pedagogical field is the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This was originally developed by
Vygotsky to argue against the use of standardized tests as a means to determine students'
intelligence. He stated that rather than examining what a student knows to determine
intelligence, it is better to examine their ability to solve problems independently and their ability
to solve problems with the assistance of an adult.
What is ZPD? One conception states that ZPD is the zones between what Vygotsky calls
the learner can do in the future, with the help of others now). Every act of learning occurs within
a ZPD; building on what the learner already knows and can do. Each learner has two levels of
development: a level of independent performance and a level of potential performance. To sum
up, ZPD is the gap between these two levels. (Feeze and Joyce 2002: 25-26)
Learning, according to Vygotsky, is first inter-psychological (social) before it is intra-
psychological (psychological) in nature; in other words, it begins by being object-regulated, and
then is others-regulated, before it is self-regulated. Object-regulation refers to the role played by
concrete manifestations of culture in the environment (i.e. objects and artifacts, rituals, routines
and daily practices, documents and valued texts, and so on) that function as sign systems that
mediate learning. The learners’ starting point is thus social, in the first place, because they begin
by taking cues from the environment. Children’s playground activities, for example, are also of
value not so much because they provide the children opportunities to manipulate, explore, and
discover the environment, but more because the role-playing which often dominates such
activities is a form of object-regulation of the children’s understandings of their environment.
One’s potential development, however, cannot be manifested, if learning stops at object-
regulation. The key to such a manifestation is the role played by significant others in mediating
learning (the stage of others-regulation). Such significant others may include parents, elders,
teachers, and more expert peers, who through talk and other means provide explicit or conscious
as well as implicit or unconscious guidance to the learner. Returning to the examples of
playground activities, this guidance may take the form of explanations of the meanings of the
activities or of an expert peers telling another their own view. It is at the stage of others-
regulation that language becomes important, not only to facilitate the transactions between
‘expert’ and learner, but also enable key concepts to be understood and retained.
For the potential development manifested by what the learner is able to do with the help
of others to be transformed eventually into actual development; self-regulation is vital. This is
the stage in which the learners process and manipulate by themselves the knowledge and
understanding gained; they begin to be capable of working independently. Vygostsky confirms
that the presence of more capable others in a child’s learning environments enables him/her to be
involved in cultural events at social level that eventually develop the her/his individual cultural
identity. While individual potential is acknowledged, this potential can only develop to its
knowledgeable others that create social interaction, negotiation, and shared learning. In
classroom context, Corden (2000: 8) suggests that “classroom learning can best be seen as an
interaction between teacher’s meanings and those of the pupils, so what they take away is partly
shared and partly unique to each of them”.
Constructivism (especially Vygotsky’s ideas) has been adopted by Derewianka (1990)
and Butt et al. (2001) to design a foreign language teaching method called Genre-Based
Approach. This model is firstly popularized as Curriculum Cycle which is very influential in
school settings in New South Wales, Australia, as well as in Singapore. This is a simple model
for developing complete lesson units (cycles) around text types/genres to be taught, and has as its
ultimate aims of helping learners to gain literacy independently through mastery of text types and
genres. Each lesson unit (cycle) has as its central focus on a chosen text type or genre, and
consists of a fixed sequence of stages. The descriptions of the cycle in Derewianka (1990) and
Butt et al. (2001) vary in minor ways, but four phases essential for developing control of a genre
may be identified, namely: Context Exploration, Text Exploration based on Model Texts, Joint
Construction of a Text, and Individual Application.
