity of the text with a
percentage of 70%. The results of the assessment have been done by the design
experts on all aspects of the assessment are in the category of a Decent and
Very Decent. Based on the results of these assessments, the design of the
students worksheet quality is declared as Valid.

c. The Expert of Media

Based on the experts assessment the overall design of the students
worksheet gets a total score of 102 with an average of 4.43 which is included as
Good category. While it is calculated by percentage the students worksheet
gets 88.6% which is included as Very Feasible category to be used as a
teaching and learning material in the classroom.

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Figure 3: Percentage Rate by the Experts of Media in Every Aspect

Based on the chart above it can be seen that the percentage of eligibility
of the students worksheet gets the highest rank in the design aspects of the
display which is equal to 94.2%, the second rank is the aspect of picture quality
with a percentage of 93.4%, the third rank is the aspect of the appearance and the
aspect of completeness of the component by a percentage by 90%, the next rank
with a percentage of 86.67% is on the aspects of font usage, and the last rank are
the aspects of the layout and the aspect of layout with a percentage of 80%. The
results of the assessment have been done the experts of media in all aspects of
the assessment are in the category of a Decent and Very Decent. Based on
the results of these assessments, the quality of the students worksheet on its
media is declared as Valid.
Based on the results of recapitulation above, it is known that the
individual testing gained an average of 4.75 so that the total is included in the
criteria Very Well. Eligibility of the Students Worksheet is included in the
category of Very Decent with a percentage of 95% was obtained. In addition to
the analysis of overall score it can also be known the students worksheet
assessment every aspect. The aspects questionnaire individual assessment
testing includes aspects of design display, aspects of size and fond character,
aspects of the layout, the aspect of clarity of learning objectives and instructions
for using the students worksheets, the aspect of clarity, aspects of the suitability
of the picture, the aspect of suitability image and exercise, as well as aspects

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Figure 4: Percentage on Every Aspect of Individual Trial

1) Small group Trial

Based on the results of recapitulation it is known that the small group
trial consists of 6 students who have the ability category to high, medium,
and low, it is obtained an average total score is 4:58 which is included in the
criteria of Very Well. Eligibility of the Students Worksheet is included in
the category of Very Decent with a percentage of 91.6%.

Figure 5: Percentage on Every Aspect of Small Group Trial

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2) Field Trial
Field trial was conducted on 23 students in one classroom students.
Field trial was conducted to look at the quality of the students worksheet
based on aspects of practicality. In this phase the students were given the
worksheet which is designed by the researcher for the learning materials.
After using this worksheet, the next phase was that the students were given
questionnaire to assess the students worksheet. The questionnaire consists of
13 statements based no 1 to 5 scale. The scale category is (1) for "Less", (2) is
"less", (3) is "enough", (4) is "good" and (5) was "excellent".
The subject of field test was the eighth grade student was obtained an
average total score is 4:43 which is included in the criteria Very Well.
Eligibility of the Students Worksheet is included in the category of Very
Decent with a percentage of 88.6%. In addition to the analysis of overall
score it can also be known that the students worksheet assessment from
every aspect. The field trials aspects of assessment in questionnaire consists of
the presentation of the material aspect, aspects of relevance to everyday life,
aspects of the concept of conformity with the purpose of learning, aspects of
language use, CTL approach aspects, aspects of information and the students
worksheet aspect of existence.

Figure 6: Percentage in Every Aspect of Field Trial

Results of assessment of students on field trials of all aspects of

assessment are in the category of a Decent and Very Decent. Based on the
results of these assessments, the quality of the students worksheet is declared
as practical.

d. Evaluation
The last step is to evaluate the students' worksheet on the subjects of
algebra factorization which have been developed based on the results of experts
assessment sheets of material, the experts of design, the experts of media,

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individual testing, small group trial and field trials. The results of the evaluation
are as follows:

1) Expert of Content
Based on the recapitulation of the students worksheet which was
validated by the subject matter experts obtained an average score of 3.81
which is included in Good categories. While is calculated by percentage it
is found 76.2% of the students worksheet which is included in the category of
Very Feasible to be used in the classroom as a learning material. Based on
the results of these assessments, the quality of the students worksheet is
declared as Valid.
The revisions of the students worksheet have been done based on
based on the recommendations of the subject matter experts. The
recommendations are (1) Eliminating of all the images in the answer box and
the conclusion box in the students worksheet, (2) Adding the assessment
criteria and the way of processing the score resulting from the appraisal
process on the authentic assessment sheet. Then the revisions of the students
worksheet based on the recommendation of the subject matter experts has
been done with their recommendations are (1) Changing the item of number
3 which was previously "How is the length and width of Anggas durian
garden? Please answer the question in algebraic formulation. It is changed
into "How is the length and the width of Budis rambutan garden? Please
answer the question in algebraic formulation, (2) Adding the activity on the
material of algebra multiplication into two activities. The first activity is
related to multiplying a number by algebraic binomial form and the second
activity is associated with the multiplication rate of two, (3) Changing the
item of distribution on activities 5 into a division item which is simpler, (4)
Changing the Question of number 4 on an individual exercise become more
simpler division item.

2) The Expert of Design

Based on the recapitulation of the students worksheet validation which
was done by the expert of design obtained an average score of 3.62 that is
included in Good category. While it is calculated by percentage 72.4% it is
included in the category Eligible to be used as a learning material in the
classroom. Based on the results of these assessments the quality of the
students worksheet is declared as Valid.
The revisions of the students worksheet was made based on the
recommendation of the expert of subject matter as follows (1) Changing the
picture junior high school students on the cover with a picture of formula,
multiplication and factoring algebraic form, activity in the market, and people
who are measuring the road, (2) Changing the phrase of "content-based
Standard" to "Competence-based standard" and provide numbering using the
letters on the table of contents, (3) Changing the overall instructions for using
worksheets into a description of the image that is in worksheets and
explanations concerning the application of seven components Contextual
Teaching and Learning (CTL) which contained in the students worksheet, (4)

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Adding the remarks of component in all parts of the students worksheet, (5)
Replacing the column of "SCIENCE" becomes keywords which is listed in the
beginning of section of the students worksheet, (6) Changing the color
column becomes a white color to be simpler, (6) Making the boxes empty
with blank spaces in order to make easy the students in answering the

3) Expert Media
Based on the recapitulation of the students worksheet validation which
was done by the expert of media obtained an average score of 4:43 that is
included in Good category. While it is calculated by percentage 88.6% it is
included in the category Eligible to be used as a learning material in the
classroom. Based on the results of these assessments the quality of the
students worksheet is declared as Valid.

4) Individual Trial
Based on the recapitulation of the evaluation worksheets on individual
testing of three eighth grade students and it is found an average score of 4.75
which is included in the Excellent category. While it is calculated by
percentage the students worksheet gets 95% thus included in the category of
Very Feasible to be used as a learning material in the classroom. Based on
the result of the individual trial there is no revision on the students

5) Trial Small Group

Based on the recapitulation of the evaluation worksheets in small group
trial of six eighth grade students and it is found an average score of 4:58
which is included in the Excellent category. While it is calculated by
percentage the students worksheet gets 91.6% which is included in the
category of Very Feasible to be used as a learning material in the classroom.
Based on the result of the small group trial there is no revision on the
students worksheets.

6) Field Trial
Based on the results of the evaluation recapitulation of the students
worksheet in field trials of 23 students in one classroom of the eight it is
obtained an average score of 4:43 which is included in the Excellent
category. While it is calculated by percentage it is found 88.6% of the
students worksheet which is included in the category of Very Feasible to
be used as a learning material in the classroom. Based on the result of these
assessments the quality of the students worksheet is claimed as Practical.
Based on the result of the small group trial there is no revision on the
students worksheets.

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2. Discussion
Development of Student Worksheet (LKS) based on Contextual Teaching
and Learning on the material of algebra factorization which is developed by
using ADDIE development model. ADDIE Stages include: 1) Analysis, 2)
Design, 3) Development, 4) Implementation and 5) Evaluation.
The development phase begins with the analysis which includes
competency analysis, analysis of student characteristics, and analysis of the
material. At this stage the researcher tries to find out the problems that causes of
the low results of Mathematics subject at SMPN 9 Muaro. After conducting
observation by interviewing one of the mathematics teachers in the eight grade
and it is found that one of the causes of the problem lies in the students
worksheets used in the classroom. The students worksheet used in the
classroom by students is only contains the material and the questions that are
still monotonous. The content of the students worksheet is presented briefly and
using instruction of the language that is difficult to comprehend by the students.
It is resulting to the students motivation in learning the material of algebra
factorization. The examples and practices used in the students worksheet is only
symbolic and there is no correlation between the material of algebra
factorization to students' daily lives. The heavy use of mathematical symbols in
the material of algebra factorization makes the students tend to memorizing all
these symbols without deeper understanding on the actual concept of learning
algebra factorization. Based on the case study above the researcher decided to
develop a students' worksheet based on Contextual Teaching and Learning on
the material algebra factorization.
The next stage is designing of the product. In this step the researcher
collected information related to the development the students worksheet such
as collecting books and sources on the material of algebra factorization.
Designing of the basic framework of the students worksheet and drawing up
the assessment sheet of the products.
The next stage is developing of the product. In this step the researcher
developed the product through several measurements such as (1) arranging the
students worksheets based on the Standard of Competency, the Basic
Competency, the Learning Objectives and Learning Indicators on the material of
algebra factorization, (2) arranging the materials, (3) determining the
assessment tools, and (4) paying more attention on the structure of the students
worksheet including the title, the standard of competency, the basic competence,
learning indicators, learning objectives, maps conception, tasks and exercises, as
well as assessment.
After constructing of the students worksheet the next stage was
conducting a product validation. The product validation was conducted by two
experts of design and media. The purpose of validation is to see the quality of
the students worksheets based on the aspect of validity. The first validation was
done by a subject matter expert. In this process of validation the expert
conducted assessment on the questionnaires. Questionnaire for subject matter
experts composed of five aspects, namely the precision of the content, accuracy
aspects of the scope, the content, aspect of understanding, the aspects of the use
of language and the aspects of completeness of the component.

