Scholarly article on topic 'On the Effect of Cooperative Learning on General English Achievement of Kermanshah Islamic Azad University Students'

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Abstract The present study aims to determine the effect of cooperative learning on General English achievement of students. The research method chosen is quasi-experimental with pre-test post-test design. The population was all the students taking the general English course in the second term of 2007/2008 academic year (n=150). To reduce the pre-existing differences between the students, the classes with the same major and level were selected by the researcher. Two classes were chosen randomly by cluster sampling and assigned to experimental (n=40) and control group (n=40). The classes were taught by the researcher. The instrument used was an objective teacher-made test of general English achievement that measured four components of dictation, reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. For data analysis, the independent t-test was used. The results showed that in all four subcomponents of general English a significant difference can be found between experimental and control groups. The cooperative learning group outperformed the teacher-fronted group.

Academic research paper on topic "On the Effect of Cooperative Learning on General English Achievement of Kermanshah Islamic Azad University Students"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 1249 - 1254

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

On the Effect of Cooperative Learning on General English Achievement of Kermanshah Islamic Azad University Students

Bahman Motaei *

English Language Dept., Kermanshah Branch, Islamic Azad University. Kermanshah, Iran

Abstract

The present study aims to determine the effect of cooperative learning on General English achievement of students .The research method chosen is quasi-experimental with pre-test post-test design .The population was all the students taking the general English course in the second term of 2007/2008 academic year (n=150) . To reduce the pre-existing differences between the students, the classes with the same major and level were selected by the researcher. Two classes were chosen randomly by cluster sampling and assigned to experimental (n=40) and control group (n=40). The classes were taught by the researcher .The instrument used was an objective teacher-made test of general English achievement that measured four components of dictation, reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. For data analysis, the independent t-test was used .The results showed that in all four subcomponents of general English a significant difference can be found between experimental and control groups . The cooperative learning group outperformed the teacher-fronted group .

© 2014 TheAuthors. PublishedbyElsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: Cooperative learning; Traditional learning; Achievement

1. Introduction

Over the past decade, cooperative learning has emerged as a leading new approach to classroom instruction. The main concern of education specialists in the modern world revolves around the best teaching methods to prepare the students to face the myriad of challenging issues. This entailed changing a ' swing of pendulum ' toward learner-centered methods that could meet the students' needs (Richards & Rogers, 1986).

Cooperative learning is a teaching arrangement that refers to small, heterogeneous groups of students working

* corresponding author: Tel.: +98-918-358-5161 E-mail address: bahman5257@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.540

together to achieve a common goal (Kagan, 1994). Students work together to learn and are responsible for their teammates' learning as well as their own. The basic elements are:

1. Positive Interdependence - occurs when gains of individuals or teams are positively correlated.

2. Individual Accountability - occurs when all students in a group are held accountable for doing a share of the work and for mastery of the material to be learned.

3. Equal Participation - occurs when each member of the group is afforded equal shares of responsibility and input.

4. Simultaneous Interaction - occurs when class time is designed to allow many student interactions during the period.

Cooperative learning goals can be achieved in different ways. Johnson(2002) reviews the main ones in a metaanalysis: Learning Together & Alone; Teams- Games- Tournaments (TGT); Group Investigation (GI); Constructive Controversy (CC); Jigsaw Procedure; Student Teams Achievement Divisions (STAD); Complex Instruction (CI); Team Accelerated Instruction (TAI); Cooperative Learning Structures; Cooperative Integrated Reading & Composition (CIRC).

The present study attempts to compare the effectiveness of cooperative learning and the common and traditional techniques of teaching language skills in Iranian universities in general and Kermanshah Islamic Azad university in particular.

2. Review of Literature and Empirical Background

Cooperative learning is defined as ' the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning (Johnson, et al. 2000). The main feature of this method is that the members of the group work together to reach a common goal (Chung, 1991, as cited in McCafferty et al . 2006 ). Slavin (1999 ) considers the cooperative learning as a tool for promoting individual skills, improving relationship among students from different races and preparing them to play roles in group activities.

Although there is a considerable and growing literature on cooperative learning in mainstream education, there have been few accounts of its application to second language teaching .This method is in line with many theories and hypotheses in second language camp .

Researchers and practitioners have found that students working in small cooperative groups can develop the type of intellectual exchange that fosters creative thinking and productive problem solving. The results of research in mainstream education show that cooperative learning increases the sense of intimacy, self -confidence . The results of Slavin (1990) show when the group is encouraged to gain success and when each member of the group takes responsibility, the cooperative learning fosters the progress of students . He believes that in cases that the success of learners' is dependent on the assistance of others, the learners tend to cooperate so it is better to divide the materials among the group members and to ask them to share his ideas with others . Rose and Flender (1996, cited in McCafferty et al . 2006) showed that there is a significant difference between traditional and cooperative learning groups in reading comprehension. Slavin and Karweit (1984, cited in McCafferty et al . 2006) analyzed the group learning in a yearlong study among nine graders in mathematics classes . The results confirmed that cooperative learning is more promising.

