«By Kirati Khuvasanond A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University ...»
Source: Slavin, Hurley, and Chamberlain (2003, adapted from Slavin, 1995).
There are many definitions of cooperative learning and many theories related to cooperative learning techniques. Slavin (1989), one of the key scholars in the field of cooperative learning, defined four major theoretical perspectives supporting the achievement effect of cooperative learning: (a) motivational perspective, (b) social cohesion perspective, (c) cognitive perspective, and (d) empirical evidence for cognitive elaboration perspective.
Motivational Perspective. Motivation theory is one of the most widely studied subfields in the field of education. A short explanation of motivation theory is that action is caused by motivation, which can be formed though rewards and goals. The most important part of the process in cooperative learning is task motivation, due to the fact that task motivation is also the factor that drives other processes in cooperative learning.
Cooperative learning strategy creates a situation where group members can achieve their personal goals when their group is successful. This means each group member needs to help his or her group mates give their best efforts. This leads to the situation that, when students work together to achieve a common goal, they are likely to be more motivated to express norms favoring academic achievement and to support their teammates‟ academic achievement. It is not surprising that motivational theorists added group rewards to the cooperative learning method as this helps increase the motivation for academic achievement in a group.
Slavin (1995) explained further that, to improve the effectiveness in cooperative learning, group goals and rewards should be based on the individual learning of each member of the group. This means the team score would be calculated from the scores of individual quizzes, which were completed by each member without any help from his or her teammates. The only way for the group to be successful is to help each other within the group learning and to make sure each member masters the material before the individual quizzes.
Social Cohesion Perspective. The social cohesion perspective relies on positive affection and concern for one another. It emphasizes the idea of team-building activities and the idea of students helping each other because they care about their group‟s performance. Students will be engaged in task activity and try to help one another within their group because they want one another to be successful. Some researchers (Ashman & Gillies, 1997; Battistich, Solomon, &Delucchi., 1993; Slavin, Hurley, & Chamberlain,
2003) support the idea that social cohesion and the quality of group interaction play a role in the achievement effects of cooperative learning.
Cognitive Perspective. The concept of cognitive perspective is that the interactions among students increase students‟ achievement because of mental processing of information. Slavin, Hurley, & Chamberlain (2003) described the principle assumption of developmental perspective on cooperative learning as the students‟ interaction with an appropriate task, which help improve students‟ learning ability.
Vygotsky defined the zone of proximal development (ZPD), as the zone that is created between what a person can accomplish independently and what one can accomplish only with the assistance of someone who is more capable in that skill or knowledge. He also pointed out that collaborative group behaviors could be more advanced than behaviors performed by individuals. Cooperative learning response to both cognitive perspective and the characteristic of ZPD, where the focus is on what one can achieve only when assistance is available. Many studies supported the idea that students who are less likely to participate in conversation or discussion participate more when interacting with other students more likely to participate because students develop and maintain the concept of conservation (Bell, Grossen, & Perret-Clermont, 1985; Murray, 1982; Perret-Clermont, 1980) Furthermore Piaget (1926) stated that arbitrary social knowledge, such as language, values, and symbol systems can only be learned by interacting with others.
Moreover, Piagetians (Damon, 1984; Murray, 1982; Wadsworth, 1984) supported the idea that interactions among students during a learning task could enhance students‟ achievement. Since interactions among students are discussions and explanations about the content, some conflict will be created during the process, and this disequilibrium will bring about a higher understanding of learning tasks.
Empirical Evidence for Cognitive Elaboration Perspective. Student achievement is enhanced not only by disequilibrium in discussions but explaining material to others is also a factor that gives students an opportunity to improve their performance. Many researchers (Dansereau, 1988; Newbern, Dansereau, Patterson, & Wallace, 1994; O‟Dannell, 1996; O‟Dannell & Dansereau, 1992;) have stated that cooperative learning techniques mean better learning results than when students work alone. This process would help students in retaining the information and relating it to existing knowledge. With cooperative learning techniques, students take roles as both listeners and recallers, which allows students opportunities to summarize information they have and correct errors during the process. This is also supported by Webb (1989, 1992), who found that students gain most when they get into the cooperative learning environment. This is because students learn more when they collaborated on the explanations presented to others than when they worked alone.
Concepts of Cooperative Learning Slavin‟s studies (1995) identified six core concepts in cooperative learning techniques. First is the Group Goal, where all group members share the same goal in learning. Second is Individual Accountability, which means that each team success depends on each team member helping each other to learn and making sure all members master the material and are ready for the individual quiz. Third is Equal Opportunities for Success, where students contribute to their team by improving on their own past performance. Fourth is Team Competition, which could motivate students to cooperate within teams to be able to compete with other teams. Fifth is Task Specialization, where each group member would be assigned to accomplish a unique subtask. The last core concept is Adaptation to Individual Needs Cooperative learning techniques are known to be one of the effective instructional approaches that create opportunity for language learning, by providing students a variety of opportunities to practice their language and critical thinking skills (Storch, 2007; Van Lier, 1991). Similarly, Piaget (1926) stated that language, values, rules, morality, and symbol systems can only be learned in interactions with others. From a psychological perspective, a collaborative learning strategy also assists student in becoming more comfortable engaging in discussions. Vygotsky (1978) stated that collaborative activity among children also advances students‟ growth due to the fact that children at similar ages are likely to be operating within one another‟s proximal zones of development. He also pointed out that modeling in the collaborative group behaviors are be more advanced than those performed as individuals.
