English Australia Journal : English Australia Journal 32.1
Volume 32 No 1 23 English Australia Journal trialled a homogeneous, scaffolded learning approach, in which homogeneously grouped students worked on the same learning materials and with the same teaching process but with different levels of scaffolding. This paper reports the students’ responses to the above-mentioned intervention which were employed to teach a large EFL class. Grouping and student performance The ways in which students are grouped considerably affects their learning outcomes, group dynamics (the ability of members to work with one another) and attitudes toward group work (Baer, 2003; Chapman, meuter, Toy, & Wright, 2006). In practice, heterogeneous grouping is widely used by EFL instructors since group heterogeneity is assumed to offer high level students opportunities to model their thinking and weaker ones can learn from these modelled processes (Halpern, 2000; Vygotsky, 1987). However, research in university settings indicates that homogeneous grouping is more beneficial. Baer (2003) found that ‘homogeneous grouping results in significant achievement gains, at least among average- and high-achieving students, with no harm to achievement of low-achieving ones’ (p. 73). Similarly, Khazaeenezhad, Jafarzade and Barati (2012) reported that Iranian EFL students grouped by their proficiency level outperformed their counterparts grouped randomly. As such, Asian students’ group-oriented and collectivistic nature does not mean that they are able to work well within all types of group work (Leki, 2001). In a Confucian heritage context like Vietnam, for example, mixed ability grouping has been shown to be ineffective, whereas friendship grouping is more appropriate (Pham & Gillies, 2010). To the best of our knowledge, no prior research has investigated the factors that contribute to students’ better performance when homogeneously grouped as opposed to when they are grouped randomly or heterogeneously. Loveless (1999) and Webb (1992) consider that conversations among students with the same levels may be more interesting and more likely to take place at a level appropriate to the knowledge and skills of the students involved. In addition, Hallinan and Sorensen (1983) and Slavin (1987) claim that low ability students could benefit from being separated from their high ability counterparts because the teachers could then provide them with an appropriate curriculum and pace of instruction. Finally, learners with limited L2 proficiency are vulnerable to their language-ego when they are required to use the target language (Ellis, 2004), especially to communicate with more competent partners. Homogeneous grouping therefore minimises students’ fear of stigmatisation and so helps them to develop positive attitudes toward subjects, the school and themselves (Adodo & Agbayewa, 2011), which positively affects their learning achievement.
English Australia Journal 31.2
English Australia Journal Volume 32.02