«By Kirati Khuvasanond A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University ...»
Overall, students do not want to be called on by teachers, do not express their opinion in the class, and also keep quiet when they disagree with their friends. Many students reported that they felt less afraid of losing face when they talk in a smaller group of people. Most of students were afraid that their friends would laugh at them when they said or did something wrong and that was when students felt they lose face.
In light of the cultural factors reflected from questionnaire and interview data, the cooperative learning instructional technique is a good match when students are dealing with a smaller group of people compared to the teacher-centered context. Students were more comfortable actively participating and expressing themselves in their small group.
As Fu (2003) suggested, talking in a smaller group is a good place for students who are not used to sharing their opinions. Cooperative learning could help eliminate the feeling of losing face and Kreng Jai since students are working with their friends in a smaller (and „safes‟) group. In addition, teachers would be the person who supported students when needed but not the person who, from the students‟ point of view directly, provides the critical knowledge. Moreover, students are not responding directly to their teacher, which would make students feel more comfortable discussing and interacting with less feeling of Kreng Jai and Kreng Klua toward their teacher.
Jigsaw was the instructional technique that students preferred as reflected by student interviews. Cultural issues may be less of a concern when students are dealing with a smaller group of people as in Jigsaw. In Jigsaw classrooms, students participated into two types of groups (groups of four and groups of approximately 8-9). This type of instructional technique helped students to feel more confident to talk and share their opinions with less concern about losing face. Kreng Klua of the teacher did not play a major role in this type of instruction due to the fact that the teacher is not the one who directed knowledge acquisition, from their point of view.
Match and Mismatch of Instructions Techniques according to Thai culture Not only should the instruction match with students‟ cultural view, but also the learning outcome is another factor that should be a major consideration for achieving a best match in classroom instruction. Even though Jigsaw was the technique that was the best cultural match among the instructional techniques in this research, Jigsaw is not the best match for the Thai classroom in terms of learning outcome. It was not surprising that the Jigsaw classroom did not show a very impressive learning outcome compared to other instructional techniques used in this research. Previous research has also yielded inconclusive results when Jigsaw was applied as a classroom instructional technique. For instance, in Slavin‟s meta analysis (1995), he reported only two out of eight studies that showed significant difference in results favoring Jigsaw. Two favored the control group and four of them showed no significant difference. Similarly, Moskowitz, Malvin, Schaeffer, and Schaps (1983), and Shaaban (2006) did not find results of their research on Jigsaw significant in learning outcome improvement. In addition, Johnson, Johnson, and Stanne (2000) reported results favoring Jigsaw II on comprehension with small effect sizes when compared to competitive individualistic instruction. In contrast, Aronson, Blaney, Sikes, Stephan, and Snapp (1978) and Mattingly and Van Sickle (1991) reported results in favor Jigsaw II.
It would be wrong to conclude that Jigsaw is not an effective instructional technique to be used in the classroom. In terms of the Thai classroom environment and Thai culture, Jigsaw might be a good technique to use occasionally. Jigsaw instructional technique could be a good fit when the purpose of lessons is more likely to encourage students to actively engage, interact, and express their opinion with their classmates. In other words, Jigsaw could be used as an alternative instructional technique to promote selected students‟ learning activities.
In a similar concept of working in a small group, students in CIRC classrooms were divided into two groups. One group of students worked with their teachers while another group worked on a task assigned by the teacher. Within the group working on assignment, students were put into pairs to help each other complete the assignment.
Students had chances to discuss and express their opinion with their partner. The group of students who worked with their teacher would be able to learn some knowledge from the teacher within a smaller group than the whole classroom. In this part of the instructional technique, the teacher would have more opportunity to help the students learn and also easily be able to provide corrections or feedback. Students in a CIRC classroom would get the opportunity to work in both groups before getting into the group of four, to make sure all their group members master the lesson.
Based on the results of this research, CIRC is a very good instructional technique matched to Thai students in terms of both cultural factors and learning outcomes.
Specifically, students in CIRC classroom have higher progress scores on vocabulary knowledge in spelling and overall skills. Similarly, students who received the CIRC instructional technique outperformed those instructed by traditional teaching, as shown in other studies (Durukan, 2011; Calderon, M., Hertz-Lazarowitz, R., Ivory, G. Slavin, R.
(1998). Moreover, reflection from students interviewed in this research confirmed that students had positive feedback toward the CIRC instructional technique because students had opportunities to be actively engaged with classroom activities.
Teacher-centered is the instructional technique that seems to least fit the character of Thai students these days. Power distance and save face concepts are significant factors that affect the way students behave and participate in class. Even though students gain a considerable amount of knowledge from their teacher, they appear to would lack other applied skills. Since students are afraid and not confident in expressing their opinion in teacher-centered classrooms, students would have less opportunity to improve their communicative skill and apply them in real life situations. Furthermore, students have less chance to develop their thinking skill due to the fact that students are not actively engaged in activity and have less chance to discuss and express themselves as they make learning decisions.