As far as I know, the studies done in Iran adopt cooperative learning in primary and high schools. Ahmadieh (1998) studied the effect of cooperative learning on talented high school students .The results showed that the cooperative learning improved the progress in chemistry, biology, and language . She showed that there is a significant difference between students in cooperative group and teacher-fronted group in pronunciation, vocabulary, reading comprehension, grammar, and dictation.

From the mentioned studies, we can infer that cooperative learning is useful for students .My feeling at the start of this study was that the cooperative learning is a successful method .This study wanted to determine the efficacy of this method compared to the traditional teacher-fronted teaching. Neither of studies worked on the topic at the university level . This study aims to do the current topic among university students . To reach the goals of the study

the following research questions were pose

1 .Is there a significant difference between students in dictation?

2 .Is there a significant difference between students in reading comprehension?

3 .Is there a significant difference between students in grammar?

4 .Is there a significant difference between students in vocabulary?

3. Method

3.1. Subjects

The population of the present study included all students in Kermanshah Azad University who took General English course in the 2007-2008 academic year. The sampling used was cluster sampling. From different faculties, the Humanities faculty was selected. To get appropriate results, two classes of my own were selected for the study. In the beginning, the number of experimental group was 42 students and the control group 44 students. Some students were absent in the post-test session. So, 40 students in experimental group and 40 students in control group were tested.

3.2. Instrumentation

The instrument used in this study was an objective multiple-choice test. The test items were made based on Lee and Gunderson (2001).The same test was used as pre-test and post-test. The test was composed of items that tested the dictation, reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. The reliability of this test was estimated using the Cronbach a formula. The reliability coefficient was .76 indicating that it was relatively acceptable.

3.3. Design

The present study is an applied research with a quasi-experimental intact pre-test post-test design. The quasi-experimental study involves intact groups of subjects instead of placing the subjects randomly in the experimental and control groups (Dornyei, 2007). The classes in the present study were intact because the subjects were assigned to the classes based on their admission scores.

3.4. Procedure

To determine the effect of cooperative learning, two classes of General English students were selected randomly and one of the classes was assigned to the experimental to receive the treatment in cooperative learning method. The other class was considered control group. Both groups were given a pre-test. The test was composed of items that tested the components of dictation, reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. Both classes were taught by the researcher. In one class, the instruction was based on teacher-fronted classrooms in which the teacher gives a lecture and the students take notes. The researcher presented the materials in the experimental group using cooperative learning techniques. Here, the teacher was facilitator. The experimental group (n=40) was classified into the groups using the Student Teams Achievement Divisions (STAD) technique with three members each. The overall achievement was estimated. Slavin (1990) stipulates five major components of the STAD, namely: class presentations, teams, quizzes, individual improvement scores, and team recognition. The cooperative technique techniques used were dependent on the skill covered in the classroom. At the end of the term, the post-test was given to determine the effect of teaching method by comparing both groups. The duration of the treatment was the whole term about four months. The classes were held two session a week.

4. Results

To test the research question, the independent t-tests were used, the results of which are presented for each of research questions. The experimental and controlled groups were compared by independent t-tests in pre-test and post-test. Then, the means of the groups are compared in all components of general English to confirm or disconfirm the research hypotheses. The progress from pre-test to post-test in each group is clear from the results of descriptive studies. The focus of this study was on the progress of subjects among the independent groups.

cooperative learning and teacher-fronted method in achievement of cooperative learning and teacher-fronted method in achievement of cooperative learning and teacher-fronted method in achievement of cooperative learning and teacher-fronted method in achievement of

The First Question

Is there a significant difference between cooperative learning and teacher-fronted method in achievement of students in dictation?

The results of table 1 shows that there is not a significant difference between the pre-test means of experimental and control groups in dictation (sig. 0.300). This means that the students in experimental and control groups had nearly the same knowledge of dictation at the start of the study. The analysis of the data in post-test of two groups shows that there is not a significant difference in dictation level (sig. 0.280). However, there is a significant (sig. 0.1) difference between the scores of experimental and control groups in the pre-test and post-test. In other words, we can say that the cooperative learning was more useful than the teacher-fronted method with % 99 confidence.

Table 1. The Independent t-test for comparing the means in pre-test and post-test and the differences between

pre-test and post-test in dictation

Groups number mean SD df t value sig.

experimental 40 1.61 .48

pre-test control 40 1.73 .53 78 -1.042 0.300

First experimental 40 2.35 .90

question post-test 78 1.088 0.280

control 40 2.16 .65

mean experimental 40 1.54 0.51

differences control 40 2.96 0.41 78 7.388 0.001

mean differences experimental 40 0.73 0.71 78 2.164 0.033

control 40 0.42 0.56

The Second Question

Is there a significant difference between cooperative learning and teacher-fronted method in achievement of students in reading comprehension?

