Practices and Challenges of Cooperative Learning in EFL Class. With Particular Reference to Two Secondary Schools

Master's Thesis, 2016
100 Pages





List of Tables

List of Charts



1.1 Background of the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1.3.1 General Objective
1.3.2 Specific Objectives
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Significance of Study
1.6 Scope of the Study
1.7 Limitation of the Study
1.8 Definition of Terms
1.9 Organization of the Study

2.1 Theories Underlying Cooperative Learning
2.1.1 The Vygotskian Perspective
2.1.2 The Piagetian Perspective
2.1.3 Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
2.1.4 Constructivism
2.2 Definitions of Cooperative Learning
2.3 Cooperative Learning versus Group Work
2.4 Features or Pillars of Cooperative Learning
2.4.1 Positive Interdependence
2.4.2 Face-to-face Communication/Interaction
2.4.3 Individual Responsibility/Accountability
2.4.4 Interpersonal and Social Skills
2.4.5 Group Processing
2.5 Types of Groups in Cooperative Class
2.6 Cooperative learning Models and Structures
2.6.1 Three-Step Interview
2.6.2 Jigsaw
2.6.3 Jigsaw II
2.6.4 Student Teams-Achievement Division
2.6.5 Group Investigation
2.6.6 Co-op Co-op
2.6.7 Teams-Games-Tournaments
2.7 Advantages of Cooperative Language Learning
2.7 Pitfalls of Cooperative learning
2.8 Communicative Language Teaching and Cooperative Learning
2.9 Cooperative Learning and Teacher
2.10 Cooperative Learning and Student

3.1 Study Area
3.2 Research Design
3.3 Sampling Methods
3.4 Data Collection Instruments
3.4.1 Classroom Observation
3.4.2 Interview
3.4.3 Questionnaires Piloting of the Instrument
3.5 Procedures of Data Collection
3.6 Data Analysis Technique

4.1 Analyzing of Data Obtained through Questionnaire
4.1.1 Demographic View of Teachers Qualification of Teachers Experience of Teachers Teaching Load per Week Average Number of Students in a Classroom
4.1.2 Teachers' Views towards Cooperative Learning as a Challenge for their Practice..
4.1.3 Students' Response on Teachers' Practice of Cooperative Learning Explaining Task and Cooperative Structure Monitor and Intervene Assess and Process
4.2 Analyzing of Data Obtained Through Observation
4.2.1 Teacher's Practice of Cooperative Learning in EFL Classroom General Classroom View Positive Interdependence Face to face Interaction Individual Accountability Interpersonal and Social Skills Group Processing
4.3 Analyzing of the Data Obtained through Interview
4.3.1 Teachers' Level of Understanding and Cooperative Teaching
4.3.3 Challenges for Teachers to Practice Cooperative Learning
4.4 Discussion of Results
4.4.1 Practice of Cooperative Language Learning Cross Checking the Practice through Students' Response
4.4.2 Factors Challenging the Practice of Cooperative Learning The Impact of Teachers' Views towards their Practice Other Challenges for Teachers to Practice Cooperative Learning

5.1 Conclusion
5.2 Recommendations
5.2.1 Supporting Teachers Beginning from Teacher Training in Educational Institutions Schools' Facilitation of Mentoring Network Direct and Conceptual Training Management Support
5.2.2 Teachers should Raise Students' Motivation


Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F


First, I dedicate the entire work to God Almighty, for his support and protection for internal life and education. Next to God, sincerest thanks must go to my advisor Dr. Taye Gebremariam for his help, masterly comments, frequent follow up, and detailed review of this study from its inception to its completion. In addition, I would like to express my deep indebtedness and love to my wife Eminet Zelalem for her impressive financial and moral support and her kindness to raise our little daughter without the existence of her father. In addition, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all my families for their moral, faith and financial support to complete the paper. In addition, I would like to show special appreciation for Dr. Hailu Wubeshet for his treatment and help as a father than an instructor through the entire educational life in this campus. Finally, I am grateful to my classmate and friend Woldemariam Bezabeh for his moral and ideal support at the time of need and I thank Debrewerk Millennium and B. Secondary Schools staff and students.

List of Tables

Table 1. Assignments and Job Description of Students (adapted from Kagan, (1989)

Table 2. Gray's Sampling Technique

Table 3 Teachers' View toward Cooperative Learning as a Challenge for their Practice

