Cooperative Learning and Second Language Acquisition: Learner Empowerment in the UAE

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
The goal of this small scale study was to determine whether the Jigsaw II strategy, a cooperative learning methodology, could empower learners in the UAE by equipping them with the requisite skills for second language acquisition. The cooperative learning methodology has been much lauded for being in possession of a wide variety of beneficial features and various studies have identified this mode as an ideal route for learner empowerment. As this mode of learning has found favour with both sociocultural and cognitive approaches to learning, this study was designed to gauge its effect from the viewpoint of both these approaches. The participants in the study were 32 Grade 5 students from a private school in Dubai. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used for data collection and analysis. While the qualitative analysis of the data provided evidence for the activation of the learners’ attentional processes, the independent samples t test did not reveal any significant effect of the variation in group type on activation of these processes. The qualitative analysis further revealed that the Jigsaw II strategy’s tasks encouraged both negotiation of meaning and peer support instances, fostering modified conversations, culminating in co-construction of knowledge. The paired t test revealing a statistically significant improvement in critical thinking abilities assessed by the open-ended questions and the positive results derived from the qualitative analysis of the data regarding the learners’ thinking processes, suggest that this strategy could be an effective technique to activate both basic and higher-order thinking skills. Although the paired t test related to the activation of critical thinking abilities assessed by the multiple-choice questions disclosed a mean increase in scores post-test, this was considered statistically insignificant. However, based on the evidence indicating that this small improvement is especially due to the low-achievers, the Jigsaw II strategy merits further investigation as to its effectiveness in this area.
cooperative learning, second language acquisition, Jigsaw II strategy, critical thinking skills, attentional processes, thinking processes