The effects of grouping types on promoting critical thinking in efl collaborative writing

Nurturing critical thinking (CT) has been acknowledged as a core objective of tertiary

education, and drawn attention from academia of teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL),

particularly in EFL argumentative writing. It has been claimed that collaborative learning which

stimulates the active exchange of ideas within small groups not only increases interest among the

participants but also promotes critical thinking. One of the important aspects of learning and

teaching through collaboration is the group composition or grouping “who with whom”. The

present study was an attempt to investigate the impact of homogeneous and heterogeneous

groupings on critical thinking in collaborative writing. Having been required to write an

argumentative essay as a pre-test, 75 participants, who were categorized by their prior critical

thinking levels, were assigned into three group types: heterogeneous, homogeneous high and

homogeneous low groups. As a consequence, four types of students were considered their

improvement before and after the experiment: high-level students in heterogeneous groups, lowlevel students in heterogeneous groups, high-level students in homogeneous groups, low-level

students in homogeneous groups. The results demonstrated that learners improved their critical

thinking level through collaborative writing, whether working with stronger or weaker peers.

However, heterogeneous grouping showed superiority over homogeneous grouping at the low

level. The results revealed that cooperative learning could be especially beneficial for low

students. It is hoped that the findings of the present study will give teachers deep insights into

group compositions in collaborative learning courses, and will help them make better group

experiences for students.

