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Using cooperative learning to enhance student engagement with language support classes in Pakistani higher education

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:45 authored by Abdul H. Panhwar
This thesis reports a classroom-based action-research study conducted in the University of Sindh, Jamshoro Pakistan, where the researcher teaches English as a Second Language in large compulsory language support classes. The study aims to find an accessible solution to the problem that the majority of students do not actively engage with the learning process in these classes, and therefore fail to make satisfactory progress with their language learning. The problem was investigated through a cyclical process of planning, action, observation and reflection in the researcher’s own class. An initial literature review led to the hypothesis that a highly structured approach to group work, using permanent groups and regular cooperative learning strategies, could effectively improve participation without introducing the classroom management problems sometimes associated with group work in large classes. These strategies were introduced and regularly reviewed using the researcher’s own reflections, as well as feedback from the students and from other teachers who observed the classes. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and the findings from the two types of data were cross-referenced to check their validity. The results indicate that the strategies enhanced students’ participation, confidence, motivation, cognitive skills, and willingness to take responsibility for their own and others’ learning; the intervention also increased student-student and student-teacher interaction. Although there were initially some problems related to students’ unresponsiveness or reluctance to participate, these were largely brought under control by adjusting group membership and constantly explaining to the shyer students the benefits of learning in groups. The study shows that a highly structured approach to group work, using permanent groups and carefully selected cooperative learning activities, can serve to increase student engagement in English language support classes at the University of Sindh, without requiring significant extra resources or creating classroom management issues. It is therefore suggested that wider adoption of this form of communicative learning across the institution, and in similar situations elsewhere, is feasible and could be beneficial for both students and university teachers.



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