Teaching English language in Malaysia can be nonetheless possessed its own challenge to ESL teachers. Malaysia made up of three main races have that tendency of embracing their own identity including the language that spoke on daily basis. Well, ESL learning was expectedly having its own sets of difficulty to be taught in a multicultural community. As Malaysia moving into a new era of generation Y slowly to be overtaken by generation Z, millennial seems to have got the gist of it. In this new era of technological advancement, English language is no longer too uncommon for Malaysian as various English content are easily made available in the internet especially via social media. The utilization of more traditional literature such as novel or short stories is still widely practiced with paper printed material eventually replaced by E-based content such as E-books and all sorts. Although the introduction of video and animated content seems to be much more appealing to millennial English learner, however, word based material is still significantly relevant in ESL lessons as understanding the language requires not only mastering listening aspect of the language but also reading and writing as well. Utilizing literature in teaching language provides better linguistic understanding and developing creativity as it is an authentic language model which are rich in potential (Ramsaran 1983; Colin & Slater, 1987). Novel and short story is a very suitable learning material for English language learner as it can be a good indicator of increased motivation, interest in reading and improved reading skills (Vural 2019; Saka, 2914; Pardede, 2011). Ceylan (2016) studies has further indicated that studying short stories may benefits students by broadening their perspectives, enabling them for better reasoning rather than solely focusing on the result, exposing them with different life styles, allowing them to compare various cultural differences, and at the end increasing their appreciation for the material to encourage reading interest.
To ensure learning outcome achieved to its fullest potential, it is important that both education policy maker including ESL teacher themselves understands that there are elements which included the lesson plans designed for ESL learning as well as how the teaching personnel conduct themselves in the class can be vital to English learning for the students. ESL teacher should be aware that student may respond differently towards literature (novel and short story). Studies conducted in the past have shown that readers mostly assume aesthetic stance when responding to a literature. However, more often than not, student post-responds after going through a literature are more efferent as their feedback suggested. This may highly due to the widely practiced efferent teaching in school where teacher teach their student efferently to ensure student pass with good grade. Students were taught to provide the absolute “right” answer at all time in order to score the best mark they could possibly get. Often in literature learning, reading novel and short story exercises learning outcome has been pre-determined with teacher-perceived meanings rather than student perceiving their own meanings based on the reading that they have done on their own. Rosenblatt (1994) distinguishes the differences between efferent as reading in which the reader is concern with what they will carry away (reading for information) and aesthetic reading as reading for what happens during the actual reading. Forouzani (2017) founded that aesthetic reading can lead to aesthetic transaction and more engagement of readers with texts. Further confirmed that aesthetic reading led to deeper understanding of the text (Hunt & Vipond, 1987), improves students meaning making of a text through transacting with it which ultimately improves their writing (through reading) (Martin, 1987).
In the context of teaching novel or short story to Malaysian students, I am in agreement with the role of efferent/aesthetic continuum as how the findings has suggested. Traditionally when English language was taught for English learner, it is often too convenient to limit their learning experience to merely understand that actual meaning of what was taught. The utilization of literature such as novels or short story was commonly taught in a sense of asking the reader to merely direct translating in a form they could understand rather than to allow deepen exploration of the content. Malaysian commonly thought that having reading novel and short story in English language lesson is to merely allow more chances of encountering new vocabulary for them to translate and learn. Therefore, feedbacks upon completed reading of any literature often result in a content being summarized and paraphrased in a written form which often short and brief for ESL students. Thus, learning outcome can be very limited. Balancing the approach for both efferent and aesthetic in both teaching and learning English literature will open up more possibility in terms of mastering the language as well as developing interest to have another go at the literature again outside of teaching and learning. In my opinion, to promote aesthetic reading must be done without compromising the need of approaching literature efferently. For Malaysian whose mostly native language is not English, there are such needs in efferently approaching a literature in order to first understand what it meant actually meant first. As noted by Rosenblatt, “any reading act.. falls somewhere on a continuum between predominantly efferent and predominantly aesthetic reading. Rosenblatt further added that efferent reading is meant for knowledge/information, and aesthetic reading focuses on the artistic side of the text itself. Other than that, having reader response upon each literature teaching is just as important as this is one way of allowing student to actually looks back at what they have gone through. A local studies done by Angeline Ranjethamoney Vijayarajoo and Moses Samuel (2013) on tertiary students, tested on their literary responses through written feedback which measured with efferent / aesthetic continuum (level 1 to 5) proposed by Cox and Many (1992), before and after the exposure of reader response. The study found that student start to show aesthetic respond after exposed to the reader response for the 2nd and subsequent time. This implicated that the importance of having reader response in literature teaching.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck is a popular novel which was adapted into film in the past as well as widely use in schools for teaching novel to English learner. John Steinbeck is an award winning writer where he was awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, he described the writer’s obligation as “dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.” He was criticized for that statement which obscured his literary value. Steinbeck has been characterized variously as an advocate of socialist-style solutions to the depredations of capitalism, a champion of individualism, a dabbler in sociobiology, and naturalist. Steinbeck’s writings culled evidence of different political and philosophical stances, but nonetheless there is no denying that there are many interesting aspects to his work which included his use of paradox especially in one of his writing The Grapes of Wrath. In The Pearl, Steinbeck attempt to question the mysteries of human existence can ever be fully explained. He urges the dispossessed to challenge a system that denies them both sustenance and dignity, and to seek the spiritual belonging that enable individuals to achieve their full humanity. Thus, it can be seen the paradox of the writer in denouncing injustice while at the same time exalting acceptance of the sorrows visited on humanity, whether those sorrows are brought upon by nature or by human themselves. The Pearl is one work of Steinbeck which examine the morality and necessity of actions as the the protagonist Kino chose as he pursue his dreams. Kino in The Pearl story dreams of better standard of living for his family and salvation for his people. The reader first read of him in the dimness before dawn, listening to the sounds of his wife Juana doing her chores, which merge in his mind with the ancestral Song of the Family. “In this gulf of uncertain light (where) there were more illusions than realities”, the pearl that Kino finds has brought upon him more than just world and the end of centuries of mistreatment by white colonizers. The promise of wealth has manifests the archetypal evil hidden in the community’s unconscious, like the pearl that had laid hidden within the oyster at the bottom of the sea. As things turn ugly, Kino resorted into violence by bringing death to four men to protect himself, but unfortunately could not save his own son life. Ultimately this led readers into thinking what other choices might Kino could made to have different outcome. These contents of Steinbeck writing raises questions about our relationship to nature, the human need for spiritual connection, and the cost of resisting injustice. The Pearl also evoke readers on questions the novel raise about gender roles and family identity. In The Pearl, Juana’s “quality of woman, the rason, the caution, the sense of preservation, could cut through Kino’s manness and save them all”. Which raises the thought of whether these quality ultimately led to the return of the pearl to the sea at the end of the story. Steinbeck further depicted women to be the hope in the bleakest of circumstances in the story. The questions listed below may invoke aesthetic understanding towards appreciating the story, these are suggested based on a readers guide found in Penguin Random House:
- Why can neither Kino nor Juana protect their baby from the scorpion?
