Active Learning in English Classes. The Case of Three Selected Secondary Schools in Yem (Ethiopia)
The major factors affecting the effective implementation of active learning were large class size with fixed sitting arrangement, inadequate teacher training, and tendency of focusing on teacher-centered method and time scarcity were among the most influential factors hindering its implementation, lack organized trainings over the learning method, overcrowded students and lack of frequent follow up from the concerning bodies as stated earlier. From this one can understands that there are some problems in practicing active learning.
To this end, it was recommended that creating diplomacy with other schools, countries, and different communities are the appropriate way to strengthen effective practicing of cooperative learning. Therefore, the school principal in collaboration with Ministry Of Education should co-ordinate to invite experts in the field to share his/her experience of using cooperative learning and to suggest an alternative techniques in the absence of adequate teaching aids and supplementary materials and responsible bodies should rearrange the conditions and facilitate necessary inputs for the implementation of active learning.
Table of Contents
Materials and Methods
Scope, Population and Sampling Techniques
Data Gathering Tools
Data Gathering Procedures
Data Analysis Procedures
Results and Discussions
Responses on Role of Teacher’s to Practice Cooperative Learning
Data Interpretation of Teachers‟ Open-ended Questions
Analysis of Classroom Observation
The purpose of this study was to assess the awareness and implementation of active learning in EFL Classrooms: in three selected secondary schools in Yem special Woreda of SNNPRS. To conduct the study, descriptive survey design was employed. A total of 200 students and 16 teachers from high, medium and lower achievers were participated in the study through availability and purposive sampling technique. The study was conducted by both qualitative and quantitative data collection tools such as observation, questionnaires and interviews. The quantitative data was analyzed using frequency and percentage. The findings of the study prevailed that most of the respondents have perceived active learning positively. In spite of their good perceptions, their practices of active learning were found poor. The major factors affecting the effective implementation of active learning were large class size with fixed sitting arrangement, inadequate teacher training, and tendency of focusing on teacher- centered method and time scarcity were among the most influential factors hindering its implementation, lack organized trainings over the learning method, overcrowded students and lack of frequent follow up from the concerning bodies as stated earlier. From these one can understands that there are some problems in practicing active learning.
To this end it was recommended that, creating diplomacy with other schools, countries, and different communities is the appropriate way to strengthen effective practicing of cooperative learning. Therefore, the school principal in collaboration with Ministry Of Education should co-ordinate to invite experts in the field to share his/her experience of using cooperative learning and to suggest an alternative techniques in the absence of adequate teaching aids and supplementary materials and responsible bodies should rearrange the conditions and facilitate necessary inputs for the implementation of active learning.
Keywords: awareness, implementation, Active Learning,.
The main objective of education is to enable learners develop knowledge, skills and attitude which are achieved through different methods. Methods are means of conveying ideas and skills to impart and acquire knowledge of different subject matters in a more concrete and comprehensive way. At different times, different methods of learning have been investigated and being remained dominant for certain period of time such as teacher centered methods, (Seid, 2012).
As an alternative way, active learning has become widely recognized as a desired strategy for teaching language since English language is being used as a medium of instruction from primary to tertiary levels in Ethiopia and the nature of language learning itself requires closed interaction of students with their teachers and peer groups with various exposures in the classroom and outside. Hence, learners are expected to have adequate proficiency in using the language. This is basically true because the students’ skill in using the language highly determines their academic success (Atkins et al, 1995). Therefore, students are expected to develop their English language proficiency through appropriate methodology as it is obvious that the language has been considered as one of the most vital area of focus in the school curriculum in our country (Shimeles, 2012).
