The effects of Group work on students' oral Performance :the case of students of English at Batna University
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The effects of Group work on students' oral Performance :the case of students of English at Batna University Document Transcript

  • 1. The Benefits of Group work Lynda Badache lynda.baadache@etud.sorbonne-nouvelle.fr Department of English University of BatnaFrom my MA Thesis:”The effect of Group Work on students‘Oral Performance: The case of first year students at BatnaUniversity “Abstract The present study focuses on the practical experience ofapplying group work on first year students of English at BatnaUniversity “Year 2003” and examines its effectiveness as ateaching technique on students ‘oral performance. Our purposeis to clearly demonstrate the effects of group work on students‘oral presentation as a special case and then elaborating howgroup work positively promotes academic achievement. Our conclusions showed how Group work can be ofparamount importance for students to achieve and obtain betterresults when working together, creating an friendly atmospherein which they freely express themselves, especially shy andreticent ones. What is really of value is to show that there mightbe other ways, that is, better ways to teach oral expression thanthe classical ones. ‫ملخص‬‫تركتتز ورقتتة البحتتث هذه على التجربتتة التطبيقيتتة للعمتتل الجماعتتي التتتي‬‫أجريتت على طلبة الستنة الولى، قسم اللغة النجليزيتة، جامعة باتنتة. ويتمثل الهدف‬‫الساسي من هذه الدراسة في الوقوف على اختبار مدى فعالية العمل الجماعي كآلية‬‫تدريس وانعكاسات ذلك على مستوى الداء الشفوي للطلبة( كحالة محاولة ليجاد‬ .‫كيفية تحسين وترقية التحصيل الكاديمي‬‫وتوضتح نتائج هذه الدراستة بأن العمتل الجماعتي له أهميتته البالغتة للطلبتة‬‫فبواستطته يتتم تحقيتق نتائج أحستن لكونته يخلق مناختا يتستم بالراحتة النفستية للطلبتة‬‫ستتيما الخجوليتتن منهتتم، والذيتتن يواجهون مصتتاعب فتتي التعتتبير عتتن آرائهتتم أمام‬‫الحضور، ممتا أفرز روح التعاون والتعامتل والتنافتس فتي مختلف النشطتة التتي يتتم‬‫تناولهتتا قتتي القستتم. وتؤكتتد هذه الدراستتة على إمكانيتتة وجود طرائق أخرى لتلقيتتن‬ .‫التعبير الشفوي بكيفية أفضل من الطرائق الكلسيكية‬ 1
  • 2. IntroductionNewcomers into a foreign language tend to generally encounterand experience many difficulties at all levels. In the case ofBatna University, we have noticed that one of the first yearstudents’ major difficulties is their lack of ability to freelycommunicate either with their teachers or with their classmates.Low performance in the oral aspect of the language, along withpsychological and social inhibitions students face, could becited among those factors which prevent students from theattempt to freely express themselves in a foreign language theydo not master.Hence, we believe that one way out of this situation is the useof a teaching learning technique likely to allow students freelyengage in classroom discussions; meet new friends within thegroup and create a less frustrating climate of learning. Thistechnique will help the foreign language learner to graduallydiminish the negative effects of those difficulties and obstacles.These are some of the reasons which brought us to choose theuse of group work as a technique, for some of the objectivesthat we will mention below.Our Purpose is to examine the effectiveness of group work as ateaching learning technique as compared to individual learning.This is why we believe that our study requires the use of theexperimental Method to evaluate the effects of group work, as ateaching learning technique on students ‘oral performance. The paper is intended to promote students interactionsthrough group work as a teaching technique. It presents threemajor categories of benefits created by group work learningtechnique. They are academic, social and psychologicaladvantages; each of these is further subdivided to help thereaders focus on specific themes within each category. Specificreferences are provided to document each benefit describedbelow to show that more researches have been undertaken ongroup work as a learning technique than on any othereducational paradigm. We assume that group work learning affords students, atall levels, with enormous advantages that may not be availablein the traditional instruction of learning individually, because agroup of students can accomplish meaningful learningespecially through their discussions, interactions,dialogues….better than any individual can. Objectives of the study: It is important to try to build an atmosphere where thestudents will no longer feel shy, where they will voluntarilyraise their hands to ask questions and where they will freelyvoice their own opinions. We believe that group work helps our 2
  • 3. students to gradually diminish the negative effects of theseconstraints. We also try to ease our students and remove their fearand anxiety by much tolerance and praise even in cases ofmisuse of the language. Our intention is also to discuss the main effects andadvantages of group work and see to what extent it affectsstudents’ oral performance. Furthermore, we attempt to bridge the traditional way ofteaching, where the teacher is the sole source of informationand knowledge, with the one where students seek informationby themselves to learn from each other, especially, whencooperating to understand ambiguous concepts. What is group work? The concept of the grouping and pairing of learners forthe purpose of achieving a learning goal has been widelyresearched and advocated - the term "Group work" refers to aninstruction method in which learners at various performancelevels work together in small groups towards a common goal.The learners are responsible for one anothers learning as wellas their own. Thus, the success of one learner helps otherstudents to be successful. Collaborative learning is an educational approach toteaching and learning that involves groups of learners workingtogether to solve a problem, complete a task, or create aproduct. Collaborative learning is based on the idea thatlearning is a naturally social act in which the participants talkamong themselves. It is through the talk that learning occurs. Hypotheses Learners differences in terms of levels in Englishproficiency may be partly related to the fact that students havebeen taught by different teachers using different methods. Thesame phenomenon, may be linked to psychological and socialinhibitions students face, mainly the case of shy or introvertstudents ,who despite their true competences, find no need ofengaging in oral communications. ·Bettering students oral performance requires mainlyovercoming these constraints. Involving them to work ingroups is one among the best ways to reach such an aim. · Learners feel more at ease when they exchange ideasand opinions in a friendly like atmosphere. · Group work, as a technique, leads students createintimate climates, where they become closer to each other,where poor students may learn from average or good ones andhence, are eager to take the initiatives themselves and engage inface to face communications, first in the small group and laterface the entire class. 3