Table 4 Explaining Task and Cooperative Structure

Table 5 Monitor and Intervene

Table 6 Access and Process

List of Charts

Chart 1. Qualification of Teacher

Chart 2 Experience of Teachers

Chart 3 Teaching Load

Chart 4 Number of Students in Classroom

Chart 5 General Classroom View

Chart 6 Positive Interdependence

Chart 7 Face-To-Face Interaction

Chart 8 Individual Accountability

Chart 9 Interpersonal and Social Skills

Chart 10 Group Processing

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


The purpose of this study is to investigate practices and challenges of cooperative learning in EFL class. The study was conducted in Debrewerk Millennium and B. Secondary Schools in South Bench Woreda of Bench Map Zone. In the woreda, there were four elementary schools. Among them, two schools were purposely selected for the study. The primary data gathering tools were classroom observation and interview, but questionnaire for teachers and students were conducted to make crosschecking what was observed and interviewed. Participants of the study were teachers and students. Concerning the selection of students and teachers, simple random sampling technique for students was employed, but all EFL teachers of the schools were selected. Accordingly, 10 teachers and 72 students were included as respondents of the study. Regarding to the method of research employed, the researcher used descriptive survey. This was because descriptive survey method was more appropriate to collect adequate information from various participants. On the top of this, both qualitative and quantitative analysis techniques were employed. The study discovered that teachers did not practice cooperative learning in EFL classroom. Even if they did not do so, it was found that teachers seem to have favorable views towards cooperative learning. Hence, their view toward cooperative learning does not negatively affect and causes challenge on their practice but other factors cause this. Regarding of those challenges of the practice, teachers' deficiency of knowledge on the method, having few year experience in the profession, load of teaching per week, high number of students, reluctance of learners to accept the method and interruption of administrative bodies for implementing cooperative learning methodology were found. As a final point, supporting teachers through courses for candidates before graduation, creating school mentoring network and direct and conceptual training are recommended. In addition, management support on accepting new way of teaching and building adequate classrooms for cooperative learning were suggested. Furthermore, teachers are recommended to enhance the inspiration of students through changing the grading system, conveying fascinating and puzzling tasks and beginning from the known and transform to the unknown.


1.1 Background of the Study

Mushrooming economical, social and political changes of our globe creates global village that brings different people around the world to communicate using the English language. One of the ways to improve the English language skill for communication competence is that using cooperative language learning method (Richards and Rodgers, 2001). Cooperative learning (CL) is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning (Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 1991). According to those scholars, carefully structured cooperative learning involves people working in teams to accomplish a common goal, under conditions that involve both positive interdependence (i.e. all members must cooperate to complete the task) and individual and group accountability (i.e. each member individually as well as all members are collectively accountable for the work of the group). It is generally asserted that cooperative learning is the best option for all students as it emphasizes active interaction between students of diverse abilities and backgrounds and demonstrates more positive student outcomes in academic achievement, social behavior, and affective development (Richards and Rodgers, 2001).

According to Davidson and Howell (2014), cooperative learning arguably is the oldest form of group learning in comparison with other communicative approaches. They give that study partners were used by the Hebrews thousands of years ago, as boys studied the Talmud. In relation to this, Johnson (1991) explained that cooperative learning (CL) is an old idea that:

the capacity to work cooperatively has been a major contributor to the survival of our species. The Talmud clearly states that to learn, one must have a learning partner. As early as the first century, Quintilian argued that students could benefit from teaching one another. John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) believed that students would benefit by teaching and being taught by other students. In the late 1700s, Joseph Lancaster and Andrew Bell used cooperative learning groups extensively in England, and the idea was brought to the United States when a Lancastrian school was opened in New York City in 1806. The Common School Movement in the United States in the early 1800s emphasized cooperative learning. Certainly, the use of cooperative learning is not new to U.S. education. At certain periods, cooperative learning had strong advocates and was widely used to promote the educational goals of the time (Johnson, 1991:23).

Even it was introduced earlier, cooperative learning as a pedagogical strategy became popular in the 1970s, and it is often advocated as an effective classroom practice. This implies that the application of cooperative learning to classroom teaching primarily found its root in the 1970s when the United States began to design and study cooperative learning models for classroom context (Kessler, 1992). Now, cooperative learning is applied in school content areas and, increasingly, in college and university contexts all over the world (Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Kessler, 1992), and is claimed to be an effective teaching method in foreign/second language education by scholars abroad (Johnson & Johnson, 1990).

The basis of cooperative learning (CL) is constructivism; knowledge is constructed, and transformed by students. Constructivism became widely acknowledged as a teaching technique at the same time that the shift from teacher-centered approaches to learner-centered approaches became prominent (Kaufman, 2004). Constructivism gives students opportunities to “engage in hands-on manipulation of raw data” (Kaufman, 2004: 305), meaning that they interact with the material at hand and make inferences regarding that material, leading to enhanced knowledge. It is through interacting with each other in reciprocal dialogues that students learn to use language differently to explain new experiences and new realities and, in so doing, construct new ways of thinking and feeling Westwood (2000) explained that the learning process must be understood as something a learner does by activating already existent cognitive structures or by constructing new cognitive structures that accommodate new input. According to Westwood, learners do not passively receive knowledge from the teacher; teaching becomes a transaction between all the stakeholders in the learning process. In this school of thought, it is believed that students understand best the knowledge they acquire through their own activity and exploration.

Even if CL has been widely used in our globe since it was introduced, it has recent history in our country. "English Language Teaching itself was first introduced in Ethiopia after Second World War in 1947 as a formal instruction in elementary curriculum by British council " (Geberew, 2013: 36). This implies that cooperative learning as a communicative approach was widely used in the world 23 years later since Ethiopia received the English language itself. Even if cooperative learning approach has been widely used in the world since 1970s, it was legally approved as an active learning and problem solving approach in Ethiopia with the new education and training policy in 1994 (Transitional Government of Ethiopia, 1994).

