Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Arts


This dissertation evaluates the TIFL (Teaching Indonesian as a Foreign Language) tertiary curriculum materials. The TIFL tertiary curriculum materials were produced by a project which was initiated by the Asian Studies Council, funded by the then Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education and Training, and implemented at the University of New South Wales in 1992-1994. This study is the first research related to the TIFL materials. The TIFL materials are the most wide-ranging and comprehensive instructional materials that have ever been produced for tertiary Indonesian. They are also highly innovative materials for teaching Indonesian at tertiary level because they are designed according to the communicative approach to language teaching (CLT). The available curriculum materials in the past have been based on either the grammar-translation or the audiolingual approach. Communicative competence theory provides the theoretical framework for the study. Canale and Swain’s adaptation of Hymes’ original formulation of the theory has been accepted as the theoretical base of this study, in which communicative competence consists of grammatical, sociocultural, discourse and strategic competence, as overlapping and interactive rather than discrete components. The implication for language pedagogy is that teaching communicatively entails the inclusion of skills that were previously not included in language curriculum design. Littlewood’s identification of four domains of skill that equate to the four components of CC has been accepted in this study as the basis of CLT. These are skill in manipulating the linguistic system, awareness of the social meanings of language forms and ability to choose appropriate ones, an understanding of language forms as a communicative system, and skills and strategies for using language to communicate meanings as effectively as possible in reallife situations. A communicative methodology (CM) has been developed by theoreticians and practitioners to teach these skills which has five unique characteristics that constitute innovations to the repertoire of language pedagogy. These have been identified by Johnson and Johnson as emphasis on sociolinguistic appropriateness, message-focus rather than focus on linguistic correctness, activation of psycholinguistic processes favourable to language acquisition, encouragement of risk-taking rather than thoroughness and correctness, and free practice techniques to provide opportunities for learners to marshall subskills in holistic combination. Littlewood’s and Johnson and Johnson’s criteria have been used as the basis for evaluating the TIFL materials as communicative teaching materials. A critical evaluation of the materials in terms of theory was considered to be insufficient for this study because of two considerations. First, as the design of the TIFL project made no provision for evaluation, this was to be the first and possibly the only investigation of it. Therefore it was thought important to provide a historical record of how the project was conceived and implemented, and in particular how the problems and compromises that eventuated impacted on the final result. Second, as the TIFL materials are for classroom use, it was thought necessary to include observations of how they are actually used in universities and of their effectiveness as communicative curriculum materials in practice. There are thus historical and empirical as well as theoretical aspects to the study. The study has two research questions: (1) Do the TIFL materials embody a coherent application of communicative competence theory and the communicative approach to language teaching? (2) Do the TIFL materials, in use, promote communicative teaching and learning of Indonesian? The research design is case study method. This was chosen because it is a robust and flexible method suited to studies such as this that are exploratory in nature, and in which the phenomenon under investigation is embedded in a real-life situation with many variables that cannot be controlled. A further advantage of case study method is that it allows a variety of different types of data. In addition to the analysis of the TIFL materials in terms of CC theory and the pedagogical practices of CLT, this study includes data from archival materials, interviews with TIFL materials designers and users of the TIFL materials, ie, lecturers and students from eight universities, and classroom observations. The classroom observations include ethnographic observations and observations using the COLT (Communicative Orientation of Language Teaching) observation scheme. ISLPR (International Second Language Proficiency Ratings) assessments were also obtained from students at three universities where the TIFL materials form the basis of the Indonesian curriculum. It is found that the materials do in the main embody a coherent application of CC theory and CLT. The way that they are implemented at the University of NSW, where they were developed, was however found to contain elements such as drilling that are not normal components of CM. There are a number of other findings that are of interest as well. One is that the outcomes in terms of proficiency ratings are very similar in three universities where the TIFL materials are used as the basis of the curriculum. Another is that students learning Indonesian have extremely varied interests and learning preferences, but that the thematic nature of the TIFL materials made them acceptable to learners with a wide variety of interests and learning styles. The implications of these findings are that the TIFL materials are highly suitable as the basis for tertiary Indonesian programs because they produce reliable proficiency outcomes and are well-liked by students.