  • 4. Sampling The population meant by in this study includes all firstyear students of English at Batna University. It is neitherpossible, nor desirable to study the entire population, since,according to Delime & Demoulin (1975), sufficient data can beobtained through the study of a proportion of the population: asample. We avoided the use of a random sampling for it is likelyto make us fall onto subjects of the same features andcharacteristics, which are not essential in our work. Moreover,random sampling can not be used in our work because oursubjects should be selected according to certain variables liketheir previous language knowledge, scores in the English exam,motivation to learn and so on. Systematic sampling is then, more appropriate for itenables us to classify learners according to a given system andselect systematically the ones concerned by the experiment. Wecan therefore, order students in a descending list from theirhighest scored, average to the lowest in the oral expression.Students’ files are available at the level of the administrationand our continuous presence in the department, as a teacher,facilitates the task of obtaining and dealing with students’ listsand files. In addition, classifying students according to theirpreviously obtained grades can be considered as a system. A sampling technique selecting learners classified insuch an order would give us the opportunity to have a group ofmixed abilities. This can raise our chances to have aheterogeneous group of diverse characteristics and abilities andthus, diminish the risk of bias resulting from selecting studentsrandomly. The selected group would, then, consist of 36 out of apopulation of 300 first year English students chosen from sixgroups of 36 to 40 learners classified in a descending order oftheir grades in oral expression. The selected sample, which comprises these 36, is then sub-divided systematically into a control group of 18 learners andan experimental group of 18 other learners. These latter aresubdivided into four subgroups of three to five members each. Mixing students with different abilities, differentgender, and various ages, and cultural backgrounds, quiet andtalkative ones will form our designed sample.Methodology:Choice of the method: Investigating the effect of group work on students’performances requires the use of an experimental method. Theexperiment will evaluate the significant effect of students ‘oral 4
  • 5. performance when working in groups and, compare them tothose who study in a classical way.The experimental method is the most appropriate and adequatein our work for it enables us control all essential factors .It ismainly used in natural and physical sciences, and recently it hasbeen of great use in social and human sciences, and hence, inthe field of education. Experimental methods have obtained satisfactory resultswhen the design is carefully used, and since it includesexperimentations, the researcher is supposed to obtain the sameresults in case he repeats the experiments every two or threemonths. In our case, we hope that, at each time, we will pointout a constant progress in students ‘oral performance. We do, still, acknowledge the usefulness of other methods likethe historical and the descriptive ones. Yet, we have avoidedtheir use for the following reasons: The historical method has been defined as thesystematic and objective location, evaluation and synthesis ofevidence in order to establish facts and draw conclusions aboutpast events, so it does not suit our work for the simple reason isthat we are concerned with showing the real and present effectsof group work. Moreover, the descriptive method is concernedwith a description of facts. The experimental method was chosen because of theneed to check and ensure whether working in groups has reallyan effect on students ‘oral performance as well as achievement.However, some problems and difficulties may be encounteredwhen dealing with this method. We can mention the extraneousvariables like sex, age, motivation and intelligence, which maybe operating during an experiment and thus affect the outcomesof the experiment. Nevertheless, these are factors stillcontrolled when conducting the experiment by creatingheterogeneous subgroups; taking into account these factors. Group grading Group grading is probably the biggest challenge that wefaced when used group work as a technique. One reason why itis difficult is how to grade members of the group? Do weassign them the same grade or grade them individually, takinginto account the fact that in some activities for instance ‘oralpresentations’, students work as a group while they are to begraded individually. The latter may lead to competition withingroups; consequently, subverts our aim to clearly demonstratethe spirit of collaboration within groups. We suggested grading the contribution of each studenton the basis of individual or groups’ evaluation of eachmembers’work.When the same grade is assigned (oralpresentations) the bulk of the mark is allocated to the groupwith 50% for the written report .30% oral performance 5
  • 6. (presentation) 10% for peer assessment and consists of eachgroups agreed mark for each group members. The final 10% isthe individual efforts including participation, answeringstudents ‘questions and explaining. Group Formation: Group formation Alphabetical list Mixing students’ Self-selection Different gender,age, formation different abilities groups cultural backgrounds. Mixed boys,girls,quite ,shy and talkative,various age,highest scored,average and low students. Heterogenous groups Between four to Group size Ideal group size is five members in each group The groups can be formed according to differentparameters; we can form groups using the alphabetical order,mixing students ‘abilities, groups of different gender, age andcultural backgrounds. They can also be self selected as it ismentioned in the figure above. Our groups were formed bymixing boys and girls -even if the vast majority of studentswere female-, quite, shy and talkative ones, various age, highestscored, average and low students. While, our group sizecontained three to five members in each group because largerteams have difficulty in keeping everyone involved1.Reasons to use Group work:We assume that group work learning affords students, at alllevels, with enormous advantages that may not be available inthe traditional instruction of working, learning individually,because a group of students can accomplish meaningful1 Dr. Claude Romney CL1-Teaching Stories: Advantages of CollaborativeLearning”;http://www.ucalgary.ca/pubs/Newsletters/Currents/Vol3.6/Benefits.html 6