Although research findings pointed to the positive influence of cooperative learning on academic achievements, social behavior, and affective development, teachers of the English language in D. Millennium and B. Secondary Schools still find difficulty incorporating this system of instructional method in their classroom. In addition, little attention has been given to the investigation of challenges pull back the practice of cooperative learning on the EFL in the high school learners’ communicative competence. Therefore, the researcher considered that it is vital to study on practices and challenges of cooperative learning in EFL class for examining the problems and suggesting possible solutions.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

As Slavin (1999) found out, cooperative learning is suggested as the solution for astonishing array of educational problems; it is often cited as a means of emphasizing thinking skills and increasing higher order learning as a way to prepare students for increasingly collaborative work force.

In contrast, studies and educational reports pointed out that the solitary models of the traditional teaching method tend to make students overly passive and unresponsive to what is being taught. This traditional whole-class lecturing method was found to be one of the major causes of low English skill and the declining interest of the English language teaching in these schools (D. Millennium and B.) of South Bench Woreda. Based on the researcher's own observation and teaching experience, most students were hardly able to communicate in English because there has been too much teaching and learning in a traditional classroom.

Only few learners in D. Secondary School were able to use English in EFL class. In spite of the call for communicative approach in EFL teaching, as the researcher observed, the traditional teacher-centered Grammar Translation Method like deductive way of teaching was the dominant stream in English classrooms of D. Millennium. He examined this through experience sharing observation that the problem was seen in B. Secondary School too. Rather than passing the exam that focused on the grammatical tips, in most classes, learners in the schools did not actively participate to enhance their own learning in cooperative learning method. In addition, language learning of such classes is viewed as a process of explaining grammar rules with sentences and mechanical habit formation. Good habits are formed by having students produce correct sentences without mistakes. As it was cited in Hanna (2015), Amare (2000) explained that the method is about transmitting knowledge and rules to learners. In those schools' traditional classroom, the EFL teacher dominated the floor of speaking throughout the classroom session, and the students simply sat and listened. The students seldom actively participated and they were passive to take part in learning. This problem happened in these schools.

The other problem is competitive and individualized EFL classes of the schools in this study. As Johnson's and Johnson's (1989) summary and analysis of hundreds studies conclusion, cooperative learning situations foster more intrinsic motivation, more continuing interest and commitment to achievement, greater persistence, and the incentive for everyone to succeed together. On the other hand, the motivational environment associated with competitive or individualized learning situations foster more extrinsic motivation, less interest in achievement of learners and it makes them spending lower time on tasks. Moreover, competition and individualizing seems to motivate only "winner," students with high ability to achieve in competitive situations. Rather than individual effort of learners to their own learning, students in D. Millennium and B. Secondary schools did not support, interact, and collaborate each other for common goal.

Even if different studies criticized grammar oriented and competitive or individualized methods of teaching for their passive reaction of communication, still they are dominant chiefly in our schools. These days, however, as the result of the impact of educational research and the development of new educational technologies, new methods are advocated for better learning; it is these factors, which forces Ethiopia to advocate new teaching approach. The new education and training policy proclaimed in 1994 promotes active learning and problem solving approaches to overcome the shortcomings of the previous traditional method of teaching. One of the strategies of active learning in schools is cooperative learning (Transitional Government of Ethiopia, 1994).

Locally, some researchers studied about cooperative learning (CL) in EFL classes of Ethiopia. Hanna (2015) conducted a research to investigate on attitude of teachers and students towards cooperative learning and thereby to examine the benefits of this method to students with special needs at Bole Sub City, Addis Ababa. Her study was descriptive survey, which was studied on grade eight teachers and students of primary schools. In addition to her, Belesti (2014) also conducted a research on teachers' perception and practices of cooperative learning in English class. Both works were done in Addis Abeba Administrative City but the study area and grade levels of the studies were different that Hana's on grade eight and Belesti's eleven.

In addition, Mengestu (2015) conducted a research on the implementation of cooperative learning strategy in Fofa secondary and preparatory school. His work aimed to assess the positive effect of cooperative learning in English as a foreign language class. His study looked into student related factors for its implementation.

These researchers mentioned above focused on attitude, perception, and implementation around cooperative learning in English class. Some of them studied the positive impact of cooperative language for language learning and factors like teachers' and students' attitude and perception. However, the researcher in this study was inspired to assess the practice of cooperative language and the challenges, which hindered it. This is due to seriously thinking over the implementation and figuring out possible solutions for communication with a good command of English to join the world. Specially, this study gave higher priority for factors, which caused negative influences on the practice of CL in English as a foreign language class of D. Millennium and B. Secondary Schools. At the same time, the study was wanted to figure out challenges to practice cooperative learning and showing ways in which intended bodies could overcome them.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

This study was expected to attain the following general and specific objectives.

1.3.1 General Objective

The general objective of this study was assessing practices and challenges of cooperative learning in EFL class of D. Millennium and B. Secondary Schools.

1.3.2 Specific Objectives

The specific objectives of the study were:

- Find out how teachers of the English language practice cooperative learning.
- Identify the factors that adversely affect the practice of cooperative learning in EFL class.

1.4 Research Questions

The following basic research questions were guides to this study:

1. How do teacher of the English language practice cooperative learning?
2. What are the factors that adversely affect the practice of cooperative learning?

