Cooperative learning in teacher education: its effects on EFL pre-service teachers’ content knowledge and teaching self-efficacy

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Published: 
December 2021

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, 47:5, 654-667

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to examine how cooperative learning (CL) affects content knowledge and teaching self-efficacy of EFL pre-service teachers because teacher education programmes have been reported ineffective in preparing future teachers for English language teaching (Kourieos and Diakou 2019).
The study addressed the following research questions:
(1) Is there a significant difference between the achievement levels of pre-service teachers in the experimental (CL) and the control (lectured-based learning) groups?
(2) Is there a significant difference between the reported levels of teaching self-efficacy of pre-service teachers in the experimental and the control groups?

Method

Participants
The sample comprised 65 first-year Cambodian EFL pre-service secondary teachers who were taking a two-year education programme that is designed to prepare future secondary school teachers in two classes at two regional teacher training centres.
The two classes were randomly selected as an experimental group (N = 35) and a control group (N = 30).
The two groups had never experienced CL before the experiment.
Two male teacher educators of English volunteered to participate in this study.
One teacher educator was trained to implement CL in the experimental group while the other teacher educator agreed to use lecture-based learning in the control group.

Instrumentation
An achievement test and a scale on teaching self-efficacy were developed and used to collect data.
The achievement test measured pre-service teachers’ knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary at the intermediate level.
The researchers and the two teacher educators developed the achievement test.
The scale on teaching self-efficacy was adapted from Tschannen-Moran and Woolfolk Hoy (2001).
The technique of translation and back-translation of Behling and Law (2000) was used to construct the items of a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

Instructional procedures
In this study, a pre-test-post-test quasi-experimental design with an experimental and a control group was used to examine the effect of CL on content knowledge and teaching self-efficacy of EFL pre-service teachers. This study lasted for one semester (16 weeks).

Results and discussion
This study examined the effects of CL and lecture-based learning on content knowledge and teaching self-efficacy of EFL pre-service teachers.
The ANCOVA results revealed that content knowledge and teaching self-efficacy were statistically greater in the CL group.
The authors found that CL is more effective in improving grammar and vocabulary achievement of EFL pre-service teachers.
This is because, in the CL process, the pre-service teachers were involved with learning, retaining, and transferring what is being taught to their groupmates and classmates.
Referring to Johnson and Johnson (2017b), this learning process is more effective than competitive or individualistic learning.
These findings further support the results of prior studies that have shown that pre-service teachers tend to acquire greater content knowledge in classes where CL is used (Cecchini et al. 2020; Supanc, Völlinger, and Brunstein 2017).
More specifically, this study is in agreement with previous studies that have published that learning cooperatively can enhance students’ grammar and vocabulary achievement (Ney 1991; Ghorbani 2012; Yavuz and Arslan 2018; Zarifi 2016).
They also found that CL exerts more influence on efficacy for instructional strategies, for classroom management, and for student engagement among EFL pre-service teachers.
Given these findings, some explanations are offered.
First, in the CL process, the preservice teachers had to teach the content taught to their classmates in the class.
These learning activities might have resulted in mastery experiences (i.e., authentic teaching practices), which are the most influential teaching self-efficacy source (Bandura 1997; Bautista 2011; Knoblauch and Chase 2015; Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, and Hoy 1998).
Second, the pre-service teachers could learn the course content more effectively through the process of learning, retaining, and transferring.
These successful learning experiences might have influenced their teaching self-efficacy, in agreement with the results of prior studies.
For instance, work by Palmer (2006) has shown that pre-service teachers’ science teaching self-efficacy is enhanced through their successful experiences in learning science content and science teaching methods.
Third, according to Gillies (2007), the pre-service teachers in the CL process were given autonomy support, which might have contributed to the increase in their teaching self-efficacy.
If so, this study is consistent with a prior study that found pre-service teachers appear to have improved teaching self-efficacy when their teacher educators support their autonomy (González et al. 2018).
Finally, in the CL process, the pre-service teachers were exposed to group work, group discussion, peer teaching, peer feedback, and group reflection.
These learning activities might have brought about mastery experiences (i.e., experiences gained from peer teaching), vicarious experiences (i.e., experiences gained from observing peer teaching), and verbal persuasion (i.e., constructive feedback provided by their groupmates and teacher educators), which are significant sources of teaching self-efficacy of pre-service teachers (Bandura 1997; Clark and Newberry 2019; Yurekli, Bostan, and Cakiroglu 2020).
The study showed that CL positively contributed to greater content knowledge and stronger teaching self-efficacy among EFL pre-service teachers, when compared to direct instruction.
Therefore, teacher educators should implement CL to improve EFL pre-service teachers’ content knowledge and teaching self-efficacy.
However, to ensure the effectiveness of CL, the authors recommend that teacher educators should
(1) assign pre-service teachers into small heterogeneous groups with positive role interdependence;
(2) provide each group with a learning task that requires joint effort to complete;
(3) teach group work skills to group members and encourage them to engage in learning activities such as peer discussion, peer teaching, peer feedback, and peer assistance with needed resources;
(4) continuously check academic progress of group members and, if needed, intervene to facilitate their learning;
(5) randomly select the representative of each group for class presentations;
(6) encourage group members to reflect on their own and each other’s learning processes; and
(7) provide timely feedback on their learning and teaching performance.