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After being revised by the experts further assessment was made by the
expert of design. In this validation process the experts assessed on the
questionnaire that has been provided. Questionnaire for the expert of design
consists of three aspects, namely the aspect of display design, layout and clarity
of the writing aspect as well as the aspects of CTL component.
After being revised by the experts further assessment was conducted by
the experts of media. In this validation process the expert assessed on the
assessment tools of the questionnaire that has been provided. Questionnaire for
expert of media consists of six aspects, namely the aspect of display design,
layout and layout, the aspects of font usage, the aspect of image quality aspects,
the aspects of the appearance and the aspect of completeness of the component.
The next stage is the implementation of the product. In this stage the
revised students worksheets based on the assessment of the experts have to be
tested. The trial was conducted to determine the quality of the students
worksheet based on the aspects of practicality. The test was done in three stages,
namely individual testing, small group trial and field trials (field try-out).
The next stage is a small group trial. The object of this field trial was 6
students of the eight grades who have different learning ability of high, medium
and low. The assessment was conducted on the mathematics classroom.
Researcher asked students as respondents to provide an assessment of the
students worksheet by filling out a questionnaire that has been provided. The
questionnaire used consisted of 15 statements. The next stage is a field trial. This
stage is the last stage in the assessment process of the students worksheet. The
object of the field trial was 23 students form one class of the eight grades. At this
stage the students worksheet has been completely revised and used in the
learning process. Then the researcher asked the students to give an assessment
of the students worksheet by filling out a questionnaire that has been provided.
The questionnaire used consisted of 13 statements. The purpose of the field trial
is to look at the quality of the students worksheet based on the aspects of
The last stage of research and development is evaluation. The evaluation
was conducted to collect data on the phases of the students worksheet. The data
were obtained as follows:
1) The assessment was conducted by the expert of subject matter of the
students worksheet get an average total of 3.81 which were included
in the rating categories of "Good" and if it is presented 76.2% thus
included in the category of "Very Decent". Thus the students
worksheet d is declared Eligible based on an assessment in terms of
material. Based on the result of this assessment the quality of the
students worksheet is as Valid.
2) The assessment was conducted by the expert of design gets total score
of 3.62 is included in the rating categories "Good" and if it is presented
72.4% that was included in the category of "Eligible". Thus the
students worksheet is declared Eligible based on an assessment in
terms of design. Based on the results of these assessments the quality
of the students worksheet is declared as Valid.
3) The assessment was conducted by the expert of media gets an average
total of 4:43 which is included in the assessment categories of "Good"

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and if it is presented 8.6% that is included in the category of "Very

Decent". Thus the students worksheet is Very Worthy to be applied
in the classroom. Based on the results of these assessments the quality
of the students worksheet is declared as Valid.
4) The results of individual testing obtained an average total of 4.75
which is included in the category ratings "Very Good" and if it is
presented 95% that is included in the category of "Very Decent".
5) The results of the small group trial gets an average total of 4:58 which
is included in the category ratings "Very Good" and if it is presented
91.6% thus it is included in the category of "Very Decent".
6) The results of field trials gets an average total of 4:43 which is
included in the category ratings "Very Good" and if it is presented
88.6% thus it is included in the category of "Very Decent". Based on
the results of these assessments the quality of the students worksheet
is declared Practical.
Based on the results of the assessment conducted by experts and the
students, mathematics worksheets based on CTL of the material of algebra
factorization is suitable for using in a teaching and learning tool of mathematics.
The Limitations of the study:
1) The costs on research and development is expensive.
2) The Students Worksheet generated in this research is only a first level of
development which consists of the material of algebra factorization.
3) Test implementation and evaluation of the students' worksheet is only
performed on one state junior high school that is SMPN 9 in Muaro
Jambi Regency.
4) The quality of the students worksheet of this research is only seen in the
aspect of validity and practicality.

Conclusion And Recommendation

1. Conclusion
Based on the results and discussions above the researcher can conclude
the following conclusions:
1) Development of the Students Worksheet based on Contextual Teaching
and Learning on the material of Algebra factorization using ADDIE
model which includes five stages of development, namely:
a. Analysis
Analytical of competency
The results of the analytical competency relates to curriculum,
standard competency, Basic Competency and indicators of learning
as well as the time allocation of the material of algebra factorization
to be published in the form of students worksheets learning
Analysis of the students characteristics
The analytical of the students' characteristics is obtained from
interviews to teachers of mathematics of the eight grades of SMPN
9 Muaro Jambi Regency. From the results of these interviews
showed that the learning outcome of mathematics subject of the
algebra material is still low. This is because students have difficulty

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in understanding the material. The heavy use of mathematical

symbols in the material of algebra factorization algebra makes the
students tend to merely memorizing these symbols without deeper
understanding the actual concept in learning the material of
algebra factorization.
Analytical of the material
The analytical of the material is obtained from interviews to
teachers of mathematics of the eight grades of SMPN 9 Muaro
Jambi Regency. From the interviews found that in providing the
material on parts algebra factorization that the teacher explains
more conventional materials. While in teaching the material of
algebra factorization requires a special media in the teaching and
learning process. This is because of there are many specific
terminologies used in the materials of algebra factorization rate so
that the learning process requires special media to make the
students are more easily to understand the material. Under these
conditions the researcher chose the material of algebra factorization
in the development of the students worksheet based on the CTL.
b. Design
At this stage, the design of learning tools such as worksheets that
includes the preparation of the product, the preparation of the
framework of the students worksheet, and the preparation of
assessment instruments.
c. Development
At this stage there are three activities were conducted: (1) the process
of making the students worksheet, (2) the validation of the students
worksheet by the expert of subject matter, the expert of design, and
the expert of media, and (3) the revision of the students worksheets
based on the opinions and recommendations getting from the experts.
The result of the development is the assessment or expert validation,
and revision of the students worksheets in order to get it easy to test
in the teaching and learning activities.
d. Implementation
In the implementation stage includes the testing of individual, small
group trial, and field trials are carried out in SMP N 9 Muaro Jambi
Regency. The test was done 3 times meetings. The data is obtained by
individual testing, small group trial evaluation, and evaluation of field
e. Evaluation
In the evaluation stage the students worksheets was validated by the
expert of subject matter experts, the expert of design, the expert of
media, the results of the evaluation of individual testing, the results of
the evaluation of small group trial, and the results of the evaluation of
field trials. Based on the data analysis it is stated that the students
worksheet is suitable for using as a teaching and learning tool.
2) The quality of the students worksheet based on the aspect of validity
and practicality aspects are as follows:

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a. The quality of the students worksheet based on the aspect of validity

according to the expert of subject matter experts, the expert of design,
and the expert of media shows that the students worksheet gets a
Very Decent category, Decent, and Very Decent with a percentage
of 76.2%, 72.4% and 88.6%.
b. The quality of the students worksheet based on the practicality
aspects of field trials showed that the students worksheet has
practical value with the percentage of 88.6% in the category of
Really Practical for using it as a teaching and learning tool in the

2. Recommendation
Based on the feasibility of the students worksheet, the weaknesses of the
students worksheet and the limitations of the study the researcher provides
some advices of the utilization of the students worksheet and for further
development of the students worksheet as follows:
1. The students worksheet which is based on CTL needs to be developed
more widely that is the materials presented not only discuss one subject
matter, but also covers an expanded material.
2. The students worksheet needs to be developed further in terms of
exercises items. Variations of exercises items could maximize the use of the
students worksheet.
3. For the next researchers the field trials should be carried out more widely.
Trials are not only carried out in one school and in one classroom, but also
the field trial should be held in more than one school and more than one
4. For the researchers the students worksheet assessment should not only be
seen from the aspect of validity and its practicality but also it should be
seen from the aspect of the effectiveness of the students worksheet.
5. The students worksheets which have been developed is expected to be
effectively used in Junior High Schools which has similarities
characteristics of the field tested school.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 80-88, June 2017

Identifying EFL Learners Essay Writing Difficulties

and Sources: A Move towards Solution
The Case of Second Year EFL Learners at Tlemcen


Tlemcen University
Larocade, Tlemcen

Abstract. It is commonly known that EFL learners need to be skillful

enough at the four language skills namely: listening, speaking, reading
and writing to have a good command in the target language. Typically,
teaching/learning how to write in a foreign language is not an easy task
for EFL teachers and learners alike. Though countless research and
efforts have been done by researchers and teachers to develop the
writing skill among these learners, many EFL students still face a
number of serious difficulties that prohibit them from constructing
satisfactory essay writing. Actually, the present article aims primarily to
identify EFL learners essay writing difficulties together with the sources
associated with their difficulties in an attempt to find out the possible
remedies for the achievement of better productions. Data as regards the
topic in question were collected by means of questionnaire, interviews
and some students finale essay writing drafts. The attained data reveal
that students meet difficulties in both coherence and cohesion due to the
lack of reading, first language transfer and low writing practice. In hope
to decrease students essay writing difficulties, attention to these sources
is required.

Keywords: coherence; cohesion; essay writing; difficulties; sources.

