Collaborative Learning and Writing: Essays on Using Small Groups in Teaching English and Composition

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By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Curriculum Vitae. Kara Poe Alexander. Education Ph. Women in Leadership Fellow, with Dr. Co-Director of the Thomas R. Program in Rhetoric and Composition, UofL, Joanna Wolfe. Computers and Composition: An International Journal : Alexander, Kara Poe. Alexander, Kara Poe, and Danielle M. Computers and Composition: An International Journal 36 : Wolfe, Joanna, and Kara Poe Alexander. Cynthia L. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Book Chapters Alexander, Kara Poe.

Carol Smallwood. Kathleen Hunzer.

Teaching English : How to Write an Essay

Alexander, Kara Poe, and Beth Powell. In Isabel Baca. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishing, Cresskill, NJ: Hampton P. Students of secondary classes struggle to improve their essay writing as they approach university entrance exams. However, their efforts are useless because they lack the time and the needed writing skills. The project was carried out during a full academic year in which assessment and IBLA are integrated to form a nucleus promoting different types of essay. To improve collaboration and assessment outside the classroom, a blog was utilized by the participants to assist, discuss, and cooperate from their homes.

Deboer believes that similar to researchers who perform inquiries and examinations in laboratories, students can inquire and investigate in their classrooms. As a result of reflection and investigation, they can assist each other and thus learn from each other. Falk and Margolin consider that the Inquiry- Based Approach teaches learners to raise questions, argue problems, and find solutions through team and group work. They add that during the inquiry process, the participants assess themselves and each other. Cam argues that the best solution to writing problems is asking the right questions, investigating, and cooperating to evaluate answers and come up with the best solutions.

In addition, the inquiry process consists of activities based on continuous engagement and self and peer assessment Coffman, For assessment to be continuous it is supposed to be performed in the classroom as well as at home. Blood and Hewitt introduce blogs which according to them are effective grounds for learners to collaborate and assist from homes. If yes, how? The writing skill, as the other language skills, has suffered with the changes in educational systems and the search for an ideal approach Clark, Composition writing is a must and it is required in every university entrance exam, whether English or French education universities.

They add that students must not only write well but also think in complex new ways. The new ways of thinking are needed for both entrance exams and college lessons. Laksmi states that students of an EFL writing classroom experience difficulties in getting ideas, organizing ideas and developing details, writing grammatically correct sentences, choosing correct words and structuring ideas in correct sentences, and maintaining paragraph unity.

He adds that writing lessons were and are still teacher-centered where the instructor does the entire job and the learner only listens and applies. Teacher-centered instruction, according to Kauchak and Eggen , is appropriate when the content is specific and well defined when the content is expected to be mastered by all the students, and when the content is difficult to be mastered by the students on their own. Greene and Lidinsky consider inquiry as a basis to write academically.

They believe that every piece of writing must begin with questions which lead to more complex insights. To them, the ability to ask good questions is equally valuable in daily life. The question that arises in this context is whether the Inquiry-Based Learning Approach, if implemented in a writing classroom, will lead to overcoming the writing obstacles.

The Inquiry Approach started with science. Scientists base their knowledge of the natural world on observation and investigation of data Bybee, ; Deboer, He adds that both science and literacy are to understand a certain concept and then to have the ability to use. In other words, they are supposed to have meaning in everyday life. The inquiry process involves learners so that learning becomes a process which makes them acquire deeper knowledge of the material being taught Coffman, In fact, students interact by asking questions to increase comprehension of the material and at the same time form their own knowledge.

They need to cultivate curiosity, tackle complex problems and know the significance of working with others to approach difficult situations. Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari mention that many teachers in many educational establishments are now turning to inquiry learning in different subjects to meet the challenge of educating their students for lifelong learning. Through inquiry-oriented tasks, learners become actively involved in chores which require them to solve problems through implementing skills such as observing, collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing.

For inquiry to be successful, students must assume leading roles in their learning process Coffman, Our students must learn to think for themselves to any significant degree, and as a result, we are developing and preparing in them the attitudes and habits that characterize people who have learnt to think for themselves Cam, According to Lippman , assessment is the attempt to measure how much a learner has acquired from a given program.

