- Developing EFL students’ communication skills through collaborative visualization
- HADJEM LAMIA
- Collaborative Learning and collaborative Visualization
- Types of Communication Skills and Attitudes
- Research method and data analysis procedures
- EFL students’ & students’ communication skills: the findings
- Discussion of ELF Students’ Questionnaire Findings
- Discussion of teachers’ Interview, EFL students’
Discussion of ELF Students’ Questionnaire Findings
Chapter IV Discussion of the Findings
While conducting this study, we have used two reliable tools to gather data in order to achieve our objectives and answer the research questions raised in the General Introduction, as well as, confirming or refuting the research hypotheses.
In this chapter we have discussed the findings of students’ questionnaire as a first part and the second part analyses the results of the interviews conducted with six teachers of different modules in the Department of English at Mouloud Mammeri University.
1. Discussion of Students’ Questionnaire Findings
1. 1. Students’ Attitudes towards the Use of Collaborative Visualization in the Department of English
The distributed questionnaire contains questions based on the principles of Coordination Process Theory that are introduced by Erkens (2005).
The purpose behind this research is to investigate teachers’ and students’ attitudes toward collaborative visualization in developing students’ communication skills in English at the level of the Department of English at Mouloud Mammeri University of Tizi Ouzou.
To reach this goal, a series of questions related to collaborative learning have been asked to Master One students of different options in the Department of English, University of Tizi Ouzou.
As it is shown in the previous chapter, (46. 92%) of students strongly agree that active collaboration among students is very important and the sharing of knowledge is foundational, (41. 54%) agree on that (See diagram2 p30).
A deep explanation of this can be understood through what Janssen (2008: 16) has highlighted about the mutual activation of knowledge, “group members can benefit from the skills and knowledge of their group members during collaboration, knowledge and information exchange are important processes: unshared knowledge needs to be externalized. ”
In fact, mutual activation and share of knowledge and skills is the first process introduced by Erkens in his Theory of Coordination Process (2005).
In this process, it is important for students to get engaged in the learning process. Participation is required because it is a way for them to exchange their information and knowledge; therefore, everyone will benefit from one another.
As it is highlighted by the students in diagram3 page 31, grounding or creating a common frame of reference is important to promote their communication skills.
Grounding is an activity that students need to accomplish in order to establish mutual understanding and a common frame of reference and 56. 92% believe that it is important to have the same knowledge of the basics of a given topic.
In this respect, Erkens, et al. , (2005: 466) indicate that, in order to achieve the common goal “the collaboration partners will have to coordinate their activities and their thinking.
They will have to activate their knowledge and skills and will have to establish a common frame of reference in order to be able to negotiate and communicate individual viewpoints and inferences”.
In fact, when students understand each other, they are able to communicate and collaborate in an effective way. This goes hand in hand with the explanation of Janssen (2008: 16), “To communicate and collaborate effectively, group members need to ensure they understand each other”.
However, it is not obvious that everyone think in the same way, there will probably be different opinions but when students know how to get along and make agreements, the divergence of opinions is a way for them to come to an understanding over their subject or debated topic.
When students take part in the lesson, they become active learners. Since communication is a social process, which means it develops through interaction, students should participate in class, give their opinions, show their agreement or disagreement, etc.
All these are essential to develop one’s communication skills and build social relationship in the classroom because the more there are different opinions, the more there are arguments and the more the communication is maintained.
In this regard, it is displayed in table 3 page 31 that (94. 62%) Master One students effectively try to make the discussion continue. Many of them do prefer to ask questions, suggest ideas and give their opinions.
This refers to focusing, according to Janssen (2008: 17) “This pertains to the way group members try to maintain a shared discourse topic. This can be done by asking questions, asking for attention, and repairing focus divergence”.
In some cases, sometimes many, students do not agree with the same idea; therefore, to check the understanding of the information communicated, many prefer to ask verification questions rather than indicating their agreement or disagreement.
This can be supported by making reference to Janssen (2008) who mentions that it was important for group members to check the information communicated whether it fits with the common frame of reference that has been created thus far.
This can be done by asking verification questions or by indicating agreement or disagreement (Ibid). While a few of them try to negotiate the meaning of the information to maintain the discussion, all the participants which means 130 students agree on its importance in terms of developing communication skills.
It is justified by many of the students (see table 6 p33) that negotiation gives them the opportunity to express themselves. It is somehow an occasion that encourages classroom participation and interaction.
That is, “When knowledge or information is externalized, group members have to verify whether their understanding of the information matches the other’s understanding [sic] of the information. This can lead to an extensive process of negotiation of meaning” (ibid).