  • 7. learning especially through their discussions, interactionsdialogues …better than any individual can.I. Academic Advantages: There are some educational reasons for requiringstudents to participate in group activities. Group work enhancesstudent understanding. Students learn from each other andbenefit from activities that require them to articulate and testtheir knowledge. Group work provides an opportunity forstudents to clarify and refine their understanding of conceptsthrough discussion and rehearsal with peers.Many, but not all, students recognise the value of their personaldevelopment at group work and of being assessed as a groupmember. Working with a group and for the benefit of the groupalso motivates some students. For instance, group assessmenthelps some students develop a sense of responsibility: I feltthat because one is working in a group, it is not possible toslack off or to put things off. I have to keep working otherwiseI would be letting other people down. 1. Group work develops oral communication skills2(Yager) When students are working in small groups, onemember verbalizes his /her answer while the others arelistening, asking questions, and making comments about whatthey heard. Therefore, classification and explanation of one’sanswer is a very important part of the collaborative process andrepresents a higher order thinking skill. A consequence of having students work together insmall groups is that they speak with one another and directlyengage in specific language use that is why students mustdevelop their ideas of what they are presenting, and orallycommunicate with their peers. Hence, they will -of necessity-acquire new terms, vocabulary, expressions and newinformation. When students work in groups, orally expressthemselves, three benefits may occur: First, weak studentsworking individually are likely to give up when they get stuck,working cooperatively in small groups, makes them keep goingon, yet the more advanced students faced with the task ofexplaining and classifying ideas to weaker/ less able studentsoften find gaps in their own understanding to fill them in.Second, instead of individual thinking about a matter inisolation, a group will often look at a problem from a widerperspective and consider many more suggestions than oneperson thinking alone would. Third, by discussing variousaspects of any topic and questioning all the students in the2 Yager, S., Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R., (1985), "Oral discussion groups-to-individual transfer and achievement in cooperative learninggroups", Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(1) pp60-66 7
  • 8. group who can participate in actually giving their opinions andeventually know that others are counting on them.Nelson le Gall3 points out that:« Through encouragement from the group to try new, moreactive approaches and through social support social reward foreven partially successful efforts, individual students in a groupcome to think of themselves as capable of engaging ininterpretation »In fact, encouragement is very important and necessary forstudents to keep them going on and enhance their classroomparticipation.2. Group work develops higher level thinking skills (Webb)4Students working together are engaged in the learning processinstead of passively listening to the teacher presenting theinformation; they represent the most effective form ofcontinuous interaction. They may develop valuable problemsolving skills by formulating their ideas, exchanging anddiscussing them, receiving immediate feedback and respondingto questions and comments by their partners. In a group work,the teacher is able to observe and assess individual students’thinking and how they are learning through their responses.According to Roberta Dees5"Although it is not clear whichcomponents of group work learning are responsible forimprovement in higher-level thinking, attempts have been madeto identify the components. One conjecture is that dealing withcontroversy may be such an element."Smith, Johnson, and Johnson6 studied sixth grade studentswho worked on controversial issues. They found that forstudents engaged in controversy, "the cognitive rehearsal oftheir own position and the attempts to understand theiropponents’ position result in a high level of mastery andretention of the materials being learned. » The Johnsons havedeveloped a cooperative method called “structuredcontroversy” where students study and defend one position andthen switch with another group which has taken the oppositeposition.3 Nelson-LeGall, S., (1992) "Childrens instrumental help-seeking. Itsrole in the social acquisition and construction of knowledge", in LazarowitzEd. Interaction in Cooperative groups: Theoretical Anatomy of GroupLearning, p120-141, NY,NY: Cambridge University Press4 Webb 1982), "Group composition, group interaction and achievementin small groups", J 74(4) pp475-484 Journal of Educational Psychology5 Roberta Dees, (1991), "The role of cooperative learning in increasingproblem-solving ability in a college remedial course", Journal forResearch in Mathemetics Education v22 n5 409-4216 Smith, K., Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., (1981), "Can conflict beconstructive: Controversy versus concurrence seeking in learninggroups", Journal of Educational Psychology, 73(5) 651-663 8
  • 9. Slavin7 emphasizes that "Students will learn from one anotherbecause in their discussions of the content, cognitive conflictswill arise, inadequate reasoning will be exposed, disequilibriumwill occur, and higher quality understandings will emerge". 3. Group work creates an environment of active, involved exploratory learning Slavin (1990)Group work is by its nature an active method of teaching. Thus,the entire focus of collaborative learning is to actively involvestudents in the learning process. Whenever two or morestudents attempt to solve a problem or answer a question, theybecome involved in the process of exploratory learning; theyinteract with each other, share ideas and information, seekadditional information, make decisions about their final draftand orally present it to the entire class.The collaborative process enables the teacher to move aroundthe class in order to observe students interaction. Anopportunity is created whereby the teacher can talk to studentsdirectly or in small groups. Teachers may raise questions tohelp direct students or explain concepts.4. Cooperative discussions improve students’ recall of textcontent “Slavin and Tanner 8When students read a text together, explain the concepts toeach other and evaluate each others’ explanations they engagein a high level of critical thinking. They frame the newconcepts by using not only their own vocabulary but also bybasing their comments upon their previous knowledge. Thusthey construct a new knowledge base on top of their existingone. This process leads students ‘deeper understanding andgreater likelihood mainly as they will retain the material longerthan if they worked alone.Johnson & Johnson 9found that engaging in discussion overcontroversial issues improves recall of important concepts.Ames and Murray10found that discussion of controversialideas among pairs of non conservers on Piagetian conservationtasks improves their recall of content material.7 Slavin R.E (1992), "When and why does cooperative learning increaseAchievement? Theoretical and empirical perspectives", ppm145-173 inHertz-Lazarowitz and Miller (Eds.) Interaction in Cooperative Groups,NY,NY: Cambridge University Press8 Slavin, R.E., & Tanner, A.M., (1979), "Effects of cooperative rewardstructures and individual accountability in productivity andlearning", Journal of Educational Research v72 n5 p294-2989 Johnson & Johnson (1979), "Conflict in the classroom: Controversy andlearning", Review of Educational Research, v49 p51-7010 Ames, G.J., & Murray, F.B., (1982), "When two wrongs make a right:promoting cognitive change by social conflict", DevelopmentalPsychology v18, p894-897 9