Language learning is a good example of cooperative learning. Many researchers all over the world seem to agree that students are motivated and learn language best through active engagement (Hansen, 2006; Pang, Muaka, Bernhardt, & Kamil, 2003), which is one of the characteristics of the cooperative learning technique. Hart (2003) pointed out that language learners should develop their understanding of the conventions of language use by engaging learners in the kinds of language activities found in real life, rather than by learning lists of rules or information. Especially in word study, it appears be more useful for students when appropriate words are introduced with interesting and engaging activities (Bear & Templeton, 1998).
Research on Specific Strategies and Activities in Vocabulary Learning Words are like small pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in language since we use words to describe and name things. Without words, people could not express their intended meaning. “Without grammar, very little can be conveyed. Without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed” (Wilkins, 1972, pp. 111).
Previously, from the 1940s to the 1960s, researchers generally believed that vocabulary would take care of itself when the student learned grammatical structure (Choudhury, 2010). Later, from the 1970s to the 1990s, vocabulary still played a second role in language learning (Decarrico, 2001). However, in the 1990s, vocabulary became a “current word” in language pedagogy (Kojic-Sabo & Lightbown, 1999). Moreover, Read (2004) reported that, in the early 2000s, there was a boom in second language vocabulary studies, which was reflected in the number of books and articles during that period of time. Read‟s contention had been supported by Swan and Walter (1984) who pointed out the importance of vocabulary and asserted that it is one of the most important factors for ELLs.
Vocabulary acquisition was thought to be “incremental in nature” (Schmitt, 2000, p. 117), where students learn vocabulary through extensive reading and listening. No doubt that incremental in nature would benefit to upper intermediate or advance ELLs.
However, beginners, intermediate ELLs might need a slightly different way of learning vocabulary. As Choudhury (2010) suggested the appropriate learning program for beginner and intermediate ELLs needs to have a good balance between explicit teaching and activities, which provide ELLs opportunities for incidental learning. Many theorists and researchers in the field now recognize the role of vocabulary in second or foreign language learning. A great number of approaches, techniques, and methods have been introduced to teach vocabulary (Hatch & Brown, 1995). Morin and Foebel (2001), and Newton (2001) suggested that the aim of teaching vocabulary should be for learners to expand their vocabulary knowledge, not just teach specific words.
Second language vocabulary learning strategies were listed by Gu and Johnson (1996) as metacognitive, cognitive, memory, and activation strategies (see Table 3). On the other hand, Schmitt (1997) categorized vocabulary learning strategies into two groups. One is to determine the meaning of a new word when that word is met for the first time. The other group is to consolidate the meaning when the word is encountered again.
Table 3 Vocabulary Learning Strategies List
In order for ESL/EFL students to acquire different components of word knowledge, which include word form, meaning, and specific word usage, instruction must move to more demanding activities (Barcroft, 2004). Asher (1997) also suggested that physical activities and engagement applied to children would help them acquire new language more efficiently. Kojic-Sabo and Lightbown (1999) found that a more frequent and elaborate strategy use was associated with a higher level of achievement in vocabulary learning. For example, video projects in which teams of students plan, prepare, and perform on videotape in specific conversation situations, using target vocabulary, can be instrumental in the vocabulary learning process (Sildus, 2006).
Vocabulary parades, when students dress up and illustrate a particular word, are enjoyable activities that increase word knowledge (Frasier, 2000). Many researchers think that engaging children in wordplay activities and replacing the overused words with a new description is crucial in boosting students‟ vocabulary growth (Duke & Moses, 2003; Feldman & Kinsella, 2004; Wilcox, Murphy, Bacon, & Thomas 2001). Similarly, Richards and Renondya (2002) indicated that engaging students in activities that are centered in developing vocabulary would allow students the opportunity to use and expand their vocabulary knowledge and skills. All these strategies have one thing in common: they actively involve students. These active strategies used in learning language are reflected in Krashen‟s (1981) theories, which indicated that language is gained more through a natural acquisition process than through conscious learning. This theory shed light on cooperative learning, where students get to use language naturally by talking and discussing the classroom task with their classmates.
The cooperative-learning technique is one of the techniques involved with actively engaging students. Recently, interest in vocabulary learning strategies became evident in language pedagogy in several countries. Researchers explored the effectiveness of various vocabulary learning strategies (Hansen, 2006; Kojic-Sabo & Lightbown, 1999; Sildus, 2006; Wei 2007). They agreed that, in order to communicate effectively, ESL/EFL students needed to learn adequate vocabulary and be able to use those words in real-life situations. Most researchers agree that students are motivated and learn words best through active engagement (Baumann, & Kame‟ enui, 2004; Hansen, 2006; Pang, Muaka, Bernhardt, & Kamil, 2003). Moreover, the cooperative learning process would walk learners through all strategies of vocabulary learning identifies in the lists of both Gu and Johnson (1996) and Schmitt (1997).
It is not only an academic area like language learning that benefits from cooperative learning, but also most research has shown that cooperative learning can promote healthy affective development as well (Cohen, 1994; Johnson & Johnson, 1982, 1989, 1991, 1992; Kagan, 1981, 1992; Sharan, 1994; Sharan & Sharan, 1994; Sharan and Hertz-Lazarowiz,1980; Slavin, 1980, 1983b, 1988). Ryan (1997) stated that the importance of conversation within group learning is that it would enhance the understanding of “The Principle of Multiplicity.” This concept shows that it is improbable that people will view the world in the same way or solve a problem with exactly the same solution. Understanding and believing this principle allows students to be more tolerant of others.