1. Introduction
Countless of research works have been written about the teaching-learning
process. It is commonly known that to master the language, EFL learners need
to be skillful enough at the four language skills namely, listening, speaking,
reading and writing. This latter appears to be the most difficult language skill
to be acquired by EFL learners and even by native speakers since it requires
much time and effort.. In this vein, teaching/ learning how to write plays a
crucial role in language teaching/ learning classrooms. Though it is important,
many EFL students face a serious number of difficulties that prohibit them
from constructing satisfactory essay writing. In this respect, the following
research questions are designed:

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1- Which difficulties do EFL learners often encounter in essay

2- What are the main sources behind their difficulties in essay
3- How can EFL learners improve their essay writing?
With these questions in mind, the following hypotheses must be
a) The difficulties that EFL learners often encounter in essay writing
could be in coherence and cohesion.
b) The lack of reading is perhaps the main source behind EFL
learners essay writing.
c) EFL learners may improve their essay writing by building their
reading and writing habits.
Therefore, the present paper attempts to account for which difficulties EFL
learners encounter the most in essay writing, and to which sources are these
difficulties related to, along with finding out possible solutions to unveil
difficulties in essay writing. To inform these research questions, the investigator
selects three research instruments; students questionnaire, teachers semi
structured interview, and students essay writing analysis to verify the research

2. The Writing Skill Defined

The study of writing, along with the other modes of language, has received
attention from various scholars. It is approached by Harmer (2007), as a process
that should be undergone over different stages including, the drafting stage, the
editing stage, the planning stage and the final draft. Similarly, Damiani et al.
(2011) regards the writing skill as the process that calls planning, reflection and
the organization of ideas, in addition to the required effort and attention that
EFL students are invited to respect. Indeed, the definition that suites the
objectives of this paper is the one put forward by Bell and Burnaby (1997,p. 148)
.They regard the writing skill as a cognitive skill that writers are required to
master with attention to sentence structure, appropriate selection of vocabulary
items, a careful attention towards spelling and punctuation. They add that
learners need to master the linguistic knowledge and also the ability to integrate
information coherently and cohesively in a written discourse. With respect to the
above mentioned, some EFL learners achieve low proficiency level in writing
essays. Therefore the following section is intended to highlight the most
prevalent essay writing difficulties that these learners encounter along with
some potential sources of these difficulties.

3. Essay Writing Difficulties

According to Koch (2004), coherence denotes the ability of the writer to combine
the arrangement of sentences altogether in the text so that the reader decodes
and understands it. Such a notion calls attention towards the consideration of
coherence in any piece of writing as a cognitive process in which the writer is
invited to mind the language they are using, the vocabulary they are selecting
and the bound arrangement of sentences to form unity which enables the reader
to appreciate the piece of writing ( Favero,2010; Lee 2002). Put simply, coherence

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is the ability to produce meaningful correct sentences with the appropriate use of
vocabulary items and obeying certain rules of words arrangement. In this light,
an undertaken study done by Qaddumi (1995) shows that EFL students face
difficulties in finding ways to employ the different types of sentences and the ill
use of some cohesive devices.
In the eyes of Halliday and Hasan (1976) the concept of cohesion is a semantic
one; it refers to relations of meaning that exist within the text, and that define it
as a text (p. 4). Put simply, cohesion is the relation that exists between lexis and
grammar, i.e., Endophoric relation, as well as how grammar and vocabulary
facilitate the understanding of sentence sequences within a text, that is,
Exospheric relation.
It was emphasized by Bailey (2003) that text cohesion refers to the clarity and
readability in which the writer needs to establish a link through the use of
various cohesive devices including: reference, ellipsis, substitution, conjunctions
and lexical cohesion. In this respect, Cox et.al (1990) found that good readers
tend to use the aforesaid cohesive devices more wisely and appropriately than
poor readers do. Such a result indicates that reading plays a significant role in
acquiring the art of writing.
Vocabulary serves a key the requirement for ideas to flow in the right ground. In
this regard, many researchers in the field attempt to identify the reason behind
such a difficulty. Hemmati (2002), interviewed thirty (30) Iranian EFL student
writers concerning vocabulary difficulties in their writing. He finds that these
learners have difficulties in both linguistic and performance. That is to say, these
writers lack the linguistic knowledge of the target language along with the
inability to perform this knowledge into appropriate contexts. He concludes that
the lack reading and the writing practice into the English language are the main
reasons behind such a difficulty. It is safe to add that EFL learners encounter
various writing difficulties in terms of grammar, spelling and punctuation. The
following section is devoted to discuss the sources that affect these learners from
achieving appropriate essay writing.

4. Sources Affecting Poor EFL Writing

This heading covers the sources behind EFL learners essay writing difficulties
that are said to be the lack of motivation, lack of reading and the impact of
students first language into the target language writing.

4.1. Lack of Motivation

Actually, motivation is essential in every needed success. As far as language
learning is concerned, two (02) essential questions are raised; why do students
show low motivation to write in the foreign language? And how to raise their
motivation to write? .In hope to answer these two questions, Harmer (2006a)
claims that there are various factors that prevent them from writing. First, fear of
failure, that is, fear of not being able to achieve their goals especially in contexts
where they are asked to reflect their knowledge about the language and their
abilities in putting this knowledge in different frameworks. Second, the fear
from committing mistakes is another factor that prohibits them from writing. In
this sense, EFL students feel uncomfortable over the structure of the essay or any
piece of writing that they are intended to follow. Therefore, failure comes to

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play. Thirdly, there are some learners who are uncertain to show their
productions; they shadow their weaknesses and convince themselves not to
carry on writing as they feel a beforehand failure. In order to decrease this, EFL
teachers are invited to bring relaxed topics to make their learners feel at ease to
voice their thought, Dornyei (2005).Anxiety is another issues among these
learners as it most of the time engenders to negative attitudes towards the
writing into the target language. Hence, instructors need to establish what is
called writing habit among these students.

4.2. Lack of Reading

In fact, evidences has shown that better readers are better writers and better
writers are more likely to language exposure than poorer readers. In this
ground, Raimes (1994, p. 42) stresses the importance of reading into the foreign
language by saying that the more our students read, the more they become
familiar with the vocabulary, idiom, sentence patterns, organizational flow, and
cultural assumptions of native speakers of the language . In the same vein,
Kroll (1997) claims that it is reading that gives the writer the feel for the look
and texture of reader based prose (p. 48). In addition to the efforts EFL teachers
do to raise their competence to write, reading is approached to be the fruitful
strategy that dictates implicitly the safe ground to be followed and it becomes
the sample for students to appreciate. All in all, lack of reading is among the
sources that can cause dissatisfaction in EFL essay writing.

4.3. Influence of the First Language on Target Language Writing

In addition to the lack of reading among EFL students, they still encounter
another obstacle that hinders them from writing. In this respect, almost all
students mention in the construction phase, Arabic is activated in their minds
instead of thinking in the target language. Such a fact has inspired some
researchers to investigate this dilemma. Thought EFL teachers do insist the need
for EFL students to think and write in English, their students sometimes deviate
from such a call. In this regard, an investigation done by Frieddlanders (1997, p.
109) shows that writers will transfer writing abilities and strategies, whether
good or deficient, from their first language to their second, or third language.
Another view has been voiced by Carson, Carell, Silberstein, Kroll and Kuehan
(1990) who point out that it is not necessary for EFL learners to be good in the
first language to be so in the second or the foreign language. However, as
mentioned by Blanchard and Root (2004, p. 204) writing remains a difficult skill
to acquire and each language has its own writing conventions that the writer
needs to learn them without interfering with other language or languages. The
section that follows attempts to provide overtly the sample selected for the
study, with the identification of the research instruments to see what results are
to be obtained.

5. Research Participants

The selected participants taking part in this research work are second year LMD
(Licence.Master. Doctorate) students with their C.W.E (Comprehension of
Written Expression) teachers. The former are thirty (30) informants; 14 males

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and 16 chosen at random and are enrolled in the academic year of 2015-2016.
The latter are five teachers of C.W.E course; 3 males and 2 females, who have
taught this course for at least four years period of time.

6. Research Instruments
The investigator has used three research tools to cross check the research
hypotheses that are the questionnaire; being administered to students, the semi-
structured interview for C.W.E. teachers and students essay writing analysis.
The researcher has designed the questionnaire wisely in terms of form and
content to make each enquiry clearly understood in students mind. For C.W.E.
teachers, the researcher used the semi-structured interview to bring variety in
terms of research instruments from one hand; and from the other hand to collect
rapid answers and the researcher can ask for clarifications and further
interpretations. The third research tool employed in this study is used to record
evidences about students drafts.

7. Data Analysis

The current investigation, the questionnaire is employed purposefully to answer

the first research question which reads what are the difficulties that EFL
learners often encounter when writing an essay? The researcher has designed
two questions; the first one was intended to account for which difficulties they
encounter in essay writing. Students were given some suggested difficulties to
select from them and they were free to choose whatever difficulty they meet.
The gathered data reveals that (17), that is, 57% meet difficulties in cohesion and
43% face coherence difficulties. Similar results are also found by Pelcov (2015)
who notes that cohesion and coherence are other important issues that need to
be mastered and attained by EFL students.
During the second phase of research, students were given the same instruction
but for this time they were asked to select only one difficulty the still meet after
their remedial work. The findings show that 33% face difficulty in coherence,
27% in lexis and 23% in cohesion. Therefore the first research hypothesis is valid
since students essay writing analysis and interviewing C.W.E teachers regarding
the above question reflects the same findings. In hope to answer the second
research hypothesis the investigator has interviewed C.W.E teachers who can
provide valid data as they have acquired experience in the field of essay writing.
When interviewing then about the source behind students coherence and
cohesion difficulties, three, i.e., 60% regard the lack of reading as the main
source while the remaining approach low writing practice 20%and the influence
of the first language into the writing of the target language (English) 20%.Hence,
it comes clear to record that the second research hypothesis is valid. As far as the
third research hypothesis is concerned, the revealed data from teachers semi-
structured interview shows that in order for these learners to achieve satisfaction
and construct a sound essay writing they are urgently invited to build their
reading and writing habits since reading and writing are seen interrelated and
are two sides of the same coin. Teachers insist that reading is regarded as an

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input for EFL learners in which this input is for one reason or another can be
retrieved for fulfilling different purposes. The same instruction was asked to
students in students questionnaire and the same idea was said. All what have
been discussed above is going to be summarized in table and bare graph.

