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Contextual Teaching and Learning (CTL)

Why Contextual Teaching and Learning (CTL)?

Contextual Teaching and Learning (CTL) is one of the hot topics in education today. Surprisingly, so far there exist no comprehensive guide to Contextual Teaching and Learning that explains exactly what it is and why it works. It is urgent that the many advocates and practitioners of CTL share a universally acceptable definition of it agree on its characteristics, its origins, and the reasons for its success. Recent discoveries about the brain and about certain fundamental principles that, according to modern science, sustain all living systems and the entire universe provide the foundation for Contextual Teaching and Learning. CTL is a holistic system that reflects the way nature works.

 Definition of CTL

The CTL system is an educational process that aims to help students see meaning in the academic material they studying by connecting academic subjects with the context of their daily lives, that is, with the context of their personal, social, and cultural circumstances, (Johnson, 2002).

 The Eight Components of CTL According to Johnson (2002)

According to Johnson (2002), there are eight elements of Contextual Teaching and Learning. They are:

 Making Meaningful Connection

               The heart of contextual teaching and learning is the connection that leads to meaning. When young people can connect the content of an academic subject such as mathematics, science, or history with their own experience, they discover meaning, and the meaning gives them a reason for learning.

 Doing Significance Work

Connecting work with school gives students an immediate, practical reason to learn, say, science, marketing, or mathematics. It gives them not only a real-world academic subjects, but also opportunities to grow personally.

 Self-regulated Learning

Self-regulated learning is a learning process that engages students in independent action involving sometimes one person, usually a group. This independent action is designed to connect the academic knowledge with the context of the students’ daily lives in ways that achieve a meaningful purpose. This purpose may   yield a tangible or intangible result.


Collaboration is an essential component of the CTL system. Schools collaborate with business and community partners, middle schools and high schools work together, and teachers collaborate with parents and colleagues.

 Critical and Creative Thinking

Critical thinking is a clear, organized process used in such mental activities as problem solving, decision making, persuading, analyzing assumptions, and scientific inquiry. Critical thinking is the ability to reason in an organized way. It is the ability to systematically evaluate the quality of one’s own reasoning and that of others. Creative thinking is the mental activity that nurtures originality and insight.

 Nurturing the Individual

The interplay of various CTL components produces students’ success. Balancing these components requires extraordinary versatility. CTL teachers are simultaneously research consultants, project advisers, guides to creative and critical thinking, liaisons between community business and students, and experts in their subjects. They are also mentors. The nature of CTL system demands that teacher mentor, become personally invested in, each one of their students. CTL teachers nurture the individual students’ efforts to develop as a whole person.

Two aspects which affect nurturing the individual:

a. Teaching and the Learning Environment

All children are capable of reaching high academic standards and all children are entitled to reach these standards. Only if the instructors know each child’s interests and talents, can they help students not only overcome supposed limitation, but also exceed even their own expectations.

b. The Influence of Relationships

CTL asks teachers to nurture every student, in part because relationships weave a context for personal growth. CTL teachers cultivate numerous relationships of various kinds. They form partnership with business leader, and they create ties with managers of community service agencies to develop service-learning opportunities. They establish strong relationships with parents, and they collaborate with colleagues and administrators to design new courses and programs.

 Reaching High Standards

The heart of educational matter for parents is their child’s academic success. The heart of the matter for the contextual teaching and learning system is helping all students reach high academic standards. Traditional education, which delivers great quantities of material to be learned mainly through rote memorization and lectures, has failed, and continues to fail, the “neglected majority”. All students, however, particularly the neglected majority, benefit from the contextual teaching and learning system. CTL succeeds in part because of its steady focus on high academic standards. It asks students to meet demanding objectives of the sort formulated by national profession associations, departments of education in various states, and the federal government. CTL makes these objectives clear and explicit, invests them with meaning, and infuses them into every task.

