The purpose of this study was to assess the specific classroom techniques used by ESL teachers to prevent /solve possible discipline related problems while employing cooperative activities with students. In this Enriched ESL cooperative classroom the teacher integrates instructional strategies that facilitate and encourage interaction, collaboration and investigation in the learning environment. The students in the class are not passive learners but are actively involved in the learning process, taking responsibility for their own learning.
One of the major aspects of a cooperative learning environment is oral communication between and among students and with the classroom teacher. Students get a chance to discuss a multiplicity of issues that are relevant to the class and explore new concepts in their interactions. This type of learning and peer-to-peer interaction allow students to be engaged in the decision making process of their education and to contribute meaningfully to their own learning and that of their peers.
In the cooperative ESL classroom interaction is unavoidable. Students have to work with each other in order to make learning meaningful and to develop the communicative skills necessary for useful function in the real-world language setting. Students need to feel comfortable interacting with each other, sharing ideas, investigating and exploring their language environment and working out solutions to problems.
Thus on the road to developing competency in English students will have to make both an individual and a collaborative effort since one of the characteristics of language learning is to develop the social techniques that will help the learner understand how to use the language in a variety of cultural settings. Of course since interaction is intrinsic to the ESL classroom so is the potential for conflict and disciplinary concerns in the classroom.
The ESL teacher needs to develop the right skills overtime to manage interactive behaviors in the classroom so that objectives are accomplished and indiscipline and other disruptive behaviors are avoided. In the current study the researcher wanted to determine the behaviors most frequently employed by ESL teachers within the cooperative learning context in response to or as a way of thwarting any potential disciplinary or non-task-related matters. The research questions that guided this research were therefore: . What classroom management techniques are ESL teachers using in the classroom in order to maintain discipline while implementing cooperative learning activities? 2. Can effective classroom management lead to successful improvement of cooperative learning activities and control discipline within groups? In order to accomplish the objectives of the study and to respond to the research questions a mixed methods research approach was taken. This involved the gathering of both qualitative and quantitative data.
A questionnaire survey, administered to the ESL teacher, was used to gather the qualitative data. The quantitative data was obtained through observations of the teacher’s classroom behavior in cooperative learning sessions. Participants This study was conducted in a classroom setting and involved an ESL teacher and 28 students, in a francophone private school in Quebec City, Canada. The ESL teacher is a fairly young teacher who has been working at this private school for the past 9 years.
The students are primarily from very affluent backgrounds. This is probably because the school charges a very high fee for students wishing to attend and thus only the children of parents of a high socio-economic status, who can afford those fees, are able to attend. The students were observed in their ESL class. They were taking the ELA program in grade 5. ELA is a program for high school students in grade 4 and 5. Students in this program would have completed the EESL program and succeeded the ESL core examination at the end of grade 3.
The demographics of the students were 16 girls and 12 boys. They were aged between 15 and 17 years old. This group of students and the ESL teacher were selected because they were utilizing cooperative learning strategies at the time of the research. In fact, the students observed in this study had been taking part in cooperative learning for quite some time. Data collection instrument: A variety of instruments were used in the process of data collection. An initial set of data was collected from the ESL teacher using a telephone interview.
The interview included a series of question on how the teacher implemented cooperative learning in her classroom (Appendix 1). The 11 questions on the interview were formulated by the researcher. Another instrument used was the Communicative Orientation of Language Teaching, (COLT) observation scheme by Spada and Frohlich (1995) for the periods of observation in the classroom (Appendix 2). The COLT scheme has been used for decades by classroom researchers in examining interactive classroom behaviors.
The COLT scheme was used in its original format, without any modifications, except that the researcher used only the sections on activities and episodes, participant organization and content for the purposes of the research. Data collection procedure The study was conducted at the end of February, at the beginning of the last term of the school year. The students were expected to graduate at the end of the term. In the initial phase of the study the researcher contacted the ESL teacher to respond to the interview questions over the phone.
This conversation was also used to make arrangements for a meeting at the school to discuss a few things that needed clarification. The purpose of the interview was to discover the teacher’s attitude towards cooperative working activities, how the teacher used cooperative learning in her classroom, the kind of classroom management techniques she used to instill discipline while implementing cooperative activities and students’ participation in group work activities.
The second part of the study involved classroom observations of the same teacher, interacting with a group of 28 students enrolled in the ELA program in grade 5 of high school. The purpose of the observations was to validate the information gathered during the interview. The COLT scheme (Spada, & Frolich, 1995) was used to collect this data. The classroom observations were conducted during three (3) separate classroom periods of 75 minutes duration each while the students were involved in cooperative activities.
The research made the checks and marks under the appropriate categories of the COLT. The researcher checked each time the ESL teacher had to intervene in order to direct the students back to their work. The participants were observed three times on three different days of the week in ESL classes where the students where involved in cooperative activities. One of the observations weas done during the first period of the morning, the second was done during the second period and the third observation was done during the last period on Friday afternoon.