Table1. Students Essay Writing Difficulties Essay Writing Difficulties Absolute

Relative Frequency
Essay Writing Absolute Frequency Relative Frequency
Coherence 13 33%
Cohesion 7 23%
Lexis 8 27%

Influence L1
into the Lack of
writing of Reading
L2 60%

Low Writing

Pie-chart 1. Sources Affecting Essay Writing

It is wiser to mention that EFL learners and C.W.E teachers are called to
combine their efforts to make the teaching and the learning process goes in the
right way. In this light, the following section covers some practical suggestions
and recommendation the remedy coherence and cohesion difficulties and to
promote the teaching of C.W.E.

8. Suggestions and Recommendations

The first thing need to be done is to create an environment that boosts learners to
disclose thoughts, attitudes, of course, with the present of the instructor. The
latter needs to control students ideas and their relatedness regarding the topic
discussed. Such an activity is best taught by engaging them in group and pair
works in order to encourage them to work cooperatively. In this vein, Storch
(2007) suggests that arranging students in pairs and groups permit them to
combine the necessary linguistic resources to come up with new constructed
knowledge. It is further important for the teacher to assign extension activities or
homework assignments (Bishop & Verleger, 2013; Hughes, 2012) to promote

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their students autonomy and responsibility, especially when dealing with

advanced students. In this learning environment, the teacher may use the
Process Learning Approach (PLA, henceforth) which focuses on the way ideas
are formulated and organized in writing regardless grammar and spelling
mistakes that they commit. In order to achieve a sense of creativeness,
relatedness and effectiveness of ideas, teachers need to bring topics that help
students to generate sufficient ideas (Tribble, 1997). At this level, the instructors
role is to supply language support, if needed, so that the flow of ideas cannot be
inhibited. When the task is finished, the teacher designs a spider map on the
board and invites them to voice their thought.
The next step is to open debate to calculate which ideas need to be expended
and are relevant to the topic. Afterward, the construction of the essay is required
and needs to be done within group members. Within the Process Approach, the
teachers emphasis is to make them express their ideas at the same time
developing implicitly coherence in their writing. The continuous use of this
approach in groups gives positive results in terms of clarity and unity. With
respect to the above mentioned approach, it is wiser to call for Genre- Based
Pedagogy. The latter is an approach to language teaching which aims to help
learners understand the grammatical and the lexical features of different rhetoric
contexts. In this concern, EFL students are subject to explore some principles
about how meaningful passages are constructed. In this vein, Joyce & Feez,2012;
Droga & Humphey,2003; Derewianka & Jones, 2012; Rose & Martin, 2012 put
forward three basic principles. The first principle is that language is functional.
That is to say, the purpose of the text dictates the genre and register that should
be used. The second principle is covers the fact that learning is a social activity in
which a sound collaboration needs to occur between the student and and the
teacher (Joyce & Feez, 2012). Pedagogy makes knowledge visible is the last
principle that explicit language teaching of how language works to make
meaning, the text organization and linguistic forms need to be reflected clearly
in students mind. Therefore, the triangulation between the aforesaid principles
in addition to the PLA appear to crucial to foster good quality in writing.
When the teacher realizes that students are competent enough in making their
essay writing coherent, he/she needs to integrate the Product Approach which
focuses on grammar and spelling. Therefore, the execution of these two
approaches to essay writing develop unity and lessen, intuitively, mistakes in
grammar and spelling. The following activities are suggested to improve
students essay writing in terms of coherence. Teachers may design some
activities where students are exposed to an essay in which some sentences are
redundant and have nothing to do with the core of the essay. Such an activity
builds on learners the sense of awareness and their critical thinking in terms of
coherence. In hope to make these learners recognize the different types of
cohesive ties, it is preferable to provide a lesson on then and invite then to read a
particular paragraph or essays first to see whether they store them in their
minds and second to let them know how they are used.

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9. Conclusion
To sum up, constructing essay writing in the target language is not a trouble-free
task to do and an easy activity to handle. It requires much time and effort. EFL
learners are subject to meet different essay writing difficulties that hinder them
from building effective essays. In this concern, the researcher has conducted an
empirical study which takes place at Tlemcen University with second year
L.M.D students of the English Language Department. To collect data, the
investigator has used the questionnaire, semi-structured interview and students
essay writing analysis as research instruments that help the researcher to gather
and record data both quantitatively and qualitatively. It was reflected that these
learners meet difficulties in coherence and cohesion, and the source of such
difficulties are due to the lack of reading. It was recommended that in hope to
unveil and remedy these difficulties, EFL students are called to build their
reading and writing habits and the above suggestions are of great importance
for these learners to construct effective essays.

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Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013). The flipped classroom: A questionnaire of the
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Cox, K.E., & Guthrie, J. T. (2001). Motivational and cognitive contributions to students
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Derewianka, B., & Jones, P. (2012). Teaching language in context. Melbourne:
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Halliday, M., & Hassan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman.
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Kouch, I. G. V. (2004). Introduction to textual linguistics: Trajectory and great themes. Sao
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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 89-100, June 2017

Conquering Worrisome Word Problems

Algebra Success
Vicki-Lynn Holmes, Karla Spence, Jane Finn, Shelia McGee Ingram,
and Libbey Horton
Hope College
Holland, Michigan

Abstract. High school students can struggle with word problems in

upper level math classes. Causes for this struggle could include lower
reading comprehension, limited mathematic vocabulary, and difficulty
changing words to algebraic expressions. This article proposes three
techniques to help teachers instruct these struggling students that
include (a) organization by difficulty of comprehension and
computation (b) scaffolding and (c) utilizing the Explain, Practice and
Assess (EPA) strategy.

Keywords: math word problems; instruction; high school;

struggling students

Word problems -- the bane of high school algebra students! Often word
problems cause anxiety and confusion, leading to the fear and dislike of
mathematics for many high school students (Chapman 2002; Haghverdi &
Wiest, 2016; VanSciver, 2008) lasting throughout their mathematics careers.
Word problem angst negatively influences how students perceive not only
mathematics, but also science, technology, and engineering as well (Didis &
Erbas, 2015; Kribbs & Rogsowsky, 2016; Sisco-Tayor, Fung & Swanson, 2014;
VanSciver, 2008).

Word problem success is important in terms of algebra because word problems

show and model how our physical world can be interpreted and understood
using algebra. When students see the practical application of topics used in
word problems, they comprehend and become more invested in the
mathematics (Chapman 2002; Lim, 2016; Wilburne, Marinak, & Strickland, 2011).
This is especially true when dealing with at-risk populations whose
understanding of word problems significantly increases when their content is
made authentic and culturally relevant (Dominguez, 2016; Wilburne, Marinak &
Strickland, 2011).

Mastery of word problems is also linked to success on criterion referenced

(standardized) tests (Bates & Wiest, 2004; Fuchs, Compton, Fuchs, Powell,

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Schumacher, Hamlet, & Vukovic, 2012; Fuchs, Schumacher, Long, Namkung,

Malone, Wang, & Changas, 2016; Hickendorff, 2013; Sisco-Tayor, Fung &
Swanson, 2014; Jitendra, Sczesniak, & Deatline-Buchman, 2005; Powell, Fuchs,
Cirino, Fuchs, Compton, & Changas, P. C. 2015) and is highly correlated (r =.37)
with working memory (Peng, Namkung, Barnes, & Sun, 2016), resulting in
increased quality of computational skills and algebraic reasoning (Jitendra,
Griffin, Haria, Leh, Adams, & Kaduventtoor, 2007; Powell & Fuchs, 2014). These
abilities are crucial in future mathematics and science classes as these fields
require the skills essential to solving word problems.

The word problem hurdle has not been conquered. While there is much
literature on elementary (1-6th grade) strategies (Boonen, Van der Shoot, Van
Wesel, De Vries & Jolles, 2013) Depaepe, DeCorte, & Verschaffel, 2010; Moreno,
Ozogl, & Reisslein, 2011, Nortvedt, Gustafsson & Lehre, 2016), there is little
research on secondary Algebra I (8-12th grade) strategies (Bush & Karp, 2013;
Haas, 2005; Jitendra et al., 2013). Since students are still struggling with
understanding word problems, it was imperative to find a solution.

One answer to the word problem angst lies in changing our pedagogy in
summary, how word problems are introduced and taught. In secondary
education, word problems should be approached as would any other algebraic
skill; that is, in an organized unit, where word problems are categorized by
content (type) and level of difficulty. After a review of current practices and
multiyear classroom experience, three problem areas needed to be addressed in
the unit: organization, scaffolding, and practice/assessment. Within the unit,
word problems should be organized by decoding difficulty (conversions of
words to algebraic expressions) and computational difficulty. Another essential
component to the solution of word problems is scaffolding. This involves going
from the simplest type of word problem to the more difficult in two arenas:
variable-identification complexity (predefined to non-defined plus) and
relationship complexity (development of the equation). Finally, the Explain-
Practice-Assess or EPA strategy needs be utilized. This EPA strategy gives
teachers the opportunity to take the class as a whole and make it progress to
mastery of word problems; thus, bringing every student along with this learning
so every student can succeed.

