CollaborativeLearning in the LiteratureClassroomDalkou.
andFrydaki(2016) carried out a studyinvolving 9th gradestudents studying in Athens.Two different groups were formed, an experimentaland a control group. The experimental group was taught literary texts throughsmall group discussions, in groups of 4-5 students, while the control group wasnot subjected to any intervention in the teaching strategy which was used intheir instruction. The course they were instructed in was Modern GreekLiterature.
During eachsession, all the students were given discussion sheets consisting of threequestions, which the students were required to answer in writing. They were specificallydesigned as a guide for the students to help them better interpret the text. Thequestions in the worksheets provided students with hints to help them interpretthe text without directing students towards a specific analysis.
The studentsin the experimental groups were required to solve the first question alone andthe other two questions as a team. On the other hand, the students in thecontrol group had to answer all three questions alone.Students’ results werethen evaluated by the teacher based on performance and collaboration, and wereawarded grades accordingly. The results showed that the experimental groupscored higher marks than the control group, which demonstrates thatcollaborative learning proved a more successful teaching tool in the classroom.The students in the experimental group produced more complex,focused andin-depth analyses in their answers. The students in the control group managedto answer the questions, however, their answers were less developed and moresuperficial, only grazing the surface of the material.Another study was conducted by Nystrand,Gamoran and Heck in 1992, which took place amongst nine mid-western highschools.
Fifty-four ninth-grade English classes were involved. Small-group workonly occurred in twenty-nine of the classes investigated and they occurredinfrequently, at an average of only fifteen minutes per fifty-minute classes.Some groups were governed by strictrulesplaced by teachers, which promoted “neither ownership nor coherent discussion” (Nystrand et al., 1993,p. 17).Other groups allowed students more freedom, although that freedomwas limited.
The minimal amount of freedom however, proved sufficient enoughfor students to display more interaction regarding the topic of thelesson.Literature tests were conducted on each class which enquired into fivedifferent stories that the students had studied during the year. A variety ofquestions were asked which included basic questions, as well as those thatrequired in-depth understanding of the material.The results showed that the classes thatspent more time working in small groups obtained lower grades. Therefore, withthese results, the researchers investigated if the “effectiveness ofsmall-group time depended on what was going on in the small groups” (Nystrand et al., 1993, p.
19-20).The relationship between the independence and freedom given to students,”student autonomy”, and the production of knowledge by the students wasestablished. It was uncovered that the more independence the students were given,the more information was produced, and thus, “the more likely group time was tocontribute positively to achievement” (Nystrand et al., 1993, p.20).
Thus, the results of the research concludedthat certain requirements must be met in order for group discussions andcollaborative learning in the classroom to prove effective. Classes and groupsneed to be structured with care and proper planning, with an adequate amount offreedom allowed, for group work to prove constructive and beneficial.Another research was conducted by Fall, Web and Chudowsky in 2000, in which tenth gradestudents from public high schools in Connecticut took part in a language artstest. Students were required “to read a short story and write answers to sixopen-ended questions about the characters and problems or conflicts in thestory, the meaning of the story, and connections to students’ own personalexperiences and to human nature” (Fall et al., 2000, p.
916). The test was used in nine formsacross the state and three different short stories were selected, for whichthree conditions had to be met for each. The conditions included a discussionat the start of the test, at the end of the test, and the final conditioninvolved no discussion at all.Students who were made to take part indiscussion did so for ten minutes, in groups of three, before the test. Thetests that involved discussions occurring at the end of the examination werenot analysed as they did not provide enough data on how discussion affectsstudent performance.Furthermore, the results of the test wereanalysed and revealed that students who engaged in discussion before the testyielded better results on average than the students who were not made to takepart in any discussion at all. Once more, the effectiveness of group discussionand collaborative learning is displayed.
A trial was also conducted by Vaughn et al. (2011) in Colorado, Texas inwhich students were “randomized” so they couldexperience both treatment and comparison conditions. The effects of a readingprogram called “Collaborative Strategic Reading” were investigated. The studywas implemented on three school districts, at six middle schools, and a diversepopulation of students were used to engage in the study.
Part of the programinvolved students forming groups of four to five in which they were given thechance to engage with their fellow group members and add their opinions andunderstandings to the entire group’s comprehension of the text. The authorsobserved that one of the most important elements that contributed to thesuccess of Collaborative Strategic Reading could be collaborative work. “It isalso possible that the collaborative group structure that promotes studentengagement and discourse about text is the essential element and usingcollaborative groups to enhance text comprehension without teaching thecomprehension strategies of CSR would be sufficient” (Vaughn etal.