  • 10. Dansereau11(1985) has developed a structure called"cooperative scripts" where pairs of students read a section oftext and then one serves as a recaller and summarizes theinformation while the other student listens for any errors, fillsin omitted information and thinks of ways in which both canremember the main ideas. He found that while both studentslearned more and were able to recall the information longerthan students working alone, the recaller learned the most.The level of discussion and debate within groups issubstantially greater than when an entire class participates in ateacher led discussion, in which they receive immediatefeedbacks or questions about their ideas, formulate responseswithout having to wait for long intervals to participate in thediscussion (Peterson & Swing)12.They construct a newknowledge based on their own interpretations, and theirexisting base. This process certainly leads to deeperunderstanding and greater likelihood, consequently, will retainthe material longer than if they worked individually mainly forstudents who are actively involved in the learning process.Engaging in discussion over controversial issues improvesrecall of important concepts.5. Group work encourages students’ responsibility forlearning (Baird and white)13Promotive interaction, a foundation principle of cooperativelearning, builds students’ responsibility for themselves andtheir group members through reliance upon each others’ talentsand an assessment process which rewards both individuals andgroups. In addition, Students can assist each other and takedifferent roles within their groups (such as reader, recorder,time keeper ...etc).The students’ involvement is created andthus produces an environment which fosters students’ maturityand responsibility for learning. In this context, the teacherbecomes rather a facilitator instead of a director and thestudents become eager and motivated participants instead ofpassive followers.6. Group work provides training in effective teachingstrategies to the next generation of teachers (Felder)1411 Dansereau, D.F., (1985), "Learning strategy research" in Chipman &Glaser (Eds.) Thinking & Learning Skills: Relating Instruction to BasicResearch Vol. 1 Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum12 Peterson, P., Swing, S., (1985), "Students cognitions as mediators of theeffectiveness of small-group learning", Journal of EducationalPsychology 77(3) pp299-31213 Baird, J., White, R. (1984) "Improving learning through enhancedmetacognition: A classroom study", Paper presented at the annual meetingof the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA 198414 Felder, R.M., (1997). e-mail communication from felder@eos.ncsu.edupage http://ww2.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/rmf.html 10
  • 11. As discussed earlier, new teachers are likely to teach using theteaching style they have been exposed to during their educationin which the primary focus is on the assessment processinvolving individual grades. As group work is concerned, itrequires that students present their final work orally to theentire class, being asked some questions by the other students,and hence, answer in front of the entire group. Therefore, thefact of having so many oral presentations, facing the audience,playing the teachers’ role, may be of great advantage andbenefit for students as it is a sort of training.During the group work process students were asked not only toassess themselves but their groups as well as the classprocedures. Teachers can take advantage of students’ input tomodify the making -of groups or class assignments, manage thelectures and even the group work itself, according to immediatestudents’ feedback. Thus, Students, who participate instructuring the class, assume ownership of the process becausethey are treated like adults, and their opinions and observationsare not only respected but taken into consideration.7. Group work promotes higher achievement and classattendance (Hagman and Hayes)15Students who develop personal professional relations withteachers by getting to know them, and who work on projectswith their teachers in classroom, achieve better results becauseof their classroom attendance. On the other hand, teachers, whoget to know their students, understand their problems can oftenfind ways of dealing with those problems. They have a greatadvantage in formulating ways of assisting their students. Inaddition, students are often inspired by the teacher who takesthe time to get to know them, encourage them to aspire for abetter performance. According to16Felder additional benefitsoccur in that students’ grades are improved, they show longerretention of information, transfer information better to othercourses and disciplines and have better class attendance. Thereis a strong positive correlation between class attendance andsuccess in courses which may help account for the improvedperformance. Johnson & Johnson17 went to say that there is astrong positive correction between class attendance and successin courses which may help account for the improvedperformance.Students need to do real work together in order to promote eachothers success by sharing resources, helping, supporting,encouraging, and applauding each others efforts to achieve. Itis said there are important cognitive activities and interpersonal15 Hagman, J., Hayes, J. (1986) "Cooperative learning: Effects of task,reward, and group size on individual achievement" Technical report 704,Scientific Coordination Office, US Army Research Institute for theBehavioral Sciences, ERIC document #27872016 Ibid 199717 Johnson & Johnson (1990), "Using cooperative learning in math",chapter in Cooperative Learning In Math",p24 Neil Davidson ed, 11
