Cooperative Learning Applied in College English Reading Classes
Han Min
School of Foreign Languages, China West Normal University, Nanchong, 637002, Sichuan, China
Keywords: Active Learning, Cooperative Learning, Effects, Group Activity.
Abstract: Cooperative learning is a relatively new teaching approach which takes group work as a main form. Based
on the theory of cooperative learning and by utilizing as an example a text from New College English
(Second Edition) published by Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, this research aims to explore
the effects of the application of cooperative learning to reading classes in college English teaching. Results
show that application of cooperative learning is effective in college reading classes.
Reading, as one of the four major language skills,
has been playing a vital role in English learning. To
read and understand better, students need to have an
all-round command of English language. For quite a
long time, in English teaching context in China,
teachers make all efforts on improving students’
reading abilities often to find out an unsatisfactory
result. For English reading teaching, cooperative
learning is extensively used to stimulate students to
learn more actively. Many researchers have proved
that it is a creative and effective teaching approach.
It is widely acknowledged that cooperative learning
creates a more interesting and relaxed learning
climate in the classroom. Cooperative learning can
reduce anxiety; promote interaction, increasee
motivation and self-confidence and providee
comprehensible input and output, etc. This paper
aims to study on the effects of cooperative learning
in college reading classes.
2.1 Participants and Instruments
Participants in this experiment were 85 freshmen
from two classes majoring in Biology in the author’s
university, serving as the experiment group (EG
with 42 students) and the control group (CG with 43
students) respectively. They shared the same
traditional learning experiences and used the same
textbook. Cooperative learning for reading classes
was conducted in the experiment class for four
months while the control class was still exposed to
traditional teaching. Such instruments as
questionnaire (see Appendix), pretest, posttest and
interviews were implemented. SPSS software was
adopted to analyze the test scores.
2.2 Preparations for Teachers and
Students before Reading Classes
Before conducting this experiment, students need to
learn some basic cooperative skills and definitions.
Paul J. Vermette (1998, pp. 5-6) defines cooperative
learning in this way: “Cooperative learning is not
just a strategy, part of a bag of tricks. It is also a
philosophy, one in which the teachers see the class
as a learning community that serves itself as it helps
each and every member. A cooperative classroom
team is relatively permanent, heterogeneously
mixed, small group of students who have been
assembled to complete an activity, produce a series
projects or products and who have been asked to
individually master a body of knowledge.”
According to Sharan (1999), five basic elements are
essential for cooperative learning to produce the
effective cooperative actions and work more
efficiently. The five basic elements are: positive
interdependence, individual accountability,
interpersonal and small group skills, promotive
interaction and group processing. Dividing students
into small groups is very crucial for effective
teaching since students work together from one class
period to many weeks. According to their scores in
Min H.
Cooperative Learning Applied in College English Reading Classes.
DOI: 10.5220/0006022902280232
In Proceedings of the Information Science and Management Engineering III (ISME 2015), pages 228-232
ISBN: 978-989-758-163-2
2015 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
the pretest, students were divided into different
levels. Each group had one high-level, two
intermediate-level and one low-level student to
ensure the mixture of it. Group members chose one
leader they trust most. As a leader, he/she had a
responsibility of helping the group members
participate in and fulfill their learning activities.
2.3 Teaching Procedures
The most popular researched and used cooperative
learning methods are Jigsaw, Student Team
Achievement Divisions (STAD), Cooperative
Integrated Reading and Composition, Group
Investigation and Learning Together.
In reading classes, the author employed Jigsaw II.
The typical learning procedures in Jigsaw II are
often as follows: students first work in
heterogeneous teams; they are assigned to experts
topics; they read the whole learning materials with
emphasis on their expert topic; they meet in expert
groups to discuss and master their topics; the experts
return to their teams and take turns teaching their
teammates about their topic; finally, they receive
individual and team recognition. Here is a detailed
example about how the author adopted cooperative
learning in her teaching practice. This is a text in
New College English (Second Edition) published by
Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.
Book 2 Unit 1 Learning, Chinese-style
A. Pre-reading Activities
For the pre-reading tasks, students were assigned to
find out some background information about
“westerners’ education on children” and “some
major differences about education on children
between China and the west”. Also, some keywords
were divided into 4 groups and each member studied
one group of them. They needed to teach others
about these new word and expressions next class.
