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5.2 TEACHING ISSUES

5.2.3 Group Work

acknowledged the benefits that this new method could bring for their students’

learning, as the following two teachers’ quotes show:

My past way of teaching has changed because of the training during the workshop on cooperative learning. Consequently there is a change in the classroom behaviour, increased students’ interest in the subject and their active involvement in teaching and learning process [POSTTI5].

I have observed changes in my class although I have received a little training from the workshop. ... I strongly believe if we have given more training the results will be much better because we have seen students’ keen interest in learning due to this cooperative learning [POSTTI2].

When I asked the question whether they have seen any changes in the way they teach economics, all nine teachers who participated in the study acknowledged the changes. They not only acknowledged the changed teaching but also highlighted the importance of having various teaching techniques to be effective in the classroom, arguing that teaching is not only explaining the lesson content to students. One teacher remarked:

Teaching is not only delivering the lesson plans to students. It should have different techniques in order to be effective. I think cooperative learning has changed our teaching ... [it] made me to think about the way I teach economics, and now I prefer to involve students in teaching and learning rather than encouraging them to sit passively in the classroom [POSTTI4].

Similarly, another teacher highlighted the changed teaching by relating it to the changed classroom behaviour and claimed that cooperative learning techniques would result in changed teaching, as s/he noted:

Yes! I have observed the changes during this short period of time.

After implementing the cooperative lessons students are looking forward to learn more … [and] excited about it ... I am very grateful to take part in this research project and learn this new method of teaching. I believe it will bring positive changes to the way we teach economics [POSTTI9].

5.2.3 Group Work

students’ role was to sit quietly and pay attention to the teachers in order to receive the knowledge. This was one of the dominant features of traditional method-based teaching, and the overwhelming majority of the teachers who participated in this study strongly believed this view during the pre-intervention phase mainly for three reasons. First, they believed teaching cannot be conducted in an environment where there is any level of noise. Second, it was a tradition that teachers needed to have full control of their classes in order to implement lessons successfully. Third, there was a fear of discipline problems that could follow if group-based learning activities were introduced.

It was evident from the data that eight out of the nine teachers felt that using group work in class would disturb other classes and feared that it would create discipline problems. The following three quotes were typical across the nine teachers:

Head of department and I actually don’t expect much noise in the classes. If they are interacting in the groups then there will be some level of noise. That will create problems for other classes then they will complain against me, [they] may think I can’t control the class.

Hence, I haven’t done any group based activities in the classrooms [PRETI4].

… I don’t like my students to create such problems and get blame from others for not being controlled the class [PRETI8].

They [students] don’t [have group works] because of the discipline problems ... So we are not allowed to do such group activities [PRETI4].

In contrast, classroom observations of nine classes during the pre-intervention phase indicated that generally students were very well behaved throughout the lessons:

The students were very well behaved. They have been instructed to sit passively and pay attention to the teachers through out the lessons [PRETO1].

It emerged that developing activities for group work was another hurdle for teachers who claimed that they had not enough time to prepare the work, although the average teaching time for teachers who participated in the study was four

35-minute periods a day. One teacher commented how tight time is during a school day:

Time limitation is another factor. Most of the time we teach then they expect us to involve in the extra curricula activities, so we don’t get much time to prepare activities for group work. So we prefer the traditional teaching because it is easy ... [PRETI8].

In addition, the length of teaching time in each period was a concern of the teachers who feared that they would not be able to implement group-based activities effectively in such short class periods – 35 minutes per period. However, it appeared that each class had one-double period (i.e., 70 minutes) besides the three 35-minute single periods each week. Two teachers commented during the pre-interviews on the length of teaching time and how it could effect the implementation of group work. The quote below illustrates their ideas:

We have only 35-minute periods; it is not enough to have group activities ... However, once I have done the group work. But for some classes it is not possible, they will try to take the advantages of it [PRETI3].

Furthermore, three of the nine teachers put the blame on the students for not creating the group work environment in the classes, arguing that group work would lead to uncooperative and disruptive behaviours. The following comments reflect their arguments:

The main limitation is the tendency of some students who disrupt the class when having group work. For example, there are few students who do not want to work and try to disturb others when they work in groups [PRETI6].

Though we give worksheets I never ask them to sit in groups because group formation becomes difficult then they will sit together and talk instead of concentrating on the work … so we ask them to do on their own instead of sitting in the group and discussing about it [PRETI1].

… all the students are not the same type. If they are given group works, some students take that seriously but some others play instead of doing the work. Hence, I haven’t done any group based activities in the classrooms [PRETI4].

However, eight out of the nine students who were interviewed during the pre-intervention phase did not agree with the above comments, arguing that they were not given opportunities to discuss or share their ideas in class but rather were

instructed to sit quietly. The following three comments were typical across the eight students:

The problem is we don’t get chances to share ideas and ask questions, so many of us prefer to stay quietly without asking questions [PRESI5].

Our Miss is a strict teacher. She doesn’t want us to make any noise during the lesson. So we don’t have group works [PRESI6].

… there are no group works in this class. I think Sir doesn’t like us to discuss in the class [PRESI8].

Post-Intervention

It seemed the teachers’ perception of group work changed noticeably after the intervention. As mentioned earlier their main concern about having group work was the level of noise, discipline problems and the classroom control.

Nevertheless, after the implementation of group work all nine teachers indicated the likely benefits of working in groups on their students’ learning. They also noted that student behaviour and involvement changed, and were surprised to observe the cooperative behaviour of students while they were working in groups.

In addition, classroom observations of 18 lessons suggest that there was not sufficient evidence to support the claim that group work would disrupt the classes and create discipline problems as claimed by the teachers before the intervention.

In fact, the traditional method was more likely to create restlessness and boredom among the students, which was evident from the post-teacher interviews. The following three comments were typical across the nine teachers:

… they [students] are more interested in involving in the classroom activities. For example, now they want more group activities and discussions. They all want help each other rather than working individually. I am very pleased with their cooperation [POSTTI2].

No strange behaviour now because if you ask them to work like this [group works] they will keep on working without disturbing the teacher, but it is difficult for them to sit, listen and write for whole 35 minutes … [POSTTI5].

... cooperative learning made me think about the way I teach economics and now I prefer to involve students in teaching and learning rather than encouraging them to sit passively in the classroom [POSTTI4].

Likewise the classroom observations indicated that students were actively involved in group work activities throughout the lessons. Thus, it appeared that students’ involvement and their behaviours changed due to the cooperative learning, as one of the field notes indicated:

Students were actively involved in group activities. They seemed very much enjoyed the lesson. Teacher and students were cooperative and no discipline problems were observed [POSTTO2].

5.2.4 Syllabus