Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Empirical Study on the Application of Cooperative Learning to English Listening Classes

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Empirical Study on the Application of Cooperative Learning to English Listening Classes

Article excerpt

Abstract

Cooperative learning is a strategic instructional system applied by many educators the world over. Researchers of cooperative learning have carried out the study in this field and proved that cooperative learning can create a more interesting and relaxed learning atmosphere. It is generally acknowledged that cooperative learning can reduce learners' anxiety, promote teacher-students and students-students relationships, stimulate learners' motivation and increase their self-confidence. In cooperative learning environments, the learners cooperate and communicate with each other to achieve their mutual goals. Listening, as one of the most important language inputs, its importance for English learning is self-evident. This paper researches on the feasibility and effectiveness of the application of cooperative learning to college English listening classes. An empirical study for a whole semester was carried out in the forms of questionnaire, pretest, posttest and interviews. All the results from the findings demonstrate that cooperative learning can improve learners' communicative competence significantly and cooperative learning is very effective in English listening classes in this study.

Keywords: cooperative learning, English teaching, interaction, learning atmosphere, shared goals

1. Introduction

One of the ultimate goals of education is not to transmit the fixed knowledge to students, but to enhance their capacity of acquiring knowledge actively and help them become life-long autonomous learners. Therefore, learning how to learn is more important than learning the fixed textbooks. For the past decades, the application of various teaching methodologies to the teaching practice by many English teachers has brought about great developments and diverse achievements to English teaching. Nevertheless, the current college English teaching system is still not so successful, especially for listening teaching. Many college students can neither express themselves fluently nor can they understand what others say. On the one hand, students have to learn many new words and grammatical rules by heart to pass various exams. On the other hand, "spoon-feeding" teaching approach still dominates most classrooms. Under such teaching environments, many college students generally receive what the teacher imparts to them passively rather than thinking actively while sitting in the classroom. Therefore, the passivity of the students and the dominance of the teachers form great obstacles for students' practice and use of the target language in class. In terms of listening class, it is quite difficult for many teachers to figure out satisfactory and effective ways to involve students in the classroom activities actively. A systematic approach for listening class is urgently needed. This study aims to provide a practical and useful way to help students learn better with the help of cooperative learning (CL). That is, this research tries to find out whether non-English majors can improve their listening skills with the help of CL.

2. Definitions and Basic Elements of Cooperative Learning

2.1 Defining Cooperative Learning

Paul J. Vermette (1998, pp. 5-6) defines cooperative learning in this way: "Cooperative learning is not just a strategy, part of a bag of tricks. It is also a philosophy, one in which the teachers see the class as a learning community that serves itself as it helps each and every member. A cooperative classroom team is relatively permanent, heterogeneously mixed, small group of students who have been assembled to complete an activity, produce a series projects or products and who have been asked to individually master a body of knowledge."Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (1993, p. 5) define CL as "Cooperative learning is the cooperation through working together to accomplish the shared goals. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning". …

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