After a review of current practices, three problem areas were found. These areas
are identified below and are followed by a presentation of a viable solution.

Literature Review on Current Word Problem Pedagogy

Many teachers feel ill equipped to handle word problems (Brown, 2012,
Chapman, 2002; Depaepe, et al., 2010; Green, 2014; Wright, 2014) and either
ignore them or tack a few problems to the end of a lesson (Snarks, 2014). They
are often given an abbreviated explanation or algorithm with very little follow-
up practice provided (Chapman, 2002; Powell, 2011; VanSciver, 2008). In
secondary education, word problems are not approached as would any other
algebraic skill in an organized unit, categorized by word problem content
(type) and level of difficulty (simple to complex). Instead, word problems are

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treated as isolated add-ons to a different topical unit in an effort to show

application of the algebraic material taught (Benson, 1994; Burger, 2007; Larson,
1996; McConnell, 1998).

Textbook pedagogy mirrors what has been generally taught in the classroom. In
a survey of the major Algebra I textbooks, including Addison-Wesley, McDougal
Littell, Houfflin Mifflin, Hickory Grove, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, and Scott-
Foreman, it was found that textbooks varied widely in the extent to which word
problems were explained. The number of exercised examples that were
practiced and assessed also varied in the major texts (not including
supplemental material). On average, three word problems per content topic
were addressed, and these were predominately add-ons at the ends of the

A major problem with word problems involves reading comprehension, which

is largely rooted in vocabulary knowledge. Vocabulary transference was
emphasized where words were translated into algebraic expressions (e.g. and
means add or of means multiply). However, students were not internalizing
the vocabulary as it was presented (Didis & Erbas, 2015; Haghverdi & Wiest,
2016; Holmes, Spence, Finn & Ingram, 2017). Students were learning a broad
range of vocabulary terms, which they, themselves, had to know and
appropriately use in a variety of different word problems without sufficient
guidance or practice. Because each word problem required its own specific set of
words that the students had to identify, success required mastery of a moving
target. Students did not have the opportunity to see and appreciate one
approach or one set of vocabulary terms before having to apply another. This
means that students were not realistically given the chance to achieve mastery.

Consider the following three word problems that demonstrate the difficulties
encountered in the current practice of teaching word problems (as explained

Word Problem 1: Two more than three times a number is equal to thirty
minus that number. Find the number.

Word Problem 2: One complementary angle is ten more than the other.
Find the measures of these two angles.

Word Problem 3: Izzie has seven more dimes than nickels. Altogether she
has $2.95. How many nickels and dimes does she have?

In all these word problems there is the vocabulary component changing words
to algebraic expressions and equations. However, word problems should be
grouped by considering the degree of transference and computational difficulty.
In Word Problem 1, it is more or less simply a translation from words to an
algebraic equation. In Word Problem 2, two things must be considered when
writing the equation. One consideration is writing the expressions for the two
angles involved (x and x + 10) and the second is showing how these two angle

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expressions are related by using the definition of complementary [x + (x+10) =

90]. In Word Problem 3, when money is involved (coins), the expression has to
take into account both the number of each coin type [x = # of nickels; x+7 = # of
dimes] and the value of each coin type [5x = value of nickels; 5(x+7) = value of
dimes]. The final step requires integrating the value of the coin, the number of
the coin, and their sum (total value) into one equation [5x + 5(x+7) = 295; cents].
Additionally, students have to take into consideration unit value, recognizing
that the equation must either be written in cents or dollars, and the appropriate
conversions performed. In word problems that involve money, each quantity
that adds up to the sum requires two considerations by the students.

The solution of word problems needs to be treated as a distinct skill. Word

problems are a unique blend of practical application, algebraic reading
comprehension and computational skills. Traditionally, however, all of these
individual skills (comprehension and computation) have usually been lumped
together in the handling of word problems. The assumption is made that
students can look at these three problems, assess the appropriate approach in
each case, and appreciate the essential differences between them. Moreover, this
assumption is made of students just beginning their study of algebraic word
problems. In order to achieve success in additional word problems, the students
would have had to make all of these assumptions correctly in addition to
mastering the computational skills of the lessons. Teachers unintentionally
required more of students than they were able to achieve, simply because the
complexity of even the simplest set of word problems was not recognized

This resulted in a variety of disjointed word problems at the end of most lessons
which supported a lessons content, but did not aide in students ability to
master solving word problems. Once again, students did not have the
opportunity to see and appreciate one approach before having to apply another.
Nor were students giving the opportunity to practice and internalize one
approach to mastery. By not categorizing word problems by content difficulty,
students were presented with a challenge that was impossible for all but the

A Viable Solution
In summation, after a careful analysis of current teaching practices, three areas
in which the approach to word problems can be strengthened were identified:
(a) organization by difficulty of comprehension and computation (including
decoding), (b) scaffolding, and (c) the EPA strategy (Explain, Practice, and
Assess) (Holmes et al., 2017).

Organization. Organization is the key to a successful approach to introducing

and teaching word problems (Holmes et al., 2017). The organization, which
groups word problems by type, stresses similarities among the word problems.
These similarities are based upon decoding difficulty (conversions of words to
algebraic expressions) and computational difficulty as expressed earlier. This is
the easiest way for students to internalize the strategies needed to attack a word
problem. This approach guides the students in looking at word problems,

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selecting appropriate approaches, and appreciating the essential differences

among them. Having the student reword the problem using a vocabulary that he
or she can fully understand may also help with organization as well as
comprehension of the problem. Once an individual group of similar word
problems is mastered, the strategy or method used to solve the problem can be
applied to new, but similar, word problems. This should enable student success
with word problems, reduce anxiety, and greatly diminish negative perceptions
of mathematics in general.

As reviewed earlier, most modern algebra texts deal with word problems as a
totality, where a smattering of varied word problems appear at the end of an
exercise set. Because similarities among these problems are not emphasized,
students cannot easily determine/identify the solution method required. Word
problems do not appear distinct, separate from one another, and have no
common solution pattern (method of solving the problem). By classifying word
problems by type, this lack of solution and strategy continuity is eliminated.

Scaffolding. Word problems should start with the simplest type and gradually
work up to more difficult problems. Scaffolding is not readily apparent in the
traditional treatment of word problems; in most cases, an assortment of word
problems of vastly different difficulty levels is attached to the end of a lesson.
Within that smattering of word problems, the students are never given the
chance to start at the beginning and take simple steps towards the
understanding of how to do word problems. The students are taught how to
approach the content lesson, but not how to approach the solving of word
problems in general the skill that they lack and that needs to be developed.

After extensive study of the word problems often encountered involving one
equation and one unknown, one possible organization scheme (Holmes et al.,
2017) begins with a variable that is predefined and scaffolds up to a variable that
is not predefined and involves additional vocabulary or content knowledge. The
following exemplify this progression:

Word Problem 4 (Predefined): Genelle is five less than twice her

daughter Rachels age. If Genelle is 45 years old, how old is her

Word Problem 5 (Not Predefined): The length of a rectangle is twice the

width. The perimeter is 48 inches. Find the length and the width of the

Word Problem 6 (Not Predefined-Plus): Aarika is selling raffle tickets:

two-dollar tickets for a chance to win an iPad; five-dollar tickets for a
chance to win a Dell desktop. Aarika sold twice as many two-dollar
tickets as five-dollar tickets. Her total ticket sales amounted to $45.00.
How many two-dollar and five-dollar tickets did she sell?

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These three word problems exemplify one possible way to scaffold simple word
problems involving one equation with one unknown. These word problems are
scaffolded two ways: variable-identification complexity (predefined to non-
predefined plus) and relationship complexity (development of the equation).

Variable-identification Complexity. Variable identification complexity

(predefined to non-predefined plus) involves expressing one variable in terms of
another and identifying the relationship between the two expressions. However,
at the simplest, predefined level, the relationships are given (defined); all
necessary information is stated in the problem. The relationship between the two
variable expressions can be found within the problem.

Example #4 involves the expressions x and 2x-5. These expressions were

based only on information given in the problem; no other relationships
needed to be used (predefined). These are the simplest word problems in
this category.

At the more complex non-predefined level, the equation is based upon

additional information, most often a matter of algebraic vocabulary such as
complementary/supplementary or geometric vocabulary such as perimeter. It
can also involve the complex relationship between items of different monetary
value. In order to solve these problems, students must make use of information
not explicitly stated in the problem.

Examples #5 and #6 are both non-predefined word problem types. In

Example #5 the additional information required is the definition of
perimeter, and it must be used to set up the equation: w=x, l=2x, p=2L +
2w; 48=2(x) + 2(2x).

Example #6 requires an understanding of the relationship between items

of different monetary value. x = number of $5 raffle tickets, 2x = number
of $2 raffle tickets. So, students must understand how the monetary
value of the tickets sold determines the final equation: 5x + 2(2x) = $45

In terms of scaffolding (difficulty level), problems involving money are

more complex than problems requiring additional vocabulary.

In this sequence of word problems, students moved from the simplest to a more
difficult form.