In the classroom the teacher assigned the students to groups of 4. There were 7 groups. Each student chose one of four topics for a project and they were grouped based on their choice. The teacher provided students with 4 different topics which were then numbered. She finally set up the groups by placing the students together trying to respect, as much as possible, the student’s personal choice. The teacher and students arranged the desks arranged in pairs side-by-side opposite another pair. Such arrangement enabled students to talk to each other with ease.
The main characteristics observed by the researcher were students’ behavior and teacher’s interventions during the cooperative learning. This kind of observation was chosen because it gave an idea of the actual classroom practice in terms of students’ behavior and the teacher’s interventions. This may allow some generalization of the results to other classes and teachers that use cooperative learning. Data analysis procedure When all the data were collected the information collected from the COLT (Spada & Frohlich, 1995) was analyzed.
The teacher’s interventions were tallied for each observation period and the three periods were compared. The teacher’s responses during the telephone interview, and the information from the COLT scheme, as gathered through observations, were also compared. The purpose of this comparison was to determine the correlation between the reported classroom management techniques that the teacher mentioned during the interview and the actual practices used in the classroom. Results and analysis The data reveal the nature of teachers’ interventions and the students’ behavior during cooperative learning activities.
The researcher observed the ESL teacher three times. During the first observation, the teacher had to intervene a total of 12 times. The teacher intervened 3 times to give group feedback and remind the students that they were to read and follow instructions in their booklet, 3 times to refocus students on the task because they were doing something besides their project, 3 times to remind students to communicate in the target language and three times 3 times when she noticed that some students were not working on their projects.
During the second period of observation, the teacher had to spend some time reminding students that they were expected to play the roles they had been assigned by the group. Also, she reminded them that everyone was to contribute to the success of their project. The teacher intervened 8 times during this period – 3 times to remind students to communicate in the target language, twice to give feedback to some groups, 3 times to counter inappropriate behavior among certain groups where the students did not display behavior appropriate to the classroom. During the third period of observation, the teacher had to intervene 15 times. of the interventions were to remind students to use the target language in the classroom, 3 times to refocus students on the task because they were doing something besides their project, 4 times for displaying behavior inappropriate to the classroom and 4 times because students were not fulfilling their roles in the group. Some of the more common disruptive behaviors that were noted include drawing obscenities, spending too much time sharpening their pencils, browsing fancy magazines and passing objects other than their project amongst the groups members.
Students sometimes were talking to another group. During the third period one important observation was that students stopped working and arranged their bag while there was still about 8 minutes left in the period. The teacher used that time to settle students and remind them that they had only two periods left to finish their project. In examining the teacher’s reported estimation of the frequency of interventions during cooperative activities as stated during the interview and comparing them to the classroom observation, the results showed that the reported and actual practices were closely aligned.
With respect to the techniques used to instill discipline during cooperative learning activities the classroom observations and the telephone interview also demonstrate a positive relationship. For the most part the groups were cooperative. Only 42. 86% of the students, 3 out of 7 groups, displayed problems staying on task. These groups appeared not to have shared the tasks amongst themselves fairly. The teacher had to visit this group very often to ensure that they were working.
Observations of the ESL teacher revealed that she used effective cooperative activities which decreased the problems of classroom management to a tolerable level which led students to effectively work in cooperative activities in the classroom. In order to create a successful environment so that students could work effectively in groups, the observed teacher tried many techniques to manage cooperative learning. From the interview she indicated that she used cooperative activities quite frequently. She gave students roles such as ‘Captain English’.
This student was to ensure that the entire group used only English in the class. The secretary had to note decisions and ideas during brainstorming and other activities. The president was in charge of seeing that everyone had been working and checking that all the documents were submitted on time. Finally, there was ‘Captain Cheer-up’. This person’s duty was to cheer up the team, motivating them whenever they had successfully accomplished a task and was ready to go forward in the project. The ELS teacher assigned the students to group using the student’s choice of a topic.
Based on the report from the teacher group formation has an important role in the success of cooperative activities and students would make the best of their experience in cooperative working if the groups were heterogeneous. The students were quite comfortable working with each other and the teacher. They had been taking the same level English course and they had been studying together for two year. Many of them knew each other very well and were close friends. This is also true of the ESL teacher who had been teaching the same group for come time.
According to the teacher, students should not be allowed to choose their peers to form their own teams to do cooperative working otherwise they might not work well and spend the time to talk about things out of the subject. The observed teacher had already explained to the students the most important points in order to obtain better results when working in cooperative learning. She had also explained the different roles the students should hold while working in teams. She had also taught the students how to share the task within the group members and she had emphasized the importance of grouping making.
