The Combination of Cooperative Learning and Authentic Materials Promotes Speaking in Small Groups in an EFL Class Nowadays, we live in a communicative


Nowadays, we live in a communicative society where people need to have many skills in order to become part of society and to integrate in it successfully. People need to know how to work as a team, since part of the requirements for many jobs is the ability to work together and share ideas. Cooperative learning is one of the major strategies of introducing these communicative skills to pupils of every level. The combination of cooperative learning, task-based learning, and the use of authentic materials can promote communication skills, where one of them is speaking. All of these components are widely used around the world with a tremendous success in EFL classes.

Review of Literature Cooperative Learning

Various names have been given to the cooperative learning method of teaching and learning, and there are some distinctions among them. According to Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1991) in ´Collaborative Learning: Group Work and Study Teams´ there is cooperative learning, collaborative learning, collective learning, learning communities, peer teaching, peer learning, reciprocal learning, team learning, study circle, study groups, and work groups. Over all, there are three general types of groups: informal learning groups, formal learning groups, and study teams. In Davis´s (1993) study, the focus is on formal learning groups, which concentrate on completion of tasks such as an experiment, writing a report, or carrying out a project. These groups may complete their work in one single class session or more, and usually students work together until their task is completed and graded. (Davis 1993) Roger and Johnson (1994) in their book ´An Overview of Cooperative Learning´ differentiate between having students work in a group and structuring groups of students to work cooperatively. Students who work together may talk freely with each other, but they do not work cooperatively. They explain that in order for a group to work cooperatively, it needs to have several elements. The first one is to have a positive interdependence where a student has two major responsibilities: To learn the assignment material, and to ensure that all group members do the same assignment material. (Roger and Johnson 1994) The second essential element of cooperative learning is individual accountability. This exists when an individual student is assessed and the results of this assessment contribute to his or her share of the group´s success. This element is important because it ensures that learning cooperatively strengthens the group members. Individual accountability is promoted by keeping the size of the group small, giving an individual test, and observing how the members of the group help each other. (Roger and Johnson 1994) The third element in cooperative learning is interpersonal and small group skills. In order to achieve these skills, students must know and support each other, communicate accurately, and resolve conflicts. (Johnson, 1990, 1991; Johnson & F. Johnson, 1991, qtd. in Roger and Johnson 1994). The fourth and the final element of cooperative learning is group processing. This process is comprised of describing whether the member´s actions were helpful or not, which action to take according to the performance of the group´s members. This process enables good working relationships, getting feedbacks, celebrating successes. (Roger and Johnson 1994)

Pedagogical Aspects of Group Work

Michael H. Long and Patricia Porter (1985) in their research ´Group Work, Interlanguage Talk, and Second language Acquisition´ strongly emphasize the pedagogical arguments for the use of group work in the second language. They claim that group work increases the quantity of student talk, individualizes instruction, creates a positive and an affective climate in the classroom, and increases student motivation. The first argument is that the more dedication group work gets, the more opportunities students speak. This argument leads to the second argument, which emphasizes the fact that group work improves the quality of student talk. The face- to-face communication enables natural environment for conversations. The third argument is that group work helps individualize instruction according to the student´s age, cognitive/developmental stage, sex, attitude, motivation, learning experience, and they can obtain suitable material according to all of these parameters. The fourth argument is that group work promotes a positive and an affective climate. For shy or insecure students who rarely talk in front of the whole classroom, group work provides relatively intimate environment and usually more supportive atmosphere.

Authentic Materials Martinez (2002) mentions in his study ´Authentic Materials: An Overview´ the definition of authentic material according to Peacock (1997) as material that has been produced to fulfill some social purpose in the language community. Using authentic materials has several advantages. Brinton, Gebhard and Melvin discuss these advantages in the context of the benefit it gives students in the real world. The first advantage is that authentic materials and media reinforce for students the direct relationship between the language classroom and the outside world. The second advantage is that authentic materials can be seen as a way to contextualize the language by offering the students ways of exposure to the material through the content and meaning rather than the language itself. The third advantage is that it increases the motivation to learn in students and it increases the interest in the subject matter. As a result, the students become more confident when they work with authentic materials, and they increase their understanding in the practical side of this use in the real world. (Brinton, 1991 qtd. in Oura 2003; Gebhard, 1996; Melvin and Stout, 1987)