Participating in a shared cognitive space: An exploration of working collaboratively and longer-term performance of a complex grammatical structure
Date: 22 November 2017
University of Exeter
EdD in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Qatar’s education system has recently been subjected to a process of deep structural reform. One of the beliefs which underpins this reform is the assumption that learner-centred pedagogy is more effective than traditional teacher-centred pedagogy. However, there is limited empirical evidence from a Qatari classroom context regarding ...
Qatar’s education system has recently been subjected to a process of deep structural reform. One of the beliefs which underpins this reform is the assumption that learner-centred pedagogy is more effective than traditional teacher-centred pedagogy. However, there is limited empirical evidence from a Qatari classroom context regarding the effectiveness of using learner-centred pedagogies. This lack of empirical evidence extends to the teaching of English as a foreign language. This study employed Vygotskian sociocultural theory as a lens to investigate the effects of working collaboratively on learners’ longer-term performance of two grammatical structures, the simple past passive and the present continuous passive, as well as the cognitive processes involved. Interventionist dynamic assessment was used to quantify the linguistic performance of male Arabic undergraduate EFL learners (N = 52) three times (pretest, posttest, and delayed posttest) over a 12-week period. In-between the pretest and the posttest, six form-focused treatment tasks were administered. The experimental group (n = 20) completed the treatment tasks collaboratively; the comparison group (n = 16) completed the treatment tasks individually; and the control group (n = 16) did not complete the treatment tasks. In addition, the genetic method was employed to trace the linguistic development of four participants in the experimental group. These four participants were audio-recorded as they collaboratively completed each treatment session. Mood’s median test (Mood, 1954) found a pretest to posttest statistically significant difference (M = 7.70, df = 1, p = 0.01) between the performances of the experimental and control groups for the structure of the simple past passive which is moderate to large in size (Cramér’s V = 0.46). However for both target structures, no statistically significant difference was found between the experimental group and the comparison group, suggesting that the treatment condition of working collaboratively was not more effective in promoting learners’ linguistic development than the treatment condition of working individually. Additionally, the descriptive statistics revealed high levels of individual variation. Of the four participants who were audio-recorded, the journey of one learner is presented. This data was analysed using a microgenetic approach with LREs (Swain and Lapkin, 1995, 1998, 2002) as the unit of analysis. The microgenetic analysis shows how working collaboratively provides learners with access to a shared cognitive space. Within this space, they can employ language as a cognitive tool to access other-regulation from their peers and deploy their own self-regulatory strategies. The experience of an individual was explored within the context of the linguistic gains made by the collective to whom he belongs. Thus, even though the statistical analysis of the results suggests that working collaboratively is not more effective in facilitating learners’ linguistic development than working individually, the process of language learning has been connected to the outcome of language learning through the results of the descriptive statistics and the microgenetic analysis. This study contributes to a better understanding of: the types of pedagogies that may be effective in a Qatari undergraduate context, why collaborative learning can be effective, how knowledge which is initially social can take on a psychological function, and how the Vygotskian sociocultural methodologies of the genetic method and dynamic assessment can be integrated into an SLA design.
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