Correct choice of group size was one of the techniques that the teacher used to ensure that the teacher was able to effectively manage student behavior during cooperative working. Research suggests that group sizes should not be too big, a reasonable size being two to four students. The teacher also walked among the groups to ensure that they stayed on task and even offered them needed feedback. According to the teacher, feedback is extremely important for the success of cooperative working as it gives the students the opportunity to adapt themselves according to the teacher’s instructions.
The teacher randomly selected a student from each team to present his or her group results. It was a good strategy to make sure that students had worked effectively and that everyone in the team was prepared give respond in case he or she was selected. Reward was primordial in order to raise motivation amongst the groups. The teacher rewarded every team that had worked hard. She also asked students to divide the work into parts and write their names according to what each student’s responsibilities were. Discussion
There are limited studies examining effective classroom management techniques for cooperative learning activities in ESL classrooms. The purpose of this study was to fill the gap in the existing literature by discovering and highlighting the specific classroom techniques used by ESL teachers to manage cooperative learning activities successfully by addressing the questions: what management classroom techniques can teachers use in the classroom in order to instill discipline and implement cooperative learning activities? nd can effective classroom management lead to successful improvement of cooperative learning activities and control discipline within the groups? This study has attempted to show different ways in which the cooperative teaching method could improve students’ behavior and help classroom discipline. With principles such as positive interdependence, face-to-face promoting interactions, individual and group accountability, interpersonal, small group skills and group processing, cooperative learning has all the necessary elements to ensure that discipline is maintained in the classroom.
The current research conforms to existing research paradigms on classroom management and the results are representative of previous findings in this area. In examining the effect of classroom management on the success of cooperative learning, this study, like others before it, showed that group formation is an effective classroom management tool for cooperative learning activities. Research recommends randomly assigned heterogeneous groups of students to form success cooperative groups.
This study supported the finding that these groups are successfully managed in the classroom and are preferred to homogenous, self-selected groups (Emmer, Gerwels & Austin, 2005). The students in this group performed well because groups were heterogeneous so the students were able to profit from everybody’s contribution. The data collected also showed that group size was a very important factor in helping to ensure classroom management success in cooperative learning strategies.
Studies also support that assigning specific roles to each student in a group ensures that everyone stays on task and that cooperative learning strategies would be more successful. This success is even further assured when students respect the roles they have in the group. Researchers have suggested the use of rewards to help motivate students to stay on task and to successfully complete activities in cooperative learning groups. The teacher in this study employed rewards to hardworking groups and this was able to motivate them to perform well.
When members of the group look forward to a reward they will ensure that each works in completing the task so that all the members would benefit, they are aware that failure of one person to do what is required would result in the failure of the entire group. One thing that was immediately obvious from the observations was that students were, for the most part, aware of good cooperative skills. The students in this group have been involved in cooperative learning for quite a while and thus this exposure might have helped them to develop proper cooperative learning strategies.
While there were some disruptions during the class, these were not significant enough to take away from the cooperative task and students by and large appeared to understand what was required in the cooperative groups and the proper procedures they needed to follow. Overall, the study has shown that it is possible to use cooperative learning and manage the classroom successfully. Nevertheless, all the elements of successful cooperative learning have to be adhered to in order to obtain good results. Moreover, the students must be aware of what is expected in cooperative activities.
This study fits well in the existing literature on cooperative learning and classroom management. It could help ESL teacher with their classroom management while doing cooperative learning and administrators when they are examining, planning and implementing alternative teaching strategies and approaches. Conclusion This study supported the idea that cooperative learning, if used effectively, can help teachers manage their classes. If cooperative learning is implemented effectively, it could facilitate the effective management of the classroom.
However, there are many elements that should be taken into consideration to attain such result. Based on these finding, teachers need to pay more attention to the classroom management techniques they use during cooperative learning. This study showed that it is possible for ESL teachers to implement cooperative learning and manage their classroom successfully if they have effective classroom management techniques. Knowing that classroom management is an important element for the success of cooperative learning, this study aimed to help teachers who implement this method for the first time to better manage their classes.
This study has many limitations. Only one ESL teacher and one group of high school students in grade 5 participated in the study. Moreover, the research group was already organized when the research did the observation. Due to time constraints, the researcher could not observe the ESL teacher with her students more than three times. The results of this study provide a description of the implementation of cooperative learning that is specific to the participating teacher. Amongst all the techniques used by the ESL teacher during the observation, there is one that the teachers did not implement in her classroom.
She did not have the students write a daily report to inform what they had done on that day and who had done what in the project. Therefore, more research is needed to determine the extent to which these results could be if such technique should be applied. This study showed how the ESL teacher managed her classroom and how the students behaved during cooperative learning. However, it is not easy to generalize the results because the observations were done by only one researcher. The results needed to be validated by another observer.