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Group Dynamics in the Japanese University ELT Classroom at SoLLs.INTEC.09 May 6, 2009. Dr. Yasuyo Matsumoto Kiryu University E-mail: 1. Problems for English Education in Japan : Unmotivated students and spoon-feeding

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group dynamics in the japanese university elt classroom at solls intec 09 may 6 2009

Group Dynamics in the Japanese University ELT Classroomat SoLLs.INTEC.09May 6, 2009

Dr. Yasuyo Matsumoto

Kiryu University




Problems for English Education in Japan:

  • Unmotivated students and spoon-feeding
  • 2. Lenient assessment in Japanese higher education
  • 3. Facing the age of “Universal college admission”:
  • poor performance
  • 4. Increasing violence, bullying and chronic
  • truancy and high school dropout rates



The Theoretical Research Questions:

  • What kind of visible and invisible inter-member relations exist between Japanese university students in the language classroom and how do they affect their learning?
  • 2) How does the teacher’s behaviour affect the students’
  • behaviour, and what impact does it have on their learning?
  • 3) How might co-operative methods benefits the learning of English in Japanese university language classrooms?



Group formation and a four-stage process in the language classroom

Ehrman and Dörnyei, 1998







Dynamics in the Classroom

Interaction among all groups

Interaction with teacher

Interaction between two groups

Interaction between two groups


Teacher influences students in the classroom

Authoritative, democratic and low quality of leadership

personality, characteristics, values, opinions, culture, feelings, teaching styles



Group leader

Member 1

Member 3

Member 2

Member 4

Intermember relations in a group



Individual Behavior in the Invisible Group

Fear of unknown people and new things


Acceptance of others

Positive intermember relations

Negative intermember relations

Noacceptance of others





Comparison of Old and New Paradigms of Teaching

Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 1995



Reasons why knowledge of group processes is valuable to today’s language educators:

(Schmuck and Schmuck, 2001)

(Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 1995)

1. Anxiety undermines productivity and positive interpersonal


2. Cooperative learning promotes a higher level of reasoning strategies

and critical thinkingthan more competitive or individual learning

approaches do.

  • Teachers and students face many disturbing social
  • challenges, such as divorce, child abuse, drug abuse
  • 2.Peer-group life plays an important part in
  • developing a student’s self-concept
  • 3.Members of groups begin relationships by first
  • building a sense of trust in others
  • 4. Peer-group conflicts and rejections are too often
  • accompanied by school violence



The benefits of Cooperative Learning for cognitive and meta-cognitive activity

Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 1995

  • Small groups give more opportunities to students to summarize or explain than big classes
  • Promoting oral summarizing, explaining, and elaborating of what one knows for the memory and the long-term retention of the information
  • Being nourished by heterogeneity among group members through acceptance by the members of a group
  • Teachers and leaders of the groups can easily give more information to the students who have different perspectives and facts
  • Members externalize their ideas and reasoning so as to meet critical examination: considerable peer monitoring and regulation of one’s thinking and reasoning are needed
  • Giving each other feedback concerning the quality and relevance of contributions and ways to improve reasoning or performance
  • Negotiating conflicts with each other between ideas, opinions, conclusions, theories and information of members



Obstacles to implementing cooperative learning and suggestion incorporated into Japanese university EFL classrooms

Obstacles: 1. Classroom layout : The spatial organization, The

desks together with the traditional teacher-fronted seating


2. The number of the students for a class

3. Too much competition

Suggestion: 1. Giving a full explanation of cooperative learning

which tell the students how and why some activities are


2. Showing techniques of paraphrasing, summarizing the

ideas of all the members, negotiating ideas and coming to

a joint decision, managing conflicts by discussing

differences of opinion or ideas, expressing

disappointment/frustration/anger without causing offence


Rules for establishing cooperation between students

April to May

June to July

October to January

Giving rules:1)makingnameplates;2) sitting with different studentsin each lecture; 3) helping each other to do the tasks

Rules: 1) sitting with different classmates; 2) accepting different opinions, values, backgrounds, personalities and language levels; 3) helping each other

