One of the assignments that was required for my GGGV2044 Methods in TESL course this semester was a 20% individual research paper on one or more of the methods of language teaching in an ESL (English as a Second Language) context such as Malaysia.

Dr. Hamidah (Dr. H from PKAPS :P) was my lecturer for this course. And she, being as flexible as she was, gave us some freedom on the topic that we wished to discuss in our research paper. She told us we could:

1) discuss one method in detail, describing the advantages and disadvantages of the use of the method,

2) compare one method up against another, discussing the pros and cons of both,

3) do an analysis of more than two methods, or

4) write a chronological timeline of the methods including the principles of language teaching at the particular time period.

All interesting topics, for sure. But I chose Topic #1 🙂

I chose the Audio-lingual Method (ALM) to discuss and write on, because I felt that the theories behind ALM were interesting and are heavily debated even to this day.

Searching for resources was the first thing I knew I needed to do. I had to first read up on the method and know it inside out before I could start any writing at all.

Normally when I search for resources, I go to our UKM library’s online e-journals for students. I find it convenient and it has helped me in completing all my essays. When I was in first year, I used to Google up books from the internet but was more often than not, frustrated because the books available online were incomplete, or we would have to pay by credit card in order to proceed to the next page.

After discovering PTSL (Perpustakaan Tun Seri Lanang) E-Journal, I felt like smacking myself in the forehead. Why did I not use this before?? All the articles and journals that could be found there were COMPLETE and FREE. That is exactly what it is for, isn’t it?

I managed to find a few articles in online journals that were interesting and gave me the information I needed. I had to look for them under SCOPUS of course, and EBSCOHOST (Educational online data bases) as well. It took me some time to narrow down the search to find what I wanted on ALM, but I did. 🙂

After reading and “digesting” what I had read from the articles as well as from several books I had, there was a lot of information obtained on ALM. All I needed to do now was to decide what I wanted to include in my research paper and organize all my thoughts systematically. I would also have to list down a few quotes that brought new ideas to the general topic of ALM.

After thinking about it, I came up with this rough draft:

HEADINGS AND SUBHEADINGS

Introduction: Brief description of the theory behind ALM

History: How ALM came about; the theory of language teaching at that period

Principles of ALM: Beliefs and assumptions (and counter-arguments?)

Main features: Key activities

Techniques: Specific activities and tasks carried out in ALM that support theory and principles

Advantages

Disadvantages

Recommendations: Suggestions (personal) on employing the ALM in Malaysian context

Conclusion: Closing summary on the whole topic

Based on these headings and subheadings, I drafted my research paper. I wrote down what points I wanted to include in that particular category, the examples I wanted to give, the page of reference from either the journals or the books. Quotes that I wanted to include together with the author’s name and year of book publication.

Complying strictly to my draft, I started writing my research paper. And surprisingly, such a daunting task was completed within the day !

It took my longer to compile the information and organize my thoughts and ideas. That took me a few days: searching for articles on the internet and online journals, looking for suitable books to source from, organizing my ideas into categories and headings etc.

After that was done, I started writing based on the draft I had already prepared. And it was smooth-flowing from there. I had everything I needed right in front of me (including pages of the book or article to refer to) and so I managed to complete writing in 3-4 solid hours.

It was still rough around the edges, but everything I wanted to say was already typed out onto “paper”.

Next, came the editing. I usually find it harder to edit my own work. I have a tendency to ramble on when I write (as is pretty obvious by how long my blog posts are =.=) and so find it extremely hard to cut down on my “precious words” after that. Still, I tried my best. I cut out sentences I thought were not necessary, tweaked a few here and there. Replaced some words with more effective ones.

When I was almost satisfied with it, I worked on the margins and font size, checking if everything was according to the UKM format. Then I reread my work a couple of times to get the “feel” of the writing before I wrote my conclusion. I added in Appendix A (some other examples I had but did not elaborate on in the research paper itself) and typed out the references I had following UKM format. Finally I reread the entire assignment from beginning to end, checking for spelling mistakes (Well, I guess Microsoft Word does that for you now, but you still have to check, don’t you?), typing errors, margins, format, quotations.

And I was satisfied. 🙂

Handed it in to Dr. H 3 days before the deadline (Yes, I am very proud of that fact ! :P).

I actually enjoyed this assignment. When I reread my work, I always feel an immense feeling of satisfaction from having put my best into completing it. With regards to the subject matter, I better understood what ALM was all about (the Larsen-Freeman book is a really simple-read, straightforward and direct ! Helped me tremendously).

The process itself was a self-satisfying one. I learnt to source for my materials and resources using our UKM library’s online journals. I learnt to organize my thoughts and ideas, one step at a time. When you do that, any task can be completed without much fuss and minimal headache ! I also learnt that it is always better to read up and understand the entire topic on your own first, and write based on what you understand the topic to be. Rather than copy and paste everything from your sources (which is plagiarism ! And unethical ! >.<)

This assignment has been a learning experience once again and helped me solidify skills that I had already learnt from completing past assignments (like using PTSL E-Journals) as well as familiarize myself with new skills (organizing my thoughts out on paper first) that I can continue to use for the next assignment, and all the assignments after that. 🙂

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