Luận văn How group work is used in speaking lesson of the 1st-Year major students of English at Vietnam University of Commerce

In the first phase, questionnaires were administered to 100 VUC English major freshmen at the end of the first semester of the academic year 2008. The participants were asked to complete the questionnaire at home and returned their responses three days later so that they would have as much time as they needed.

After the data collected were analyzed, in the second phase, 10 random informants were contacted for semi-structured interviews with the researcher in locations where they felt at ease and at a time they suggested. The interviews were all tape-recorded to free the interviewer to participate naturally in the discussion and to allow the content to be reviewed carefully. In addition, in order to capture the complexities of the respondent’s individual perceptions and experience, the ten interviews were conducted in Vietnamese. At the beginning of each interview, the students were explained clearly, explicitly and unambiguously about the nature of the study. During the interview, the researcher modified the questions and procedures according to the subjects’ responses. The length of each interview was from 10 to 15 minutes.

Beside survey questionnaires and interviews, classroom observations were also carried out to collect more information about the exact procedures occurring in the real classes as well as difficulties the teachers coped with in practice. Each observation consisted of two steps: before the lesson and during the lesson. In before-the-lessons step, the researcher met the teacher to know her/ his aims in teaching the lesson, to read his/ her lesson plan. In the during-the-lesson step, the researcher observed and took note the students’ activities and participation when working in group and the teachers’ steps of group work implementation during speaking lesson.

 

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ividuals’ language production. (Brown, 2001) According to Brown (2001), the teacher should not do the following: Don’t sit at your desk and grade papers Don’t leave the room and take a break Don’t spend an undue amount of time with one group at the expense of others Don’t correct students’ errors unless asked to do so Don’t assume a dominating or disruptive role while monitoring groups 2.3.3.4. Debriefing Debriefing is the way that the teacher and students sit together to give comments on the task they have done. It is an excellent time to encourage some whole-class feedback which provides motivation for further group work and is useful for the teacher’s next group work assignment. In conclusion, group work is one of the techniques that is now popularly applied to language teaching and learning, especially, to speaking skill learning for its many advantages. Yet, the teacher also need to aware of some drawbacks that may arise in the process. Obviously, the success of group work activity depends much on how well tasks are designed and how well the teacher prepares students for the tasks. Therefore, it is essentially prepare what students need. During the application of group work in speaking lesson, the teacher should work as an organizer, controller, as well as participant to help students learn better. 2.4. Previous research into group work 2.4.1. A product approach The use of group work in speaking lesson is not a totally new area to researchers. The effectiveness of group work in language teaching and learning was investigated by some post-graduate students at Hanoi National University and other researchers. A number of studies have found that group work helps develop students’ speaking ability and increase the effectiveness of a speaking lesson. Huong (2006) found that when applying group work activities in speaking lesson, majority of the students are interested in discussion. Through group work, students have opportunities to help each other as well as exchange experience to find a good way to improve on their own communication problems. Bac (2005) reports that the use of group work had good effect on students’ participation, for instance, student-initiated interactions increased and contributions by students who were shy increased. Donough (2004) also reports clear positive effects that small group activities had on improvement of production of the target forms. Long, Adams, McLean, and Castanos (1976; cited in Long and Porter, 1985) found out that students not only talked more, but also used a wider range of speech acts in the small group work context. The studies mentioned above have firmly asserted the important roles of group work activities in improving learners’ speaking skill. Although they explored different aspects of group work, all suggested that the use of group work in language teaching and learning brought about a great deal of benefits. Firstly, group work helped to increase students’ participation in communicative activities in large classes, (Bac, 2005). Secondly, group work maximized the opportunities for students to communicate and exchange the information with each other, (Huong, 2006). Thirdly, according to Duong (2006), group work helped students to realize that they could work independently of the teachers and they could learn from other students and helped each other. In addition, group work created a good atmosphere in the speaking class and it also helped to build rapport among class members. Fourthly, learner-learner interaction through group work activities was useful for practicing oral communication skills, (McDonough, 2004). The findings of these studies contribute significantly to the literature because they suggested the conditions in which group work can be most beneficial to learners. However, most of these studies have not made clear what process teachers and learners went through when implementing group work. Understanding of the group work organizing processes would enable teachers to better facilitate learners in group work activities. 