Effect Of Group Work On EFL Students’ Attitudes And .

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Journal of Education and Learning; Vol. 3, No. 2; 2014E-ISSN 1927-5269ISSN 1927-5250Published by Canadian Center of Science and EducationEffect of Group Work on EFL Students’ Attitudes and Learning inHigher EducationHanan A. Taqi1 & Nowreyah A. Al-Nouh11English Language Department, CBE, Ardhyia, KuwaitCorresponding: Hanan Taqi, The English Department, College of basic Education, Kuwait. Tel: 965-9-608-8100.E-mail: hanan.taqi@gmail.comReceived: February 16, 2014doi:10.5539/jel.v3n2p52Accepted: March 4, 2014Online Published: May 14, 2014URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/jel.v3n2p52AbstractThe use of group work in classroom activities is a method used for motivating learning and increasing the idea ofpleasure through learning. The current study investigates the advantages of group work in exams in the Englishdepartment, in the College of Basic Education. 40 students in two classes of “The Introduction of Phonetics andPhonology” participated in the study. They performed six tasks; two prior to group work, two done in groupwork (by one group only) and two after group work. The tasks were all practical, and they were based onphonetic transcription. One of the groups participated in group work while the other did not. This was doneenable to compare the results. In addition to exam results, a five-open-questions questionnaire on the students’perception of group work was distributed to the participants. Throughout the application of the study, theinstructor took notes of her observation of the formation of and participation in group work. It was found that thestudents who worked in groups did not improve. However, most students reported that they enjoyed the tasksand would like to work in a group more often. The method of forming a group also seemed to affect learning. Itwas found that social and academic variables of age and GPA affected the formation, engagement and results ofgroup work.Keywords: group work, cooperative, learning, assessment, perception1. IntroductionAccording to Gomleksize (2007) cooperative learning is when students work together to achieve specific goals.A more comprehensive definition for cooperative learning is reported by Wichadee (2007) in her study of theeffect of cooperative learning on students’ English reading skills. Wichadee states that cooperative learning is apedagogical approach that encourages student-student interaction by working in small groups to intensify theirlearning and reach their intended objective. Considerable research shows, that cooperative learning results inhigher achievement and more positive relationships among students (Wichadee, 2007).Group work also depends on the attitude of the students. Hashemi (2005) states that attitudes towards somethingis the extent to which students accept the subject and their opinion towards it while the Oxford AdvancedLearner’s Dictionary (2005) defined attitudes as ‘the way someone thinks and feels about somebody orsomething’ (p. 85).Due to the large number of benefits and the amount of literature done, it was important to look at the effects ofgroup work in different contexts. This study analyses the effectiveness of group work in the light of examinationresults, students’ perception and instructor’s observation. At first, a review of previous studies on the methods ofgroup formation will be viewed. In addition, the effect of group work in general and on language skills inspecific will be reviewed. Later, literature on the studies of student’s perception of the effectiveness of groupwork will also be shown in detail. This would help in understanding the results of the current study.After viewing the literature on the effect of group work, the methodology section will explore, in detail, themethod of choosing the participants. Later, the researchers will elaborate on the three different methods of datacollection, and the way the data was analyzed.The results will be analyzed individually and in the light of social variables. From this analysis of results, adiscussion section will link the findings with the literature reviewed, showing similarities and differencesbetween the current study and previous ones.52

www.ccsenet.org/jelJournal of Education and LearningVol. 3, No. 2; 2014Finally, a short conclusion will be provided. It is hoped that this study will contribute to the understanding of theeffectiveness of working in groups and classroom activities. It would be especially useful to practical programsin higher education in educational institutes worldwide.2. Literature ReviewJohnson (2005) describes cooperative learning as being a teaching strategy where students of different levelsform small groups to work on activities that will eventually enhance their understanding of the subject. Everystudent is responsible of his/her learning and of helping other group members learn. Students work together tocomplete the assignment successfully. He believed that group work has many advantages.2.1 Advantages of Cooperative Learning2.1.1 General AdvantagesA recent definition of cooperative learning is provided by Badache (2011) who defines group work as aninstruction method where learners of different levels form small groups and work together towards a specificobjective. Learners take the responsibility of their own learning and of those in the group so the success of onemember is a success of all members.Piaget (1932, in Webb, 2009: 3) argues that cognitive conflict leads to higher levels of reasoning and learning.When a student notices a conflict between her understanding and what she hears from other group membersthrough interaction, this forces her to reconsider her concepts and restructure her ideas to conform to the group.Conflicting ideas lead to more questioning and negotiation which eventually results in learning. A more relevanttheory is pointed out by Vygotsky (1978, in Webb, 2009) who adds that more learning occurs in a group whenan expert adult helps a less expert one through conversation to carry out the job which the less expert wouldn’tbe able to do alone. Hull (1985, in Horder 2010) believes that adults learn best if they were put in groups.Working in groups allows learners to achieve higher order thinking skills and retain knowledge longer thanworking individually. In groups students discuss, argue, explain and negotiate meaning, they become moreresponsible for their learning and develop critical thinking skills (Johnson & Johnson, 1986 in Smialek &Boburka, 2006; Totten et al., 1991; Webb & Palincsar, 1996).Research findings suggest that group work technique helps students learn better and improves their achievement(Meteetham, 2001; Gomleksize, 2007; Al-Sheedi, 2009; Hendry et al., 2005). In Australia, Hendry et al. (2005)looked at the benefit of study groups on students’ achievement. The opinions of 233 second year students at theUniversity of Sydney were solicited via a questionnaire. They interviewed six students, three were in studygroups and three were not. This was followed by a written summative test. Students reported that having theirfriends with them in the group was the most important factor in group formation. They also said that studygroups helped them understand difficult concepts and corrected their misunderstandings. One disadvantage waswasting time socializing. It was concluded that group work helps students support each other while learning.More recently, Brown (2008) argued that group work teaches learners to respect the learning pace of otherlearners in the group and improve their English language skills. It also created a stress-free environment wherelearners feel at ease. Added to that, shy students are more comfortable working in groups, they gain moreconfidence in their ability to learn; students benefit from sharing their backgrounds and complement oneanother’s weakness (Payne & Monk-Turner, 2006; Wichadee, 2007; Badache, 2011).Highton (2006) argues that we can only learn by watching how others think and learn differently from us andthis takes place through interaction. Johnson and Johnson (1989 in Smialek & Boburka, 2006) did ameta-analysis of 375 studies done over a ninety-year period in which researchers tried to find out the effect ofcompetitive individualistic versus cooperative learning on students’ achievement. They concluded thatcooperative learning resulted in better achievement than individualistic learning. Students gained higher-levelreasoning, ability to solve problems and the ability to use what they learned from one situation to the other.Previous literature has further documented differences in performance between those who performed at thegroup level and those who performed at the individual level. It has shown that group work helps students learnand remember knowledge better than individualistic learning (Cockrell et al., 2000; Johnson et al., 2000).Overall, research demonstrates that group work results in better achievement and more effective relationshipsamong students (Gomleksize, 2007; Tuan & Neomy, 2007; Wichadee, 2007; Li et al., 2010; Nihalani et al., 2010;Li & Vandermensbrugghe, 2011; Arumugam et al., 2013).53