1.5 Significance of Study

The study on cooperative learning in this context is sought supportive for the achievement of all students, including those who are gifted or academically handicapped. Besides this, the research outcomes and recommendations from the study can have the potential to help teachers of the English language and students in South Bench Woreda. More or less, outcomes of this research help teachers to give students the experience they need for healthy social, psychological, and cognitive development. In addition, they help for organizing team based high performance organizational structure of classrooms than the competitive (individual) organizational structure of most classrooms of schools. Furthermore, the outcomes of this research support a sense of ownership and control in learning that is related to intrinsic motivation and they support active rather than passive learning besides providing sources of inspiration other than the teacher. Above all, the information in this study helps teachers, students, educational psychologists, evaluation experts, policy makers, and researchers in education to have a better understanding of cooperative learning techniques in teaching English language, which helps in reducing failure rate and raising students' intention to learn.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The study was conducted in South Nation, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State, Bench Maji Zone, South Bench Woreda particularly on grade nine students and EFL teachers. In South Bench woreda, they are four secondary schools. However, the study only conducted at D. Millennium and B. Secondary Schools. The study was delimited to practices and challenges of cooperative learning with an aim of making the study manageable.

1.7 Limitation of the Study

It is obvious that research work cannot be totally free from limitations. Therefore, a number of constraints were encountered in the course of the study. Due to lack of sponsorship, there were financial problems for purchasing material, and other services, which were essential for conducting the study. In addition to these problems, lack of time, long distance of selected sites, and lack of accessibility of transportation occurred as barrier on the study. Additionally, some of the respondents were not cooperative to complete the questionnaire on time and became passive for interview. To overcome problems related to finance, the researcher assessed funds from different sectors in South Bench Woreda. Beside this, he asked motorbike service from woreda educational office when limitation on transportation occurred. To make respondents active for responding the questionnaire, the researcher distributed questionnaires when they were free and collected immediately after they filled them

1.8 Definition of Terms

Practice- Practice means teaching EFL by cooperative learning method regularly in order to make students better in different language skills.

Challenge- Challenge is any difficulty EFL teachers encounter when they practice cooperative learning in their classroom.

1.9 Organization of the Study

The thesis consists five chapters. The first chapter covers introduction part that includes the main body of the research like; background of the study, statement of the problem, objectives of the study, significance of the study, scope of the study, limitation of the study, definition of key terms and organization of the study. Chapter 2 provides a literature review of cooperative learning, which covers different issues. It begins from theory relies under CL and ends with teachers' role in cooperative class. Chapter 3 describes the design of the research and the methodology used to guide the study. It consists of area of the study, design of the study, population and sampling, data collection instruments, piloting of instrument, method of date, procedures to collect data and techniques of data analysis. Chapter 4 discusses data analysis and interpretation. This chapter is organized in such a way that it constitutes presentations regarding the results of this study. Chapter 5 outlines conclusion of the study and recommendations addressed by the researcher.


The purpose of this chapter is to review the existing literature on cooperative learning, to reflect the opinions and perspectives of previous researchers, and to examine the results of a number of previous studies. In other words, to provide a proper foundation for this research, several literatures were selected then relevant areas were reviewed and evaluated from various sources as much as their significance for supplying supportive ideas concerns to this study.

2.1 Theories Underlying Cooperative Learning

2.1.1 The Vygotskian Perspective

The Vygotskian perspective related to cooperative leaning was the Zone of Proximal Development and the ensued affect on Krashen’s Input Hypothesis. According to Vygotsky (1978), all good learning is that which is in advance of development and involves the acquisition of skills just beyond the student’s grasp. Such learning occurred through interaction within the student’s zone of proximal development. Vygotsky defined the zone of proximal development as the discrepancy between the student’s actual developmental level (i.e., independent achievement) and his/her potential level (achievement with help from a more competent partner). According to vygotsky, students are most stimulated when challenged with absorbing or puzzling tasks or questions and when they have a clear sense of the expected product. It takes some practice, and repeated observation of students struggle with tasks, for teachers to find those points of access, calls "zones of proximal development "as Vygotsky called them, where students are challenged to move from what they know into the area of what they don't quite know yet.

Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development has many implications for those in the educational environment. One of them is the idea that human learning presupposed a specific social nature and was part of a process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them. As Vygotsky, an essential feature of learning is that it awakens a variety of internal developmental processes that were able to operate only when the child is in the action of interacting with people in his environment and in cooperation with his peers. Therefore, when it comes to language learning, the authenticity of the environment and the similarity between its participants are essential elements to make the learner feel part of this environment. Unfortunately, these elements are rarely present in conventional classrooms (Vygotsky, 1978).

By explaining human language development and cognitive development, Vygotsky’s theory serves as a strong foundation for the modern trends in applied linguistics. It lent support to less structured and more natural, communicative, and experiential approaches and pointed to the importance of early real-world human interaction in foreign language learning

2.1.2 The Piagetian Perspective

In contrast to Vygotskian perspective that learning which resulted from social interaction leads cognitive development, Piaget’s theory suggested that cognitive development leads to learning. A central component of Piaget’s developmental theory of learning and thinking is that both involve the participation of the learner. Knowledge is not merely transmitted verbally but must be constructed and reconstructed by the learner. Piaget asserted that for a child to know and construct knowledge of the world the child must act on objects and it is this action that provides knowledge of those objects (Sigel, 1977) the mind organizes reality and acted upon it. The learner must be active; he was not a vessel to be filled with facts. Piaget’s approach to learning is a readiness approach. Readiness approaches in developmental psychology emphasize that children cannot learn something until maturation gives them certain prerequisites.