 Using Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment focuses on objectives which involves hands-on learning, requires making connections and collaborating, and inculcates higher order thinking. Because authentic assessment tasks use these three strategies, they allow students to display mastery of objectives and depth of understanding, while the same time increasing their knowledge and discovering ways to improve. Authentic assessment invites the students to use academic knowledge in real-world context for a significance purpose. For example a mechanic student gets a task to construct a robot. In doing this authentic task, he/she faces the challenges that accompany any attempt to achieve a significance result in the context of work or the community

In designing an authentic assessment task, there are some procedure that a teacher should do:

a.  Describe exactly what the students should know and be able to demonstrate. Let them  know the standards to be met.

b.  Call for connecting academic study in a meaningful way with a real world context, or call for simulating a real-world context that carries meaning.

c.  Require students to show what they can do with what they know, to display deep knowledge and skills, by producing a result. For example: a tangible product, presentation, and collection of work.

d.  Decide on the levels of proficiency to be met

e.  Express these levels of proficiency in a rubric, that, a scoring guide that provides criteria for judging the task (Lewin & Shoemaker, 1998, cited in Johnson, 2002).

f.  Familiarize students with the rubric. Engage students in ongoing self-evaluation as they appraise the quality of their own work on this assessment.

g.  Involve an audience beyond the teacher to respond to the assessment (Lewin & Shoemaker, 1998, cited in Johnson, 2002).

               There are some forms of authentic assessment, such as:

a.  Portfolio

An intrinsic part of ongoing class work, the portfolio arises from the context of daily life. As they do various tasks, students appraise them and collect them, and in the process see themselves as creative and capable. Children gain confidence and a sense of purpose from collecting and appraising their own work. They own what they make (Brook & Brook, 1993, cited in Johnson, 2002).

b.  Project

               The CTL system relies heavily on project as a way to attain academic objectives while accommodating the diverse learning styles, interest, and talents of individual students. Because projects link academic content to a real-world context, they evoke enthusiastic student participation.

c.  Performance

In a performance task, students demonstrate for an audience that they have mastered specific learning objectives. Members of the audience for a performance task often help follows.

d.  Extended Written Response

               It enables students to display their command of learning objectives while cultivating higher order thinking skills. Written responses may occur in a wide range of formats including, for instance, the persuasive letter, technical training manual, brochure, feasibility study, research essay, and short essay.


The Seven Components of CTL According to Nurhadi, Yasin,B., and Senduk, A.G. (2004)

Nurhadi, Yasin,B., and Senduk, A.G. (2004) state that there are seven components of Contextual Teaching and Learning (CTL). They are:

 Constructivism Approach

Constructivism is the foundation of CTL approach, which stated that knowledge was build by human step by step where the result is explore through limited context.


Inquiry is a main of CTL approach which stated that students’ knowledge and skill are not derived from a series of memories of fact but they are the result of inquiry or finding.


Questioning is the students’ knowledge that they got from questioning. Questioning in teaching learning process is viewed as the teacher activity in order to motivate nurture and assess the students’ ability of thinking.

 Learning Community

Learning community suggest that the result of learning process is derived from the result of interaction with others. The result of learning derived from sharing with friend, group and community members.


Modelling is an activity to demonstrate an action so the students can imitate, learn or acts based on the model, such as the way to operate the computer, the way to put ball in the ring in playing basketball, the way to memorize English vocabularies, etc.


Reflection is a respond toward what had happen, activities, experience which aimed to identify something that they have already know, and something that haven’t happened yet, its aimed to construct innovation.

 Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment is a scoring procedure that asks students to show their real ability. This scoring is not only at the end of periods but also along the learning process (ongoing assessment).


Johnson, E.B. 2002. Contextual Teaching and Learning: What It is and Why It is Here to Stay. Thousands Oaks, California: Corwin Press, Inc.

Nurhadi, Yasin, B.,Senduk, A.G. 2004. Pembelajaran Kontekstual dan Penerapannya dalam KBK. Malang: UM Press.

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