Group Work Within the Scope of Teaching

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Name : HUỲNH NAM HẢI – M00307
Can Tho University

Topic : In what way is groupwork as an aid to EFL learning effective ? To what extent is it being employed in your teaching context ?How effective is it ?

Much second language acquisition takes place through conversational interaction (Lightbown & Spada, 1999). What learners need is an opportunity to interact with other speakers and interaction plays an important role in second language acquisition. As more attention is paid to the interaction in language teaching, the organization of classroom teaching has become more and more important. Group work is more effective than lockstep setting for learners to interact with each other. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning. Cooperative learning lessons involve having students performing social roles in group work. Vygotsky (1978) argued that in a supportive interactive environment, the child is able to advance to a higher level of knowledge and performance than he or she would be capable of independently (Lightbown & Spada, 1999). That is to say, individuals are likely to perform more complex operations if provided with the right type of assistance. Compared with the traditional teacher-centered classroom, group work has many advantages. The following will briefly show some outstanding ones. - Students have more chances to practise English.

- Students are more involved.
- Students feel more confident.
- Students learn from each other.
- Students know how to co-operate and share the work with each other. - Teacher can save time.
From the above discussion, we find that we can benefit a lot from using group work in the EFL classroom. Nevertheless, as Long (1990) points out, not all group work promotes learning (Jacobs & Ball, 1996). Next we are going to discuss how to organize and manage group work to contribute to effective teaching and learning from different aspects. Group composition

Groups of appropriate size can lead to effective participation. There is no fixed or best number for groups. According to Byrne (1987), four to eight students in a group is considered to be a desirable size. If the group is too large, students’ interaction is affected. It is difficult for everyone to participate language activities. Some lazy ones may remain silent and passive. On the other hand, if the group is too small, it tends to be pair work and it is often nonfunctional as a group work. But an optimum size for group work should depend on the nature of the task students are carrying out. Byrne (1987) points out that mixed ability groups should be the normal practice unless there is a special reason for separating fast from slow students. In China, we often have large classes with fifty or more students and they are naturally of mixed ability, though their level of learning might be roughly similar in one class. If the teacher put fast students and slow students in separate groups, they can all go at their own pace. So the fast ones will finish the task more quickly and will have nothing to do. This may create more problems such as classroom misbehaviors, indiscipline, and so on. The teacher has to find special tasks for each group and prepare them separately, which is quite hard to operate. In the end it may lead to other problems, e.g., the gap between the fast and slow students will be wider. So the ideal composition of a group should be members of mixed ability. Because group work involves cooperation, students will help each other and learn from each other. Though fast students might hold up slow ones, they may also have some nonlinguistic skills to contribute. The fast students can also develop the ability to share their knowledge with their group mates. Besides, during the group activity, slow students are possible to increase...
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