Cooperative a result, she decided to carry out an

Cooperative learning (CL)
is popularly applied as an instructional approach in teaching and learning
languages which stimulates active learning, and enhances language proficiency
and good relationship among students (Gillies & Boyle, 2010). Recognizing the benefits of CL, Caicedo Triviño
(2016), as an English teacher of a secondary Colombian
public school, conducted a research to explore the effectiveness of CL
implementation in developing her students’ writing skills and reported her
study’s results in this article. Applying CL in writing classes is also the topic
of my future research in EFL teaching. Therefore, in this essay, I would like
to provide a brief summary of Triviño’s
study, a profound analysis of its strengths and weaknesses as well as the
lessons learned from this research for my future project.

According
to Triviño’s observation, many seventh graders at her
school had difficulties in producing appropriate and coherent writing in
English. Hence, she was interested in seeking for the productive teaching
method to handle her students’ problem and she believed that cooperative
learning could be an effective solution for this issue. As a result, she decided
to carry out an action research on the application of CL in her writing classes
with the question: “What can be observed in students’ writings when they are
engaged in cooperative learning?” Although CL approach was adopted in 4
classes, she selected randomly 2 groups of 4 students at grade seven to be the
focus of her study.

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The research followed six
phases involving three lessons of writing. In the first lesson, students were
required to write comparative sentences and assigned their roles in groups
(organizer, recorder, observer or relationer). The second lesson task named
“The old me” requested students to draw themselves at age of 5 then discuss in
groups and write comparative sentences to describe the differences between
their past and their present features. In Lesson 3, free writing was the main
task and group work was optional. Various qualitative data collection instruments
were employed in Triviño’s study, namely lesson
plans, questionnaires with open-ended questions, observation and field notes.  

The data-driven analysis
yielded two central themes: “Cooperative Work Role in the English Classroom”
and “Students’ Cooperative Process Oriented Writing”. The findings in the first
category revealed the serious difficulties encountered by students when
understanding and implementing their roles within the group despite the careful
instruction of teacher in every lesson. Additionally, the progressive decrease
of positive interdependence was noted since the number of students who were
willing to work in group declined gradually in three lessons. However, the
results from students’ self-evaluation and questionnaires showed their positive
attitudes toward the effective achievement of the lesson goals and some
students’ interest in cooperative work when receiving support from other
partners. With regard to the second theme findings, the researcher figured out
the students’ habit of elaborating previous draft before coming up with final
text, which demonstrated their good consciousness of writing as a process.
Furthermore, she noticed the better confidence and motivation in writing of the
students who worked cooperatively by the fact that they obtained mostly feedback
from the group.

Finally, the author concluded that CL and writing skills
can be worked together to improve several academic and personal skills of
students. She was aware of some limitations of her research due to the limited
time and some unexpected outcomes. Nevertheless, she asserted that her project
of CL implementation helped students to have better awareness of the importance
of process-oriented writing, especially editing process which possibly
contributes to future improvements of students in vocabulary and grammar.

In my opinion, Triviño’s
study had a good starting point with real class context and her current
students’ issues. The research question proposed was practical, though a bit
general. Notably, the most prominent strength of this research is the
productive utilization of three questionnaires. The first one was delivered to
students before lesson 1 to explore their prior knowledge about writing and
group work. The second questionnaire was given after Lesson 2 to obtain
students’ feedbacks on the effectiveness of cooperative class activities in
order to have proper adaptation in the subsequent lesson. The final one was
given at the end of Lesson 3 to gather students’ feelings and evaluation of their
own performances during three lessons. The use of these three questionnaires
enabled the researcher to compare the students’ perceptions of cooperative
writing before and after applying CL in her writing classes so as to figure out
the changes. Additionally, they provided frequent reflections of students on
new teaching approach with valuable suggestions for improvement which greatly contributed
to the success of her study. Besides, students had freedom to express their thoughts
and feelings in these questionnaires since all included questions were
open-ended. Therefore, the data collected from the questionnaires were realistic
and reliable.

Regardless of these
strengths, the study of Caicedo Triviño remains many limitations. First of all,
though the research question mentioned about students’ writing (“What can be
observed in students’ writings when they are engaged in cooperative
learning?”), no analysis on students’ writing products was presented. Apart
from some separate pieces of students’ writings attached as samples, she did
not show any comparison between the students’ writings in lesson 1 and lesson 2
or 3 to identify the possible improvement made. Instead, she focused on the
changes in students’ attitudes toward cooperative work and their consciousness
of process-oriented writing. These data, in fact, did not directly relate to
the research question. Consequently, the findings from the data did not really
match with the original purpose of her research.

In relation to the writing
tasks selected for three lessons in the research, I realized the
inappropriateness of drawing activity in lesson 2 and free writing in lesson 3.
Even though drawing might help to stimulate students’ interest and reduce the
learning stress, it is time-consuming and students are easily distracted from
the main objective of the writing lesson. The shortcoming of this activity was
admitted in this research results that some students only concentrated on
drawing but did not write anything. In lesson 3, the students’ freedom to
choose their writing topic is, in fact, a difficulty for the researcher to
evaluate the improvement in students in writing since the task had no relation
to what students did in previous lessons. Also, it is impossible to compare the
writing products among students due to their different topics.

Besides, as revealed by Triviño, the CL approach was
applied in 3 different lessons from September to December. On average, the time
interval between the lessons is one month. This excessively long period of time
explained why students were not familiar with their roles and had problems in
cooperative work.

As similarly to Triviño’s
experience, I notice that the majority of my Vietnamese students are always
struggling with English writing tasks. They find it difficult to generate ideas
and construct sentences with grammatical correct and coherence in English.
Consequently, they become stressed whenever
being assigned a writing task. Sometimes, writing is considered as a
nightmare that most students try to avoid. Therefore, I think that CL is a
potential solution to help students reduce learning pressure and stimulate them
to enhance their writing performances. By group work, students will help each
other in all stages of writing, from brainstorming ideas, planning, to writing and
correction. Simultaneously, they will be able to learn writing skills from each
other. The findings of Triviño’s study which indicated the positive attitude as
well as the improvement of confidence and motivation of students in writing
have reinforced my belief that cooperative writing will be probably an
efficient innovation for my writing classes.

Despite a number of
shortcomings, Triviño’s study on the application of CL in English writing
classes brings about valuable lessons for my future project. Firstly, clear
instructions for cooperative task and frequent support from the teacher are
important to help students get familiar with new learning method. Secondly, it
is necessary to gather regular reflections from students to have timely
adaptation in real context. Lastly, appropriate cooperative writing tasks should
be designed with the control of teacher to avoid the reliance of students on
each other and ensure the efficacy of group work.

 

References

 

Caicedo
Triviño, P.A. (2016). Using cooperative learning to foster the development of
adolescents’ English writing skills. PROFILE
Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, 18(1), 21-38.

 

Gillies,
R. M., & Boyle, M. (2010). Teachers’ reflections on cooperative learning:
Issues of implementation. Teaching and teacher Education, 26(4),
933-940.

 

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