She adds that this kind of assessment is useful to programs, yet it does not provide teachers with much information about individual students. Tests provide information to the instructors about the students, but rarely provide real feedback to the students. As Brown states, the language teacher is encouraged to engage in a careful process of diagnosis, treatment, and assessment. This process enables the teacher to account for the different needs among the learners, devise effective pedagogical treatment to remedy the deficiency, and to assess what went right and what went wrong in a given lesson.

Inquiry activities support learning through engagement which part of it comes through continued assessment Coffman, Katz and Olson talk about Mrs Jackson, who used a multifaceted assessment to engage her students in many ways. In other words, Mrs Jackson implemented both the summative and formative types of assessment.

Children's writing

According to Coffman , assessment takes many forms. It can be informal through observations, questioning, group work, and think-pair-share. It can be formal through quizzes and project performances. Therefore, to seek knowledge for overcoming the writing gaps, the IBLA integrates formative and summative assessments. The former, as indicated by Linn and Miller , is the continuous type that monitors students during the learning process and provides feedback to both students and teachers. Therefore, as Linn and Miller and Lippman state the ongoing or formative assessment is based on informal settings i.

The summative assessment is a test given after each essay type. In addition to assessment by the teacher, self and peer assessment are important. Nunan mentions that assessment through IBLA helps the learners assess themselves as well as their classmates.


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This is particularly significant in classrooms where teachers want to encourage autonomy, which is a key for future success in life issues Nunan, Cram advocates the value of self-assessment in that it involves students in their own learning process. Ideally, as Chung and Beham state, students will become self-directed learners who can reflect, criticize themselves, and give constructive criticism to others.

They add that this is what life is like and our learners are supposed to practice their future roles starting from the classroom. They wanted their assessment to give their learners credit for the work of getting to the final product, not simply be a grade on a piece of writing. To achieve that, their students became invested in their writing because they were allowed to negotiate how they would meet the criteria. Computer technology or information and communication technology ICT has had a major influence on our lives in the last two decades.

Computer software and the Internet with its unique features have become major tools to support education. Chapelle points out that teachers agree that their students need to practice English outside their classroom if they want to improve their communication competence. Anyone can post and read on blogs Hewitt, On the class blog, the students will post links and add remarks to assist each other improve the essay genre organization, content, conventions, voice, word choice, and sentence fluency.

They are effective forums for collaboration and discussion and can act as powerful tools that enable scaffolded learning Crie, The blog creates a learning environment that is structured and the learners are provided with cognitive tools for specific activities performed on the blog. In a book entitled Always On, Baron listed many reasons for people to blog: creative self-expression, sharing knowledge, exchanging opinions with others, thinking in writing, and releasing emotions.

Betts and Glogoff , talked about several studies that supported the claim that blogging can facilitate language learning. Godwin-Jones remarked the opportunities a blog can grant a learner, especially freeing a student from the limitations of the conventional classroom and address a real-life audience.

He also noticed that self-publishing encourages autonomy, ownership, and responsibility. Godwin-Jones listed many advantages of using blogging as a collaborative interactive learning tool. Another study on using blogging in English language teaching was conducted by Genzola at Jilin University in China. The study showed that These tasks help assess students and students to assess themselves. The blog, as an assessment tool, can have essential benefits in creating a motivating medium on which IBLA takes place.

In the study, ongoing assessment consisted of different tasks which the learners performed. Each task was inquiry-based and the home portion of the assessment was through the blog. The action research is the style of the educational research utilized in this study.

Collaborative Learning and Writing in Digital Environments — Arizona State University

Julie Nora applied an action research on her class and had a chance to study her own practices and realized what worked and what did not work with her students. Cohen et al. According to Mac Naughton and Hughes , action research resembles the Inquiry-Based Learning by seeking to create new ways of thinking and having the cycle of asking questions, collecting information, creating new ideas, discussing new ideas with others, and reflecting on what has been learnt. They both follow the cycle illustrated Figure 1. In the inquiry process, the learners implement what is learnt to attain improvement.

