Developing Cooperative Learning in the Efl/Esl Secondary Classroom
RELC Journal : A Journal of Language Teaching and Research in Southeast Asia
aimed to offer a challenge to the negatively constructed notions of English language learners' passivity and lack of motivation in Hong Kong schools which are believed to be influenced by an over-reliance on teacher-fronted and teacher-directed instructional styles (Lai, 1990; Yu, Liu & Littlewood, 1996) . We believed that given such assumptions, practically-focussed applied research might be welldirected towards an exploration and examination of alternative teaching and learning modes which
... prove facilitative of more active and engaged student language learning. Innovative interactive learning contexts may provide the keys to increasing teaching and learning effectiveness, particularly in terms of heightened English language competence, the desirability of which is consistently advocated by local authorities and researchers (ECR6, 178 1995; Johnson & Cheung, 1995) and by government policy makers anxious to promote a greater confidence and competence in second language learners as part of a mission to improve productivity and competitiveness (Tung Chee Wan, 1997). Accordingly, we set out the following objectives for the project: 1. to design, develop and monitor innovative modes of cooperative teaching and learning involving pupil:pupil and pupil: teacher partnerships; 2. to study the acquisition and development of pupils' communication strategies, exploring in particular the relationships between learner behaviours (interpretive and accommodating strategies), language data and learning outcomes, in a view of language learning and teaching as social action, and where classrooms are seen as sites of particular texts, social practices and discursive practices; 3. to study the comparative effects of transmissive versus cooperative learning in facilitating the English language development, both formally and functionally, of selected Form 3 secondary pupils, drawing on data from a range of reading, writing, speaking and listening tasks; 179 4. to characterise the classrooms under study in terms of specific modes of conduct and communication between teachers and pupils and among pupils, focussing in particular on the discourses of the participants while engaged in specific learning tasks; 5. to offer explanatory evidence for the socially constructed nature of participants' preferences for particular modes of teaching and learning, and to assess the potential of alternative modes of classroom interaction both in terms of relative effectiveness and as challenges to traditional ways of behaving. In this paper, we describe the key components of our research into cooperative learning and the development of tasks. We follow this with an account of the procedures that we carried out and the outcomes of our pilot study. To support these research outcomes, we offer additional insights into the context of the study by offering some insights into the perspectives of those teachers, learners and researchers' engaged in the study. Selected transcripts are included to illustrate the rich opportunities for interaction and learning afforded by cooperative language learning.