Teaching Matters 2020 | Presentation Details | 2 December 20202 Dec 2020
Japanese tertiary student response to group activities in English learning
Emily Morgan, School of Education, CALE
Students in Asia have reportedly not valued or enjoyed group work in English Language Classrooms (Craig, 2013; Harumi, 2020). In Japan, students have judged teachers using group work to be lazy or uninterested (Ruegg, 2018). However, group work offers many benefits for language learning (Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Mohan, 2011; Novitasari, 2019). Scaffolding group work allows the teacher and the students to make the most of this activity’s many advantages (Ehsan et al., 2019). Collaborative learning is a fundamental characteristic of English-medium education. Supporting students to work collaboratively may help to build connections between students in diverse classrooms. Additionally, scaffolded group work may improve student-teacher connectedness in contexts where student-focused, rather than teacher-focused, learning is the norm.
In a ten-week program in Japan, academic written English was taught using the Gradual Release of Responsibility teaching framework (Fisher & Frey, 2013), incorporating group activities. Student perceptions of group work were collected pre- and post-program, and thematic analysis was used to identify students’ responses to the collaborative nature of the teaching program. Students revealed a generally positive attitude to group work, finding it beneficial, if challenging; with a small minority disliking it. Students particularly valued the opportunities to gain English speaking practice, share each other’s ideas and perspectives, and challenge themselves to react quickly; while shyness, lack of confidence speaking English and frustration with partners who did not contribute were the major reported drawbacks. The study contributes to educators’ understanding of student-perceived benefits and barriers with regards to collaboration in the English classroom.
 'kani' in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines, means 'to talk'.
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