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A Consideration of Cooperative Learning to Enhance Pre-service Teachers’ Achievement in Tertiary English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Classrooms in Thailand

CHANTARASIRI, PHANATDAO (2022) A Consideration of Cooperative Learning to Enhance Pre-service Teachers’ Achievement in Tertiary English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Classrooms in Thailand. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Cooperative learning has become a popular instructional practice around the world. It requires students working together in small groups to help support each other in maximising their own learning as well as that of others to accomplish a shared goal. A cooperative learning method, especially, Student Teams Achievement Divisions (STAD) developed by Slavin (1982) was implemented in the study. The study investigated the effectiveness of cooperative learning to enhance the English achievement of EFL (English as a foreign language) students in tertiary teacher education in Thailand. It also examined participants’ attitudes towards cooperative learning.

The study began with a structured review of existing empirical studies to establish whether STAD could be a promising method to use in developing English proficiency in EFL and ESL (English as a second language) contexts. The review also helped identify the challenges and barriers to implementing the method and informed the primary research in terms of achievement tests, instructor training, time allowance for team study and material preparation. The review and synthesis of 28 studies revealed several beneficial suggestions regarding cooperative learning implementation in normal educational settings. However, the credibility of the overall evidence was weak, with most studies involving key methodological flaws.

To examine the effectiveness of the method, a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) at the university level was used. The participants were 13 instructors and 614 students from 13 universities (forming 13 clusters). A total of eight universities that agreed to participate in the intervention were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups with four universities in each group. Another five universities agreed to complete the pre-test and post-test and are described in this thesis as an additional comparison group. The participating instructors were 13 Thai university instructors of English language from 13 Rajabhat Universities in Thailand. Their students were first-year pre-service teachers who were majoring in English in the Faculty of Education. The trial was carried out in one term consisting of 16 class sessions. The research instruments consisted of two parallel standardised English achievement tests, two attitude questionnaires (teacher and student) and classroom observations with ad hoc interviews.

The results showed that the use of cooperative learning in tertiary EFL classrooms in Thailand is feasible. In terms of attitudes, both instructors and students were generally positive towards cooperative learning and supported its activities.

Students in the treatment group did slightly better (ES = +0.09) when compared to all comparator groups. However, when considering the randomised experimental and control groups, the control group improved their post-test score (+0.26) while the experimental group declined (-0.20). Overall, cooperative learning showed no clear benefit for students’ English language achievement.

The process evaluation revealed the key factors that facilitated the implementation were teacher training and support, preparation and availability of teaching resources and materials, teachers’ positive attitudes and the duration of cooperative learning instruction. Some barriers were also found, including students’ negative attitudes, inappropriate classroom settings and facilities, and instructors’ workload.

Unfortunately, since the study was carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic, none of the universities were able to complete the course of 16 classes as planned. The number of classes students could meet in their normal classroom conditions was approximately 8 to 12. Different modes of lesson delivery (face-to-face, online and hybrid) were also reported. A replication of the study is needed for a more accurate assessment of the STAD method.

Both the structured review and the cluster RCT suggest no strong evidence that the cooperative learning method, namely STAD, led to improved pre-service teachers’ English language achievement in Thailand. However, this does not necessarily mean the method does not work. The lack of impact might be due to the challenges faced in the delivery of the intervention during the pandemic. This was compounded by the lack of complete randomisation used in the study. It is, therefore, difficult to draw more definite conclusions about the effectiveness of STAD. It might be wise to conduct further robust evaluations involving a large number of educational institutions before any considerable investment can be made to introduce this method in higher education institutions in Thailand. In the meantime, there may be other approaches with a more promising evidence base which may enhance students’ English language achievement.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Education
Keywords:cooperative learning; English achievement; pre-service teachers; English as a Foreign Language; tertiary education
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Sep 2022 13:18

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