For other unfamiliar words, they should try to guess
the meaning in the context rather than consulting a
B. While-reading Activities
First, some students were asked to introduce the
background information, next all the members in
turns taught others the assigned new words. Then,
each group member was responsible for analyzing
one different part. Everyone had to study the
assigned materials carefully. Then, they went to the
“expert group” in which all the experts had the same
paragraphs. After discussing with “experts” and
understanding fully about the materials, students
came back to their own group and interpreted their
materials in turns according to the organization of
the passage. After the discussion, some students
were randomly asked to answer these questions:
What’s the author’s feeling when seeing the typical
Chinese learning style (teaching by hold the hands)?
How did your parents teach you to learn things when
you were young?
C. Post-reading Activities
For post-reading activities, students first needed to
analyze the text organization. They needed to divide
the whole text into several parts and summarize the
main idea for each part. Then they had to write down
a short passage to answer the following questions:
What enlightenment have you got from this text?
How would you teach your students after
graduation? These passages would, also, be
corrected by group members first, and then they
handed in another revised one to the teacher.
Evaluations from one and from others are important
for students. The following table was handed out to
students after each reading class to help them reflect
on their in-class behaviors.
3.1 A Survey on Students’ Attitudes
towards Reading and English
Before this study, a survey was carried out among
100 non-English majors chosen randomly from two
universities. Ninety-six completed copies from 100
distributed questionnaires were obtained, with a
response rate of 96%. As for the questionnaire, there
were 10 statements about English learning and
reading. This section of the questionnaire was
designed to measure students’ attitudes by offering
scales for positive attitudes (strongly agree, agree,
neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree).
Table 1 shows that 28 of the students are not
enthusiastic about reading classes. Reading is crucial
for improving language proficiency while 30
students do not regard reading as an interesting
experience. About 54 students consider reading to be
the most difficult part for them; however 44 students
spend little time reading various books. Only 29
students often pay special attention to the beginning
as well as the end of the reading materials where
some key information may be presented. Most
students have not formed a good habit of noting
down the beautiful words and sentences they read in
Cooperative Learning Applied in College English Reading Classes
Cooperative Learning Applied in College English Reading Classes
books. Most students consider reading
comprehension to be very difficult due to the
unfamiliar words. Hence, whenever meeting the new
words, many students will reach for a dictionary, ask
for their classmates or even skip it instead of trying
to guess its meaning in the context. About 35
students will regularly think about the internal or
external factors that hinder their comprehension in
order to find out better ways to promote their
reading skills.
From this survey, it is clear to see that students still
need to make great efforts on many aspects such as
forming appropriate reading habits, reflecting more
about themselves, thinking more actively while
reading books and most important of all, spending
more time reading various beneficial books to enrich
their culture background.
3.2 Data Analysis on Test Scores
A pretest and a posttest were hold at the beginning
as well as at the end of this research. To guarantee
the validity of the data, all the test papers which
included four reading passages were chosen from
reading comprehension part in CET-4(College
English Test Band 4) papers. CET-4 is a nationwide
test held by the National Ministry of Education for
all the Non-English majors to test their language
proficiency at the end of each semester. Five
questions with four different answers (only one was
the best answer) were followed each passage.
Altogether, there were 20 questions (one point for
each question), so the total score was 20. The author
graded all the test papers. The results of the tests
were analyzed by SPSS.
Table 4 shows the mean score of experiment group
is much higher than that of the control group. The
significance level is 0.000, which means that p<0.01,
therefore, the difference can be very significant. This
table shows students in experiment group have
obtained great achievements.
The mean score for the experiment group in the
post-test is improved about 3 points compared with
that of the pre-test. The significant level is 0.000,
which is p<0.01, hence, it shows that students in the
experiment group have made great progress in
reading in this research.
All these tables indicate that reading ability in
experiment class has been improved a lot under the
instruction of cooperative learning after four months.
It is a desirable outcome for both the teacher and
students. Definitely, this satisfactory result will
bring more confidence to students in their future
3.3 Interviews from Students
At the end of this experiment, students in experiment
class were interviewed with three open-ended
questions:1) What is your viewpoint on cooperative
learning, effective or ineffective? List out your
reasons. 2) List the advantages and disadvantages of
cooperative learning; 3) What suggestions would
you like to give for future cooperative learning?