2011, 958-959). Theauthors also state that in the short period of time that the treatment wasprovided, which was twice a week for around eighteen weeks, significant effectscould be seen in student understanding and performance.2.4 Limitations of Collaborative LearningHowever,disadvantages can also be noted with the use of collaborative learning. Groupsare not always as effective as they appear, as sometimes, the work presented bystudents “could be just thework of the best student in the team, or the product of the cooperation of 2-3good students.” (Dalkou&Frydaki,2016, p. 58).
Thus, this showsthat results found on collaborative learning are not always reliable. In orderto obtain the best possible results, groups need to be constructed with greatattention and care. Dalkou and Frydaki also draw attention to another issue, which is that students whoare at a weaker level academically cannot always keepup with the rest of theirgroup. Thus, these students may face many challenges when required to engage ingroup discussions.
Ibrahim et al. (2015)refers to an experiment conducted by Layman on a North Carolina StateUniversity which”investigated the development in advanced undergraduatestudents’ perceptions of pair programming and collaboration”. The resultsrevealed that although most students preferred working with others, reflectivelearners and less social, and introverted students did not like being educatedwith the collaborative method (Ibrahim, et al., 2015). Hedge (2000) states thatassertiveness of a studentplays an important role when group work is involved,thus, passive students may face problems with face-to-face interaction.
Tanglen (2017)also comments on the limitations of collaborative learning. She states that,inorder for students to better engage with literature texts, as well asparticipate effectively in group discussions, they need to initially work insmall groups where they feel comfortable and accustomed to their peers. Thus,collaborative learning is a method that requires much time and attention in itsorganization. MethodologyTwo differentmethods were used to investigate the topic of the following research paper.Both methods are quantitative. The first method was an online survey that wascreated using www.surveyplanet.com, which was responded to by a hundred and nine EnglishLiterature Students studying at the University of Bahrain.
The second method wasan experiment that was conducted in two different literature classrooms at theUniversity of Bahrain.3.1 Online SurveyData wascollected through an online survey, which was created using www.surveyplanet.com. The survey was answered by one hundred and ninestudents studying at the University of Bahrain.
It posed a variety of questionsregarding students’ preferred classroom environmentand the one they find mostinfluential on their understanding of English Literature. 3.1.1 Content of SurveyThequestionnaire consisted of ten different questions and was distributed onlineamongst English Language and Literature students studying at the University ofBahrain.The first andsecond questions were demographic and enquiredabout the students’ genders andyear groups. The third question enquired about whether the studentspreferengaging in group discussions within literature classrooms, or having lecturesdelivered by their professors. Furthermore, the next question required studentsto explain why they chose lectures or group discussions as the bettereducational tool, in the question above.
Furthermore, the fifth question exploredif group discussions within the classroom helped students gain more ideas aboutthe material being discussed, in comparison to lectures.The nextquestion investigated about whether or not students felt more encouraged tostudy the literary material before classes when group discussions are involved.Moreover, the seventhquestion enquired into whether group discussions and theopinions expressed by peers have enhanced the students’ ability to analyseliterary texts, in comparison to lectures. The next question explored if groupdiscussions in the classroom later helped students better prepare forexaminations. In addition,the following question enquired about which teaching environment students foundmost effective and why. The final question required students to mention a fewimprovements they believe need to be made to the teaching methods used inEnglish Literature classrooms at the University of Bahrain.
The resultsobtained for each question posed have been individually analysed, and can befound in the Findings and Analysis section below.3.2 Experiment conducted in literature classroomA second meansof data collection involved the investigation of two separate literatureclasses taught by a specific professor teaching at the University of Bahrain.
Two different courses were used in this experiment. One of the courses was a,compulsory literature course, while the other was an elective course. Bothcourses were taught by the same instructor.
Two differentclassroom environments were created for each group, one in which the professordelivered a lecture on the material, while the second environment involved aworkshop in which students were allowed todiscuss the contents of the worksheet(The worksheets used can be found in the Appendices) distributed to them inorder to come to a conclusion about the answers. The same lecturer and group ofstudents took part in both class environments. The firstenvironment created was quite simple, with no changes made in the method thelecturer generally used to communicate the content of the literary material.The second environment was however, quite different. Students were asked toform groups comprising of no less than three, and no more than four students.
Aworksheet was then distributed amongst students at the beginning of thesession, and each group was given thirty-five minutes to answer thequestions.The lecturer would not interfere with the groups, and only providedinput when questions were asked. After thirty-five minutes, the professorengaged the entire class in a collective discussion, asking questions about theliterary material and encouraging students to share their thoughts and ideaswith the entire class.