A. Background of the Study
In this globalization era, English plays a prominent role in the world, where most people use English as a means of communication. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, English is considered as a foreign language (EFL). It has been introduced to educational institutions which is learnt from Junior High School up to university level as a compulsory subject to learn.
As a developing country, Indonesia has been preoccupied with national development and survivals in a strongly competitive world of science and technology. Therefore, Indonesian government admits the important role of English to accelerate the process of state and nation development. English serves as an international language, consequently many communities in many countries in this world use it in every aspect of human life, such as communication, economics, education, science and technology.
In accordance with the importance of English for communication, the Indonesian government has endeavored to improve the system of education and human resources development in realizing the objectives of national education. One of the efforts is done by implementing the Competency-Based Curriculum in the Vocational High School.
SMKN X is a vocational high school which has applied "SBI" (International Standard School) since the academic year of 2004/2005. UU No.20/2003 about Sisdiknas Section 50 verse (3) stated that "pemerintah dan/atau pemerintah daerah menyelenggarakan sekurang-kurangnya satu satuan pendidikan pada semua jenjang pendidikan untuk dikembangkan menjadi satuan pendidikan bertaraf international.
In SBI, the teaching material is written in English and the teachers give the material in English too. SBI at vocation high school has a mission to create capable workers either in our country or abroad. The class is equipped with a set of computer for each student, LCD, and network system which is connected to the internet. It has a learning model called e-learning and it is expected to be capable of encouraging students to study by themselves. The SBI system uses English and IT in the teaching-learning activities.
English curriculum for SMK is based on notional and functional syllabus. The instructional materials are chosen from the language use in work setting such as telephoning, making and handling reservation, making report and handling complaint. This is in line with the general objective of the teaching and learning English in SMK namely preparing the students to be ready to enter the job market. (Kurikulum KTSP, 2006:5). There is a requirement for SMK students to acquire communicative competence in English. There are four skills of the English communicative competence and one of the skills is speaking. The students can express the meaning well with the appropriate form, such as, in grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary.
One of the weaknesses which they have in learning English, according to the writer's observation, is speaking ability. Their English speaking ability is still low. The indicators of the problems are as follows: First, the students feel shy to express their ideas in English. Second, the students seem to be in doubt and nervous to speak English; Third, the students do not know how to apply different transactional and interactional expressions in different situations. Fourth, the students are afraid of making mistakes in grammar, pronunciation, and intonation; Fifth, the students are afraid to be laughed at by others and they have no courage to express their own English ability; And finally, they never use English in their daily communication either inside, or, moreover, outside the class because of their limited vocabulary.
The causes of speaking problem can be seen from many factors. They may come from the teachers, the students, and the syllabus. Based on the interview that the writer did to some students and teachers informally the causes are as follows.
Firstly, the teachers tended to teach monotonously. The teachers did not apply various teaching techniques. The teachers usually focus their teaching on the written test which was held in the mid or at the end of the semester, even in the final exam. The teacher felt guilty if the students could not do the test well. There was no special time allocated to evaluate the students' speaking skills at the end of the semester or in the final exam. The teachers seldom used English in teaching English lesson. This causes the teacher tended to ignore teaching speaking communicatively.
Secondly, the application of notional and functional syllabus in SMK English curriculum limits the scope of the English material. The choice of material which is focused on transactional language limits the coverage of the vocabulary and the types of sentence forms. This limitation contributes to the students' difficulty in speaking.
It can be inferred from the SMK curriculum that the teacher is one of the external crucial factors that may develop students' ability, especially in English communication. Of course, he/she is the person who is actually responsible for educating them through the teaching learning process. It means that in transferring knowledge the teacher has also an important role to convey the messages. In diagnosing the learning situation, teachers are required to design the teaching techniques that will make the students easy to follow and understand the lessons given.
Besides, in teaching English, the teacher has to be able to make the students participate in discussing the materials actively, so that they will be able not only to understand what they are learning in the class but also to express their ideas in English orally. The most important thing to carry out in English teaching is that the teacher has to be able to use an appropriate approach, design, and procedures.
There are several approaches which are frequently used by the teacher to teach speaking. According to the researcher, the approach which is appropriate to the characteristics and condition of the students of SMKN X for developing their speaking ability is Project Work. Project Work is a learning experience which aims to provide students with the opportunity to synthesize knowledge from various areas of learning, and critically and creatively apply it to real life situations. This process which enhances students' knowledge and enables them to acquire skills like collaboration, communication and independent learning, prepares them for lifelong learning and the challenges ahead, (http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/programmes/project-work/)
There are many reasons why the writer takes project work to improve the students' speaking ability. First, project work focuses on content learning rather than on specific language targets. Real-world subject matter and topics of interest to students can become central to students. Second, project work is student-centered, though the teacher plays a major role in offering support and guidance throughout the process. Third, project work is cooperative rather than competitive. Students can work on their own, in small groups, or as a class to complete a project, sharing resources, ideas, and expertise along the way. Fourth, project work culminates in an end product (e.g., oral presentation, a poster session, a bulleting board display, a report, or a stage performance) that can be shared with others, giving the project a real purpose. The value of the project, however, lies not only just in the final product but also in the process of working towards the end point. Thus, project work has both a process and product orientation and provides students with opportunities to focus on fluency and accuracy at different project work stages. Finally, project work is potentially motivating, stimulating, empowering, and challenging. It usually results in building students' confidence, self-esteem, and autonomy as well as improving students' language skills, content learning, and cognitive abilities.
The target of this research is the improvement of the students' speaking competence, which is indicated by their speaking score that reaches at least 6.5.
Related to the phenomenon above, in this research the writer would like to conduct a research entitled "Improving Students' Speaking Ability Through Project Work". (An Action Research at the Tenth Grade of Technology Information Students of SMKN X in the academic year of XXXX/XXXX).
B. Problem Formulation
Based on the background of the study, the writer wants to find out whether the use of Project-based Learning in teaching speaking skill can improve the students' English speaking ability. The problem can be formulated as follows:
1. Does the use of project work improve the students' speaking ability?
2. How is the teaching-learning process when project work is applied in the speaking class?
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses in using project work in the classroom practice?
C. The Objectives of the Study
The success of the teaching-learning process in the language classroom depends on the process of interaction between the teacher and the students and among the students. The degree of the interaction in the classroom is influenced by certain factors such as the materials to be taught, the methods of teaching used and the atmosphere of the class that motivates the students to learn. Therefore, the objectives of the study are:
1. To find out whether the use of project work in teaching English improve the students' speaking ability or not.
2. To find out how the teaching-learning process is when project work is applied in the speaking class.
3. To find out the strengths and weaknesses in using project work in the classroom practice.
D. The Benefits of the Study
The result of the study is expected to be able to give benefits to the students, the teachers, the schools and the other researchers.
1. For students
a. The students' English speaking ability increases.
b. The students will not feel bored to join the learning activity.
c. The students are motivated to speak.
d. The students' vocabulary will increase automatically.
2. For teachers
a. The teachers will find a new approach which is appropriate for teaching speaking.
b. The teachers will develop their creativity to improve their teaching-learning process.
c. The teachers will be able to conduct teaching-learning activities appropriately.
3. For school
a. Project work increases students' achievement.
b. Project work develops learning strategies which stimulate students' creativities.
4. For other researchers
a. Project work probably will be used as a reference for those who want to conduct a research in English teaching process, especially in improving the students' speaking ability.
b. Project work can be used as an input in English teaching process.