Teaching Matters

PS9 R3b Japanese tertiary student response to group activities in English learning

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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



Presentation Type

Lightning Presentation


Room 3




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.

[1] 'kani' in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines, means 'to talk'.


Craig, J. L. (2013). Integrating Writing Strategies in EFL/ESL University Contexts. Routledge.

Derewianka, B. & Jones, B. (2016). Teaching Language in Context (3rd Edition). Oxford University Press.

Ehsan, N., Vida, S., & Mehdi, N. (2019). The impact of cooperative learning on developing speaking ability and motivation toward learning English. Journal of Language and Education, 5(2), 83-101. https://doi.org/10.17323/jle.2019.9809

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2013). Better learning through structured teaching: A framework for the gradual release of responsibility. ASCD.

Harumi, S. (2020). Approaches to Interacting with Classroom Silence: The Role of Teacher Talk. In: S. Harumi and J. King (Eds.). East Asian Perspectives on Silence in English Language Education, 37-59. Multilingual Matters.

Mohan, B. A. (2011). Social practice and register: Language as a means of learning. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning (Volume II, pp. 57-74). Routledge.

Novitasari, N. F. (2019). Collaborative Learning in ESP Speaking Classroom: Learners’ Perceptions and Experiences. KnE Social Sciences, 309-319. https://doi.org/10.18502/kss.v3i10.3912

Ruegg, R. (2018). Increasing autonomy in learners of EAP writing: An exploratory study. In R. Ruegg & C. Williams (Eds.), Teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in Japan: Studies from an English-medium University (vol. 14, pp. 99-122). Springer.

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