A study on students' behavior in group work in speaking classes at Vinh Uiniversity

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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING VINH UNIVERSITY LÊ THỊ THANH BÌNH A STUDY ON STUDENTS’ BEHAVIOR IN GROUP WORK IN SPEAKING CLASSES AT VINH UNIVERSITY MASTER’S THESIS IN EDUCATION Nghe An, 2014 MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING VINH UNIVERSITY LÊ THỊ THANH BÌNH A STUDY ON STUDENTS’ BEHAVIOR IN GROUP WORK IN SPEAKING CLASSES AT VINH UNIVERSITY Major: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Code: 60140111 MASTER’S THESIS IN EDUCATION SUPERVISOR: Lê Phạm Hoài Hương, Assoc. Prof., Ph.D. Nghe An, 2014 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First of all, I would like to express my very affectionate and deeply-felt thanks to my supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Pham Hoai Huong, for giving effective instructions and invaluable advice during the preparation and completion of this graduation paper. I owe her a dept of gratitude that cannot be measured. I also wish to acknowledge my debt to all the teachers of the Foreign Languages Department at Vinh University as well as some teachers from Vietnam National University, Hanoi – College of Foreign Languages, whose lectures and ideas have inspired my thesis and whom it is impossible to thank individually. My appreciation also goes to the students at Vinh University for their valuable assistance in completing my survey questionnaire and providing me with a lot of useful information. Finally, I would like to send my great thanks to my family, my friends who have directly or indirectly helped me with their encouragement and advice. On the whole, without all these help my graduation paper would not have possibly been completed. Due to limited scope, it is sure that in this graduation paper, mistakes are inevitable, that is why I hope to receive further comments and advice to make it better. Vinh, 2014. LE THI THANH BINH i ABSTRACT This study was set out to investigate students’ behavior in group work in speaking classes at Vinh University. The study used both quantitative and qualitative approaches in methodology. A questionnaire was sent to 100 students who came from different regions from mountainous areas to city centers and had no common in major. Interview data was also collected with 10 students and 5 teachers. These teachers have had a period of time applying group work in English speaking classes. In addition, observation was conducted in some classes with group work activities. Results highlight the complexity of what happens when students work in groups in English speaking classes. Some dominant behavior of students in group work includes impatience, selfishness, impoliteness, embarrassment and noncooperation with partners. The study also shows that there is a conflict between teachers’ intentions and students’ interests. They seem dissatisfied with some of teachers’ decision, especially comments and marks. Therefore, teachers’ roles in those classes are strongly emphasized although students are still center of the class. Based on the findings of the study, implications were made for teachers and students in managing group work. ii TABLES AND CHARTS Table 2.1: Stages in implementing group work (Ngoh, 1991)...............................15 Chart 4.1: Students’ opinions of the importance of group work in speaking classes..................................................................................................................... 34 Chart 4.2: Students’ interests in their roles in group work...................................36 Chart 4.3: Students’ attitudes towards speaking activities in group work.............37 Chart 4.4: Students’ preference for grouping techniques.....................................38 Chart 4.5: Students’ misbehavior perceived by group members in speaking classes..................................................................................................................... 39 Chart 4. 6: Students’ speaking habits effects on others in group work.................40 Chart 4.7: Teacher’s influence on students’ behavior in group work..................41 Chart 4.8: Effects of classroom settings on students in group work.....................42 Chart 4.9: Students’ behavior with difficult tasks.................................................43 Chart 4.10: Reasons causing students’ low participant.........................................44 Table 4. 2: Students’ suggestions for teachers implementing group work in speaking classes......................................................................................................45 iii LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS CLT: Communicative Language Teaching CLL: Cooperative Language Learning EFL: English as a Foreign Language ESL: English as a Second Language GW: Group Work iv TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.......................................................................................i ABSTRACT..............................................................................................................ii LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS..................................................................................iv Table of contents.......................................................................................................v CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION.................................................1 1.1. Rationale.......................................................................................................1 1.2 Research aims:...............................................................................................2 1.3 Research questions:......................................................................................2 