2.4.2. A process approach There have now been a few researches on the process of implementing group work in speaking lessons (Duong, 2006; Huong, 2006; Rob Watkins, 2005). Duong (2005) investigated the current situations of teaching and learning English through pair and group work of the first-year students at Hanoi Open University – Faculty of Tourism. She found out frequent use of group work by teachers. In term of pair and group work management, the teachers here often use three main stages: setting up (organizing the pairs and group/ giving instructions), monitoring (listening to the pairs/ groups during the activity and guiding / giving support/ making notes) and winding down (bring the activity to a close and providing feedback). Huong (2006) also took process of implementing pairs and group work in English speaking lesson into account. The results did show that the success of communicative pairs and group work activities is often determined by the work the teacher does before the students begins the activities itself. Rob Watkins (2005) suggested that the effectiveness of group work depends on the types of motivation the teacher use in the class and the way they design group work activity. These studies have touched upon a domain which has been much concerned lately: the implementation process of group work. However, these studies have focused on the process of group work implementation in speaking lesson of non-major English students. A research into this area for English majors is necessary in order to find out a better description and provide a deep understanding of group work implementation process in different teaching and learning contexts. 2.4.3. Summary In summary, all of the studies mentioned above only considered the use of group work in language teaching of English non-major students. Additionally, the current body of research mainly focuses on the product of group work implementation. Therefore, the researcher wants to investigate the use of group work in teaching speaking of English major students with a focus on the process of group work organization in hope of finding information which is necessary for teachers and students to improve their practice. 2.4.4. Research questions The present study is inspired by CLT theory and past research paradigm on group work use in speaking lesson. It aims to examine the procedures in organizing group work and shed the light on the areas that previous researches has not considered adequately. It also aims to find out any strategies that teachers use to encourage students to increase the English language use when carrying out a speaking task in groups. And difficulties that both teachers and students face in implementing group work were also addressed in this study. Specifically, the study aims to answer the following research questions: What procedures do teachers follow in organizing group work during speaking lessons for the 1st year students at University of Commerce? What strategies do teachers use to stimulate and foster English language use by the 1st year students at University of Commerce in group work? What hinders teachers at Faculty of English of the University of Commerce in implementing group work? What hinders the 1st year students at University of Commerce in conducting group work? CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY This chapter gives a thorough description of how the research was carried out. The first part is the description of the research context. The second part looks at the sample and sampling procedure. The next part concerns the research methods used in the study. Research materials are addressed in the forth part. The data collection procedure is followed and the data analysis is in the last part. The details are going to be presented as follows. 3.1. Research context The study was conducted at Vietnam University of Commerce. The Faculty of English at University of Commerce was newly established two years ago with more than 450 English major students. In the past, it was called the English Division which trained only English non-major students for other faculties of the University. There are now two main streams at VUC: English non-major classes and English major classes. All students of the former are required to complete six semesters of English as part of their general education requirements. In the first three semesters, students finish the General English program, which accounts for 7 credits. The remaining semesters are reserved for the ESP program with a total number of 6 credits. They follow a curriculum which focuses mainly on developing reading and writing skills. The students of English major classes use a curriculum which lays great emphasis on four skills including listening, speaking, reading and writing and other subjects related to English theoretical linguistics. The total time allocation and the training curriculum for these two streams are obviously different. The current teaching material for speaking skill in 6 classes of the first-year English major students is “Speaking I” collected by the two teachers who deliver speaking lessons and it is covered within one semester with 3 credits. There are about 50 students in each class of which 75% comes from the countryside. However, their English speaking ability is quite good and homogeneous. 3.2. Sample and sampling procedure At the moment, the number of teachers who teach English speaking skill for the first-year students is 6. The number of the first-year English major students is estimated at more than 300. They come from various parts of the country. Their levels of English proficiency differ, ranging from pre-intermediate, intermediate to advanced level. Motivation in these classes is generally high, most of the students have a strong sense of deriving or clear purposes for studying English since it is their main and specialized subject which helps much in their future job. Nevertheless, the results of a recent study carried out by the present researcher show the English major students have a lot of difficulties in learning the four language skills, of which speaking seems to be the most difficult. Hence, it is very important that the staff at the Faculty of English of VUC find out effective ways and strategies to help these students overcome all of their difficulties in speaking classes. Five female teachers and one male teacher of the Linguistic Practice Division of the Faculty of English at VUC were selected to take part in the study. They were selected as a convenient sample. The teacher participants’ age ranged from 23 to 38 years old. Two teachers have more than five years experience in teaching and the other four have teaching experience ranging from 1 to 5 years. Three teachers are post-graduates, one is pursuing the post-graduate degree and two are graduates. All of the teachers have experience with group work activity when they were students. The group of subjects for the student questionnaire included 89 female and 11 male freshmen from 6 classes. The student participants’ ages ranged from 17 to 21 years old. Most of them had been learning English for at least 3 years. They all had some experience in group work. To increase the reliability and validity of the research study and a random sampling procedure was applied. All the six teachers were invited to take part in follow-up interviews to find out more in-depth information about the stages or procedures they used in implementing group work, the strategies they used to promote students’ use of English language in group work and the difficulties they coped with. Moreover, 10 freshmen (5 males and 5 females) were then chosen randomly from the questionnaire sample as interviewees to gain information about their expected procedure in organizing group work as well as their difficulties when working in group work. They aged from 18 to 20 years old and had been studying English for at least three years. 