In terms of learning outcome in vocabulary, the teacher-centered technique is more likely to be useful in teaching word function, since the results from students‟ progress in word function outperform other instructional techniques within the word function section. Similarly, results from teachers‟ interviews also showed that teachers preferred using teacher-centered (lecture) in teaching solid detail lessons such as language structure, due to the fact that teachers could be positive that students understand the core concept clearly and correctly. Similar results, but from students‟ perspectives, were reported in Garrett and Shortall‟s (2002) research results that students learning English at the beginning level preferred learning grammar with teacher-centered instructional technique because they felt that teacher-centered instruction is much easier to understand.
Conclusion Considering both students‟ progress and culture factors, CIRC is a better match to Thai classrooms when teaching English vocabulary to sixth grade students, since students in CIRC had higher mean scores in spelling and overall on the vocabulary test than students taught under other instructional techniques. CIRC appears to encourage students to express themselves, interact with others, and develop thinking skill and social skill, while still having the chance to interact with their teacher on the core information of the lesson while completing their assignment within their small group.
It would be inappropriate to conclude that the teacher-centered technique is not an effective instructional technique. Teacher-centered instruction is appropriate and effective when teachers need to deliver core academic information to students. Even though this instruction could provide solid information to students, perhaps better than the other instructional techniques studied, students in teacher-centered technique classrooms have less opportunity to develop other skills, such as communicative skills, critical thinking skills, and social skills. This is because teacher-centered is more likely to be a passive instructional technique and not encourage students to engage actively in the class activity.
In responding to government education policy on developing Thai students‟ English communicative skill (ASTV, Jan 8, 2012) and improving students‟ social skills, CIRC appears to be the best match for Thai classrooms. As Guo (2012) recommended, learners need to incorporate the corrective feedback to be able to reflect the positive progress of learning. Especially in the implementation process, CIRC allowed teachers to still be involved in student learning, and students had more opportunity to interact with their group than they would have had in the teacher-centered technique. CIRC seemed to be the compromise between teacher-centered and Jigsaw. Since one aspect of CIRC allowed students to work on their own in a small group and in another part of CIRC, students would get to work with their teacher. This would allow teachers more opportunity to provide feedback, suggestions, and corrections to students and make sure students learn the desired information. In addition, working in a small group in CIRC would encourage students to communicate, express their opinion, and discuss with their friends more to accomplish the task given by teachers. Students in teacher-centered classrooms receive less practice with their classmates and less communicative activity.
CIRC would help promote a more positive classroom environment as well as encourage students‟ learning effectiveness. George (1999) reported on the research results of a study conducted with Thai students that showed cooperative learning methodologies could help promote more positive attitudes toward classroom instruction. This would help improve vocabulary knowledge in both structure and communicative skills together with developing the thinking skills, social skills, and self learning of Thai students as the Thai government policy seeks.
Implementation of the Instruction Used in the Classroom In the implementation of cooperative learning in Thai classrooms, both teachers and students need to adapt to the new learning style in order to maximize the effectiveness of these instructional techniques. One of the important factors that could help ease teachers and students in the adaptation process is an appropriate classroom setting. As Sylvester (1994) stated, a classroom should be friendly due to the fact that “stressful school environments reduce students‟ ability to learn” (p. 65).
Following are classroom situations for creating a learning-centered classroom as suggested by Combs (1976), Savoie and Hughes (1994) and Marzano (1992):
Opportunities for involvement, interaction, and socialization to explore meaning should be provided in the classroom.
Frequent opportunities for students to encounter new information and experiences as a process of personal discovery.
Students should engage in collaborative problem-solving that relate to real world
At the beginning of applying cooperative learning in Thai classrooms, teachers will have to be patient in referring both classroom-management and time-management.
Due to the fact that students are not used to the instructional techniques and working in a small group, students will need to learn what their roles are within their learning environments. Teachers need to step in and suggest to students what they should do as a group. Another factor that teachers should be concerned with is that they allow students to express their opinions freely without teacher distraction or teachers complaining about students‟ disagreement. TCIJ (Dec 31, 2012) reported that students were afraid and reserved their opinions due to the fact that teachers did not welcome students‟ disagreement. Thus, students are reserved and stay quiet in the classroom. These implementation steps would bring education to the point where cooperative learning would optimize its effectiveness in Thai classrooms. Moreover, the choice of instruction that matches with Thai culture would enhance students‟ motivation and learning to perform at a higher level, using communicative language in a real world situation.
Future Research This study raises a focus not only on cultural factors that play a role in students‟ learning, but also on other factors, such as students‟ preferences for learning, teaching, and classroom structure. Students‟ different personality characteristics may influence learning due to the match and mismatch of instruction and student character and personality. Students‟ preferences are another factor that would increase students‟ motivation in learning in the classroom, which would affect their learning progress. A more in-depth study of students‟ personalities would be suitable for the type of instructional technique and how matching and mismatching learning preference with type of instruction affect students‟ learning outcome should be conducted. In addition, different education levels of students and different nationalities might reflect different matches with the instruction as well.
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