Relationship Complexity. Relationship complexity or development of the

equation refers to the degree of complexity involved in the relationship between
the two expressions for the quantities identified in the problem. In Example #4,
the simplest word problem, the two quantities are given by the expressions:
x=Rachels age, 2x-5 = Genelles age. The wording of the problem indicates that
Genelles age is 45. Translating that, the equation becomes 2x-5 = 45. Example
#5 is a slightly more complex word problem in that the definition of perimeter
(2w + 2l = p) is required. Substituting x for the width and 2x for the length, the

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final equation becomes 2x +2(2x) = 48. The final example is the most complex,
requiring the monetary relationship between the total value of the two-dollar
tickets and the five-dollar tickets: 5x equals the monetary value of the $5 tickets
and 2(2x) equals the monetary value of the $2 tickets; their sum is $45, resulting
in the equation 5x + 2(2x) = $45. In addition, care must be given to keep all
monetary values in either dollars or cents, especially when introducing this level
of complexity.

Notice, that in this sequence of word problems computational vocabulary is kept

simple. Twice (2x) was used in each level of word problem difficulty and
calculations are kept simple. Hence, the increased difficulty results from the
increased complexity involved in the relationship of the expressions for the
quantities used in each problem. The challenge of word problems encountered
by the students is not exacerbated by computational difficulties.

Explain-Practice-Assess (EPA) Strategy. As each individual category of word

problems is introduced, the approach should be explained in detail as the
example problems are being solved. As evidenced-based practice dictates, a
good explanation involves three steps: (a) the teacher explains one or two
examples in detail as s/he models the solution; (b) the third and fourth examples
are completed with teacher-prompted student involvement (guided instruction);
(c) the fifth and sixth examples are student-led. The number of examples in each
step is situationally determined. An advanced class may only need two
examples; while an at-risk class may require more. In addition, student
questions should be strongly encouraged at each level. At level c, the teacher
should monitor each student with the goal of having the entire class reach a
basic level of understanding (to the extent possible). This is done prior to
allowing students to individually practice the material. This Explain-Practice-
Assess (EPA) strategy gives teachers the opportunity to take the class as a whole
and make it progress through the material, leaving no child behind.

Multiple practice exercises should be provided, so that the students can practice
what they are learning discretely, meaning the students are given the
opportunity to master each level of word problem before proceeding to the next
level. Three practices are suggested. With the first practice, students will make a
variety of mistakes; this is to be expected. In the second practice, students have
corrected the previous errors and perhaps make new ones. In the third practice,
the hope is that students will have mastered this limited lesson the one type of
word problem introduced. Should a fourth practice be required, the first practice
can be re-used. In this way, students are very clearly given the opportunity to
master the material at each step, leading to success and a positive attitude
toward word problems.

The final step involves assessment to determine level of mastery. The assessment
should mirror the practices. The only real hurdle in the EPA strategy is to
harness the involvement of the student. As long as the students are engaged in
the process, mastery is assured. If students practice one thing, repeatedly, with
teacher monitoring, they will succeed.

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By classifying word problems based upon similar strategies and teaching each
type in succession, students begin to recognize patterns which facilitate
comprehension of the words; they see how each type of word problem can be
written algebraically. When word problems are not categorized, but en masse,
with every word problem being different, students have a harder time
recognizing and then attacking the problems. The repetition and categorizing of
the word problems assist the learning process.

As always the numbers used in these word problems are kept manageable. This
facilitates understanding rather than time spent on challenging arithmetic.
Unfortunately this may lead some students to guess at the answer, bypassing the
equation altogether. For each type of word problem, the variable must be
identified; the equation must be stated; and the question must be answered.
Insistence on these three steps prevents students from taking a shortcut that will
harm them when presented with more complex word problems later.

The following is a graphic organizer that summarizes this treatment of word

problems involving one equation and one unknown. Word problems dealt with
in this manner will have been broken down, categorized, scaffolded, explained
and practiced so that student success is assured. Students will complete these
graphic organizers where the last two columns will need to be filled out by the
students (see Table 1). Please note that in each case, it is essential for each
student to write the equation even if it is possible to guess the correct answer.

Table 1: Word Problem Classification Graphic Organizer

Relationship Example Variable Pattern & Answer

values pre-defined Identification Attack

Number Equality If five less than x = the number 6x 5 = 10 x=5

6 times a + 3x
number is
equal to 10
more than 3
times a
number, what
is the number?
Consecutive Numbers
consecutive The sum of 3 x = the first x + x+1 + x = 17
consecutive consecutive x+2 = 54 17, 18, 19
numbers is 54. number
What are the
even The sum of x = the first x + x+2 + x = 24
consecutive three even consecutive even x+4 = 78 24, 26, 28
numbers is 78. number
What are the
odd consecutive The sum of x = the first x + x+2 + x = 31
three odd consecutive odd x+4 = 99 31, 33, 35

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numbers is 99. number

What are the
Note: Odds and evens work the same; this will have to be explained.

Relational Values Example Variable Identification, Answer

not predefined Pattern & Attack
Sums of numbers One number is 12 x = one number 10, 22
more than another. x + 12 = another number
Their sum is 32. What
are the numbers? x + x + 12 = 32
Note: In word problems of this type, the first sentence often defines quantities, while the second sentence
defines the relationship of the quantities. It is critical in setting up these word problems that the explanation
includes defining the second quantity (e.g. x + 12) in terms of the first (e.g. x).
Area and Perimeter The length of a x = the width width = 10
rectangle is seven x + 7 = the length length = 17
more than the width.
The perimeter is 54. 2x +2(x+7) = 54
Find the length and
width of the
complementary Two angles are x = one angle 550 , 350
complementary. One x + 20 = its
angle is twenty more complement
than the other. Find
the measures of these x + x+20 = 90
two angles.
supplementary Two angles are x = one angle 600 , 1200
supplementary. One 2x= its supplement
angle is twice the
other. Find the x + 2x = 180
measures of these
two angles.

Relational Values not Example Variable Answer

predefined plus Identification, Pattern
& Attack
Money Peppermint patties x = the number of 8
Problems involving cost 25 cents each. peppermint patties jawbreakers
quantities which Jaw breakers cost 35 15+x = the number of
7 peppermint
have different cents each. Starving jaw breakers patties
monetary values Adele wants to buy
15 pieces of candy for .25x +.35 (15+x) = $4.55
$4.55. How many
peppermint patties
and jawbreakers can
she purchase?
Note: It may be easier for students to work in cents whenever possible, thus avoiding decimals.
This last equation would then become 25 + 35(15 ) = 455.

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In support of this treatment of word problems, there is anecdotal evidence
available. One of the authors has used this pedagogy for over eight years and
has met with substantial success. Students have achieved significantly better
mastery of word problems and no longer avoid them. Students no longer
struggled or expressed frustration and dislike for the word problems.
Classroom assistants, including one who worked with Algebra I students for
many years, commented that this method of tackling word problems gave
students an opportunity to experience success not otherwise found. This
assistant saw that these students were understanding word problems, doing
well on assessments, and displaying a much more positive attitude than in the
past. This method has been explained in detail in the textbook, Now, I Can
Understand Algebra, and is being piloted in several schools in western
Michigan. While the success has been mostly anecdotal, this next step will
provide empirical evidence.

It is important to note that the strength of this method of teaching word

problems is not in that the students memorize types of word problems, but that
the students are given scaffolded word problems of differing types in order to be
able to better classify and learn how to attack the word problems. The key in
this particular method is teaching the students how to breakdown and analyze
word problems -- a requisite skill needed in mathematics generally. While
empirically, students grades have risen using this method, the true key to
success is that students were understanding the process and using the process to
attack other word problems such as two equation, two unknown types.

In this article, examples were provided for one equation, one unknown word
problem types, but this same treatment (categorizing, scaffolding, EPA) can be
applied to many different kinds of word problems (e.g., functions including
linear, quadratic, and cubic; two equations, two unknowns; and percentages).
The word problem unit described here gives students the opportunity to
develop word problem skills from the beginning and provides a good
foundation for future word problem study. These skills can be transferred to
more complex problems, which involve applying strategies to new concrete and
abstract situations.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 101-111, June 2017

Saudi Arabian International Graduate Students' Lived

Experiences Studying for the First Time in a Mixed-
Gender, Non-Segregated U.S University

Barbara N. Young, Ed. D., Donald Snead, Ed. D.

Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, U.S.A.

Abstract. Enrollment of Saudi Arabian International students in United

States institutions of higher learning has increased substantially over the
years since King Abdullah initially launched the Saudi scholarship
program in 2005 that was renewed in 2010 and funded an outward flow
of Saudi student, including females, to universities worldwide. A
commitment to education for women is evident in that the program also
provides funding for an accompanying male relative for every Saudi
female awarded a scholarship. As a result, a number of Saudi females
are able to receive a similar cross-cultural experience along with their
male counterparts. The majority of Saudi students are sent to English
speaking countries, with the U.S. universities having the largest number
of enrollees. Consequently, there is a social and cultural impact as well
as an academic one results as these Saudi international male and female
students move through the acculturation process that accompanies their
studies in the U.S. Since Saudi women were not encouraged to study
abroad prior to 2010 they have not been the focus of multiple research
studies. Given that male students have been both scholars and
participants in multiple research studies in the past decades, the
inclusion of Saudi Women International Graduate Students in this
study, along with their male counterparts, has presented a unique
opportunity for findings to emerge regarding gender-related issues in
society and academia between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia as these female
SA students are studying for the first time in mixed-gender environment
and male SA students are interacting for the first time along with SA
females in a mixed-gender environment.