In fact, both listening and speaking are important for a good negotiation because the learners need to express their thoughts and listen to those of their mates to discuss each one’s opinions. As a result, students could develop their way of communicating ideas; they learn how to convince and how to classify ideas in mind.
That is to say, it enhances discourse competences. In addition, since students are given the opportunity to express themselves and give additional information, the group members learn new words; develop a new vocabulary and new ways of expressing ideas from one another.
This means that negotiation enhances students’ grammatical competences. This is not limited to acquiring a new vocabulary but also to enhancing one’s pronunciation, choice of words and grammar.
A student has said, “It pushes the participants to make efforts, to express their thoughts and [sic] using correct forms (syntax) and also to use the vocabulary they have. ”Others State, “negotiation is synonym to practice one’s language”, “it allows to make [sic] efforts to speak and express one’s opinions with a target language. Mistakes might be corrected by the teacher or classmates.
Indeed, we learn better from our mistakes and this is helpful to get rid of shyness”. Negotiation creates an enthusiastic atmosphere where students become active learners. This helps every student to feel more confident about himself, and his ideas.
Some do not speak in classroom because of shyness or anxiety, therefore, when the activity is done in group, there is a kind of moral support to everyone. Consequently, with negotiation, there is a mutual help that enable students overcome their shyness, anxiety and fear of speaking.
On one hand, as it is mentioned above in the review of literature, it enhances students’ communicative competences. On the other hand, it improves their personal and interpersonal skills.
Some students have also said, “It [negotiation] helps the students to get involved in the communication process which helps them to develop their speaking skill as well as their cognitive abilities and critical thinking”.
By personal skills, we refer to critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity, etc. It is highlighted by Dillenbourg (1999) that interaction with pairs would lead to produce learning mechanisms, development of critical thinking and communication.
When doing a collaborative visualization, it is obvious that students would negotiate the meaning of a given subject to come to a consensus; and 37 students out of 130 have argued, in question 1 page 36, that collaborative visualization would help them to develop their critical thinking. Whereas in interpersonal skills; we make reference to active listening, team work, responsibility, etc.
It is obvious that learners need to be guided by their teachers. Consequently, we can deduce from what is said by Johnson and Johnson (1999) and Zambrano (2019) that in effective collaborative groups, students are mutually interdependent to assume group reaching goals.
In this respect, Barron (2003) mentions that “successful groups have been found to coordinate their activities better than unsuccessful groups” (cited in Janssen, 2008: 16). Then, they are taught academic skills which means they are taught to become leaders, to make decisions and manage conflicts inside a group, etc.
On this detail, Mercer and Littleton (2007) define collaborative learning as an activity in which “participants are engaged in a coordinated, continuing attempt to solve a problem or in some other way construct common knowledge” (cited in Reusser and Pauli, 2015: 916).
It is clear from the results that Master One students hold positive attitudes toward collaborative learning. This has been deduced from the responses of students (see table 7 p35) who say they prefer to learn when collaborating.
They believe that collaborative learning enhances involvement in the classroom and improves confidence through interaction (see table 8 and diagram 6 p35).
In this regard, Luther (2002) says that in collaborative learning, students are engaged in learning experience, they share their ideas and their information through interaction. Consequently, students gain confidence and improve it.
Visualization is a collaborative activity, and to use collaborative visualization in the classroom, the principles developed by Erkens should be followed. As a conclusion, the idea that students might hold positive attitudes toward collaborative visualization is reinforced by the results found concerning collaborative learning.
However, this does not demonstrate that this hypothesis is true because we have just established a relation between collaborative learning and visualization with collaborative visualization that is not used in the Department of English at the University of Tizi Ouzou.
Besides, students have probably dealt with this technique before but they have not been introduced to it. In other words, many activities require working in groups, and being students of the department, we confirm that, essentially in the first three years, we have had to watch videos in oral expression and comment on them afterwards.
1. 2. Students’ Attitudes towards Developing Communication Skills through Collaborative Visualization
The findings of this research show that most of Master One students (47. 69%) agree that the combination of collaborative learning and visualization gives better results in learning in general and in developing communication skills in particular. (40%) of the participants strongly agree on that (diagram 8 p37).
In this respect, it is mentioned in the literature review that participating in the collaborative visualization improves the group members’ communication and interaction, as well as sharing, exchanging and manipulating the information (Cernea, 2015).
First of all, According to them, collaborative visualization is enjoyable because it transforms a stressful lesson into a real pleasure. Then, it makes communication flexible and increases credibility of the communicated message or information.
This means that the message or the communicated information is able to change or to be changed according to the circumstances (see table 10 and diagram 9 p38).
The results further demonstrate in (Table 11 p38) that (96. 15%) agree that making use of this strategy may lead to debates.