As mentioned earlier, inquiry-based learning functions as a creator of new knowledge Coffman, The new knowledge is established as a basis for improvement and a mode for future development. Figure 1. Action research and inquiry-based learning cycle. Since there were three grade 9 classes in SSCCJbeil, a pre-test was held to select the two classes that had the least mean difference. The pre-test was also held in SSCC Beit Chabab to insure that the participating classes were of similar level in composition writing.

As a result, the final number of participants in the study was exactly The experimental classes were randomly selected after the results of the pre-test. The level of students in essay writing varied on a scale of weak, average, and good. The plan is meant to have Inquiry-Based Learning tasks which include questioning, planning and predicting, investigating, recording and reporting, and reflecting.

According to Nunan , the concept of task is a prominent element in learner assessment and it has influenced education in both ESL and EFL settings. Inquiry-based language tasks are essential in on-going assessment. The process was of four phases: plan, act, observe, and reflect. At the present time, there is strong scientific support for the benefits of students learning and working in groups.

In addition, the research shows that collaborative work promotes both academic achievement and collaborative abilities Johnson and Johnson, ; Baines et al. When working interactively with others, students learn to inquire, share ideas, clarify differences, problem-solve, and construct new understandings. Gillies a , b also stresses that students working together are more motivated to achieve than they would be when working individually.

Thus, group work might serve as an incentive for learning, in terms of both academic knowledge and interpersonal skills. Similarly, the question of why some group work turns out successfully and other work results in the opposite is still unsolved. In this article, we hope to contribute some new pieces of information concerning the why some group work results in positive experiences and learning, while others result in the opposite. Group work is frequently used in higher education as a pedagogical mode in the classroom, and it is viewed as equivalent to any other pedagogical practice i.

Without considering the pros and cons of group work, a non-reflective choice of pedagogical mode might end up resulting in less desirable consequences.

Group work: Using cooperative learning groups effectively

A reflective choice, on the other hand, might result in positive experiences and enhanced learning Galton et al. Group work might serve different purposes. Affiliation, fellowship, and welfare might be of equal importance as academic knowledge, or they may even be prerequisites for learning. Hence, before group work is implemented, it is important to consider the purpose the group assignment will have as the objective, the means, or both. From a learning perspective, group work might function as both an objective i. The group contributes to the acquisition of knowledge and stimulates learning, thus promoting academic performance.

Naturally, group work can be considered to be a learning environment, where group work is used both as an objective and as the means. One example of this concept is in the case of tutorial groups in problem-based learning. Albeit used for different purposes, both approaches might serve as an incentive for learning, emphasizing different aspect knowledge, and learning in a group within an educational setting. It is also important to differentiate between how the work is accomplished in the group, whether by working in a group or working as a group.

Situations where students are sitting together in a group but working individually on separate parts of a group assignment are referred to as working in a group. This is not an uncommon situation within an educational setting Gillies and Boyle, At the end of the task, the students put their separate contributions together into a joint product Galton and Williamson, ; Hammar Chiriac, , a. While no cooperative activities are mandatory while working in a group, cooperative learning may occur.

However, the benefits in this case are an effect of social facilitation Zajonc, ; Baron, ; Uziel, and are not caused by cooperation. Working as a group, on the other hand, causes learning benefits from collaboration with other group members. Moreover, working as a group presupposes collaboration, and that all group members will be involved in and working on a common task to produce a joint outcome Bennet and Dunne, ; Galton and Williamson, ; Webb and Palincsar, ; Hammar Chiriac, a , b. Both approaches might be useful in different parts of group work, depending on the purpose of the group work and type of task assigned to the group Hammar Chiriac, Working in a group might lead to cooperative learning, while working as group might facilitate collaborative learning.

For example, it was found to be necessary that all group members take part and make an effort to take part in the group work, clear goals are set for the work, role differentiation exists among members, the task has some level of relevance, and there is clear leadership. Different critical aspects were identified as important incitements for whether the group work turned out to be a success or a failure. The students described their own group, as well as other groups, in a realistic way and did not believe that the grass was greener in the other group.

