Language Learning 101: Interaction Among Learners
In this week’s article, we will continue our discussion on how teachers and learners can create a favourable learning environment and benefit from it. The effective learning tip of this week is collaborative learning.
Collaborative learning is characterised by interaction and cooperation among learners. This learning approach is based on sharing of ideas and learning from one another. Collaborative learning is made possible through teamwork or in company with other people of like minds. It is in contrast with competitive and rote learning approach. A friendly and interactive learning environment is essential for this approach to flourish.
In a language learning environment, student-oriented learning and student talking-time can also be promoted through collaborative learning. Learners are encouraged to work individually, in pairs and in groups. For example, learners will prepare and complete an exercise. Then they will discuss their ideas or cross-check their answers with in small groups. This technique prompts learners to talk about their doubts and look for possible solutions as a team. Learners are more likely to discuss and share their ideas, knowledge and experience with regard to the target language. Hence, language learning becomes proactive and cooperative.
Classroom conditions are important elements of collaborative learning. For instance, sitting plan and learners’ behaviours / attitudes might affect classroom dynamics. Let us imagine (or recall from our experience) sitting in rows and columns in a language learning classroom. How did you and your classmates behave in this sort of classroom setting? Did you learn as a group or learn on your own? Was it an engaging atmosphere for student discussion and interaction? What sort of classroom dynamics did the class create? Conventional classroom arrangement aims to maximise the number of students in limited space. Moreover, it is designed to put teachers as the centre of students’ learning experience. However, this approach only delivers a one-way learning process, because teachers simply transmit new information or materials to students regardless of their actual level.
In contrast, collaborative learning thrives in classrooms that are inclusive and welcoming. Such classroom setting is characterised by circular sitting arrangement; thus, learners are able to face their classmates as well as their teachers. This kind of sitting arrangement favours in-group discussion and student interaction. Teachers take on the role of facilitators and observers in group activities, i.e. small group discussion, board game, group presentation, conversation practice and role play. In other words, an interactive and cooperative language learning environment enables learners to gain Student-Talking-Time (STT) through teamwork and group activities.
To conclude, an interactive learning environment puts learning opportunities concretely into learners’ hands. Collaborative learning maximizes Student-Talking-Time (STT) and minimizes Teacher-Talking-Time (TTT). This approach not only fosters curiosity, communication skills and in-depth learning, but also diminishes Teacher-Talking-Time (TTT) and knowledge transmission. An interactive language learning environment raises learners’ interests as well as facilitates language acquisition and application. What a lively way of learning!
Please continue to read on in the Hills Learning website for more tips on effective language learning, and don’t forget when learning or teaching to use a collaborative learning approach.