  • 12. dynamics, which can only occur when students promote eachothers learning. This includes explaining orally how to solveproblems, teaching ones knowledge to others, checking forunderstanding, discussing concepts that are being learned, andconnecting present with past learning. Especially, if each ofthose activities, can be structured into group task directions andprocedures. Doing so ,helps ensure that cooperative learninggroups are both an academic support system (every student hassomeone who is committed to help him or her learn) and apersonal support system (every student has someone who iscommitted to him or her as a person). It is through promotingeach others learning” face-to-face “that members becomepersonally committed to each other as well as to their mutualgoals.8. Weaker, less able students improve their performanceswhen grouped with higher achieving students 18CohenIn studies of collaborative seat work, Swing and Peterson19found that: “Students of low achievement, benefited from participation in groups, heterogeneously composed on achievement in comparison to participation in homogeneously low-achieving group. Students of average achievement benefit from their interaction with others of higher or low achievement”Burns20suggested that with group work, there areexplanations, which come from the entire group member ratherthan from the individual; they can propose or suggest ideas,opinions to their peers prior to formulating a final responseand then release their presentations in an informal setting. If agroup response is the product, then the entire team or groupbecomes responsible for the answer. That’s why, group workmay therefore, create a safe atmosphere, where students canfreely express themselves and explore their ideas without thefear of failure or criticism. In contrast to a lecture formatwhere an individual student responds to a question in front ofthe entire class without much time to think about his /heranswer; such a situation may shake the learning environment.9. Group work addresses learning styles and differencesamong students (Midkiff &Thomasson21)18 Cohen, E.G"Restructuring the classroom:Conditions for productivesmall groups", Review of Eduicational Research Spring 1994 vol 64 #1pp1-3519 Peterson, P., Swing, S., (1985), "Students cognitions as mediators of theeffectiveness of small-group learning", Journal of EducationalPsychology 77(3) pp299-31220 Burns, M. (1984), "The Math Solution". Marilyn Burns EducationAssociates publishers, reprinted in "Cooperative Learning inMathematics" Neil Davidson editor, 1990 12
  • 13. Students working in groups utilize each of the three mainlearning styles: Kinesthetic, Auditory and visual .Forexample, a material presented by the teacher is both auditoryand visual. Students working together use their kinestheticabilities mainly when using their hands. Verbal and auditoryskills are enhanced when students discuss their answerstogether. Visual and auditory modalities are employed asstudents present their work to the whole class (oralpresentations).Each of these learning styles are addressedmany times throughout a class in contrast to the teachers’lecture format which is mainly auditory and occasionallyvisual.Understanding the diversity that exists among students ofdifferent learning styles and abilities is a major benefit ofgroup work. Students observe their peers in a learningenvironment, discuss problem solving strategies and evaluatethe learning approaches of other students. Often behaviourswhich might appear as odd when taken out of context becomeunderstandable mainly when the opportunity is presented tostudents to explain and defend their own reasoning.10. Group work is especially useful in foreign language andsecond language courses where interactions involving theuse of language are important. Brufee22 emphasizes the idea that learning takes place whenindividuals move from the society which they are familiar withto the society which they wish to join by learning thevocabulary, language structure (Grammar) and customs uniqueto that society. This is true in academic societies that havetheir own vocabulary and customs. Working in groups is anideal way to facilitate the acquisition of language and topractice the customs of debate and discussions that occur in aparticular academic field such as Mathematics or Psychologyor even History. Moreover, the fact of interactingcollaboratively with the teacher in and out of class alsofacilitates the reaculturation process.II Social advantages of group workGroup work is useful for encouraging social interaction forisolated, rural and international students with local students,and is therefore an important mechanism for supporting thetransition of first year students into university study.Group Work promotes social interactions; thus students benefitin a number of ways from the social perspective. By having the21 Midkiff, R.B., Thomasson, R.D. (1993), "A Practical Approach toUsing Learning Styles in Math Instruction", Springfield, Il: CharlesThomas Pub.22 Brufee, K., (1993), "Collaborative learning: Higher education,interdependence and the authority of knowledge", Baltimore, MD:Johns Hopkins University Press 13
  • 14. students explain their reasoning and conclusions; cooperativelearning helps develop oral communication skills.1. Group work builds more positive heterogeneous relationships. A major function of group work learning, we experienced wasteam building. This is accomplished through a variety oftechniques used throughout the duration of the semester.During the first few weeks of group work class, warm-upactivities, getting to know class members’ names, and practiceexercises help acclimate students to cooperative learning.The current educational system rewards students’ achievementby separating students of different abilities rather thanencouraging students to utilize their abilities to help eachother. Group work then fosters students’ interaction at alllevels (Webb)23Research has shown that when students of high ability workwith students of lower ability both benefit. The former benefitsby explaining or demonstrating difficult concepts which he/shemust understand thoroughly in order to do so, and the latterbenefits by perceiving a concept explained or modeled by apeer.2. Group work develops social interaction skills: A major component of group work learning elaborated byJohnson and Holubec 24 includes training students in the socialskills needed to work collaboratively. Students do not come bythese skills naturally. By asking group members to identifywhat behaviours may help them work together and by askingindividuals to reflect on their contribution to the groups’success or failure, students are made aware of the need forhealthy, positive and helping interactions when they work ingroups (Cohen and Cohen)25The students’ level of tolerance and acceptance of otherstudent view points is increased, a skill which no doubt isbeneficial in real life situations where one also often has to beprepared to compromise.When students work in small groups, they generally becomemore involved in classroom learning activities and as theyspend more time learning and sharing group tasks. They tendto learn and form close friends at the same time whether insideor even outside classroom. Therefore; friendship makes themfeel more at ease and comfortable; the fact that raises the23 Ibid (1980). pp266-27624 Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., Holubec, E.J., (1984), "Cooperation inthe Classroom", Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co.25 Cohen, B.P., Cohen, E.G. (1991) "From groupwork among children toR & D teams: interdepence, interaction and productivity" in E.J.Lawler (Eds.)Advances in Group Processes vol 8 pp205-226Greenwich,CN:JAI 14