1.4 Research significance...................................................................................3 1.5 Scope of the study..........................................................................................3 1.6 Structure thesis..............................................................................................3 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................4 2.1 Introduction...................................................................................................4 2.2 Definitions of key terms................................................................................4 2.2.1.Group work..............................................................................................4 2.2.2.Speaking...................................................................................................4 2.2.3. Behaviour................................................................................................6 2.3.Group work...................................................................................................9 2.3.1.Advantages...............................................................................................9 2.3.2 Disadvantages........................................................................................10 2.3.3.The formation of group work.................................................................12 2.3.3.4 Procedures for pair work and group work.......................................14 2.4.Speaking.......................................................................................................16 2.4.1.Characteristics of speaking.....................................................................16 2.4.2 Problems with speaking and speaking activities.....................................17 2.4.2.1. Problems with speaking.................................................................17 2.4.2.2.Problems with speaking activities...................................................18 2.4.3.Principles for choosing speaking activities............................................19 2.4.4. Stages of a speaking lesson...................................................................20 v 2.4.5. Types of classroom speaking performance............................................21 2.5.Group work in speaking lesson..................................................................22 2.6.Behavior.......................................................................................................24 2.6.1. The reasons why behavior problems occur...........................................24 2.6.2.Factors affecting students’ behavior in the class....................................25 2.7.Previous studies...........................................................................................27 2.8.Summary......................................................................................................28 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY.......................................29 3.1.Introduction.................................................................................................29 3.2.Research methodology................................................................................29 3.3.Paricipants...................................................................................................30 3.4.Data collection methods..............................................................................30 3.4.1.Questionnaire.........................................................................................30 3.4.2.Interview................................................................................................31 3.4.3.Observation............................................................................................32 3.5.Data analysis................................................................................................32 3.6.Summary......................................................................................................33 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION......................... 34 4.1. Introduction................................................................................................34 4.2.Findings........................................................................................................34 4.2.1. The reality of applying group work in speaking classes at Vinh University.......................................................................................................34 4.2.1.1.Students’ opinions of the importance of group work in speaking classes.........................................................................................................34 4.2.1.2. Students’ interests in their roles in group work..............................35 4.2.1.3. Students’ attitudes towards speaking activities in group work.......36 4.2.1.4.Students’ preference for grouping techniques.................................37 4.2.2.Students’ behavior in group work in speaking classes...........................39 4.2.2.1.Students’ misbehavior perceived by group members in speaking classes.............................................................................................................39 vi 4.2.2.2. Students’ speaking habits in group work.......................................40 4.2.2.3.Teacher’s influence on students’ behavior in group work...............41 4.2.2.4. The effects of classroom settings on students in group work.........42 4.2.2.5. Students’ behavior with difficult tasks...........................................42 4.2.2.6. Reasons causing students’ low participation..................................43 4.2.3 Students’ suggestions for teachers implementing group work in speaking classes.............................................................................................................44 