A debate allows the students to practice the language and feel more confident when speaking; consequently, (56. 92%) believe that collaborative visualization would improve their communication skills very much (see Diagram 10).
The results would be the opposite if this research were experimental; though in this case the participants agree on many points which can be understood as the advantages of collaborative visualization in developing communication skills.
The most prominent point is that it promotes the exchange of information, this is realised by students’ participation; as a result, collaborative visualization encourages students to participate more. It is an opportunity to learn more from the others; thus, this develops one’s critical thinking.
One may miss some details concerning a topic; the others can think or remember the information that did not come to their mind before.
In other words, there are some students in a group who are well informed about some topics and there are some others who are not; the discussion that may occur between them will be instructive.
Some students may become aware of something such as having known information and having completely forgotten it. On the other side, others will simply be able to learn new ideas.
In addition, it facilitates the understanding of presented information. When an idea is well understood, it becomes easy to remember, that is why it supports the remembering of the presented contents (see Table 9 and Diagram 7 p36).
Relying on these results, it is induced that collaborative visualization is encouraged because it promotes the exchange of information, encourages students to participate, and leads them to discussions and debates. Consequently, collaborative visualization promotes their communication skills.
This idea is strengthened with the results shown in (Table 12 and Diagram 11 p40). According to what has been said in the Review of Literature by Brodlie, in collaborative visualization, a group of people can work together on a project synchronously or asynchronously.
For example, watching a video conferencing, the results show that synchronously, it enables students to see data, communicate and debate in context. After that, students can provide immediate feedback because it motivates to rapidly think and answer.
It enables students to respond in a better real time. In our opinion, it is an activity that can be advantageous for students; however, there are some who do not assimilate things rapidly.
Each student has his learning style (Gardner, 1983). For this reason, asynchronous collaborative visualization can be beneficial for some others (those who perform things slowly).
It provides students the ability to communicate with a remote team with members of multiple zones (people who are separated geographically), which gives chance to the participants to think before responding.
The communication is maintained by letter, faxes or emails between the members of the group (Brodlie, 1981). Besides, it is possible for the students to have a record of the communication shared that can be referred to it later on.
Having home activities, even through the internet, will probably be advantageous not only for those who assimilate things slowly, but also for those who rapidly understand.
Varying activities is important; it makes students feel at ease and work on new things. This allows them to learn wherever they are.
Depending on the results found in section two, the relation made between collaborative learning and visualization with collaborative visualization in section one has been established.
In other words, collaborative visualization is collaborative learning supported by visualization. Students’ answers confirm its truth (see table 9 and 10, diagram8 and 10).
To recapitulate, Diagram 8 page 40 shows that learners agree that the combination of collaborative Learning and Visualization gives better results in learning in general and in developing communication skills in particular.
Master One students have justified their agreement by saying it was enjoyable. In fact, the use of visual aids facilitates learning because they create an enjoyable atmosphere (Ghulam, 2015). Then, it makes communication flexible.
Finally, It increases credibility of the communicated message or information (see table 10 p38). In fact, (56. 92%) of Master One students approve that collaborative visualization can improve their communication skills (see diagram 10 p40).
This goes hand in hand with what Cernea (2015:02) has said, “a collaborative visualization enhances the way the doctors would communicate and interact, as well as support the exchange and manipulation of the patient’s medical information”.
This can be related to EFL students in their learning. With collaborative visualization, students learn how to convey their thoughts and feelings by speech or writing so that it can be understood. They are also used to facilitate communication.
First, it promotes the exchange of information. This goes with what has been said by Myller (2009). According to him, collaborative visualization encourages students to have significant conversations that will help each one to benefit from the other.
Second, it encourages them to participate more; therefore, it allows them to learn more. After that, it develops their critical thinking which facilitates for them the understanding of presented information.
This is highlighted by Isenberg (2011) that this strategy offers opportunities to students to develop their social skills and critical thinking through discussions, negotiations and arguments. Finally, it supports the remembering of the presented contents (see table 9 p36).
Although these results show how collaborative visualization helps the students to develop their communication skills, they are not true at 100% because they are just predictions that are not yet put into practice. The results could be more reliable if the study were experimental.
All in all, even though the results found indicate that Master One students have positive attitude toward collaborative visualization, this does not prove that they are trustworthy because the results deal with human thoughts.
Points of view may change and if collaborative visualization were implemented before, students’ responses would have been less subjective.
On the other hand, since this strategy is not yet implemented, we have neither the chance to observe the students’ reactions, attitudes and actions, nor an opportunity to make at least an experimental research for that.
In fact, classroom observation would allow us to be part of the phenomenon and watch the students accomplishing some actions; therefore, the results would have been more objective.