The ability to learn any cognitive content is always related to their stage of intellectual development. Children who are at a certain stage cannot be taught the concepts of a higher stage. Piaget promoted active discovery learning environments at schools. Intelligence grows through the twin processes of assimilation and accommodation; therefore, experiences should be planned to allow opportunities for assimilation and accommodation. Piaget thought that teachers should be able to assess the students’ present cognitive level, strengths, and weaknesses. Instruction should be individualized as much as possible and students should have opportunities to communicate with one another, to argue and debate issues. He saw teachers as facilitators of knowledge - they are there to guide and stimulate the students, also allowing students to make and learn from mistakes.

The independent theories of Vygotsky and Piaget complimented each other. The former advocates social interaction in learning while the latter promotes active learning of the learners. Both are essential elements in the realization of cooperative learning in real life classroom. Neither theory alone is able to provide a complete explanation for the implementation of cooperative learning.

2.1.3 Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

The social learning theory of Bandura (1971) emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences. The component processes underlying observational learning included:

1. Attention, including modeled events (distinctiveness, affective valence, complexity, prevalence, functional value) and observer characteristics (sensory capacities, arousal level, perceptual set, past reinforcement).
2. Retention, including symbolic coding, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal.
3. Motor reproduction, including physical capabilities, self-observation of reproduction, accuracy of feedback, and (4) motivation, including external, vicarious and self­reinforcement. Because the social learning theory encompassed attention, memory, and motivation, it covered both cognitive and behavioral frameworks.

2.1.4 Constructivism

Being student-centered by nature, cooperative learning owed much credit to constructivism. Today, a focus on student-centered learning might well be the most important contribution of constructivism (Cheek, 1992; Yager, 1991). Constructivism, or constructivist approach, is not a brand new theory but a holistic approach to the teaching and learning process developed by incorporating concepts from Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bandura, as discussed in the previous sections.

Like cooperative learning, constructivism is not a new concept. It had its roots in philosophy and has been applied to sociology and anthropology, as well as cognitive psychology and education (Brunner, 1973). Perhaps the first constructivist philosopher, Giambatista Vico (Yager, 1991) commented in a treatise in 1710 that one only knew something if one could explain it. Yager (1991) further elaborated this idea by asserting that human beings are not passive recipients of information. Learners actively construct knowledge, connect it to previously assimilated knowledge, and make it theirs by constructing their own interpretation (Brooks & Brooks, 1999; Cheek, 1992).

A major theme in constructivism is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge (Brunner, 1973). The learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure to do so. Cognitive structure (i.e., schema, mental models) provides meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to go beyond the information given to them (Brunner, 1973).

As far as instruction is concerned, the instructor should try to encourage students to discover principles by themselves (Brunner, 1966). Curriculum should be organized in a spiral manner so that the student continually built upon what they have already taught (Brunner, 1966). He stated that a theory of instruction should address four major aspects: (1) predisposition towards learning, (2) the ways in which a body of knowledge structured so that it could be most readily grasped by the learner, (3) the most effective sequences in which to present material, and (4) the nature and pacing of rewards and punishments. These four aspects of instruction are compatible with the principles of cooperative learning.

2.2 Definitions of Cooperative Learning

Many scholars proposed their own but actually rather similar definitions of cooperative learning. Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals (Johnson & Johnson, 1989, 1999; Johnson, 1991). Within cooperative situations, individuals seek outcomes that are beneficial to themselves and beneficial to all other group members. This means students perceive when they can reach their learning goals and if and only if the other group members reach their goals. The instructor for achieving academic and social tasks assigns students to groups of two to five members. According to Johnson (1991), cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning. At the same time Olsen & Kagan (1992) defined cooperative learning as group learning activities organized so that learning is dependent on the socially structured exchange of information between learners in groups, in which each learner is held accountable for his or her own learning, and is motivated to increase the learning of others.

Paul J. Vermette (1998) defined cooperative learning in this way. "A cooperative classroom team is a relatively permanent, heterogeneously mixed, small group of students who have been assembled to complete an activity, produce a series of projects or products and/or who have been asked to individually master a body of knowledge." According to Vermette, the spirit within the team has to be one of positive interdependence, that is, a feeling that success for any one is tied directly to the success of others. He put it more concretely that cooperative learning approach defines the class as heterogeneous groups; the class is organized in groups of four or six students in order to fulfill a learning task cooperatively. The earning task is based on interaction and reciprocal interdependence among the members of group and requires mutual help. As Vermette, in this educational approach, students and teachers are in a state of dynamic cooperation and together build up an intimate learning and social atmosphere in the classroom. The textbooks and the teacher are no longer the only source of information, but are replaced by a variety of other people.