Every cycle begins with context exploration, ‘context’ referring to the possible contexts
of situation in which the chosen text-type or genre may be used. This phase resembles the pre-
listening/reading/speaking/writing phase that has come to be typical in Communicative
Language Teaching (CLT), and the activities that may be carried out may resemble to typical
pre-activities in skills-based teaching. However, where traditional pre-activities have aims as
warming up and activation of mental schema, the main goal of the genre-based Curriculum
Cycle is to help students to become aware of and understand some aspects such as: the social
purpose of the chosen genre, the contextual factors influencing the production of the texts, and
the texts themselves. Based on Vygotskian principles, another important aim of the context
exploration phase, from the teacher’s point of view, is to establish the learners’ ‘actual
development’ or starting point. (Derewianka, 1990; Butt et al., 2001)
The next stage, text exploration based on Model Texts, is the first of two perhaps
distinctive key phases in the Curriculum Cycle that demonstrates how GBA different from other
forms of CLT. The aims of this phase are to familiarize the learners with the target text-
type/genre, and to draw attention to organizational and linguistic features commonly found in
terms, the necessary object-regulation. Using such model texts, the pedagogical activities to
make explicit the features of the text-type are carried out. These may include a range of
established ‘communicative activities’, such as the re assembling of ‘jigsaw’ texts or information
gap exercises, but the tasks are deliberately constructed in such a way as to highlight the salient
lexical and grammatical features.
Thus, the tasks aim to be implicitly analytical, and not just to facilitate interaction as an
may be asked to ‘hunt’ for and highlight all instances of a specific grammatical form. Direct
teaching by the instructor is also an option, in order to make the features obvious to the learners.
How the formal features work to help the text-type achieves its purposes are also discussed or
explored. The teacher plays a key role in others regulation throughout this phase. (Derewianka,
1990; Butt et al., 2001)
Others-regulation continues and takes centre-stage in the next stage, the joint
construction. Here, referring to the model texts, and making use of the knowledge and awareness
gained from the exploration of the text, the students work with the teacher to construct their own
texts (spoken or written) in the text-type/genre. This can take some forms of activity such as
teacher-fronted whole-class co-construction of a single text on the board, small-group or pair
construction with the teacher helping each group or pair by turn, or teacher conferencing with
In the case of writing, as with process approaches, the texts may go through a few rounds
of drafting, editing, and re-drafting. The model texts continue to provide object-regulation, while
others-regulation comes from not only the teacher but also from other students, as more expert
peers guide others. What is to be noted in both the text exploration and joint construction phases
is that while there is much oral interaction taking place, its nature and intention is different from
that of most forms of CLT. Where the interactive activities in CLT are often designed to simulate
real life interaction, directed a providing opportunities for talking in the language, the talk in
GBA is about using language and is focused on a collaborative effort to learn to accomplish a
purpose in the language.
The last stage in the Cycle, individual application, as the name suggests, requires learners
essays. Ideally, this is carried out only after the students have successfully produced a jointly
constructed text or understanding of a text. This phase then provides the opportunity for self-
regulation, the crucial final stage in Vygotsky’s model of learning. What each learner produces
can be further recycled through further others-regulation (e.g. peer editing, teacher feedback),
until the learner attains a desired level of attainment. (Derewianka, 1990; Butt et al., 2001)
Figure 1: Learning Theory and Foreign Language Teaching Methods
- Silent way
Theory of Language
This section discusses some language theories which are relevant with the current issues
in foreign language teaching and learning, especially in Indonesia context. The chosen topics for
the discussion here are genre and text, speech act, and communicative competence.
Genre and Text
Current teaching method of English is widely known Genre-based approach (GBA).
According to Hyland (2003), GBA has varied theoretical bases in linguistics, such as Rhetorical
Structure Theory in North America (Mann & Thompson, 1988) and Generic Structure Potential
theory in Australia (Halliday & Hasan, 1989), in fields such as genre analysis. Genre analysis is
the study of how language is used within a particular setting (Swales 1990) and is concerned
with the form of language use in relation to meaning (Bhatia 1993). This is a tool to examine the
these moves are organized in order to achieve the communicative purpose of the text. Genre
analysis also examines the lexico-grammatical features of genres to identify the linguistic
features chosen by users to realize the communicative purpose, and to explain these choices in
terms of social and psychological contexts (Henry & Roseberry, 1998). Other considerations in
genre analysis include the communicative purpose, the roles of the writer and the audience, and
the context in which the genre is used. The results from analyzing a genre serve as the
instructional materials in genre-based instruction.