Though a few students do not like cooperative
learning, most students think it is effective and
meaningful for their learning. The exchanges of ideas
and cooperation with others can broaden their horizon
and enrich their thoughts. Meaningful interaction in
target language can enhance their language acquisition.
Although a few students who prefer to be independent
learners may feel awkward and boring when
interacting with others, cooperative learning is
welcomed by most students. After all, it is rare to find
out a teaching method that can satisfy the needs of all
the students and all the classroom settings. Cooperative
learning can help learners become active and
autonomous learners rather than being constantly
taught what to do and how to do by the teacher.
All the results from classroom observation,
questionnaire, test scores and interviews show that
cooperative learning is effective in this research.
Cooperative learning can reduce students’ anxiety and
enhance their active involvement in learning. Most
important of all, it can help student build self-
confidence. There is a famous saying: “Tell me and I
will forget. Show me and I may not remember. Let me
try and I will understand.” It just shows the importance
of “try” and “involvement” in the process of learning.
More “try” will definitely help students learn better.
Cooperative learning just provides more chances for
students to try” and to “involve” in the classroom
activities. To conclude, cooperative learning model
demonstrates a clear picture of the “student-centered
principle in college English reading classes.
Cooperative learning is worthy of further exploration
and being adopted to many other teaching fields.
Cohen, E.G. (1997). Designing Groupwork in the
Classroom: Strategies for Heterogeneous Classrooms.
New York: Teachers College Press.
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ISME 2015 - International Conference on Information System and Management Engineering
Harmer, J. (2000). How to teach English. Beijing: Foreign
Language Teaching and Research Press.
Henley, J.( 2002). Cooperative Learning: It’s In There!
Authentic Learning Web from Missouri-Columbia
Slavin, R. E. (1996). Research on Cooperative Learning
and Achievement: What We Know, What We Need to
Know. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 21/1:
Vermette, P. J. 1998. Making cooperative learning work:
Student teams in K-12 classrooms. Merrill, an Imprint
of Prentice Hall.
Wang, T. (2001). Cooperative Learning: Principles and
Strategies. Beijing: Xue Yuan Publishing House.
1. Reading classes are generally very interesting to
2. Reading various books either in English or in
Chinese is very interesting to me.
3. Reading is the most difficult part for me,
especially in the CET-4.
4. I always set aside some fixed time (e.g. everyday
or every week) to read various books after class.
5. The average time I spend on reading every week
is usually more than 2 hours.
6. I often pay special attention to the beginning as
well as the ending of the reading materials.
I always note down the beautiful words or sentences
that come to me in reading materials.
Reading is difficult for me mainly because of the
new words and I will become anxious on seeing
some new words in reading comprehension.
I often try to guess the meaning of new words from
the context in reading comprehension.
10. I often reflect on the internal or external factors
that hinder my understanding in reading.
Table 1: Results of the questionnaire.
Total Number(96) Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree
1 27 22 19 17 11
2 28 22 16 15 15
3 33 21 10 14 18
4 30 17 5 18 26
5 31 14 4 24 23
6 16 13 6 31 30
7 11 16 7 33 29
8 24 15 8 23 26
9 37 22 8 16 13
10 18 17 6 29 26
Table 2: Results of Independent Sample T test for Pretest of CG and EG.
N Mean SD Variance df Sig.(2-taied) t
Std. Error
CG 43 8.56 3.104 9.633
EG 42 8.60 2.914 8.491
Cooperative Learning Applied in College English Reading Classes
Cooperative Learning Applied in College English Reading Classes
Table 3: Results of Paired Sample T test for Pretest and Posttest of CG.
N Mean SD Std. Error Mean t df Sig. (2-taied)
8.56 3.104
Posttest 8.53 2.702
Table 4: Results of Independent Sample T test for Posttest of CG and EG.
Mean SD Variance
df Sig.(2-taied) t
Std. Error
CG 4
8.53 2.702
EG 4
11.64 2.878
Table 5: Results of Paired Sample T test for Pretest and Posttest of EG.
N Mean SD Variance
Std. Error Mean
t df Sig. (2-taied)
8.60 2.914 8.491
Posttest 11.64 2.878 8.284
ISME 2015 - Information Science and Management Engineering III
ISME 2015 - International Conference on Information System and Management Engineering