3.3 Research methods Nowadays, it is increasingly common for researchers to report the study on both quantitative and qualitative findings, especially, in studies on English as Second Language (ESL) (Adams, Fujii and Mackey, 2005). Thus, in consideration of the research’s purposes, this study was done in the light of both qualitative and quantitative research in which the data is collected by means of questionnaires, classroom observations and interviews of both teachers and students. Survey questionnaire is one of the most effective instruments for collecting data in social science. Advantages of using questionnaires that Gillham (2000) highlights are: less pressure on respondents, not under pressure of bias, and analysis of answers is straightforward. Classroom observation is a useful way to investigate external factors in L2 learning. Through classroom observations, researchers can capture a wholistic picture of the natural setting. And classroom observations are often used to supplement data obtained from interviews and questionnaires. (Adams, Fujii and Mackey, 2005). Like questionnaire, interviews can allow researchers to investigate cognitive processes such as awareness or constructs such as perceptions or attitudes that are not directly observable. The purpose of using questionnaire, classroom observations and interviews as research materials to collect data in this study is to triangulate the data and to overcome the limitations or drawbacks of other methods because one can well support another which helps strengthen the research findings. 3.4. Research materials 3.4.1. Questionnaires The study employs two questionnaires, one for teachers and the other for students. The questionnaire for teachers, adapted from Mueller (1997), written in English consisting of 10 questions was delivered to 6 teachers who were teaching English speaking skill for the 1st-year students at VUC. The questionnaire was used to explore information about their attitudes towards group work use and their procedures in organizing group work during speaking lesson as well as the difficulties they have experienced when applying group work in speaking class. The survey questionnaire administered to 100 students including 8 questions with an aim to get information about students’ opinion on and students’ desires in leaning speaking skill through group work and difficulties students have experienced when working in group. 3.4.2. Interviews Another research tool employed in this study was semi-structured interviewing schedules. The follow-up interviews with teachers and students were carried out (6 items for the teachers and 6 items for students) to get more information about the procedures used in organizing group work in speaking lesson and difficulties they cope with. These questions were open enough to allow the interviewees to comfortably express their thoughts, feelings, or opinions. Before officially carrying out the interviews, the interview questions were piloted with one teacher and three students to identify the potential problems. 3.5. Data collection procedure In the first phase, questionnaires were administered to 100 VUC English major freshmen at the end of the first semester of the academic year 2008. The participants were asked to complete the questionnaire at home and returned their responses three days later so that they would have as much time as they needed. After the data collected were analyzed, in the second phase, 10 random informants were contacted for semi-structured interviews with the researcher in locations where they felt at ease and at a time they suggested. The interviews were all tape-recorded to free the interviewer to participate naturally in the discussion and to allow the content to be reviewed carefully. In addition, in order to capture the complexities of the respondent’s individual perceptions and experience, the ten interviews were conducted in Vietnamese. At the beginning of each interview, the students were explained clearly, explicitly and unambiguously about the nature of the study. During the interview, the researcher modified the questions and procedures according to the subjects’ responses. The length of each interview was from 10 to 15 minutes. Beside survey questionnaires and interviews, classroom observations were also carried out to collect more information about the exact procedures occurring in the real classes as well as difficulties the teachers coped with in practice. Each observation consisted of two steps: before the lesson and during the lesson. In before-the-lessons step, the researcher met the teacher to know her/ his aims in teaching the lesson, to read his/ her lesson plan. In the during-the-lesson step, the researcher observed and took note the students’ activities and participation when working in group and the teachers’ steps of group work implementation during speaking lesson. 3.6. Data analysis The data of the study was analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively. As for quantitative analysis, we used descriptive statistics to quantify the data in form of charts and figures. The qualitative data were reviewed carefully and repeatedly to identify patterns and information that helps to explain the quantitative findings. And at last, a comparison between the teachers’ present procedures used in organizing group work in the speaking lesson and the students’ desires when working in group was addressed. In short, the chapter has described in details the research context, sample and sampling procedure, the research methods, the research materials and data collection procedures used in this study. Major findings will be presented and discussed in chapter four. CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION This chapter is consisted of two sections of findings and discussion. It shows an attempt to answer the four research questions posed at the beginning of the study. 4.1. Group work organization procedure 4.1.1. The organization procedure of group work that teachers often used in speaking lesson Figure 1: Steps teachers followed in organizing group work The data in Figure 1 shows clearly that, 100 % of the teachers chose the same 6 steps: select the task carefully, state the objectives of the activity, give clear instructions, organize groups of students, go around monitoring students; performance and giving support and provide feedback in organizing group work in their speaking lesson. 