4.3. Discussion....................................................................................................46 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION ......................................................52 5.1. Summary of key findings...........................................................................52 5.2.1.Implications for teachers........................................................................52 5.2.2.Implications for students........................................................................58 5.3.Limitations of the research.........................................................................65 5.4.Suggestions for further studies...................................................................66 REFERENCES......................................................................................................67 APPENDIX I..........................................................................................................70 APPENDIX II.........................................................................................................75 APPENDIX III........................................................................................................76 vii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1. Rationale Nowadays, people seem to familiar with terms “global citizen”, “interaction”, “collaboration”...which highly consider the relationship between person and person. Therefore, the word “group work” has gradually become a key term in any fields of life such as business, sport and education. It can be seen that group work enhance effective and efficient achievement of an organization’s work; members of a team are more committed to work on goals that they help to create. Moreover, everyone in group work can contribute their unique abilities and they have a sense of belonging (Davis, 1993). Problem-solving, persuasive argumentation and teamwork are necessary skills and valued by employers. Group work is also emphasized in Communicative Language Teaching which is popular in teaching methodology in many countries. Barkley (2005) believes that learners will obtain several benefits. Group work is one pedagogical strategy that promotes participation and interaction. It fosters a deeper and more active learning process, and it also provides instructors with valuable demonstrations of the degree to which students understand particular topics or concepts. In addition to exposing students to different approaches and ways of thinking, working with other students in groups can promote a sense of belonging that combats the anonymity and isolation that many students experience at a large campus. Some students may initially be reluctant to participate in group work, so sharing the reasons for group work with your students can help to convince the reluctant ones. It might help them to know that research has shown that groups frequently devise more and better solutions than the most advanced individual . Working together in groups also gives students the opportunity to learn from and teach each other. Classroom research has shown that students often learn better from each other than they do from a teacher . However, the complexity of what occurs when students are placed in groups as part of their English speaking lessons should be explored. It is difficult to find 1 out what the students actually behave in these situations. It is clear that students in groups often do not do what the teacher expects. Neither do the students always move towards the teacher’s intentions when working in groups. Breen (1987: 23) warns that ‘learners are capable of playing havoc with the most carefully designed and much-used task’. Being a teacher at Vinh University, the author has recognized that group work is widely used in any English speaking classes but students’ behavior is various. And she wants to do research on it with the hope to find out positive and negative sides of group work and contribute some suggestions to build better speaking classes. Those reasons above lead to the study “A study on students’ behavior in group work in English speaking classes at Vinh University”. 1.2 Research aims: - To understand how group work is carried out in English speaking classes at Vinh university. - To find out how students behave with each other and with teachers during the time working in groups. - To recommend practical suggestions to boost good behavior in group work and decrease short- comings. 1.3 Research questions: The research tries to answer the following questions: 1. What do students think of group work carried out in English speaking classes at Vinh university? 2. How do students behave in group work in English speaking classes at this university? 3. What should be changed to improve the effectiveness of group work in English speaking classes? 2 1.4 Research significance The research zooms in the way students behave and react with each other and with teachers. That helps teachers know what students like to do and what they do not. The research focuses on understanding students’ needs, thoughts and ideas in group work. From that teachers can modify group work effectively in order that students feel excited to join in any activities with others. 1.5 Scope of the study Many sides of group work have been studied by researchers. They have described its advantages and disadvantages, methods to manage group work. They have also found out activities related to group work in reading, writing, listening and writing. In this thesis, the author would like to pay attention on students’ behavior in group work in English speaking class. The research collects statistics from survey with 100 students, interview 10 students and observations of some classes at Vinh University. 