  • 15. quality of their learning. Hence, everyone’s understanding andknowledge are enriched by their working together; mainly firstyear students who are the encouraged to work closely togetherand need to form friends.Felder26 went to say that there is a significant benefit to groupwork, which is not always apparent because it takes placeoutside the classroom. If groups are continued long enoughduring a course they will get to know each other and extendtheir activities outside the class. This includes meeting oncampus for meals, coffee, forming study groups, gettingtogether at each others homes in the evening and weekends towork on projects or study for exams. Students exchange phonenumbers and contact each other to get help with questions orproblems they face. Students are able to make new friends andestablish study groups easily within group work learning.3.Group work helps teachers change their roles from theirbeing the focus of the teaching process to becomingfacilitators of the learning process. They move fromTeacher-centered to Student-centered learning (Hertz-Lazarowitz 27Cooperative learning paradigms represent a philosophy of lifeas well as a learning strategy. It says that whenever people gettogether in groups their purposes are best served when theywork together collaboratively to reach their goals versus usingcompetition among group members to address problems.Cooperative learning paradigms embody the learningcommunity philosophies. Our current educational system,however, is based upon competition among students forgrades, admission to scholarships, and above all socialrecognition. In order to change this paradigm, Group learningstructures will need to be introduced at the earliest learningsituations and used throughout each students learning career.In order to accomplish this change in student behaviouralattitudes teachers will need to adopt a new role. They will needto step down from the podium and switch from lecturing tofacilitating student interactions in class. There are manyvarieties of group work learning structures including Problemor Project Based Learning, collaborative learning, cooperativestructures, to name a few. Teachers need not be locked intoone approach, which may or may not suit their particularpersonality type.III .Psychological advantages26 Felder, R.M., (1997). e-mail communication from felder@eos.ncsu.eduWWW pagehttp://ww2.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/rmf.html27 Hertz-Lazarowitz, R., Kirkus, V., Miller,N., (1992) "An overview of thetheoretical anatomy of cooperation in the classroom" p3-4 in Hertz-Lazarowitz Ed.Interaction in Cooperative Groups: The theoreticalAnatomy of Group Learning NY,NY: Cambridge University Press 15
  • 16. Group work enhances students ‘satisfaction with thelearning experienceBy their very nature, students find satisfaction with activitieswhich value their abilities and indulge them in the learningprocess. Effective groups assume ownership of a process andits results when individuals are encouraged to work togethertoward a common goal, often defined by the group. Thisaspect is especially helpful for individuals who fear fromfailure. (Turner & Zeigler)28Good and Brophys29Theory of motivation suggests thatmotivation increases with expectations of success and highervaluation of rewards. They believe that Group work canemphasise these strategies by containing elements whichincrease students’ enjoyment and encourage intrinsic rewards.Such elements are opportunities for active response, use ofsimulations, emphasis on immediate feedback, interaction withpeers, creation of finished products, and practical use ofproject outcomes.Group work builds self esteem in students (Johnson &Johnson30Collaborative efforts among students result in a higher degreeof accomplishment by all participants as opposed to individual,competitive systems in which many students may ignore.Competition fosters a win–lose situation where superiorstudents reap all rewards and even recognition, yet mediocreor low achieving students reap nothing. In contrast, everyonebenefits from group work environment. Students create afriendly atmosphere by helping each other in doing so. Theybuild a supportive climate, which may increase theperformance level of each member. This in turn leads to higherself esteem in all students.Classroom anxiety is significantly reduced (Kessler, Priceand Wortman31In a traditional classroom, when a teacher calls upon a studenthe/she becomes the focus of attention of the entire class. Anymistake or incorrect answers become subject to security by thewhole class. Such experiences produce embarrassment andanxiety in many students, while in group work situation, whenstudents work in small groups, share their tasks, however thefocus of attention is diffused among the group and when an28 Turnure, J., Ziegler (1958), "Outer-directedness in the problem solvingor normal and retarded students", Journal of Abnormal and SocialPsychology , 57 pp379-38829 Good, T.L., & Brophy, J.E., (1990), "Educational Psychology" 3rd Ed.,NY,NY:Longman30 Johnson & Johnson,(1989)Cooperation and Competition Theory andResearch". Edina,MN:Interaction Book31 Kessler, R., Price,R.,Wortman,C. (1985), "Social factors inpsychopathology:Stress, social support and coping processes" AnnualReview of Psychology 36 pp351-372 16
  • 17. answer is presented to the class it presents the work of theentire group members. Speaking in front of a small group withwhich they are familiar, rather than in front of the whole class,is also less stressful. Therefore, no single individual can beheld up to criticism. In addition, the group members produce afinal product which they can review before presenting it to thewhole class. Thus, diminishing prospects that mistakes willoccur at all. When it happens that a mistake is made, itbecomes rather a teaching tool instead of a public criticism ofan individual student.Small groups created a safe environment for students to takerisks and make mistakes. We noticed that a student is morelikely to ask a question or take a risk in a group of four than ina class of thirty-six.Group work encourages shy students to participate inclassroom activities:By its nature, group work is an active method of learning,which creates a lively enjoyable and friendly atmosphere ofsparking discussions, exchanging ideas, respecting others’points of view. This friendly atmosphere makes all students,especially shy ones, feel more comfortable and at ease, eagerto participate more with their peers in small groups than in alarge class as they can be observed too. Therefore, it is veryhelpful to identify students who are shy in encouraging theirparticipation in non –threatening ways.Data Gathering tools and Treating: Data gathering tools and treating The questionnaire The observation grid aim aim Helps to collect students Obtains daily observation of perceptions about team work students’behaviour in the as a technique classroom activities Experimental Control group group Activities to The same activities be performed to be done by each in groups student alone Pre-test Post-test1 Post-test2 Post-test3Next to the information obtained from results, other ways ofcollecting data about students will be used: the questionnaireand the observation technique. 17