- Why could Kino kill the doctor more easily than talk to him?
- Why is it important to Juana that Kino be the one to throw the pearl back into the sea?
- Why does Kino think the killing of a man is not as evil as the killing of a boat?
- What does the narrator mean when he says, “A town is a thing like a colonial animal” (p. 21)?
- Why does the music of the pearl change?
- Why does Kino come to feel that he will lose his soul if he gives up the pearl?
- Why does Tomás help Kino?
- Why does Juana feel the events following the pearl’s discovery may all have been an illusion?
- What is the significance of Juana and Kino’s walking side by side when they return to the town?
For Further Reflection:
- Did Kino do the right thing in demanding a fair price for the pearl, even if it meant leaving his community?
- Why does Steinbeck choose the parable as the form for this story?
Teacher plays a vital role in further promoting aesthetic reading among their students. The Pearl is one such novel that requires teacher guidance to allow the story to be learned, so that at the end of reading the story, student may provide feedback more than just merely re-describing how the story goes but to view it beyond than how it was told. Uncovering various messages and ideas that the author attempt to suggest to the reader. Therefore, teacher has an important role in ensuring lesson objective are reached and to avoid student being confuse when going through the novel as it is written in a form of satire. Of course, it is part of the reader response pedagogy for teacher to help students to bring personal meaning with emotions to moves student response towards aesthetic continuum. While teaching the literature, teacher ought to encourage diverse respond from the students as this indicated that multiple levels of interpretation have been done through the reading which will resulted in enriched responses from the students. Tools which are crucial to assist teaching personnel would be the teaching handbook which serve as both reader response pedagogy source for the teacher and also learning guide for the students. In class rather than assuming the conventional authoritative teacher role, teacher should be less authoritative towards his or her class. Rather than strictly giving instruction and providing one right answer to the students, teacher should instead lower down their level slightly and assuming the role of a facilitator or if required to be in the same level as their student in a learner role in order to encourage aesthetic learning. By not taking too much control, this manner of teaching would allow greater degree of exploration of the material. Allowing sufficient time for student to read through the literature, as well as enough time to re-read it as past finding suggested that reading falls into aesthetic continuum through subsequent reading of the literature. It is important as well for teaching personnel to create a learning atmosphere that are suitable for aesthetic learning. A good class for such purpose should be engaging and noisy where all students are very participative within the lesson. Often, class that are taught through efferent approach can be too quiet and boring as there are too much control done by the teacher to ensure that the students are receiving the so called “absolutely right” information so that they can get the highest score possible in their exam. In creating an engaging and participative class environment, teacher can further promote aesthetic learning by asking open ended question which allow students to explore the literature further as well as offering reader response upon completion of the material. As past finding suggested, reader response is vital in promoting aesthetic reading. The interactive and transactive roles that student play equip student with greater knowledge. Thus, the knowledge they gain in the class is not restricted to only one “right” answer for all. This ultimately open up more learning potential for student to learn the beauty of the language itself other than plainly understand what it meant, and further promote interest for more reading in the future.
Understanding efferent / aesthetic continuum in teaching literature such as novel and short story is crucial in ESL lesson. As the world is moving rapidly towards economic and technological superiority, language play an important role in ensuring that we as a developing nation can keep up with the rest of the developed nation. As English language is commonly spoken between countries in global events, it is ever so importance that the language are fully understood in whatever form that it is presented. Other than purely mastering the language itself, it is important that millennial are taught in such a way that they can think outside of the box. Creative thinking is an important element in advancing a nation towards better quality of life. Having that tendency for greater exploration in various aspect of life allowed greater possibility as well as maximize potential for advancement. I strongly believe this may be encouraged through aesthetic learning beginning from grass root level which is beginning from the classroom itself. Both education policy maker and teacher play a huge role in ensuring student learning experience are at its fullest potential. Millennial shorten attention span provide a huge challenge for teaching personnel nowadays to keep student interested and engaging in classroom. Teacher may need to look at various technological assistance to keep the class lively. Nevertheless, approaching a literature aesthetically allowed multidimensional exploration on the literature and keeping it interesting as students are free to approach it on their own pace and understanding. In a long run, student would not turn away from literature reading and this encourage greater imagination which expand the potential for more learning to be done in the future.