50% of the teachers praise and encourage students. And providing the language students need to do the task accounted for only 16.6%. It is found from the teacher questionnaire that all of the teachers often used the same six steps in organizing group work as these might be the basic steps needed for it. In the interview, almost all of the teachers thought that providing the language students need to do the task is not very necessary, students can manage themselves with the needed new words for the task first. The teachers only provide students with the language in case they do not know. It seems that half of the teachers forgot to give complements when students did well in group work to encourage them. Figure 2: Activities teachers often selected for group work As for the kinds of activities used for group work, the given data in figure 2 implies that the most frequently-used activities among teachers (100%) in the speaking lesson were interviewing, problem solving and decision-making and discussing. Games and Role-play and simulations were followed by 50% and 90% respectively. Sixty six percent was the choice for information gap activity. Both projects and opinion exchange received the same percentage of 33.3 %. And drama activity had the least choice of 16.6%. Concerning the kinds of activities, the teachers all agreed that interviewing, problem solving and decision-making and discussing activities are useful for group work. They saw the effectiveness of games and role-play and simulations in engaging students in group work but they were afraid of making noise. Therefore, some of them ignored these activities. Some teachers also paid attention to the use of information gap or projects or opinion exchange if they had much time. Drama seems to be the most difficult activities to apply for group work because it is time-consuming and needs a lot of efforts from students. Figure 3: Ways teachers often used to group students As can be seen in Figure 3, the ways of grouping students varied from options to options. All of the teachers (100%) tended to group students sitting next to or near each other. And most of the teachers (83.3%) often grouped students of the same sex while 16.6% grouped students of different sexes. Concerning students’ English proficiency, 83.3 % favored students of different or mixed proficiency while 16.6 % favored students of the same proficiency. Only 16.6% decided to group students of different interests. 33.3% of the teachers adopted other way of grouping students which were to let students group themselves. None of the teachers mentioned grouping students of the same or different personality type, of the same or different prior learning experience, of the same interests and of the same or different ages. As for grouping students, all of the teachers supposed that the way which was the most convenient for both teachers and students was to group students sitting next to or near each other. It is the fact that almost all of the English majors (95%) are female so that grouping students of the same sex was also popular choice. And some teachers tended to group students of different or mixed proficiency, which could give students with low English proficiency chance to learn from the better ones. Gender was also a factor that teachers considered as it helps to boost group dynamics. Two teachers chose other ways to group students for its convenience. The teachers might think that students’ ages, interests, prior learning experience and personality type were not of great difference. Therefore, they did not pay attention to them as the ways of grouping students. The data from observations and interviews indicates that the teachers used the same or different procedures in organizing group work with their own explanation. All of the teachers agreed that there were six necessary and important steps to organize group work activity. Some of them suggested that it was essential to provide students with the needed language to do the task because their students were at the first year, they did not have wide vocabulary. Others, meanwhile, explained that the teachers should let students manage themselves, they only provided the language if necessary. Some students were also certain that giving students compliments when they did well in group was very important as it encouraged students to do better next time. Regarding the above mentioned activities, all of the teachers (L, M, P, B, N and D) stated that they really wanted to apply games activity for group work, but they still often used other kinds of activities such as interviewing, discussing, and problem solving and decision-making because they were afraid of making noise. In fact, I want to create a funny and interesting atmosphere for students by using games activity when they learn speaking skill, I want my students to feel free to speak and speak English in a natural way but I rarely used it because I did not want to be complained about making noise in the lesson by other teachers. (L) My students have to learn English all day and night so I like to help them learn practice speaking English through some kinds of games which make them relaxed and funny. However, I can not. (B) All the interviewees (L, M, P, B, N and D) said that they grouped students sitting next to or near each other regularly for its convenience. It was easy to ask students sitting next to each other to turn back and form a group, and it was also not time-consuming. The second way that majority of the teachers used was grouping students of different English proficiency because students with low English proficiency could benefit a lot from students of higher one. All of the teachers also explained that it was really difficult and took time to understand each student’s interests, personality, prior learning experience and ages. Therefore, it is not easy for them to group students by these ways. Two teachers chose other ways to group students. They let students group themselves 4.1.2. Students’ expected group work organization procedure. Figure 4: Steps students expected teachers to follow in organizing group work The data in Figure 4 showed clearly that 100% of the students thought teachers should follow 6 steps in managing group work: select the task carefully, state the objectives of the activities, give clear instructions, organize groups of students, go around monitoring students performance and giving support, and provide fe

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