What is a genre? Swales (1990: 58) identified a genre as “a class of communicative
events, the members of which share some set of communicative purposes”. His definition offers
the basic idea that there are certain conventions or rules which are generally associated with a
writer’s purpose. For example, personal letters tell us about (their writers’) private stories and
film reviews analyze movies for potential viewers. Most genres use conventions related to
communicative purposes; a personal letter starts with a cordial question in a friendly mood
because its purpose is to maintain good relationships, and an argument essay emphasizes its
thesis since it aims at making an argument. They are the examples of written genres.
Meanwhile, according to Byram (2004: 235), genre refers to “a staged, goal-oriented,
purposeful activity in which speakers engage as members of their culture”. Some circumstances
as examples of spoken genres are buying fruits, telling a story, writing a diary, applying for a job
interview, writing an invitation letter, and so on (Kay & Dudley-Evans, 1998: 309). Each spoken
genre has a specific goal that people should achieve through several steps. Thus, the specific
social goals become main focuses when genre is discussed. The implication is that when writing,
the context of a situation should be considered and analyzed in order to anticipate what linguistic
features are required. All genres control a set of communicative purposes within certain social
situations and each genre has its own structural quality according to those communicative
purposes. (Kay and Dudley-Evans, 1998: 309)
Genres also refer to more specific classes of texts, such as newspaper reports or recipes.
Texts of each genre may be purely of one text-type (for example, a bus schedule is purely an
Information Report, while most recipes are purely of the text type ‘Instructions’) or they may be
a blend (for example, sermons often include stretches of narratives or recounts, as well as
explanations, while usually expository in intent). The classification and labeling of genres may
example, in some instances, written genres are defined in terms of familiar broad categories such
as Narratives, Description, Persuasion, Argumentation, etc. Another approach makes a
distinction around six text prototypes called text types, and more specific genres that employ
each or combinations of these text types. Whatever the differences, categorization is based on
what the discourse seeks to achieve or to do socially, for example, to tell a story (Narratives) or
to argue an opinion (Argument, Exposition).
The specification of genres to be taught in language teaching is based on the
classification used by many systemic functional linguists, especially in applications to classroom
teaching of English (e.g. Derewianka, 1990; Butt et. al., 2001). The classification involves a
distinction between text types and genres. Text types refer to text prototypes defined according
to their primary social purposes, and six main text types are identified as follows: (1) Narratives
tell a story, usually to entertain, (2) Recounts (Personal, Factual) tell what happened, (3)
Information Reports provide factual information, (4) Instructions tell the listener or reader what
to do, (5) Explanations explain how or why something happens, and (6) Expository Texts present
or argue viewpoints.
The structural features of genres include both standards of organization structure and
linguistic features. Standards of organizational structure refer to how a text is sequenced. What is
a text? A text is a semantic unit, a unit of language that makes sense. A conversation, talk, or a
piece of writing can be called a text only when it makes sense. When it does not make sense, it is
not a text; it is not communication. Communication happens only when we make sensible texts.
(Agustien, 2006: 5) Meanwhile, Butt et al. (2001: 3), state that a text refers to “a piece of
language in use”, which is a “harmonious collection of meanings appropriate to its context” and
hence has “unity of purpose”. In other words, texts are stretches of language that may be
considered complete in themselves as acts of social exchange. Length and mode of
communication are immaterial: a text may be long or short, written or spoken. A brief exchange
of greetings as two acquaintances pass each other is as much a text as is a 600-page novel.
Common sets of linguistic features can constitute a text type. Biber in Paltridge (1996:
237) states that a text type is “a class of texts having similarities in linguistic forms regardless of
the genre”. Hammond in Paltridge (1996: 237-239) exemplifies the characteristics of several
genres and categorized them according to similarities in text types: recipes have procedure type
description; news articles have recount type; scientific papers prefer passive voice over active
voice in presenting reports; and academic papers commonly have embedded clauses (Paltridge,
1996: 237-239). This means that different text types involve distinctive knowledge and different
sets of skills.
Speech act is an act of communication. In attempting to express themselves, people do
not only produce utterances containing grammatical structures and words, they perform action
via those utterances. Actions which are performed via utterances are generally called speech act.