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The late 1970s saw a rapid increase in international students from Saudi
Arabia (SA) entering universities in the United States (US). In the late 1970s, the
number of international students from Saudi Arabia (SA) in the United States
(US) increased rapidly 10,440 reaching a high of 10,440 in 1980/81. A period of
student population fluctuation followed until 1993/94, which was followed by
increases until 2001/02. In the 2002/03 academic year, enrollments dropped 25%
and continued to decline, reaching a low of about 3,000 students in 2004/05. In
2005/06, when participants in the newly-formed King Abdullah Saudi
Scholarship Program (KASP) began enrolling in US universities, the number of
Saudi students rose by 14%. With the scholarship program in place, the number
of students showed a dramatic rise in 2006/07 and SA appeared in the list of top
25 places of origin at #12. The years 2015/16 marked the first time since 2004/05
that Saudi students did not experience double-digit growth. In the 2015/16
academic year, 61,287 students from SA were studying in the US, up 2.2% from
the previous year with 2014/15 at 59,945 students (International Institute of
Education, 2016).
Although studies about male Saudi students in higher education exist,
there is a lack of studies about female Saudi students in higher education. As a
result of the KASPs focus on international education for both males and
females, along with King Abdullahs personal approval and support, and in
spite of the male guardian accompaniment requirement, 19,000 Saudi females
were studying at US universities and colleges in 2012 as compared to 800 in 2004
(Kono, 2013). Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), an approved
institution under the Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission (SACM), saw a significant
increase in the number of Saudi male students in graduate programs in 2010/11
along with a comparable increase of Saudi females in 2013. Currently, more than
1,200 Saudi students are enrolled at MTSU. The Saudi government has reported
that KASP will run until 2020 which raises the question as to how (and if) these
globally mobile Saudi male and female international students will impact the
social, economic, and cultural transformation of Saudi society after acculturation
experiences in the non-segregated, mixed-gender society and academic contexts
of the US (Ahmed, M. A., 2015; International Institute of Education, 2016). As a
result, this study focused on the naturally-occurring experiences of Saudi male
and female international students living in the US and studying for the first time
at a US university.


Because of the nature of the inquiry, the investigators utilized the action
research process and took a qualitative stance in examining and analyzing the
responses of SA international graduate students regarding adjustment
experiences that emerged during the acculturation (cross-cultural transition)
process over the first semester at MTSU. The qualitative approach in the action
research process necessitated that naturalistic inquirers employ various
collection modes to gather data from and about individuals within given
contexts. As a result, the qualitative approach taken in this study utilized

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


multiple forms of data for triangulation and coding processes and analysis
procedures in order to identify emerging themes and patterns of thought
resulting from examination, analysis, and categorization. Lastly, findings are
reported in a narrative that provides descriptive, interpretive accounts of the
naturally-occurring acculturation experiences of the SA international students as
they interacted in the non-segregated, mixed-gender society and academic
contexts of the US (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007; Corbin & Strauss, 2015; Craig, 2009;
Craig & Young, 2009; Young, 1994).
Thirty SA graduate students enrolled in a Masters in Education Degree
were invited to participate in the study by investigators (one male / one female).
Eleven SA international graduate students (seven males / four females) out of a
possible 30 agreed to take part in the study and signed a release form agreeing
to be surveyed, participate in a focus group discussion, write personal
reflections, and be interviewed. All participants completed a short demographic
survey in writing (English) regarding gender, major, and country of origin.
Next, participants took part in five open-ended interviews conducted orally and
recorded in written form (English) by a research team member. A male
researcher was paired with male SA students and a female investigator was
paired with female SA students. Oral interview questions solicited information
regarding: expectations prior to arrival and reality as compared to expectations,
significant differences in cultural practices in the US versus SA, gender roles
within the university classroom and society in general in the US as compared to
SA, most / least enjoyable activities, challenging or surprising happenings,
experiences with discrimination or stereotyping, communication with
Americans, changes in self, and level of well-being at various time intervals.
In addition, subjects participated in a focus group discussion
and recorded reflections in personal journals describing their experiences as
international graduate students living in the US for the first time and studying at
MTSU. The personal journal format encourages depth of reflective discourse and
is a form of personal reflection, thought, and reaction that differs from face-to-
face interaction and provides an opportunity for sharing personal thoughts and
ideas in an authentic and non-threatening format (Corbin & Strauss, 2015).
Investigators utilized coding for in-depth analysis of data sets. All data sets were
transcribed, coded, and organized according to emerging themes and patterns
(chunks of meaning) that revealed what participants thought and felt about their
naturally-occurring lived experiences (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007; Corbin & Strauss,
2015; Craig, 2009; Young, 1994) in the mixed-gender social and academic
contexts in the US as compared to society and academia in SA. These findings
provided an authentic glimpse into the complex experiences of both male and
female SA international graduate students studying and living in the US
regarding first-time interactions within non-segregated, mixed-gender social
and academic contexts with each other and also with other graduate students.

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Results and Discussion

Analysis of data sets revealed that all 11 SA international graduate
students participating in the study, regardless of gender, experienced a plethora
of challenges and / or barriers to their success within the social and academic
contexts during their acculturation process. All participants mentioned various
cultural and social differences including: gender-related differences, dietary
foods, socially acceptable dress for females, religious practices, behavior of
youth, friendliness of Americans, variety of activities and academic programs of
study available to students, social and academic language difficulties, academic
progress difficulty, lack of resources in place for international students on
university, community, and personal levels, especially in terms of English
language supportive measures for non-native speakers of English.
As a result, data analysis revealed specific emerging themes and
categories of meaning which included (1) personal beliefs /expectations about
the US culture and population versus the reality, (2) acculturative stress and
adjustment, (3) cultural differences in general between the US and SA, (4)
gender-related differences in society and academia between the US and SA, (5)
experiences of discrimination and / or curiosity, (6) English language
proficiency difficulties, (7) relationship issues, (8) lack of resources for support
and help-seeking, and (8) freedom and decision-making opportunities. Further
analysis allowed for chunks of meaning to be derived from the emerging
themes and patterns of meaning. These chunks of meaning were grouped and
labeled by the investigators under the following categories: (1) Challenges and /
or Barriers to Success within the Biological Context, (2) Challenges and / or
Barriers to Success within the Psychosocial Context, and (3) Challenges and / or
Barriers to Success within the Academic Context. Furthermore, the participants
level of English proficiency as well as issues surrounding gender norms and
prejudices emerged as both Challenges and / or Barriers to Success impacting
all three contexts: Biological, Psychosocial, and Academic.

Challenges and /or Barriers to Success within the Biological Context

Data emerged indicating specific biological Challenges and / or Barriers

to Success which included difficulties resulting from adaptation to a new time
zone and its impact on the sleep / wake cycles as well as eating time
preferences, drinks and foods which violated dietary cultural practices or caused
gastrointestinal distress, and differences in climate resulting in skin care issues
as well as dehydration requiring adaptation to seasonal weather changes and
traditional clothing adaptation to fit climatic changes.

Challenges and /or Barriers to Success within the Psychosocial Context

Data emerged indicating specific psychosocial Challenges and / or

Barriers to Success which included social and emotional difficulties resulting
from the pace and rhythm of American way of life, the constant fluctuation of
emotions, experiences with discrimination and / or stereotyping, social
adaptation problems involving difficulties with forming meaningful

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relationships with Americans, social isolation due to lack of meaningful

communication within the social context due to unfamiliar language,
homesickness, actual distance from family and friends, feelings of isolation
regarding their own culture as well as feeling isolated from the new culture,
frustration resulting from cultural differences involving political beliefs, social
customs, religious practices, gender norms and prejudices, housing and
transportation problems especially for females since typically females do not
drive in SA, as well as traditional clothing and availability of shopping facilities
to purchase traditional merchandise and foods, financial resources, unexpected
expenses, or employment complications, and amount of time necessary for
language translation within all areas of daily living experiences.

Challenges and / or Barriers to Success within the Academic Context

Data emerged indicating specific Challenges and / or Barriers to Success

within the academic context which included difficulty adjusting to the preferred
type of US classroom interaction practices involving active rather than passive
participation responses to instruction. Active participation and interaction with
male professors and participating in discussion with male students within the
US classrooms were especially difficult practices for the SA female students.
Saudi female students explained to investigators that in SA all female students
are taught in single-sex classrooms by female instructors. If a male instructor is
necessary for female students, the instruction is conducted via remote delivery
with no face to face interaction. Classes are not mixed but are separated by
gender. As a result, females experienced discomfort within the mixed-gender
classroom impacting communication with male professors and / or male
classmates including oral presentations, seating assignments, and non-
segregated cooperative group activity. Participants also mentioned critical
thinking skills, writing ability, note-taking, language difficulties involving usage
and slang as well as difficulty with comprehension of lectures, readings, and
testing material as being especially challenging.

Challenges and / or Barriers to Success within ALL Three Contexts

Interestingly, data analysis revealed three most notable Challenges and

/ or Barriers to Success mentioned in detail by all 11 SA international graduate
students as significant in their acculturation process. The participants level of
English proficiency, sense of isolation, as well as numerous issues surrounding
cultural gender norms, prejudices, and traditional practices emerged as
Challenges and / or Barriers to Success impacting all three contexts: biological,
psychosocial, and academic.