2.3 Cooperative Learning versus Group Work

Because group work does not necessarily describe each learner’s task and promotes peer tutoring, it may differ from cooperative learning. Cooperative learning activities are well- structured tasks which involve “genuine information gap, requiring learners to both listen to and contribute to the development of an oral, written or other product which represents the group’s efforts, knowledge and perspectives” (Crandall, 1999:227). In typical group work activities, the tasks are usually not as well and clearly designed as cooperative learning activities. Besides, as students are responsible for both their own learning and their group member’s learning in activities such as Jigsaw, students practice peer-tutoring (Bruffee, 1993) which is not necessarily a part of group work. Putnam (1998) states that one of the other differences between typical group work and cooperative learning group work is the heterogeneous nature of cooperative learning groups. Cooperative learning groups are usually intentionally mixed in terms of ability and achievement level of the students, gender, culture, and language characteristics.

Several problems often occur in the implementation of typical group work. Some group members may not contribute equally to the success of the group, so members who complete most of the work may feel abused. High-achievement students may benefit from the work more than the low-achievement students may. In addition, responsibility within the group cannot be divided equally Johnson and Johnson (1994) confirmed that these possible problems in typical group work activities are directly addressed in well-structured cooperative learning groups. They (1994) introduce five essential elements to be structured in cooperative learning groups to make them work well and overcome the problems faced in typical group work.

Details of these elements are discussed latter. To show highlight of them, one of the most important element is positive interdependence. Students must be aware of the fact that they must support and assist each other in completing every single phase of the assigned task, since the output of cooperation will be the success of each individual in the group. The second important element is face-to face promotive interaction. Students need to help, assist, and encourage each other to learn by problem solving and discussing items that are learnt. Individual accountability is one of the other elements of cooperative learning groups. Each group member needs to perform well and assist in their team members’ performance, since they are assessed both individually and as a group.

Incorporating the teaching of social skills to students is also an essential element for structuring effective cooperative learning groups. Leadership, organization, decision-making, trust building, and communication are among the skills that should be taught to students. Group processing, which is the last element includes the discussions by group members on how each member contributed to the group product, what problems they encountered, and what to do in the next cooperative group learning activity to avoid similar problems. These discussions are performed after completion of each group work.

2.4 Features or Pillars of Cooperative Learning

Cooperation pervades all aspects of our lives, which does not mean that it is easy to learn to cooperate. Johnson (1991) explained that cooperation often goes wrong because of a lack of understanding of the critical elements that mediate its effectiveness. Simply placing individuals in groups and telling them to work together does not in and of promotes higher achievement and greater productivity itself. Group efforts can be ineffective in many ways.

Less able members sometimes leave others to complete the group's tasks, thus creating the "free­rider effect" (Kerr and Bruun, 1983) in which group member expend decreasing amounts of effort andjust go through the motions of teamwork. At the same time, more able group members might expend less effort to avoid the "sucker effect" of doing all the work (Kerr, 1983). Group members with high ability might be deferred to and take over the important leadership roles in ways that benefit them at the expense of the other group members (the "rich-get-richer effect").

In a learning group, for example, abler group members might give all the explanations of what is being learned. Because the amount of time spent explaining correlates highly with the amount learned, abler members leam a great deal, while less able members flounder as a captive audience. The time spent listening in group brainstorming sessions can reduce the amount of time any individual can state his or her ideas. (Johnson, 1991:33)

Therefore, to make cooperative efforts in certain conditions for the expected productive than competitive and individualistic class and to distinguish CL from other small group learning strategies, five major elements are used. These essentials are positive interdependence, face- to-face communication, individual responsibility, social skills, and group processing.

2.4.1 Positive Interdependence

It refers to the idea that students are required to work together in order to achieve common learning objectives. If any team members fail to do their part, everyone suffers consequences. According to Johnson & Johnson, (1990), the success of one learner is dependent on the success of the other learners. During cooperative learning activities, the accomplishment of the group goal should rely on all group members working together and coordinating their actions. Positive interdependence is the insight that you arejoined with others in a way so that you cannot succeed unless your group members do (and vice versa); that is, their work benefits you and your work payback them. Students need each other for support, explanations, and guidance. Without the help of one member, the group will not able to achieve the desired objective. It promotes a situation in which students work together in small groups to make the most of the learning of all members, sharing their resources, providing joint support, and celebrating theirjoint success.

Teachers must provide a precise learning task and a group goal so that students know they “sink or swim together” (Johnson & Johnson, 1990: 28). As they describe, “if there is no positive interdependence, there is no cooperation.” Often, learners in the cooperative learning context have dual responsibilities: (a) They have to learn the assigned materials, and (b) they have to concern other group members’ learning. Positive interdependence is the essence of cooperative learning- it is achieved when students think in terms of “we” versus “me”. Students should not feel successful until each member has attained both the group-learning goal and his or her individual learning goal(s) (Johnson et al., 1990). This may require that students tutor one another and check on one another’s progress. In addition, positive interdependence also has great influence on students’ motivation, learning attitudes and productivity. When members of a group see their efforts as necessary for the group’s success, they will increase their efforts (Harkins & Petty, 1982).