The results of table 2 shows that there is not a significant difference between experimental and control group means (sig. 0.620). The knowledge of reading comprehension was at the same level at the start of the study. The comparison of the results of the post-test in both experimental and control groups shows a significant difference (sig. 0.001). Also, there is a significant difference between the experimental and control group means in 0.5 confidence level in reading comprehension (sig. 0.033). This means that we can be % 95 percent confident that the cooperative learning led to better results than the teacher-fronted method.

Table 2. The Independent t-test for comparing the means in pre-test and post-test and the differences

between pre-test and post-test in reading comprehension

The First question Groups number mean SD df t value sig.

pre-test experimental 40 2.45 0.58 78 0.497 0.620

control 40 2.40 0.40

post-test experimental 40 4 0.78 78 7.388 0.001

control 40 2.96 0.41

mean differences experimental 40 0.73 0.711 78 2.164 0.033

control 40 0.42 0.56

The Third Question

Is there a significant difference between cooperative learning and teacher-fronted method in achievement of students in grammar?

Table 3. The Independent t-test for comparing the means in pre-test and post-test and the differences between pre-test and post-test in grammar

The First question Groups number mean SD df t value sig.

pre-test experimental 40 2.47 0.63 78 2.170 0.33

control 40 2.22 0.35

post-test experimental 40 3.91 0.74 78 7.463 0.001

control 40 2.91 0.40

mean differences experimental 40 1.43 0.52 78 7.391 0.001

control 40 0.68 0.36

The results of table 3 reveals that there is not a significant difference between experimental and control groups in pre-test grammar component (sig. 0.33 ). This means that the both groups were homogeneous at the start of the study in grammar level. The post-test results shows that the means of two groups were different at 0.1 significance level. Therefore, we can claim that with % 99 confidence the experimental group outperformed the control groups in the progress of grammar knowledge.

The Fourth Question

Is there a significant difference between cooperative learning and teacher-fronted method in achievement of students in vocabulary?

The results of the table 4 show that in the pre-test there is not a significant difference between the means of experimental and control groups in vocabulary level. This shows that the two groups were homogeneous. The post-results show that at the 0.1 significance level the means of the two groups were different. In addition, the comparison of experimental and control groups in both pre-test and post-test reveals a significant difference. With % .99, we can say the cooperative learning method was more effective in the vocabulary progress of the students.

Table 4 The Independent t-test for comparing the means in pre-test and post-test and the differences between pre-test and post-test in vocabulary

The First question Groups number mean SD df t value sig.

pre-test experimental 40 1.80 0.63 78 2.189 0.32

control 40 1.52 0.47

post-test experimental 40 2.79 0.90 78 5.032 0.001

control 40 1.99 0.43

mean differences experimental 40 0.99 0.92 78 3.434 0.001

control 40 0.46 0.26

5. Discussion

The results of this study showed that the students in experimental group got better scores in nearly all components of general English in post-test. The differences were statistically significant. Looking at the results in more detail shows that the mean difference of pre-test and post-test between experimental and control groups at 0.1 significance level in grammar and vocabulary is significant. These results confirm the results of Slavin (1996); Ahmadieh,

(1997).

To interpret the results, we can claim that in cooperative learning the groups have an important role to play. They help those learners who have problems in learning the materials to get assistance from the peers (Slavin, 1996, cited in McCafferty et al .2006). Since the groups are controlled in the amount of learning and ample feedback is received, the error level decreases in this method. Apparently, since in cooperative learning the students are reinforced to play more active roles and participate in the learning process, they learn the materials deeply.

6. Conclusion

The current study aimed at investigating the effectiveness of cooperative learning method as a determinant of achievement in language skills compared to teacher- fronted classrooms. To my knowledge, the EFL students in Iran prefer to take part in activities that are based on negotiating the problem with peers. Using cooperative learning will be a good alternative for common teaching methods practised in Iran.

The implication of this study is that the teachers should create the atmosphere in the classrooms to involve the students in the learning process, encourage them to reflect and ask questions, and make opportunity for interaction between students and teachers.

References

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students of Tehran. Unpublished MA dissertation: Tarbiate Moallem University, Tehran, Iran. Deen, J. Y. (1991). Comparing interaction in a cooperative learning and teacher-entered language classroom. I.T.L.

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Learning Center at the University of Minnesota. Available: http:// www.clcrc.com/pages/cl-methhods.html . Kagan, S. (1994). Cooperative Learning. San Clemente, California: Kagan Publishing Lantolf, J. (Eds.) ( 2000). Sociocultural theory and second language learning: Oxford. Lee,L & Gunderson, Erik (2001). Select reading intermediate. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McCafferty M.G, G.M. Jacobs & A. D. Iddings (Eds.) (2006) Cooperative learning and second language teaching.

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Slavin, R. E. (1990). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Slavin, R. E. (1991). Synthesis of research on cooperative learning. Educational Leadership, 48, 71-82. Slavin, R.E. (1995). Cooperative learning. Theory, research, ad practice . Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Slavin R. (1996). Research on Cooperative Learning and Achievement: What We Know, What We Need to Know. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 21(1), 43-69.