1.6 Thesis structure The study consists of five chapters: Chapter 1, entitled “Introduction”, outlines the background of the study. In this part, the author presents the reasons for choosing the topic, the purposes, the scope, the research questions, and the organization of the study. Chapter 2 , ‘Literature Review’, presents an overview of what is group work, its advantages and disadvantages; definition of behavior; previous studies related to this topic in foreign countries and in Vietnam. In Chapter 3, “Methodology” presents the detailed procedure of the study: the methodology, population selection, data collection and analysis. Chapter 4 is the “Findings and Discussion” which provides data description and analysis with findings. The last chapter, “Conclusion and Recommendations”, summarizes main points and contents of the study based on the results of the study; suggests some techniques for teaching and presents the recommendation for further research. 3 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1 Introduction This chapter presents the literature review. First, it will present the definitions of key terms such as “group work”, “speaking”, “behavior”. Then, it introduces the roles of group work in speaking classes and its relationship with students’ behavior. Readers can find out some previous studies of this topic in foreign countries and Vietnam. Especially, it explains the reason why there should be the current study. 2.2 Definitions of key terms 2.2.1.Group work While there are some very different ways of defining groups – often depending upon which aspect of them that commentators and researchers want to focus upon – it is worthwhile looking to a definition that takes things back to basics. Forsyth (2006: 2-3) defines a group as “two or more individuals who are connected to one another by social relationships”. This definition has the merit of bringing together three elements: the number of individuals involved, connection, and relationship. Doff (1988: 137) also defines group work as a process that “the teacher divides the class into small groups to work together”. (Usually four or five students in each group, as in pair work, all the groups work at the same time). Like pair work, group work also gives students more opportunities to practice the target language in the whole class. In addition, students can work independently and freely under the teacher’s control without the pressure of the whole class watching what they are doing. 2.2.2.Speaking Speaking is the productive skill in the oral mode. It is crucial to human communication. Different linguistics have different concepts of speaking: Brown (1994) defines speaking as a process of constructing meaning that involves producing, receiving and processing information. Brown and Yule (1983) also pointed out that spoken language consists of short, fragmentary utterances in a 4 range of pronunciation, adding that spoken language is made by using the loosely organized syntax, and non-specific words, phrases and filters such as oh, well, uhuh etc. Speaking requires learners to use grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation to produce speech and understand when, where, why and in what ways to produce language. It is obvious that speaking is the key to human communication. Though speaking takes many definitions, following are some of the definitions by the most famous researchers According to Byrne (1976:8), “Speaking is a two-way process between the speaker(s) and the listener(s) involving the productive skill of speaking and the receptive skill of understanding.” Both the listener and the speaker have a positive function to perform: the speaker has to encode the message to be conveyed in appropriate language, while the listener has to decode the message. The message itself in normal speech usually contains a great deal of information that the listener needs. And at the same time, the listener is helped by the speakers’ prosodic features such as stress and intonation which accompany the spoken utterances and form part of its meaning, and also by his facial and body movements. Brown (1983) also reveals that speaking is an interactive process of constructing meaning that involves producing, receiving and processing information. Its form and meaning are dependent on the context in which it occurs, including the participants themselves, their collective experiences, the physical environment, and the purposes for speaking. It is often spontaneous, open ended and evolving. However, speech is not always unpredictable. Language functions that tent to recur in certain discourse situations (declining and invitation, requesting time off from work) can be identified and charted. Speaking requires not only that learners know how to produce specific points of language, such as grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary (linguistic competence), but also that they understand when, why and in what way to produce language (sociolinguistic competence). Scott (1978) mentions that an activity involving two or more people in which the participants are both hearers and speakers having to react to what they hear and 5 make their contribution is speaking. Each has an intention or a set of intentions that he wants to achieve in the interaction and an ability to interpret what is said to him which he can not predict exactly either in terms of form or in terms of meaning. Chaney (1988:13) defined “Speaking is the process of building and sharing meaning through the use verbal and non-verbal symbols in a variety of contexts”. In general, different researchers have different concepts of speaking but they all agree with one very important feature of speaking, that is a two way process between the speaker and listener. 