2.4.2 Face-to-face Communication/Interaction

Once a teacher establishes positive interdependence, they need to maximize the opportunity for students to promote each other’s success by helping, assisting, supporting, encouraging, and praising each other’s efforts to learn (Johnson & Johnson, 1992). Students should interact directly with one another while they are working. They may communicate verbally and/or nonverbally. Interaction should take place among students, rather than between students and materials or students and machines (Johnson et al., 1990). When students are asked to work independently on a set of problems and then meet in groups to discuss the answers, they are not really engaging in cooperative learning, but rather in individualistic learning - with talking. For cooperative learning to be effective, the members of the group have to be in very close physical proximity, face to face. In a cooperative learning setting, the teacher prepares himself/herself to step aside and offer the learner a more meaningful role. Students in a group sit in circle and interact with each other. In fact, cooperative groups can help increase opportunities for members to produce comprehend language, promote active learning, and give quick feedback to their peers. Finally, while positive interdependence creates the circumstances for working together, it is the real face-to-face communication, in which students work together and help each other’s success, that the personal relationships are shaped are important for developing pluralistic values (Johnson et al., 1990).

2.4.3 Individual Responsibility/Accountability

It implies that each team member is responsible for his/her fair share to the group’s success. It is important that the group knows who needs more assistance, support, and encouragement in completing the task. It is also vital that group members know they cannot “hitchhike” on the work of others (Jolliffe, 2007). It requires each student in the group to develop a sense of personal responsibility to learn and help the rest of the group to learn. In addition, individual responsibility exists when the performance of each individual student is assessed and the results are given back to the group and the individual (Johnson & Johnson, 1992). All students should be held individually responsible for learning the material and contributing to the group. Insisting on individual responsibility discourages “coasting” or “hitchhiking,” in which one or a few of the students do the bulk of the work and the others take a free ride. Individual evaluations are essential in determining whether each student has mastered the material. Teachers can test each student individually, or they can randomly select a student from each group to respond to questions or demonstrate or explain the material to the class.

According to Olsen & Kagan (1992), it is important that the group knows who needs more assistance, support, and encouragement in completing the assignment. It is also important that group members know that they cannot “hitch-hike” on the work of others. Each individual is accountable for his or her own learning and is accountable to the group. This means that grading takes into account individual grades and group grades (Olsen & Kagan, 1992). Teachers should judge the total effort that each member is contributing. In addition, the judgment can be done by giving an individual test to each student or accidentally asking students to present their group’s work. Individual responsibility exists when each student is given equal responsibility for his or her fair share to the teamwork. It stresses the idea that the accomplishment of a group relies on the coordination of all members’ efforts. Each team member feels in charge of their own and their members’ learning, and then makes an active contribution to the group.

As reported by Johnson, and Holubec (1994), another aspect of individual accountability is that each team member must master the learning materials. Group members have to make certain that learning takes place by checking for understanding, quizzing, and tutoring of one another (Johnson, and Holubec, 1994). According to Johnson et al. (1991), individual accountability can be promoted by (a) keeping the size of the group small, (b) giving an individual test to each student, (c) calling on students in the class randomly and asking students to present the work of the group to the entire class, (d) observing how members of each group interact with other members, (e) assigning one member of each group to ask other group members to explain new material to the rest of the group (i.e., checker), and (f) requiring that each student teaches what he/she learned to a fellow group member or to someone else from another group (Johnson et al., 1991a).

2.4.4 Interpersonal and Social Skills

'As mentioned by Johnson and Johnson (1990), contributing to the success of a cooperative effort requires interpersonal and social skills. Developing students’ social interaction is an important career-related liberal arts skill valued by employers and by faculty members in a variety of disciplines. Social skills should be taught and reinforced for high quality cooperation, and students should be encouraged to use them if cooperative groups are to be productive. Cooperative skills are social skills commonly used in group activities. Social behaviors are the basis of human communication. It is often necessary to teach explicitly the language and behavior needed to work together in English. Cooperative learning allows individual students the opportunity to work with others on a shared task, in pursuit of a common goal (Cooper, 1990). Cooperative learning helps students develop different types of human relations skills such as active listening, empathy, consensus building, leadership, constructive conflict management, and resolution— skills that are relevant and transferable to the sorts of social situations they may encounter in their future careers (Cooper, 1990).

However, even within positive research regarding cooperative learning there are opponents. Most opponents of cooperative learning do not fully understand its necessary components. They charge that during group work one student might end up doing everything while the others get a free ride. Moreover, telling the socially unskilled individual student of a group to cooperate with others does not assure that they will be able to do so effectively. Cooper (1990) explained that in order to execute lessons in true cooperative learning style, there must be two key elements present: firstly, a common goal or purpose set for the team members to achieve, and secondly, individual responsibility. Therefore, teachers must conduct the students the social skills of high quality cooperation and encourage them to practice. Moreover, at the same time, other social skills such as decision-making, leadership, communication, conflict­solving, etc. have to be cultivated just as decisively and accurately as academic skills. In addition, teachers must offer opportunities for each group members to know about and help each other, appreciate, accept and support each other, communicate actively, and resolve discrepancies constructively, without which, students will merely take part in the group work and will not harvest the precious benefits that true cooperative learning has proven to bring.

