SCET Journal 2020/2021
Language Matters »
the time vocabulary. One of the assignments was to work together to design a lesson on telling time. The students completed a small “lesson plan,” and they presented it in front of the class. During this phase, the first group continued to focus on lower-level learning activities. We did worksheets, grammar exercises from the book, and I continued to lecture on the subject. There was little to no interaction between the students. Results I observed both groups over the duration of this unit. My direct strategy group often appeared disen- gaged or indifferent. This attitude increased over the days in which this study was being conducted. My lessons proved to be predictable, and my students demonstrated boredom and apathy toward the end of the study. My other group, however, presented inter- est in the lessons, especially those that required them to be creative. I found that when I gave my students some independence and creative control, they re- sponded by producing thoughtful work. Although I derived a positive result from most students in the second group, not all students remained engaged the entire time. There were some outliers; however, those numbers proved insignificant when compared to the number of disengaged students in the first group. At the end of the unit on telling time, I gave the students an assessment. The students in the second group scored higher than the first group by a little under eighty-five percent. While the first group did a satisfactory job on the assessment as a whole, the second group clearly surpassed them in understand- ing, application, and engagement. The attitude of my students going into the assessment is also something important to note. The first group was apprehensive about completing the assessment, while the second group seemed much more confident about the materi- al. Because the assessment was given to measure the efficacy of my teaching methods, I did not count the assessment toward their actual grade. The students received credit for completing the assessment, but they were not affected if they performed unsatisfac- torily. I did not express this to them when I gave them the assessment. This would most likely result in many of the students not taking the assignment seriously. In turn, their knowledge of my plans for this particular assignment would have resulted in unusable data or an inaccurate reading of each student’s understanding
and ability to apply what they learned. In order to make sure that the results were not skewed, I handpicked the groups. Both my direct strat- egy group and my indirect strategy group were around the same size, contained students of all different skill levels, and were close in age. When I divided the indi- rect strategy group into smaller groups for group work, I insisted that I put people into groups myself. I tried to place a variety of different learners into each group, and I changed those groups for each new activity we completed. Final Thoughts For some teachers, group work can be intimidating for several reasons. It is often avoided in lessons be- cause the instructor lacks the knowledge or training on effective group work and its benefits. In addition, “group work may give rise to classroom activities and processes among students, which might be difficult for the teacher to control. [Furthermore], teachers [may] lack knowledge of how to manage group work and how to organize it in a profitable way” (Hammar Chiriac & Frykedal, 2011). If a teacher is apprehen- sive about creating lessons based in group work, it is important to establish a clear purpose for the activity in question. More specifically, teachers should not put students into groups just for the sake of putting them into groups. Instead, the teacher should pres- ent some intentionality. The goal of any assignment should be clear and concise, and the point of the ac- tivity should be transparent. For example, I know that my students are more creative and productive when they work in groups on certain assignments. Howev- er, it is important to recognize when group work is not appropriate or beneficial. I would not assign groups to take a test together, as it would not give me an ac- curate measure of who understood the material and who did not. Learning a language is no easy feat, so it is import- ant to explore and implement all the different strategies available. Not all of our students are going to learn the same way. Many of our students will not love foreign language, but in order to reach even those who dislike the subject matter, we must use all of our teaching strategies. Strategies come in many shapes and sizes, so to find out which ones are most effective, teachers must get to know their students and be unafraid of experimenting with different approaches to learning.
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