www.ccsenet.org/jelJournal of Education and LearningVol. 3, No. 2; 20142.1.2 Effect of Group Work on Language LearningSeveral studies have presented empirical support for the effect of group work on developing students’ languageskills (Holloway, 2004; Smialek & Boburka, 2006; Tuan & Neomy, 2007; Wichadee, 2007; Li &Vandermenbrugghe, 2011; Arumugam et al., 2013; Larcombe et al., 2013). Li and Vandermensbrugghe (2011),for example, investigated the effect of group work on a group of 38 international research students. He looked attheir thesis writing process in Australian university. They used classroom observation, a questionnaire and focusgroup discussion to get feedback from students. Results revealed that group work writing helped internationalstudents start their writing process, it motivated them to develop their writing skills, increased theirself-confidence as writers and supported them through their writing.On similar grounds, Larcombe et al. (2007) evaluated a program for a writing group at the University ofMelbourne in Australia to specify the benefits of developing the identity of thesis writers through groupcooperation. They concluded that the writing groups gave writers the chance to give and receive feedback ontheir work and to develop their identity as thesis writers.Speaking received similar importance in Vietnam when Tuan and Neomy (2007) investigated group workpre-task planning and its effect on post planning individual oral presentation of 22 EFL second year collegestudents at Hanoi who were enrolled in a four-year English program. Results showed group planning to focus oncontent rather than language and mixed proficiency grouping to benefit the most. Also in groups learnersproduced more ideas and learned more as more interaction took place. They concluded that group work aidsstudents’ in their oral presentation.As for reading skills, Wichadee (2007), in Thailand, wanted to find out the effect of group work technique onimproving students’ reading skill. A group work technique was implemented on 40 first year students of theSchool of Communication and Arts at Bangkok University who were enrolled in an English course. A pre-test,post-test technique, a questionnaire, cooperative learning assessment, individual quiz and an interview were used.Wichadee reported that students benefited from group work in their reading comprehension, for example, theirreading skill improved, their interaction increased, they felt at ease, learnt more, enjoyed their time and learnthow to work with one another.Effect of group work on students’ learning was further discussed by Al-Sheedi (2009), in Oman, who surveyed240 Basic Education teachers’ opinions about the effect of using group work to enhance students’ learning ofEnglish. Ninety eight percent of the teachers believed that group work improved students’ achievement. Also98% agreed that students who work in groups learn more than those who work individually. They all agreed thatgroup work is a useful technique to use in the classroom.Group work technique has also proven to affect students’ attitudes towards learning. For example, Ibnian (2012)wanted to find out the effect of group work on developing 64 Jordanian non-English major university students’attitudes towards learning English as a foreign language. The survey revealed that group work technique wasuseful in developing students’ attitudes towards learning English by allowing them to express their ideas andopinions freely.More evidence of students’ learning in group work was reported by Meteetham (2001), in Thailand, who wantedto find out the development of students’ grammar and competence as well as students’ attitudes towards groupwork using a test, classroom observation, an interview and a journal. Results showed students receiving a highscore in the test after working in groups and all students reported having more positive attitudes towards workingin groups.Finally, writing skill was investigated by Arumugam et al. (2013) who examined how group work affectsuniversity students’ writing skill. To collect data they used a questionnaire, a pre and post-test and an interview.Results revealed significant development in scores between the pre and post tests. Students felt group work gavethem the chance to learn and improve their English language skills. They felt that discussion in groups helpedthem to understand concepts better and they developed more positive attitudes as a result of working in groups.2.1.3 Effect of Group Work in Other SubjectsPreviously, the advantages of group work on language learning were shown. However, the effect of group workhas also been investigated in different disciplines. For example, an earlier study by Hosterman (1992, in Smialek& Boburka, 2006) investigated the effect of group work learning on students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes incollege music

instruction method where learners of different levels form small groups and work together towards a specific objective. Learners take the responsibility of their own learning and of those in the group so the success of one member is a success of all members. Piaget (1932, in Webb, 2009: 3) argues that cognitive conflict leads to higher levels of reasoning and learning. When a student notices a .

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