2.4.5 Group Processing

It requires group members to assess their functions and contribution to the success of all tasks. According to Johnson and Johnson (1990), group processing may be defined as reflecting on a group session to describe what member actions are helpful or obstructive, and make decisions about what actions should continue or change. Students must be given the time and procedures for analyzing how well their learning groups are functioning and the extent to which students are employing their social skills in helping all group members to achieve and to maintain effective working relationships within the group. It involves reflecting on a group session to describe what actions of the members were effective and ineffective and deciding upon which acts to continue, which to modify, and which to discard.( Johnson and Johnson,1990)

As Johnson and Johnson (1994), such processing (a) enables learning groups to focus on group maintenance, (b) facilitates the learning of social skills, (c) ensures that members receive feedback on their participation, and (d) reminds students to practice collaborative skills consistently. At the end of an activity or unit, the group reflects on how it has performed by reviewing the skills that it practiced, what it did well, and what it needs to do on next time. Teachers may provide a handout to track use of the skills. Besides, teachers should also give opportunities for the class to assess group progress. Group processing enables groups to focus on a good working relationship, facilitates the learning of cooperative skills, and ensures that members receive feedback. (Johnson & Johnson, 1994)

2.5 Types of Groups in Cooperative Class

Johnson and Johnson (1994) describe three types of cooperative learning groups: Cooperative base, informal cooperative learning, and formal cooperative learning groups. Cooperative base groups are long-term “heterogeneous learning groups with stable membership” (Richards & Rodgers, 2001: 196) which may last a year or more. This type of grouping is established to provide support, encouragement, and assistance among students to achieve shared academic goals. The students in these groups are also responsible to check their team members’ attendance to lessons and completion of assignments. They may also discuss their personal problems in learning (Johnson & Johnson, 2003).

Informal cooperative learning groups are short-term groupings in which membership is usually random. The main purpose of informal cooperative groups is to focus student attention on the material and facilitate learning during direct teaching. Short pre- or post-lecture discussions and Think-Pair-Share are among the activities that can be used in this kind of cooperative learning groups. In a formal cooperative learning groups, students work together on specific tasks to achieve shared learning goals or complete a given assignment. These groups may last from one class period to several weeks. The activities in which students can improve their reading skills or practice problem solving and decision making, such as Jigsaw, Jigsaw II are among the activities that can be used in these kinds of grouping.

2.6 Cooperative learning Models and Structures

There are several Cooperative Structures available for teachers to choose from. Teachers simply need to choose the model and structure that best suits them and the task. Slavin (1995) states that cooperative learning models should include a variety of methods that allows students to work together in small groups to help each other learn. His model does not try to replace teacher instruction but does aim to replace individual seatwork. In addition, Slavin’s cooperative learning model tries to eradicate inappropriate competitive teaching methods which he claims are oftentimes unhealthy and ineffective inside the classroom (1995:3). We will see different models which feet cooperative classroom from different scholars.

2.6.1 Three-Step Interview

As cited on (Hronn2014), Kagan (1994) developed the so-called Three-Step Interview, which is a simple cooperative learning introduction activity. The Three-Step Interview should preferably take place while working with groups of four students. As the name suggest the activity is performed in three simple stages. The first stage is executed in pairs as one person interviews the other and then the roles are reversed before the second stage. During the third stage the entire group (four students) comes together and the students share what they have learned about their teammate. The activity cannot be completed until all members of the group are familiar with the subject of each interview. The Three-step Interview can be carried out in any subject as the content of the interview can be related to whatever the teacher or the students choose (Kagan, 1994) cited on (Hronn, 2014). This cooperative learning structure is very simple and easy to execute, as it does not require a very firm structure or rules. Because of its simplicity, the Three-Step Interview is an ideal task to assign to language students that are experiencing Cooperative learning for the first time in their language studies, as it allows them to use the target language in a relaxed atmosphere.

2.6.2 Jigsaw

Aronson (Hronn, 2014) developed the Jigsaw approach in the 1970s. During a Jigsaw task, students are divided into small groups and given an assignment. Each student then has to investigate a different aspect of the subject of the task. After their investigation, they meet up with students from other groups who have been exploring the same aspect of the assignment. After students have conferred with these “expert” groups, they return to their original groups where they have to share their findings with their teammates in such a way that all members of the group learn the material. After the assignment is completed, students can be tested on what they have learned (Aronson 2014) on (Hronn, 2014).

The Jigsaw has become a very popular cooperative learning technique, perhaps because it is relatively simple and easy to implement. The method can be applied to many kinds of tasks as long as it can be broken up into a few components. The chief benefit of the Jigsaw approach is that it automatically provides the groups with positive interdependence as the task cannot be completed without the effort of every group member. According to Hronnthe Jigsaw structure may be applied in the language classroom. However, it may not be well suited for assignments that are related to the form of the target language that is grammar and vocabulary. It may help for familiarizing students with specific content like projects relating to novels or other reading material or assignments that require students to investigate certain material.

2.6.3 Jigsaw II

Jigsaw II is a structure that was developed by Slavin. It is based on Aronson’s structure but is a more easily adapted from Slavin (1995) cited on (Hronn 2014). It is also very similar to STAD in many ways. Jigsaw II is a suitable structure for any task in which students are to explore written texts.


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Practices and Challenges of Cooperative Learning in EFL Class. With Particular Reference to Two Secondary Schools
Hawassa University
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Mantegaftot Girmaye (Author), 2016, Practices and Challenges of Cooperative Learning in EFL Class. With Particular Reference to Two Secondary Schools, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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