2.2.3. Behaviour According to wikipedia “Behavior or behaviour is the range of actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the (inanimate) physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary”. Basing on this definition, students’ behaviors in groupwork are all actions and mannerisms which students behave with their partners, with group members and with teacher. Under the circumstance of English language speaking class, they are various. Some may be easily recognized but some probably need more time to analyze. Some of them can be either positive or negative for the purpose of cooperating to study English language speaking Durand (1990) outlines four possible functions of behavior: to escape, to obtain a tangible thing, to engage in sensory activities, and to get attention. These functions describe the benefit students get from the behavior - a benefit they may not even be aware of - and help us understand how to intervene to help students change the behavior. Escape-motivated behavior occurs when a student attempts to avoid a task, demand, situation, or person. This can be easy to recognize - for example, when students run out of the classroom during reading. Sometimes it's less obvious - for 6 instance, when kids argue to get out of doing an activity that makes them anxious. Common school procedures, such as time-outs or sending the student to the principal's office, can reinforce escape-motivated behavior because they remove the student from the undesirable activity - just what the student wanted. We can understand tangible behavior in two ways: when the function of the behavior is to obtain a tangible object like money or food or, when the function is to attain a specific agenda. The student wants what he wants; when he wants it. Students who are self-centered and have inflexible thinking often fall into this category. Some children with a history of abuse or neglect may have a low frustration tolerance and operate with the assumption that the only way to get their needs met is to grab the thing they want or overpower someone. We see sensory behavior when a student is motivated by sensory input: Things feel good, look good, taste good, or sound good. Humming loudly while writing, chewing on the end of a pencil, or standing rather than sitting while working are all typical behaviors that fall into this category. These become problems when they interfere with learning, are disruptive, or make students look odd to their peers. Finally, with attention-motivated behavior, the student tries to gain attention from an adult or peer. This can present as the student being belligerent, screaming, or continually interrupting the teacher. It can also work in the positive—that is, the girl who dresses up so a boy will notice her or a child who works hard on his reading so the teacher will praise him. Led by Rachel Scherr (2009), members of the Physics Education Research group at the University of Maryland have tried to systematize their observations of student behavior during tutorials. Student activities during tutorials can be divided into four different behavioral clusters of activities. Because each cluster of activities has different kinds of meaning, the researchers have chosen to describe the clusters in terms of colors. 7 When a group of students are in the blue behavioral cluster, they are either not speaking or speaking quietly in low subdued tones with little or no gestures used. Their eyes are directed towards their worksheet and typically their bodies are hunched over the desk. Speech is not necessarily directed at others. Students are said to be in a “worksheet” frame for this particular behavioral cluster. Students are in the green behavioral cluster when they are actively talking to one another about the tutorial content. Students tend to gesture more frequently in this cluster, sit up straight, and make eye contact with one another as they talk. Scherr and her colleagues indicate that the students are framing the tutorial as a “discussion.” In the red behavioral cluster, students are interacting with the teaching assistant or instructor for the course. Eye contact is typically made with the teaching assistant or instructor and voices and gestures are more subdued in this frame. They are in the “receptive to TA” frame. When students in a group are laughing, fiddling about, and goofing off, they are in the yellow behavioral cluster. Students are typically laughing and fiddling around during this frame. They are more likely to be touching their faces or hair and are not talking about tutorial content. Such behavior indicates that they frame that moment as an opportunity of socializing. Most teachers, in many different learning cultures, have moments when their students fail to cooperate in some way, thus disrupting the learning which should be taking place, sometimes getting significantly “out of control”. Such moment of disruption can be unsettling not just for teachers but also for students. Problem behavior can take many forms; Paul Waddon and Sean McGovern (1991) list disruptive talking, inaudible responses, cheating in test and unwilling to speak in the target language. Of course, their list may reflect the education culture where they were teaching rather than being universal. In other contexts we may add behaviours such as insolence to the teachers, insulting or bullying other students, damaging school property and refusing to accept sanctions or punishment. 8 However, what is characterized as discipline depends on what counts as a wellordered or disciplined classroom for the individual teacher (Brown and McIntyre 1993:44). 