  • 18. Our study requires using mainly the observation grid toobtain a continuous observation in the classroom. Thequestionnaire will help us to collect students ‘own perceptionsand opinions about group work as a teaching technique. Theseinstruments are especially selected for their usefulness, theirpractical use and for they complement each other. The two groups begin shortly after the beginning of theacademic year and continue throughout the whole year. In theexperimental group, students will be given the previouslymentioned activities to be achieved in each group of at leastfour or five students, boys and girls, in order to observe theiroral performance and behaviour.The same teacher will teach both groups, after dividing theclassroom into two groups, with the experimental group; theteacher will give activities to be performed in groups or whatwe call a team -work. With the control group, he/she will onlygive the same activities but to be done by each student alone. Inother words, to have an individual work as opposed to thegroup work. Authentic techniques are of great importance inteaching the oral expression and permit the teacher to haveimmediate and thorough observations of how students helpeach other, accept or reject each others’ ideas and thoughts andhow they interact as members of a group. With the control group, the teacher will use the sameactivities followed by the experimental group, the onlydifference being the individual aspect of the work.I. Observation grid:During the first weeks, students were introduced to a variety ofactivities as an introductory work, rather a kind of a pretest andtraining task. Although we can not assess all learning outcomesin group work, yet, we can assess students’ learning byobserving them and through peer evaluation. Therefore, wewere observing and recording what and how students do whilethey work together to complete a task, and taking theirfeedback to assess both their work and understanding.The first activity that was introduced to our students waslistening. So before turning the tape on, we asked our studentssome warm up questions aiming at making them feel at easeand try to make them relate their prior knowledge with thecontents of the tape they would be listening to (what is calledpre-listening).The selected tape is entitled «Day by Day». Itcontains a variety of very interesting topics for instance: 18
  • 19. Family photos Father’s daySchool crossing guard Getting a loan Saturday nightOn the subwayDo it yourself Valentines’ dayAt the bank Jury dutyFamily night The big snowHunting for antiques Leaving the hospitalA visit to the dentist The paper boyWhile students were listening to the tape, we used pauses andtold the ones working in small groups that every student will beasked to respond. This leads all the members of the group tolisten attentively and carefully, since they are asked to fill someblanks and answer some listening comprehension questions.According to the results obtained, we notice that students whenworking in small groups were unaccustomed in sharing theirwork with their peers. This is quite clear, because students usedto be rewarded for individual efforts, and collaboration may notcome naturally or easily for everyone in the starting activity.However, they almost find that working in groups, as lively andinnovating. Their participation varied between low, mediumand rarely high depending on student’s understanding. Studentswere listening attentively, yet some of them did not participatein classroom mainly those shy, reticent ones. The obtainedaverage in this activity is 12.27, which is considered as a goodstarting. After listening and filling the required blanks, weasked our students to take roles in what they have beenlistening to in a form of a conversation.The material Activity Aim Time allottedListening :Day- Pre-listening Warm -up 30by day While listeningOral skills Post –listening minutespractice tape)Songs :(Michael Try to fill the Warm –up 30Jackson,Celine blanks (write Usually we learn minutesdion) the lyrics) easily through music) 19
  • 20. -Baby traffic Video May stimulate 40 Kuwait and- excercise discussion after minutes British hostages presentation and Palestine and hence increases Israel hoth students’ Birthday participation Games Word Stimulates 45 classification students’critical minutes Word thinking. association Beauty and the Short story Encourages students 30 Beast to orally perform a minutes work. Oral Exposes, May stimulate and 30 presentations. novels, free spark discussion and minutes topics, issues. debates. Discussion Discussion refers 15 and debate to a diverse point minutes of view, emphasizes participation, dialogues, communications. Exchange ideas, opinions, information and experiences A sample of one of our activities done in classroom is mentioned below. Activity: Listening day by day: Oral skills practice Book+tape (Dean Curry) 30 mns Experimental group Week:I Working in Oral Oral Listening Average groups participation presentation out of 20 0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5Z.Sofia X X X 12/20Z.Djalila X X X 11/20Y.Fatima X X X X 11/20Y.Kassim X X X 17/20H.Adel X X X 12/20Z.Meriam X X X 14/20C.Zineb X X X 13/20 20
  • 21. K.Fateh X X X 9/20B.Abdelali X X X X 10/20Z.Soumay X X X 17/20aZ.Hind X X X 15/20S.Sihem X X X 14/20L.Lila X X X 12/20T.Dounia X X X 10/20T.Soraya X X X X 10/20B.Mouna X X X 11/20S.Salim X X X 12/20T.Hichem X X X 11/20Total : 221 12.27 Rating scale: Oral presentation: Working in groups: 0=Null 1=Low 0=Very bad 2=Not evident 1=Inefficient 3=Average 2=Boring 4=Satisfactory 3=Lively 5=Excellent 4=Innovating Listening: 5=Interesting Oral participation: 0= Not evident 1= Don’t participate in 0= Null classroom 1= Very low 2= Do not ask questions 2= Low 3= Respect each other 3=Medium 4= Listen attentively 4=High 5=Offer suggestions and idea 5=Very high 21
  • 22. The Results of The Observation Grid 16 14 12 10 Experimental group 8 Control group 6 Difference 4 2 0 W1 W2 W3 W4 W5 W6Students’ Evaluation:Evaluating student work is one of the most important and mostdifficult aspects we faced .The grading criteria depends onwhat we want to see from our student. For instance: classroomparticipation and oral presentations. We have administered aquestionnaire to know students’ opinions concerning the waythey would like to be evaluated and hence graded...themajority of our students prefer to be evaluated by both theteacher and their peers. • The same grade for all the members of the group. • An individual grade for each student. • Evaluated by their peers. • Evaluated by their teacher and peers. 22
  • 23. Students’ Evaluation 60,00% 50,00% 40,00% Percentage 30,00% 20,00% 10,00% 0,00% Evaluation The same grade for all the members of the group An individual grade for each student By your peers By your teacher and peersStudents’ speaking and listening in a small groupdiscussion: Figure (2): Students Evaluation Criteria Rating E S A Listen attentively. x Take part in group discussion x Participate in classroom. x Ask questions x Offer suggestions and ideas that connect with others ideas. Respect each others point of view x 23
