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Trends and Current Issues in Second Language Acquisition: Assessment and Evaluation of Second Language

Cooperative Learning strategies improve achievement, ethnic relations, social skills, social relations, liking for class and subject matter, and self esteem. If done daily, dramatic improvement in engagement, achievement, verbal listening and articulation skills will result. The most important forces are these simple instructional strategies that release the power of Cooperative Learning and will lead to dramatic gains and sustained implementation. Students learn about the power of cooperation. This skill is essential for survival in a global society.

Cooperative Learning has been proven to be effective for all students because it promotes learning and fosters respect and friendships among diverse groups of students. The more diversity there is in a team, the higher the benefits for each student. Peers learn to depend on each other in a positive way for a variety of learning tasks. It is up to the educator to facilitate classroom norms and guide students to contribute, stay on task, assist and encourage one another, share, problem solve, and to give and accept feedback from each other.

Cooperative Learning is an effective strategy for classrooms with English Language Learning (ELL) students in them. Cooperative Learning strategies have been shown to improve academic performance (Slavin, 1987), lead to great motivation toward learning (Garibaldi, 1979), to increase time on task (Cohen & Benton, 1988), to improve self-esteem (Johnson & Johnson, 1989), and to lead to more positive social behaviors (Lloyd,, 1988). For ELL students especially, Cooperative Learning promotes language acquisition by providing comprehensible input in developmentally appropriate ways and in a supportive and motivating environment. (Kagan,1995).

Cooperative Learning is particularly beneficial for any student learning a second language. Cooperative Learning activities promote peer interaction, which helps the development of language and the learning of concepts and content. It is important to assign ELLs to different teams so that they can benefit from English language role models. ELLs learn to express themselves with greater confidence when working in small teams. In addition to 'picking up' vocabulary, ELLs benefit from observing how their peers learn and solve problems. One must assign each student in a team a role (such as reporter, recorder, time keeper, and materials manager), you might want to rotate roles each week or by activity. This prevents what typically happens if students select their own roles - the same students wind up performing the same tasks. By rotating, students develop the skills they most need to practice. A synthesis or research about Cooperative Learning finds that Cooperative Learning strategies improve the achievement of students and their interpersonal relationships. In 67 studies of the achievement effects of Cooperative Learning, 61% found significantly greater achievement in cooperative groups than in traditionally taught control groups. Positive effects were found in all major subjects at all grade levels, in urban, rural, and suburban schools, and for high, average, and low achievers. (Slavin,1991).

There are many values resulting from Cooperative Learning. Within Cooperative Learning groups students are given two responsibilities: to learn the assigned material and make sure that all other members of their group do likewise. In Cooperative Learning situations, students perceive that they can reach their learning goals only if the other students in the learning group also do so. The values inherent in cooperative efforts are: 1. Commitment to the common good. In cooperative situations, individuals work contributes not only to their own well-being, but also to the well being of all other collaborators. There is a built-in concern for the common good and the success of others, as the efforts of others also contribute to ones own well-being. 2. Success depends on the joint efforts of everyone to achieve mutual goals. Since cooperators "sink or swim together," an "all for one and one for all" mentality is appropriate. What is valued is teamwork and civic responsibility. Succeeding depends on everyone doing his or her part. Cooperation teaches the value of working together to achieve mutual goals. 3. Facilitating, promoting, and encouraging the success of others is a natural way of life. Succeeding depends on everyone doing well. There are two ways to succeed by contributing all one can to the joint effort and promoting other cooperators efforts to contribute. A smart cooperator will always find ways to promote, facilitate, and encourage the efforts of others. 4. The pleasure of succeeding is associated with others' happiness in their success. Cooperators feel great about succeeding and they automatically feel great about other people succeeding. When someone succeeds, it is a source of pleasure and happiness because it means that ones' help and assistance has paid off. 5. Other people are potential contributors to ones' success. Because smart cooperators will promote and facilitate the work of others, cooperators are to be trusted because their efforts to succeed will promote ones' own success. Cooperation casts schoolmates as allies, colleagues, and friends who will contribute to ones' success. 6. Other peoples' worth is unconditional. Because there are so many diverse ways that a person may contribute to a joint effort, everyone has value all the time. This inherent value is reaffirmed by working for the success of all. Cooperation places value on a wide range of diverse qualities that facilitate joint success. Thus, everyone has value. 7. Self-worth is unconditional. Cooperation teaches that self-worth results from contributing whatever resources one has to the joint effort and common good. A person never loses value. Cooperative experiences result in individuals believing in themselves and their worth. 8. Cooperators value intrinsic motivation based on striving to learn, grow, develop, and succeed. Learning is the goal, not winning. What increases students' interest in the task itself is the inducement of trying to contribute to the common good, like other intrinsic motivators. 9. People who are different from oneself are to be valued. Other people are perceived to be potential resources for and contributors to ones' success. If they are different that means more diverse resources are available for the joint effort and, therefore, the difference is valued. The diverse contributions of members results in the realization that, in the long run, everyone is of equal value and equally deserving, regardless of their gender, ethnic membership, culture, social class, or ability. The current research indicates that Cooperative Learning promotes greater efforts to achieve, more positive relationships, and greater psychological health than do competitive and individualistic learning. These outcomes indicate that when Cooperative Learning is used the majority of the school day, diversity among students can be a potential source of creativity and productivity. (Johnson & F. Johnson, 1997).

Cooperative Learning seems to be a promising humanistic approach which encourages student participation in English classes.  It helps promote positive attitudes towards English, and peer teaching, as well as teaching students to work together and developing their cognitive abilities.  Moreover, it helps lower affective filters, which may hinder the process of language acquisition, by creating a relaxing and friendly atmosphere in the classroom.  Cooperative Learning helps develop a feeling of cohesiveness and caring that far exceeds what is already there and helps foster a climate of caring and sharing.  (Moskowitz, 1978)  The extent to which this approach is examined and adopted depends on the caring, sharing, and daring of each language teacher.

Cooperative Learning is believed to promote thinking and creativity in many ways (Hythecker, Dansereau, & Rocklin, 1988; Qin, Johnson, & Johnson, 1995; Webb, 1989), including: students have more opportunities to talk and to share ideas. This interaction with group mates encourages students to restructure their ideas. For instance, they may need to summarize, elaborate, exemplify, defend, and explain their ideas. Disagreement, if carried out constructively, pushes students to clarify and rethink their ideas, potentially leading to cognitive restructuring. By working in groups, students enjoy more opportunity to see how their peers think and create new ideas. Witnessing this process can provide useful models. Discussing, creating, and thinking in a group, rather than in a whole class context, can provide a less anxiety-producing context. If group mates feel positively interdependent with one another, a supportive atmosphere can develop. In such an atmosphere, students may feel freer to try out new ideas. The multiple perspectives of others in their heterogeneous groups may spark new ideas in students' minds. The greater achievement that Cooperative Learning can foster provides students with a stronger knowledge base from which to explore concepts.

In order for man to exist Cooperative Learning has been implemented since the beginning of time. It is the thread that connects humans to enable them to communicate, produce and live in harmony. Without Cooperative Learning the world would not exist and humans would not have been able to coexist. Even the bible makes reference to it: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up...And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastics 4:9-12. Present day man must also concede to the necessity of Cooperative Learning. Everyone has to work together; if we can't get everybody working toward common goals, nothing is going to happen. Harold K. Sperlich, President, Chrysler Corporation. We must continue to enforce the advantages of Cooperative Learning and pass these skills for the generations to come.


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