pdf11 trang | Chia sẻ: hoa30 | Ngày: 30/08/2021 | Lượt xem: 165 | Lượt tải: 0download
Bạn đang xem nội dung tài liệu The effects of grouping types on promoting critical thinking in efl collaborative writing, để tải tài liệu về máy bạn click vào nút DOWNLOAD ở trên
102 Nguyen T. M. Tram & Bui T. T. Quyen. Journal of Science Ho Chi Minh City Open University, 9(5), 102-112 
THE EFFECTS OF GROUPING TYPES ON PROMOTING 
CRITICAL THINKING IN EFL COLLABORATIVE WRITING 
NGUYEN THI MINH TRAM1,* and BUI THI THUC QUYEN2 
1University of Social Sciences and Humanities – Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City 
2Ho Chi Minh City Open University, Vietnam 
*Corresponding author: tramnguyenqnu@gmail.com 
(Received: October 15, 2019; Revised: December 13, 2019; Accepted: December 13, 2019) 
ABSTRACT 
Nurturing critical thinking (CT) has been acknowledged as a core objective of tertiary 
education, and drawn attention from academia of teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL), 
particularly in EFL argumentative writing. It has been claimed that collaborative learning which 
stimulates the active exchange of ideas within small groups not only increases interest among the 
participants but also promotes critical thinking. One of the important aspects of learning and 
teaching through collaboration is the group composition or grouping “who with whom”. The 
present study was an attempt to investigate the impact of homogeneous and heterogeneous 
groupings on critical thinking in collaborative writing. Having been required to write an 
argumentative essay as a pre-test, 75 participants, who were categorized by their prior critical 
thinking levels, were assigned into three group types: heterogeneous, homogeneous high and 
homogeneous low groups. As a consequence, four types of students were considered their 
improvement before and after the experiment: high-level students in heterogeneous groups, low-
level students in heterogeneous groups, high-level students in homogeneous groups, low-level 
students in homogeneous groups. The results demonstrated that learners improved their critical 
thinking level through collaborative writing, whether working with stronger or weaker peers. 
However, heterogeneous grouping showed superiority over homogeneous grouping at the low 
level. The results revealed that cooperative learning could be especially beneficial for low 
students. It is hoped that the findings of the present study will give teachers deep insights into 
group compositions in collaborative learning courses, and will help them make better group 
experiences for students. 
Keywords: Collaboration; Critical thinking; Group Composition; Heterogeneity; Homogeneity 
1. Introduction 
Today’s modern methods of learning 
have gradually shifted from passive learning 
to active learning in order to encourage 
teachers and students to enhance their 
intellectual efforts through interaction, with 
the aim of exploring, understanding, 
generating ideas and finally creating a 
product. Collaborative learning has been 
employed to improve many different aspects 
of learning English as a foreign language, 
particularly critical thinking in writing 
argumentative essays. It is proposed that 
active learning is of utmost importance in 
stimulating the language learners to think 
critically (Burbach, Matkin, & Fritz, 2004; 
Tedesco-Schneck, 2013; Walker, 2003). In 
parallel with the emphasis on the importance 
Nguyen T. M. Tram & Bui T. T. Quyen. Journal of Science Ho Chi Minh City Open University, 9(5), 102-112 103 
of collaborative learning in the class, a 
question of equal or greater significance 
centers around the effect of the composition 
of the group, that is, grouping “who with 
whom”. There are two major grouping 
methods, including heterogeneous (i.e. of the 
mixed types) and homogeneous (i.e. of the 
same type) grouping. Previous researchers 
have expressed different views about the 
effects of heterogeneous and homogeneous 
ability-grouping on student learning. Some 
researchers believe heterogeneous grouping 
benefits student learning more than 
homogeneous grouping. Whereas, other 
researchers have supported homogeneous 
grouping. This study aims to have a more in-
depth view of the effects of group 
composition on promoting critical thinking 
level of ELF students in collaborative writing. 
2. Literature review 
2.1. Critical thinking and its relationship 
with argumentative writing 
As a term with multiple definitions, 
critical thinking (CT) broadly comprises skills 
and disposition. Critical thinking skills are 
concerned with cognitive skills such as 
interpretation, analysis, evaluation, explanation, 
inference, and self-regulation, while critical 
thinking disposition relates to the affective 
domain, including inquisitiveness, systematicity, 
analyticity, truth-seeking, open-mindedness, 
self-confidence, and maturity (Facione & 
Sánchez, 1994). 
The primary foundation of the theoretical 
framework related to argumentative essays is 
the Toulmin model of argumentation. In 1958, 
Toulmin presented a model of the six 
elements in producing a good argument 
(Toulmin, 2003). The first three elements 
consisting of a claim, data, and warrants, 
which are essential to any argument. First, a 
person makes a claim (i.e. an assertion, 
standard, or thesis). Next, the data (i.e. facts 
or evidence) are provided to support the 
claim. Finally, the warrants link the data to the 
claim and gives the data general support. 
Besides, three additional elements are also 
involved in the Toulmin model, including 
qualifiers (i.e. the degree of force which 
the data confer on the claim in virtue of the 
warrants), rebuttals (i.e. conditions of 
exception indicating circumstances in which 
the general authority of the warrant would 
have to be set aside) and backing (i.e. 
providing reinforcement for the warrants). 
However, due to its complexity, 
Toulmin’s model has been applied in a more 
simplified way and its elements have been 
given different names bearing the original 
meaning. For instance, claim has been termed 
‘proposition’, ‘opinion’, or ‘conclusion’; data 
has been named ‘reasons’, ‘evidence’, or 
‘arguments’. The terms qualifier and backing 
have been used less often in empirical studies. 
The term rebuttal, together with qualifier, has 
been elaborated into counterarguments and 
rebuttals (e.g., Knudson, 1992), to refer to the 
whole process of counter-argumentation by 
acknowledging alternative or opposite views 
