The main objective of this article is to present the research on learning strategies to help students to improve their oral production in English. Nowadays, it is necessary to improve students‘ performance as workers in facing future labor challenges. One of those challenges is the development of foreign language communicative competence, interaction on equal footing with the rest of the world. According to these new demands, today will depend not just on one‘s professional knowledge but on the ability to present that knowledge in an appropriate way. Considering the data gathered, this research prompted a more cooperative environment among students in the oral process. Finally it was a way to motivate other teachers to work with these kinds of strategies.
Key words: cooperative learning strategies, oral interaction, interaction activities, collaborative learning
Globalization, the opening up of the economy and scientific and technological process are factors which have influenced the new world order in different fields. Nowadays, it is necessary to improve students‘ performance as workers in facing future labor challenges. One of those challenges is the development of foreign language communicative competence, interaction on equal footing with the rest of the world. According to these new demands, today will depend not just on one‘s professional knowledge but on the ability to present that knowledge in an appropriate way.
The problem described in this research article required a special theoretical support. The theoretical elements included in this research were closely related and provided a clear path for developing processes and steps.Cooperative Learning has been defined by various professionals from different fields.
Johnson (001) defines cooperative learning as a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Artz& Newman (1990) define cooperative learning as small groups of learners working together as a team to solve a problem, complete a task, or accomplish a common goal.
Furthermore, different researchers and academics give special characteristics and qualities to cooperative learning. Cooperative learning strategies have been shown to improve academic performance (Slavin,1990), to lead to greater motivation to learn (Garibaldi, 1979 in Kagan 1986), to increase time on-task (Cohen 1988), to improve selfesteem (Johnson and Johnson, 1989) and to lead to more positive social behaviors (Lloyd, 1988). Cooperative learning, according to another expert, promotes language acquisition by providing comprehensible input in developmentally appropriate ways and in a supportive and motivating environment (Kagan, 1995).
The model of Johnson & Johnson (001) was taken in this research because they focus on developing a specific structure that can be incorporated in a variety of curriculums with an emphasis on integrating social skills and academic tasks. For them there are four steps that teachers must follow in teaching cooperative skills: Students must see value in group work, students must be aware of the necessary skills for successful group work in order to know what they are supposed to do, students must practice the skill (in this case speaking) and students need to process the skills they have practiced (in order to improve them). During the research it was also necessary to learn how to apply different techniques according to cooperative learning, because it is not only for group-work. Some of the techniques are:
Groups with five students are set up. Each group member is assigned some unique material to learn and then to teach to his group members. To help the learning, students working on the same sub-section, get together to decide what is important and how to teach it. After practice in these —expert” groups, the original groups reform and students teach each other.
Involvesa three-step cooperative structure.During the first step individuals think silently about a question posed by the instructor. Individuals pair up during the 82 second step and exchange thoughts. In the third step, the pairs share their responses with other pairs, other teams, or the entire group.
Round Robin Brainstorming
Students are divided into small groups (4 to 6) with one person appointed as the recorder. A question is posed with many answers and students are given time to think about answers. After the “think time,” members of the team share responses with one another round robin style. The recorder writes down the answers of the group members. The person next to the recorder starts, and each person in the group gives an answer in order until time is called.
A team of four is established. Each class member is given a number between one and four. Questions are asked of group. Groups work together to answer their question so that all can verbally answer the question. The teacher calls out a number (for example, two) and each two is asked to give the answer.
The first time students used the cooperative learning strategies was not easy, as they wanted to work only with their friends and, in some cases, did not follow the rules. In the first session some groups delegated one student to do the activity, but when the teacher asked another student for the answers they understood why it was important that everyone in the group managed the information. Competition among the groups was an important factor to motivate students to work as a group, because it is important for them to be the best and to be recognized.
The control of students‘ discipline was difficult at the beginning of the process because they were not in the habit of working with each other, in the sense that the teacher stipulated. During each class the objective of the activity and the rules to be used needed to be explained. For example, when the teacher raised her hand they knew that they needed to do the same, and to be quiet. Also, at the beginning they wanted to work with their friends, while in the first session they were shy during the activities because of their new partners.
The feedback given by the teacher at the end of the session helped students keep on talking in their groups, and they corrected mistakes unconsciously because, during the activity, they checked the expressions, vocabulary and pronunciation used. But the feedback couldn‘t be applied in the way stipulated in the theory, because there was not enough time in each session to apply the special techniques. In addition, many values and social skills were put into practice by the students: Honesty, responsibility, solidarity, team spirit and self-esteem.
Cooperative learning was an appropriate method for improving oral production. It was enjoyable for the students and teacher because it used many elements contributed by the students and encouraged them to improve their process. Students said that they learnt more and had more opportunities to participate orally in the class; they felt comfortable using English in class.
The pedagogical implications of this research are relevant on different levels: students, teachers, school, and even national educational policies.
These activities created a different environment in the class. That environment was free of anxiety and pressure; students were free to express themselves.
References (including internet resources):
- Artz, A. F., & Newman, C. M. (1990). Cooperative Learning. Mathematics Teacher, 83, 448-449.
- Bygate, M. (1997). Speaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Brown, G., & Yule, G. (2001). Teaching the spoken language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied linguistics, 1(1), 1-47.
- Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. —Cooperative Learning.” [Online] Retrieved 15 October 001 from http://www.clcrc.com/pages/cl.html