Similarly, Aschalew (2012:74) states that “we live in a dynamic world where everything is changing. As a result, what we think true today may be false tomorrow and what we think false today may be true tomorrow. Hence, we have to adjust ourselves to the changing world or modify it to fit our needs. It is education that enables us to do so.” This means that education enables us to lead a better life in this dynamic world. In this respect, education has passed through continuous change. Due to the number of weaknesses with teacher centered approach, active learning method was researched and supported by many scholars. According to the constructivists learning theory, active learning is known by the name “discovery learning”. Learning begins with the experience of the student. The social constructivists think that the concept follows the action rather than preceding it. In other words, the activity leads to the concepts. Moreover, the constructivists’ learning theory is based on the principle that through their involvement in various activities students discover their way of learning (Stern, 1983).
The idea that students are passive recipients of knowledge and that teachers are the transmitters of that knowledge is giving way to the notion that students learn better when they are involved in the process of creating knowledge for themselves. Moreover, the goals of education encompass not only the acquisition of knowledge but also the guidance of the individual to his/her fullest potential, (Clark et al…2008).
It is obvious that using English language for communicative purpose is not at a satisfactory level in most high schools, Colleges and Universities in Ethiopia. Learners’ proficiency in language use in the schools is much lower than the level required of them (ICDR, 1999). In spite of the number of years the students exposed to English language instruction, their level of performance in using the language is very low. The researcher believes that this is due to the lack of practice of active learning method regularly in English lesson classes as they have noticed the problems from their experience in teaching English at primary, secondary schools, Colleges and Universities. The researcher also believes that one of the possible reasons for this may be the inappropriateness of the methods and techniques employed in teaching English. As Mackey (1965) says the teaching methodology can be “…the cause of success or failure in language learning; for it is ultimately the method that determines the ‘what?’ and the ‘how?’ of language instructions.”
There were numerous studies that have been conducted in different corners of the world to solve problems in the implementation of active learning in schools. For instance, Taye (2008) and Bethel (2011) conducted their study on practices and perceptions of AL in Dilla University and school communities in implementing active learning in Bulbula secondary school respectively and their findings revealed that even school communities have positive perceptions in the implementations of active learning; its implementation in English lessons still needs further investigation. In their result, they disclosed that teachers and instructors have theoretical understandings about active learning. In relation to this, there were also other researchers who conducted their M.A thesis regarding student centered/active learning method; among them: Moges, (2007); Binyam, (2014); and Arikew, (2015) did in the same area. Their studies focused on large class size, shortage of time, awareness problems and readiness to implement active learning methodology are among the challenges affecting its implementation in English classes. In the same way, Girma (2013) and Ayele (2014) conducted their thesis on same issue and their findings revealed that active learning failed in to practice in schools due to scarcity of time to cover the portion, students attention on exam oriented topics and lack of adequate materials.
As we can see their focus above either local or international researchers, we can conclude that their findings mainly focused on the challenges that limit the implementation of AL in EFL classes because most of them tried to mention the barriers to AL practices in different levels is related to numerous responsible bodies in schools.
But, none of them extended their work more specifically to teachers’ perceptions which particularly plays an important role in implementing AL in EFL classes.
To this end, the main objective of this study was to assess the awareness and implementation active learning in English lessons/ classes at three selected secondary schools in Yem special woreda of, SNNPRS. Thus, the pivotal factors that motivated the researcher over this title and area are that no type studies were conducted over there. And the problems seem to affect the students, the community, the teachers, and even the schools in their future life unless they implement active learning effectively. If the teaching-learning process keeps in a way the students are going to be passive learners and domination of teacher centered approach will exist in these schools. These are the basic pushing factors which motivated the researcher to conduct this research. Particularly the study was aimed at:
- To assess the awareness and implementation of teachers active learning method in English classrooms.
- To identify how often EFL teachers practice active learning method in English lessons/classes in the schools.
- To know to what extent the students are ready to practice active learning.
- To know whether the five principles of active learning are implemented effectively in EFL class or not.
Materials and Methods
The study employed descriptive survey designs to collect, process, analyze and present the data. Thus, descriptive survey design was employed by using mixed method of data collecting and describing in organized way including the characteristics, features or facts about the given population in this study to make the obtained data more feasible and preferable to examine the present situation on awareness and implementing active learning in secondary schools of the research site.