In English speech acts are “commonly given more specific labels, such as apology, complaint,
compliment, invitation, promise or request” (Jule, 2000: 47). Speech act theory focuses on
communicative acts, which are performed through speech. It is coined by Austin (1962). He
observed that sentences are not always used to report state affairs; some sentences, in certain
circumstances, must be treated as the performance of an act.
Austin also has proposed the distinction between constatives and performatives. The first
truth-value since performatives ‘do’ and action. This distinction helps reveal Austin’s view of
two aspects of the conditions underling speech acts: context and text (circumstance and
language). There are also possibilities that performatives can be realized without verbs and not
all types of performatives need verbs specialized to that task. He proposes the term explicit
performatives (with verb) and primary performatives (without verb). One outcome of this is that
primary performatives can be ambiguous, the saying “this house is yours’ may be either an act of
bequeathing (I give it to you) or an acknowledgement that it (already) belongs to you.
Austin has also proposed several tests to identify performative verbs. First, the simplest is
hereby sing. …Another way is to ask whether the saying of an utterance is the only way to
perform the act, for example, one cannot apologize, or promise without saying something to
someone, whereas one can be sorry, be grateful or intent to do something without saying
anything. And the easiest speech acts to recognize would appear to be those which contain
We have seen that utterances in speech acts have certain qualities. On any occasion, the
an illocutionary act, and a perlocutionary act. The locutionary act is the act of saying something;
producing a series of sounds which mean something. This is the language aspect, which has been
the concern of linguistics. The illocutionary act is the issuing of an utterance or the act performed
when saying something. It includes acts of betting, promising, ordering, warning, etc. Thus, to
say, “I promise to come” is to promise to come. The perlocutionary acts is the actual effect
achieved ‘by saying’ on hearers. This is also generally known as the perlocutionary effect.
Austin has basically proposed grouping his performative verbs into five major classes:
referee, such as the words “acquit, grade, estimate, and diagnose”.
(2) Exercitives. Verbs with the exercising of powers, rights, or influence, such as the words
“appoint order, advice, and warn”.
(3) Comissives. Verbs which commit the speaker to do something, but also include declarations
or announcements of intention, such as the words “promise, guarantee, bet, and oppose.”
(4) Behabities. A miscellaneous group concerned with attitudes and social behavior, such as the
words “apologize, criticize, bless, challenge.”
(5) Expositives. Verbs which clarify how utterances fit into on-going discourse and how they are
being used, such as “argue, postulate, affirm, and concede.”
(Austin, 1962; Coulthard, 1985, Schiffrin, 1999)
Here are some other examples of speech acts that we use or hear every day:
: "Hi, Mommy. How are things going?"
: "Could you pass me the mashed potatoes, please?"
: "I’ve already been waiting three weeks for the computer, and I was told it would
be delivered within a week."
: "We’re having some people over Saturday evening and wanted to know if
you’d like to join us."
Compliment : "Hey, I really like your tie!"
Refusal : "Oh, I’d love to see that movie with you but this Friday just isn’t going to
communication. Thus, the goal of language teaching is to develop what Hymes (1972) referred to
as "communicative competence." Hymes coined this term to contrast a communicative view of
language and Chomsky's theory of competence and performance. For Chomsky (1965: 3)
competence is “the speaker-hearer’s knowledge of his language.” Speaker and hearer are defined
as those ideal individuals in a completely homogeneous speech community. For Hymes (1970)
the ideal speaker-hearer simply does not exist, because a completely homogeneous speech
community is simply non-existent. The language used for communication in society is so full of
varieties that competence must be coupled with performance. For Chomsky, the focus of
linguistic theory was to characterize the abstract abilities speakers possess that enable them to
produce grammatically correct sentences in a language (Chomsky 1965: 3). Hymes held that
such a view of linguistic theory was incomplete, that linguistic theory needed to be seen as part
of a more general theory incorporating communication and culture.
Hymes's theory of communicative competence was a definition of what a speaker needs
to know in order to be communicatively competent in a speech community. In his view, a person
who acquires communicative competence acquires both knowledge and ability for language use
with respect to: (1) whether or not something is formally possible (grammaticality); (2) whether
or not something is feasible (natural and immediately comprehensible); for example, The cat that