and refuting them. The significance of CT 
including counterarguments and rebuttals for 
making written argumentation persuasive has 
been underpinned by much research. In the L1 
context, counter-argumentation, an arguer’s 
recognition of opposing views and refuting 
them, has been deemed central to one’s CT 
abilities and dispositions (Palmer, 2012; 
Perkins & Tishman, 2001; Walton, 1989). 
Meanwhile, in the L2 context, studies on L2 
students’ argumentative writing and critical 
thinking are fewer in number. A study 
conducted by Qin and Karabacak (2010) 
found that when counterarguments and 
rebuttals were included, they enhanced the 
overall quality of argumentative writing. In 
short, elements of critical thinking (i.e. 
argumentation and counter-argumentation) 
play an integral part of assessing an 
argumentative essay; in contrast, argumentative 
writing including the practice of making 
104 Nguyen T. M. Tram & Bui T. T. Quyen. Journal of Science Ho Chi Minh City Open University, 9(5), 102-112 
arguments, giving opposite views and refuting 
them helps students promote their critical 
thinking level. 
2.2. Collaborative learning in improving 
critical thinking 
Proponents of collaborative learning 
claim that the active exchange of ideas within 
small groups not only increases interest 
among the participants but also promotes 
critical thinking. According to Johnson and 
Johnson (1986), there is persuasive evidence 
that cooperative teams achieve at higher levels 
of thought and retain information longer than 
students who work quietly as individuals. The 
shared learning gives students an opportunity 
to engage in discussion, take responsibility for 
their own learning, and thus become critical 
thinkers (Totten, Sills, Digby, & Russ, 1991). 
When carrying out a collaborative 
learning activity, one of the concerns is 
finding the most appropriate grouping of 
students that is able to maximize learning. In 
the literature, discussion on grouping of 
students revolves around the size of the group, 
the selection of group members and the 
duration of group work. A review of 
related research indicates that most of 
empirical studies have examined the effects of 
heterogeneous and homogeneous ability-
grouping on students’ learning. Studies 
on comparing the effect of heterogeneous 
and homogeneous grouping have been 
conducted (Baer, 2003; Camara, Carr, & 
Grota, 2007; Faris, 2009; Larson et al., 1984; 
Watson and Marshall, 1995), but the issue is 
still controversial among researchers of all 
disciplines. 
With regard to examining the impact 
of grouping on fostering students’ critical 
thinking, there are few studies in which 
students are divided into groups based on 
their reasoning level. A study conducted by 
Jenson and Lawson (2011) revealed that 
group composition (homogeneous vs. 
heterogeneous) appears to have a variety of 
effects on achievement on high-level items 
(items requiring more high-level skills). Low-
level students of critical thinking tend to 
perform better when placed in homogeneous 
groups, whereas medium and high-level 
ones performed equally in both group 
compositions. However, Jenson and Lawson’s 
study considered reasoning as a separate skill; 
that is, it is not used in combination with other 
skills (e.g., reading or writing). 
 Although there has been a growing 
body of literature and empirical studies in the 
field of collaborative learning in EFL teaching 
and learning, most of them conducted aim 
to investigate the impacts of collaborative 
learning on improving students’ achievement 
as well as their critical thinking in various 
areas of language. In addition, research 
pertaining to the influence of grouping factors 
has been conducted in Western countries 
whose collaborative learning principles may 
not suit Asian culture in general and 
Vietnamese culture in particular. Therefore, 
there is a need to carry out an empirical study 
that investigate the effect of grouping types on 
fostering Vietnamese students’ critical 
thinking in collaborative writing. 
2.3. Research questions 
The present paper seeks to justify how 
much homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping 
of EFL learners working collaboratively affect 
their critical thinking level in writing 
argumentative essays. Furthermore, it also 
attempts to determine the effects of these two 
group types on improving critical thinking 
level of high-level and low-level students. It is 
noted that the level of students in this study is 
categorized based on their initial CT level on 
the pre-test. 
The study aims to answer three research 
questions as follows: 
1/ Are there any statistically significant 
changes in the CT level of homogeneous and 
heterogeneous groups of the participants 
through collaborative writing? 
Nguyen T. M. Tram & Bui T. T. Quyen. Journal of Science Ho Chi Minh City Open University, 9(5), 102-112 105 
2/ Are there any statistically significant 
changes in the CT level of homogeneous 
and heterogeneous groups among low-level 
students? 
3/ Are there any statistically significant 
changes in the CT level of homogeneous 
and heterogeneous groups among high-level 
students? 
3. Method 
3.1. Research setting 
The present study was carried out at 
Foreign Language Department - Quy Nhon 
University (FLD - QNU), which is located in 
Quy Nhon city. 
3.2. Design 
This study is a quantitative research 
in which a quasi-experimental design was 
used in order to investigate and make a 
comparison of the effects of homogeneous 
and heterogeneous grouping on students’ 
CT in collaborative writing. In this 
experiment, three experiment groups were 
employed so as to compare their effects on 
improving students’ CT: (1) heterogeneous 
groups including both high and low-level 
students, (2) high-level homogeneous groups 
consisting of high-level students, and (3) low-
level homogeneous groups where low-level 
students work collaboratively. The process of 
grouping was implemented randomly by 
assigning the participants who had taken the 
pre-test into one of three experiment groups 
based on their initial scoring of CT level. It is 
noted that no control group was presented in 
this study. 
3.3. Instruments 
Two major instruments were used in the 
present study: writing prompts and the scoring 
rubric for assessing critical thinking in essays. 
The participants were given a topic of 
argumentative writing to write as a pre-test. 
The purpose the administration of the pre-test 