References
Bandura, A. 1997. Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: Freeman.
Bautista, N. U. 2011. “Investigating the Use of Vicarious and Mastery Experiences in Influencing Early Childhood Education Majors’ Self-Efficacy Beliefs.” Journal of Science Teacher Education 22 (4): 333–349
Behling, O., and K. S. Law. 2000. Translating Questionnaires and Other Research Instruments: Problems and Solutions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cecchini, J. A., J. Fernandez-Rio, A. Mendez-Gimenez, C. Gonzalez, B. Sanchez-Martínez, and A. Carriedo. 2020. “High versus Low-Structured Cooperative Learning: Effects on Prospective Teachers’ Regulation Dominance, Motivation, Content Knowledge and Responsibility.” European Journal of Teacher Education 1–16
Clark, S., and M. Newberry. 2019. “Are We Building Preservice Teacher Self-Efficacy? A Large-Scale Study Examining Teacher Education Experiences.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education 47 (1): 32–47
Ghorbani, M. R. 2012. “Cooperative Learning Boosts EFL Students’ Grammar Achievement.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies 2 (7): 1465–1471
Gillies, R. M. 2007. Cooperative Learning: Integrating Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
González, A., Á. Conde, P. Díaz, M. García, and C. Ricoy. 2018. “Instructors’ Teaching Styles: Relation with Competences, Self-Efficacy, and Commitment in Pre-Service Teachers.” Higher Education 75 (4): 625–642
Johnson, D. W., and R. T. Johnson. 2017b. “The Use of Cooperative Procedures in Teacher Education and Professional Development.” Journal of Education for Teaching 43 (3): 284–295
Knoblauch, D., and M. A. Chase. 2015. “Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools: The Impact of School Setting on the Efficacy Beliefs and Attributions of Student Teachers.” Teaching and Teacher Education 45: 104–114
Kourieos, S., and M. Diakou. 2019. “Pre-Service English Language Teacher Education and the First Years of Teaching: Perspectives from Cyprus.” The New Educator 15 (3): 208–225
Ney, J. W. 1991. “Collaborative Learning in University Grammar Courses.” Innovative Higher Education 15 (2): 153–165
Palmer, D. 2006. “Sources of Self-Efficacy in a Science Methods Course for Primary Teacher Education Students.” Research in Science Education 36 (4): 337–353
Tschannen-Moran, M., and A. Woolfolk Hoy. 2001. “Teacher Efficacy: Capturing an Elusive Construct.” Teaching and Teacher Education 17 (7): 783–805
Supanc, M., V. A. Völlinger, and J. C. Brunstein. 2017. “High-Structure versus Low-Structure Cooperative Learning in Introductory Psychology Classes for Student Teachers: Effects on Conceptual Knowledge, Self-Perceived Competence, and Subjective Task Values.” Learning and Instruction 50: 75–84
Yavuz, O., and A. Arslan. 2018. “Cooperative Learning in Acquisition of the English Language Skills.” European Journal of Educational Research 7 (3): 591–600
Yurekli, B., M. I. Bostan, and E. Cakiroglu. 2020. “Sources of Preservice Teachers’ Self-Efficacy in the Context of a Mathematics Teaching Methods Course.” Journal of Education for Teaching 46 (5): 631–645
Zarifi, A. 2016. “The Impact of Cooperative Learning on Grammar Learning among Iranian Intermediate EFL Learners.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies 6 (7): 1429–1436

Updated: Apr. 05, 2022
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