2.3.Group work 2.3.1.Advantages Research on cooperative learning establishes that working collaborates with others can increase achievement (Slavin, 1990). Group-work provides students opportunities to learn by helping each other. From a theoretical perspective, both the help- giver and the help- receiver stand to benefit from sharing information. Group work has been incorporated into language teaching and learning in most parts of the world since the emergence of the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in the early 1970s, and has taken firm root in many present-day ESL or EFL classrooms. This approach came into being because of the ever-growing need for the use of language for communicative purposes, and because of the fact that a lot of educators and linguists became more and more dissatisfied with the AudioLingual and Grammar-Translation methods of language teaching. In this context, there began a movement away from traditional lesson formats where emphasis was put on the mastery of different items of grammar, hence shifting practice from controlled activities such as mechanical memorization of dialogs and drills towards communicative activities, which can be successfully done through group work. According to Brumfit (1984), group work is often considered an essential feature of communicative language teaching. In favor of it, Long & Porter (1985) hold that GW can promote students’ practice, the quality of their talk, their motivation, and positive classroom atmosphere. Salmon (1988) supports Long & Porter’s ideas and adds that group work also helps increase students’ confidence. Similar to CLT, Cooperative Language Learning (CLL) also promotes learning through communication in pairs or small groups. CLL is an approach to teaching that makes maximum use of cooperative activities involving pairs and small groups of learners in the classroom. This means each learner is held 9 accountable for his or her own learning and is motivated to increase the learning of others (Olsen & Kagan, 1992, p.8). The concept “cooperative” in CLL emphasizes an important aspect: developing classrooms that foster cooperation rather than competition in learning. That is to say, students in pairs or groups work together towards a common goal instead of competing with one another for individual ambitions. Other benefits which group work may offer are mentioned below. First of all, it may maximize each learner’s opportunity to speak and that practicing in pairs and groups will reduce to some extent the psychological burden of public performance. Thanks to group work, students will also have more language practice opportunities and the time they will have for interacting with one another in pairs and groups is absolutely abundant. Second, pair and small group activities enable students to take a more active role in their learning as well as to act as an important resource person for one another (McGroarty, 1989). Last, students learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process via pairs or groups. According to Davis (1993), students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats. 2.3.2 Disadvantages Besides the aforesaid advantages, several possible problems and difficulties may arise in a class using group work. Because a lot of groups work at the same time, the first problem language teachers might confront is that the class gets rather noisy and out of hand. We think it is natural for a teacher to feel a need to keep control of the class, but we need to differentiate between ‘productive’ and ‘unproductive’ noises. The former is exactly what most teachers want to achieve, not the latter. A classroom full of students in pairs or groups talking and interacting in English, even if it is really noisy, is surely what we wish. A high level of noise during this session can be tolerated since this is a good sign signifying that the students feel engaged, included and enthusiastic about learning itself when communicating with their friends. Long & Richards (1987) maintain that a learner- 10 centered class like the above, where learners do most of the talking in pairs or groups, and take responsibilities for using communicative resources to complete a task, proves to be more conducive to language learning than a teacher-centered class. Consequently, the noise which seems to be an inevitable problem in any classrooms can sometimes be very beneficial. Difficulty in monitoring the class is also a problem for teachers. As Kumar (1992) mentions, large class size might make interaction and involvement difficult. It is obvious that in Vietnam’s language teaching context, a classroom often houses approximately over 40 students. That is to say, a teacher has to monitor at the same time lots of pairs and groups. As a result, he or she will not be able to equally give help and advice to every pair or group. When conducting group work techniques, teachers may encounter some problems as follows: Harmer (1999: 125) points out that “Some pairs may find it impossible to concentrate on the task in hand and instead encourage each other to talk about something else, usually in their first language. In some groups, members may defer to the oldest person there, or to the man in otherwise female group. People with loud voice can dominate proceedings, less extrovert people may not participate fully enough”. He also states some following problems teachers deal with when applying group work in their teaching. Firstly, group work is frequently noisy, so teachers may lose control of their class. Secondly, some students would prefer to the focus of the teacher’s attention rather than working with their peers. Thirdly, individuals may fall into group roles that become fossilized, so that some are passive whereas others may dominate. Finally, students in pairs or groups may not focus on the point of their task, but talk about something else, often in their mother tongue. Obviously, it is difficult for teachers to control all groups at once. Some students don’t like working groups. Also, they sometimes use their mother tongue instead of the target language when working in groups. 11
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