Scope, Population and Sampling Techniques
The setting for this investigation was Yem special Woreda, which is one of the rural Woreda in, SNNPRS which is located at the distance of 558 km far away from Hawassa and 350 km from Addis Ababa: the capital of Ethiopia. The target population of this study included of EFL teachers of Grade 9 and 10 and students those were from three selected secondary schools who were attending in the same grade level. Teachers were considered as rich sources of data, so all English teachers from three schools were selected. Students were also selected purposively as additional source of data to get necessary information. To select the sample size for this study, two sampling techniques were employed (purposive and availability sampling). The Woreda was selected from others through purposive sampling method based on the prevalence of inadequacy practice of EFL teachers to implement active learning in the schools.
Again, among 16 secondary schools in the Woreda, three schools were selected using purposive sampling technique because of the feasibility to the study and the familiarity to the researcher to have access of information. Based on this, the researcher believed that the sample size of 3 secondary schools would be representative enough to draw sound generalizations at the end of the study. Since it is difficult to employ all the population due to limited resource, the setting, time, and the samples were delimited accordingly. Thus, the secondary schools selected as a sample encompass the population in Deri, Fofa and millennium secondary schools.
In relation to teachers, all teachers in the three schools (Total= 16) were taken as samples: 6 from Deri, 6 Fofa and 6 from Millennium using availability sampling, and 200 students were selected from those schools employing random sampling out of the total students. The students were selected grouping them in to strata based on their achievements: higher, medium and lower achievers. Then, the students which represent each stratum were selected through simple random sampling technique.
Data Gathering Tools
Furthermore, the study employed mainly qualitative and quantitative data collection tools. The relevant data were collected through different instruments, such as, observation, questionnaires and interviews. Thus, the researchers preferred the qualitative method to describe the data that were collected by semi- structured interviews and the quantitative method to describe all close ended questionnaires and observation checklist.
Classroom observations were conducted in order to check whether the teachers are implementing active learning and students’ participation was based on the five principles of cooperative learning that it is to be implemented during teaching and learning process in the English classroom. 8 teachers were selected by simple randomly for observation (6 teachers from Deri, 5 from Fofa and, 5 from millennium secondary schools). The researcher has co-observer who collected data without taking part in the teaching learning process, directly entered into the classroom with observation checklists and looking and collected data.
Interview was also one of the selected data collecting instruments for the sake of assessing teachers’ and students’ awareness regarding AL. The researcher used tape recorder, video and photo camera while conducting the interview and it was conducted at their schools. It is clear that interview can provide data in-depth that is not possible with questionnaire. Data from interview were supplemented with other responses in application of the study. Therefore, to support and cross-check the findings from the questionnaire, well-constructed semi structure interview questions were prepared to collect and administer data in depth from 3 selected secondary school teachers by the researcher. Furthermore, two sets of questionnaires (one set for the teachers and the other for students) were adapted, designed and administered. The questionnaires were adapted from Bethel (2008) and Dawit (2005) based on the objectives of the study and review of related literature covered in this paper.
Data Gathering Procedures
Regarding data gathering procedures, the researcher followed a series of its procedures in the study. Therefore, pilot study was conducted prior to the administration of the final questionnaires to all respondents. It was carried out by developing the adapted questionnaires and those were submitted to the experienced teachers and advisor for the sake of comment. After ensuring the appropriateness of questionnaires by advisor and teachers, the researchers made discussion with school directors, selected EFL teachers and students regarding the purpose of data he was going to gather and how it would have been done. First, the researcher collected data through classroom observation and then he conducted interview with some selected EFL teachers more specifically to assess or examine their awareness towards AL and their practice of AL in the classroom. Finally, the questionnaires were distributed to the respondents and data were collected. The reason that the researcher sequenced the data gathering tools accordingly was that if teachers responded to questionnaires early, they might have arranged make up classes which they may not be practicing in the usual time. So, it helped the researcher to get valid and reliable information regarding practices of active learning in English classes. These all data gathering procedures ensure the reliability and validity of data in the study.