Cultural Gender Norms and Traditional Practices / Prejudices

Participants were most animated and decisive when interacting with

inquirers during the oral interview process with regard to differences existing
between Saudi and US gender-related norms and prejudices within society in

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general and the academia in particular. Participants willingly shared opinions

with reference to US non-segregated society and mixed-gender university
classrooms in contrast to their particular experiences in SA society and
Participants said SA academic settings are single-sex with males
educating males and females educating females; each gender has a separate
educational facility / university. For example, if a male professor were to teach a
female student that professor must do it via remote delivery and vice versa for a
female professor instructing male students. All participants said that females in
particular were forbidden to teach members of the opposite sex. As a result,
inquirers observed SA females with the US classroom setting to be hesitant
about speaking up when male students were present within their classes.
Interestingly enough, the females were observed in the classroom setting by the
inquirers to be even more passive if a male SA student were in the same class. It
was mentioned by two of the four participating SA females that they did not
interact within the mixed-gender classroom setting if another SA female were
present since the other SA female might mention their interaction to a male SA
guardian. This issue was especially troubling to the females since active
participation by class members is considered the norm in the US academic
setting. Active classroom participation was not seen as problematic by the male
SA students. Two of the male SA participants did voice that they did not like
it if a SA female were part of a group that included American males and were
required to work in that type of group setting. When asked by the inquirer as to
why this was bothersome to them, both participants responded with an
explanation that SA culture protected and preserved the virtue and sanctity of
women for marriage and home.
The freedom that the US women have was perceived in to be
positive as well as negative in various instances. Two SA women said they felt
more protected in SA and were pleased to their male guarding traveling with
them as they were not allowed to drive in SA. On the other hand, two of the
women said the gender roles in the US were very different from SA where
genders in universities as well as society were kept separate but equal with no
mixing. One of the women went on to say women in the US are free and have
their own rights and not like in SA where boys are much preferred.
The wearing of the traditional burka or the hijab was mentioned as a
major issue by all four SA women. The women themselves did not see their
cultural dress in a negative way; however, they voiced the opinion that
Americans reacted in a negative way to these traditional head or body coverings
in social settings, not necessarily within the academic setting. All of them
mentioned prejudicial comments made to them by strangers with regard to their
traditional dress. On the other hand, SA males made negative comments
regarding typical dress of US female students; the lack of any rules regarding
dress of women was unacceptable. Womens bodies should be covered and not
exposed by wearing short shorts and short dresses and clothes with their
midriff showing.
The following quotes, recorded and transcribed by inquirers as
closely as possible to the spoken word of participants, illustrate the significant
impact of issues surrounding cultural gender-related norms and traditional

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practices / prejudices on the cross-cultural transition experience of SA

international students, especially females. Data indicated this issue presented a
significant Challenge and / or Barrier to Success within all three contexts:
biological, psychosocial, and academic and, especially for SA females, was most
crucial to having a successful acculturation experience for these international
graduate students studying and living in the mixed-gender, non-segregated US

Oral Interview Quotations: Gender-related quotes by Saudi Women

It was a great feeling that for the first time I studied in a different country and
different people regardless of gender. They are equal.

I think we are all equal at U.S. classrooms. We have to respect another gender.
They are the same in rights and duties.

They are very different. Boys are much preferred in S.A. For each gender we
had separate university.
Not different between genders. All of them has the same rights. It was so
perfect and they dont care about gender.
My impressions of the dress code and overall clothing style of U.S. university
students girls is cool and make the student comfortable when they did not have
formal dress. It is opposite what do in my country.
I think they have nice style specially girls. However, there is something I dont
like for boys when their pants come down.
Many times I see some students laugh when they see me because my cover
sometimes when I have presentation. I feel shy and they put me on stress.
Females do not teach males.
Here women drive. Female students are forbidden to drive and we are driven to
and from school.
We do not have school with boys. No male teachers in classes except with
remote delivery.
Our virtue is protected.
At home is tests and memory and different here with speaking much in class.
Students do not like hijab and stare or ignore me.
I can speak in class and sit with boys. I have no husband or S.A. males in
classroom. My friend is with husband in her class and does not want to speak.

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Oral Interview Quotations: Gender-related quotes by Saudi Men

It was the first time to travel out of home country for my wife. Honestly, she
doesnt like to stay here anymore and Im facing some difficulties with her. Im
trying to convince her to stay for one more year to finish her degree. My kids
like to stay and they have many activities.
The gender roles are very different. I do not feel much gender roles.
Genders are completely different in my country they are separate from whole
levels and every place.
In my home country the females university is decoupled from the University of
My country has a special culture and we have separate education. In my country
there do not have mixing in education.
Gender roles are nonexistent in U. S. and clothing is different with body
exposure acceptable for women.
I dont like sometimes U.S. men sitting next to S.A. women.
No dress code for woman. People wear whatever they want even if their
stomachs show.
I dont like when women wear short shorts and short dresses and clothes with
their midriff showing. A university should be a place to learn not to show your
body off.
Here everyone women too can dress up any style and they dont care about
specific style. It is opposite what do in my country - no rules at all for girls.
It is more open and too liberal than our community.
There (S.A.) the men and women are separate not equal and we have special
universities for each gender.
Genders are completely different in my country. They are separate from whole
levels and every place.

The following quotes, recorded and transcribed by inquirers as closely as

possible to the spoken word, illustrate the significant role of level of language
proficiency within all three contexts: biological, psychosocial, and academic and
its impact on whether or not these international graduate students studying and
living in the mixed-gender, non-segregated US society have a more positive
cross-cultural transition experience. In addition, level of language proficiency
contributed to the participants feelings of loneliness and sense of isolation as
communication with Americans was difficult in social as well as academic

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Oral Interview Quotations: Language Proficiency

Always I did not find people which I practice with them to speak English.
The challenge that I faced with English and overall communication is that
speaking fluently.
Before I came here I understand some word but I was surprised when I talked
with some native language.
I hope to overcome the problem of understanding the slang language.
I always search the internet on how to improve my academic language. I
listening to the radio and reading in English as much as we can and listening to
the news and reading.
I struggle with tasks that require proficiency with academic language such as
reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Some of the academic terms are words I do not know.
For me, before coming here I had some of English language but I was shocked
when I started learning academic.
We started from the zero because our education was poor in English. Also, I
have massive difficult to practice my English.
The challenging that I faced with English and academic language is that using
APA and every using artificial in writing.
Academic language is difficult and it needs a lot of reading.
Academic journals and reading is very very difficult. However, I translate them.

Oral Interview Quotations: Loneliness Sense of Isolation

I missed Arabic and traditional food. We have a challenge about pork. We cant
eat the pork.
First week negative alone because a white male spit at my wife.
Some people dont like me because I wear hijab. I faced some bad situation with
some people for this thing. My neighbor ignore me when I was sitting out my
house and when I say hello. She ignore me and slam her door. Also, I
understand how the mass media give them a bad picture about hijab and
Muslims. On the other hand I have American friends who love me and respect
me. People are different.
It is a big challenge we faced with native people such as the way they look and
same times they dont understand our accent also the different interesting.
The homesick and I found it is difficult to make a friendship with American
people. I miss my friends and family.
I miss my religion religious celebrations.

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There is a lot of surprising things such as take how some people care of dogs
more than their children. They love dogs and respect them.

Conclusions - Implications Limitations

Using qualitative research methods, this study explored 11 SA male and

female international graduate students Challenges and / or Barriers to Success
within the biological, psychosocial, and academic contexts that emerged over the
course of the first semester of study at MTSU. The findings indicated that these
international graduate students faced significant transitional difficulties during
the first semester of graduate study in the US at MTSU in all three contexts.
The students expressed feelings of frustration and experiencing a lack of
support and / or resources provided by university personal and professors
within the biological, psychosocial, and academic contexts in their reflective
journal entries and oral interviews. Although students were able to develop new
strategies to deal with these cross-cultural transitional challenges, a need for
more support and additional resources provided by university personnel and
professors was indicated by the students during this most crucial acculturation
time. Since international students begin the cross-cultural transition process at
the university, it makes sense that the university should focus on specific
challenges faced by the international students and provide more adequate
support for the international students at this most crucial time. In addition, data
analysis revealed two most notable Challenges and / or Barriers to Success
mentioned in detail by all 11 SA international graduate students as significant in
their acculturation process and impacting all three contexts (biological,
psychosocial, academic) as being (1) participants level of English proficiency
and (2) issues surrounding gender norms and prejudices.
Some may see findings of this qualitative study as limited since it
focused on seven male and four female SA international graduate students at
one university; however, due to the nature of the study and use of data based on
human experience, sample size is not seen as a limitation by the inquirers.
Although the data collected in this study from a small number of individuals
cannot be generalized to a larger population, findings may however be
transferable to similar settings (Cardona, B., Millan, M., Birnbaum, M., & Blount,
I., 2013). Also, findings may be used in a positive manner to increase
understanding and support for SA international students navigating through
acculturation adjustment experiences in US academia, US society, and personal
lives based on level of language proficiency and significant cultural differences
surrounding immersion in the non-segregated, mixed-gender academic and
social US environment for the first time.
At present, the impact of SA international students cultural identity
and its influence on the experience of being in a non-segregated, mixed-gender
environment for the first time has not been the focus of many studies. Studies
involving SA male and female international students and their acculturation
experiences in the US are limited due to the fact that prior to 2005 very few
Saudi females were educated in the US. Future such studies would provide
insight and information into this complex topic that could be used to enrich and
ensure a more positive cross-cultural transition experience for SA international

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graduate students studying and living in the US for the first time. Future studies
might focus on the cross-cultural transition experiences of SA male and female
students educated in the mixed-gender classrooms of the US and their potential
impact on society and / or academia in SA upon return to the home country.
Furthermore, due to the lack of studies focused on SA women international
students in the US, and the significant gender-related cultural differences
between SA and the US impacting the acculturation process of Saudi women in
particular, future studies similar to this one focusing on the acculturation
process (cross-cultural transition) of Saudi international students, especially
female students, are warranted.

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