The same data corpus is used in this article see under Section The Previous Analysis. One problem that recurred frequently concerned students who did not contribute to the group work, also known as so-called free-riders Hammar Chiriac and Hempel, Students are, in general, reluctant to punish free-riders and antipathy toward working in groups is often associated with a previous experience of having free-riders in the group Peterson and Miller, To accomplish a favorable attitude toward group work, the advantages of collaborative activities as a means for learning must be elucidated.

Furthermore, students must be granted a guarantee that free-riders will not bring the group in an unfavorable light. The free-riders, on the other hand, must be encouraged to participate in the common project. According to the students, genuine group work is characterized by collaboration on an assignment given by the teacher. They describe group work as working together with their classmates on a common task. The students are also fully aware that successful group work calls for members with appropriate skills that are focused on the task and for all members take part in the common work.

Furthermore, the results disclose what students consider being important requisites for successful versus more futile group work. The six conditions were: a organization of group work conditions, b mode of working in groups, c tasks given in group work, d reporting group work, e assessment of group work, and f the role of the teacher in group work.

According to the students, a well-organized group consists of approximately three members, which allows the group to not be too heterogeneous. Members should be allotted a reasonable amount of time and be provided with an environment that is not too noisy. The overarching knowledge interest of this study is to enhance the body of knowledge regarding group work in higher education.

All participating students attended traditional university programs where group work was a central and frequently used pedagogical method in the educational design. University programs using specific pedagogical approaches, such as problem-based learning or case method, were not included in this study.

The informants were studying in their first through eighth terms, but the majority had previous experiences from working in other group settings. The teacher most frequently arranged the group composition and only a few students stated that they have had any influence on the group formation. There were, with a few exceptions, between 6 and 10 groups in each of the programs included in this study.

The groups consisted of between four to eight members and the differences in sizes were almost proportionally distributed among the research group. The groups were foremost heterogeneous concerning gender, but irrespective of group size, there seems to have been a bias toward more women than men in most of the groups.

When there was an underrepresented sex in the group, the minority mostly included two students of the same gender. The questionnaire contained a total of 18 questions, including both multiple choice and open-ended questions. The multiple choice questions concerned background variables and information about the present group.

The questionnaires were distributed to the different populations of students some populations studied at the same program at two universities in Sweden. During the time the questionnaires were completed, the researcher or an assistant was present to answer possible questions. In all, students answered the questionnaire. The data were analyzed using a qualitative content analysis based on three different research questions. There were two main criticisms of the previous study presented from other researchers. The criticism conveyed applied mostly to the question of whether we could assemble these groups into a joint research group and second to the fact that the results were mostly descriptive.

To counter this criticism and to elaborate on the analysis, a further analysis was conducted. The present analysis or reanalysis was conducted by using an inductive qualitative content analysis based on three open-ended research questions:. Research question 1, listed above, was not included in the first analysis and is being investigated for the first time in this study, while the other two questions are being reanalyzed. Each question was treated as a unit of analysis and was thus analyzed separately. In the preparation phase, the researcher tried to make sense of the data by becoming familiar with the data corpus.

In the current study, this included transcription and thorough reading of the answers. An open coding system composed of marginal notes and headings began the second phase, which included organizing the data. This second phase, in turn, included open coding, creating categories, and abstraction.

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The notes and the headings from the open coding were transferred to coding sheets and then grouped into categories. Categories were formed through the interpretation of the codes that described the same meaning or phenomenon. An abstraction was denominated using the content-characteristic words for this paper: learning, study-social function, and organization. The third phase, reporting , addressed the presentation of the process of analysis and the results. In following these procedures, we aim to expand our understanding of the existing work and to counter the second part of the criticisms, which included criticisms stating that the results were mostly descriptive in nature.

To counter the criticisms regarding the question of whether we could assemble these groups into a joint research group, the qualitative abstraction that emerged from the qualitative content analysis was compared to background information by using SPSS. Three background variables were used: gender, cities, and programs. Translated citations are also included to increase trustworthiness.



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