Rules: 1) group work; 2) deciding roles by themselves; 3) cooperating to carry out the tasks

The Teacher’s Role and interaction between teacher and students

1) Build bridges with students, asking questions or praising good questions or work; 2) Give more details or instructions to solve problems between pairs; 3) Use as many pairs for modelling as possible so that other students will know what other pairs do; 4) If necessary, take time to talk to the students who have problems in pair-work after class, pointing out each other’s positive qualities; 5) Allow them to express frustration, anger and disappointment

1) Create activities for pair work: students get to know as many classmates as possible; 2) Find the good students; 3) Find why students do not understand the tasks and create teaching materials for them to work on; 4) Be sensitive to unmotivated students; 5) Allow their frustration, anger and disappointment to be expressed 6) Share the problems with other teachers

1) Give roles; 2) Encourage them to share information and opinions; 3) Reward students as group members; 4) Allow students to express frustration, anger and disappointment without offence to anyone else



The process of establishing cooperation



1. Grouping

2. Negotiating for roles

3. Accepting different opinions,

4. Doing the tasks

1. Get to know as many unknown classmates as possible

2. Make name plates

1. Create activities for pair-work

2. Observe students

3. Accept them

4. Encourage them

5. Interact with them

6. Evaluate them

7. Share the problems with colleagues

8. Learn psychoanalytic theory




1. Giving pre-English test to evaluate students’ language abilities: 10 points

2. Each student gets 10 points for pair-work

3. Teachers can evaluate each student (out of 30 points) according to their interaction with them (on-going assessment) and each student in each group can also evaluate all the others (out of 10 points). Total possible points, 40

4. Post tests can be given in order to assess the progress of each student in the 4 language skills: 30 points

5. Evaluating group achievement: 10 points



Agazarian, Y. and Peters, R. (1981) The Visible and invisible group. London: KARNAC.

Cohen, E.G., Lotan R. and Catanzaire, L. (1990) Treating Status Problems in the Cooperative Classroom. In S. Sharan (ed.) Cooperative Learning: Theory and research. pp. 203-229. New York: Praeger.

Dörnyei, Z. and Malderez, A. (1997) Group Dynamics and Foreign Language Teaching. System, vol.25, no. 1: 65-81.

Dörnyei, Z. and Murphey, T. (2003) Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Edge, J. (1993) Essentials of English Language Teaching. London: Longman.

Ehrman, M. E. and Dörnyei, Z. (1998) Interpersonal Dynamics in Second Language Education. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Gass, S. M. (1997) Input, Interaction, and the Second Language Learner. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Hess, N. (2001) Teaching Large Multilevel Classes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Johnson, W., Johnson, R. and Smith, K. (1995) Cooperative Learning and Individual Student Achievement in Secondary Schools. In J. E. Pedersen & A. D. Digby (eds.), Secondary Schools and cooperative learning (pp. 3-54). New York: Garland.


Liu Nnar-fun and Littlewood, W. (1997) Why do many students appear reluctant to participate in classroom learning discourse? System, vol. 25, no. 3, pp.371-384.

Malamah-Thomas, A. (1987) Classroom Interaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schmuck, A. R. and Schmuck, P.A. (2001) Group Processes in the classroom. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Stevick, E. W. (1980) A Way and ways. Rowley: Newbury House Publishers, Inc.

Tuckman. W. B. (1965) Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletin, vol. 63, no. 6, pp. 384-399.

Tuckman, W. B. and Jensen, M. A. C. (1977) Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group & Organization Studies, Dec., 2(4), pp. 419-427.

Tudor, I. (1996) Learner-centredness as Language Education. Cambridge: Cambridge.

Tudor, I. (1998) Rationality and rationalities in language teaching. System 26, pp. 319-334.

Tudor, I. (2001) The Dynamics of the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, M. & Burden, R. L (1997) Psychology for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wright, T. (2005) Classroom Management in Language Education. England: Palgrave Macmillan.



Thank you!

Prof. Yasuyo Matsumoto (Ph. D)