  • 24. Oral performance: students ‘oral presentations Criteria Rating 1 2 3 Students clearly identify the topic x Explanation is presented in a sequence that is x easy to follow Information is relevant and accurate x Includes interesting details or features. x Use grammatically correct English with few x mechanical mistakes. Answers most questions from other students xKey: 1=excellent (E), 2=satisfactory (S)3= average (A), 4=not evident (NResults Results: We have encountered many students who are almostunable to communicate orally in the target language and areextremely uncomfortable when trying to speak. They alsounderstand very little of what we say to them during classroomexplanations and directions. One of the most positive results that emerged fromgroup work learning was that students created a friendly, safeatmosphere; which enabled them to freely express their ideasand opinions orally. Furthermore, reticent, shy students, who rarelyparticipated in classroom, often feel more confident inexpressing themselves in front of the entire class after theyhave already practiced, expressed and discussed their opinionsin their safer and smaller audience. • The opposite sex started to be accepted whether from girls or boys part. • Students better understanding and retention of the applied activities 24
  • 25. • Students progress and improvement in the mastery of the oral aspect of the language was observed mainly when giving oral presentations. • Increased enthusiasm and motivation to learn in groups. • Students participation in classroom activities has increased.Pre-testExp= X1= ∑X1 = 221/18, X1=12.27 N1 ΣX2Cont= X2= = 153/17 X2=09 N2Post test 1:X1 = ΣX1 = 214/18, X1 = 11.88 N1X2 = ΣX2 = 181/17, X2 = 10.64 N2Post test 2 : ΣX1X1 = = 258/18, X1 = 14.33 N1 ΣX2X2 = = 172/17, X2 = 10.11 N2The above are results of our pre and post tests of both groups :the experimental and the control one .The results showed thatthe experimental group X1 had an increasing progress mainlyduring the second post test.Conclusion The advantages of group work are multiple, varied andimpressive. The fact that group work benefits students in manyways; does it benefit teachers through the sharing of ideas,brainstorming and critical thinking? Effective cooperativeteachers are continually modifying their activities and adoptingnew structures to deal with different classroom situations andpopulations. This is an aspect of group work learning whichcan be especially rewarding to teachers .Who would not likethe previously mentioned quite good things to happen in one’sclass? 25
  • 26. From this research study, it can be concluded that collaborativelearning fosters the development of critical thinking throughdiscussion, clarification of ideas, and evaluation of othersideas. However, both methods of instruction were found to beequally effective in gaining factual knowledge. Therefore, if thepurpose of instruction is to enhance critical- thinking andproblem- solving skills, then collaborative learning is morebeneficial.For collaborative learning to be effective, the instructor mustview teaching as a process of developing and enhancingstudents ability to learn. The instructors role is not to transmitinformation, but to serve as a facilitator for learning. Thisinvolves creating and managing meaningful learningexperiences and stimulating students thinking through realworld problems.The findings showed that the experimental method of applyinggroup work as a teaching technique is likely to result in thecooperation and good performance in students’ speaking. Whatis really of value is to show that there might be other ways -thatis better ways -to teach than the classical one.This was an attempt of applying group work learning in theOral expression Module in the Year 2003; we wish it willhopefully be useful for other teachers and students.Main conclusions: In this study, the findings showed that the experimentalmethod of applying group work as a teaching technique islikely to result in the production of a good performance instudents speaking. Students, when working in small groups, create anintimate atmosphere; where they could share ideas, exchangeinformation, encourage each other and above all learn fromeach other since each student provides at least a positivecontribution. All these factors may enhance students thinking,better performance and achievements. Other evidence of the superiority of the experimentalmethod was observed in classroom. The experimental groupwas better organized and exhibited much more cooperation,motivation and increased classroom participation than those ofthe control group who tend to be isolated and rarely providesome classroom participation and contribution in discussions. In our view, assessment in group work should notinvolve assigning grades; however, the emphasis is onassessing learning outcomes. Individual accomplishment in thegroup work itself should be assessed so that memberscontributions to the groups are accordingly evaluated. 26
  • 27. Although group work offers enormous benefits when itis effectively implemented, yet, some problems and limitationsmay arise during the work. The value of this study is to show how students canachieve and obtain better results when collaborating together;creating an intimate atmosphere in which they freely expressthemselves, especially those shy students who find greaterdifficulties when interrogated by their teachers or simply byone of their classmates. They feel frustrated and unable to dolike other students do and this is mainly due to their culturalbackgrounds. Hence, working in groups may be also of paramountimportance for those poor or less able students because itenables them to work and even participate in classroom,become motivated and eager to learn.References • Ames, G.J., & Murray, F.B., (1982), "When two wrongs make a right: promoting cognitive change by social conflict", Developmental Psychology v18, • Baird, J., White, R. (1984) "Improving learning through enhanced Metacognition: A classroom study", Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA 1984 • Brufee, K., (1993), "Collaborative learning: Higher education, interdependence and the authority of knowledge", Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press • Burns, M. (1984), "The Math Solution". Marilyn Burns Education Associates publishers, reprinted in "Cooperative Learning in Mathematics" Neil Davidson editor, 1990 • Cohen, B.P., Cohen, E.G. (1991) "From group work among children to R & D teams: interdepence, interaction and productivity" in E.J. Lawler (Eds.) • Cohen, E. (1986) Designing Group work:NY,NY: Teachers College Press • Cohen,E (1994), "Restructuring the classroom: Conditions for productive small groups", Review of Eduicational Research Spring 1994 vol 64 #1 • Dansereau, D.F., (1985), "Learning strategy research" in Chipman & Glaser (Eds.) Thinking & Learning Skills: Relating Instruction to Basic Research Vol. 1 Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum 27
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