was to identify low-level and high-level 
students with respect to their ability to think 
critically so that they could be divided into 
three different group types. The topic used at 
the beginning of the experiment was also 
given to the participants to write and to be 
scored as the post-test in the end. Besides, 
there are eight other topics employed during 
the experiment. Four topics were also used to 
have the groups work together and make a 
joint composition at the end of the week 
during the four-week experiment. The others 
were given to all of the participants to write 
individually every week. 
The present study employed the 4-point 
rubrics following Stapleton (2001) to evaluate 
elements of CT in argumentative writing. 
This model was chosen because its 
elements are in accordance with the Toulmin 
model of argumentation which emphasizes the 
importance of identifying and refuting the 
opposite views. 
4. Findings and discussion 
Question 1: Are there any statistically 
significant changes in the CT level of 
homogeneous and heterogeneous groups of 
the participants through collaborative writing? 
To figure out the answer to question 1, 
the first hypothesis was proposed that there is 
not any statistically significant difference in 
the critical thinking level of homogeneous 
and heterogeneous groups of EFL learners 
through collaborative writing. A tabulation of 
descriptive statistics is shown in Table 1 below. 
106 Nguyen T. M. Tram & Bui T. T. Quyen. Journal of Science Ho Chi Minh City Open University, 9(5), 102-112 
Table 1 
Descriptive statistics of grouping strategy and ability level 
Table 1 summarizes the mean of pre-test 
and post-test of four types of students: high-
level students in heterogeneous groups, low-
level students in heterogeneous groups, high-
level students in homogeneous groups, low-
level students in homogeneous groups. It can 
be seen that there was an increase in the 
mean of the pre-test and the post-test of both 
low-level and high-level students was shown 
in both types of grouping. Nevertheless, that 
the difference between the means of students 
at the pre-test and post-test is significant or 
not is of the greater importance. Paired 
sample t-tests were run to have an in-depth 
understanding of the question (see Tables 2, 
3, 4 and 5). 
Table 2 
Paired sample t-test for heterogeneous high students 
It can be seen from table 1 that the 
mean scores of heterogeneous high students 
on pre- and post-test were 3.42 and 3.83 
respectively; whereas, the mean scores of 
heterogeneous low students on pre- and 
post-test were 1.47 and 2.87 respectively. 
The result of paired sample t-test showed 
that there was a significant difference 
between the mean scores of the 
heterogeneous high students on the pre- and 
post-test through collaborative writing, t = 
2.803, p < 0.05 (see Table 2). 
Nguyen T. M. Tram & Bui T. T. Quyen. Journal of Science Ho Chi Minh City Open University, 9(5), 102-112 107 
Table 3 
Paired sample t-test for heterogeneous low students 
Table 3 shows that heterogeneous low 
students also improved on the post-test (their 
mean scores on the pre-test were 1.47, which 
increased to 2.87 on the post-test) and their 
mean difference was significant, t = 10.693, 
p < 0.05. 
Table 4 
Paired sample t-test for homogeneous high students 
The same results were obtained for both 
homogeneous high and low students. The 
homogeneous high students' mean scores on 
the pre-test and post-test were 3.40 and 3.95 
respectively and the difference was 
significant, t = 4.819, p < 0.05 (see Table 4). 
Table 5 
Paired sample t-test for homogeneous low students 
108 Nguyen T. M. Tram & Bui T. T. Quyen. Journal of Science Ho Chi Minh City Open University, 9(5), 102-112 
Homogeneous low students' mean scores 
were 1.58 and 1.92 on the pre- and post- 
test respectively, and the difference was 
statistically difference as suggested by a 
paired sample t-test and the results, t = 3.638, 
p < 0.05 (see Table 5). 
Therefore, it could be concluded that the 
first hypothesis which said that there is not 
any statistically significant difference in the 
critical thinking level of students in both 
heterogeneous and homogeneous groups 
through cooperative writing was rejected. In a 
word, the students have the same chances to 
gain some improvements in their critical 
thinking level through writing collaboratively. 
Question 2: Are there any statistically 
significant changes in the CT level of 
homogeneous and heterogeneous groups 
among high-level students categorized by 
their initial CT level? 
The second hypothesis states that there is 
not any statistically significant difference 
in the critical thinking level of homogeneous 
groups and heterogeneous groups among 
low-level EFL learners through cooperative 
writing. As can be seen from table 1, 
heterogeneous low students obtained a higher 
mean gain, i.e. 1.40 than the homogeneous 
ones (0.35). 
This reveals that the heterogeneous 
grouping has been more effective in improving 
critical thinking level for low-level students. In 
other words, low students have gained more 
improvement as the result of working with 
higher peers than working with students of the 
same level. In order to examine whether the 
difference between the mean scores of 
heterogeneous low and homogeneous low 
students was significant or not, an independent 
t-test was run and it is shown that the Levene's 
test is statistically significant with p < .05 as 
shown in Table 6 below. 
Table 6 
Independent t-test for low homogeneous and heterogeneous students 
Therefore, the second hypothesis states 
that there is not any statistically significant 
difference in the critical thinking level of 
homogeneous groups and heterogeneous 
groups among low-level EFL learners through 
cooperative writing was rejected. 
Nguyen T. M. Tram & Bui T. T. Quyen. Journal of Science Ho Chi Minh City Open University, 9(5), 102-112 109 
Question 3: Are there any statistically 
significant changes in the CT level of 
homogeneous and heterogeneous groups 
among high-level students categorized by 
their initial CT level? 
The third hypothesis states that there is 
not any statistically significant difference in 
the critical thinking level of homogeneous 
groups and heterogeneous groups among 
high-level EFL learners through cooperative 
writing. Although both homogeneous and 
heterogeneous students achieved higher mean 
scores at the post-test in comparison with the 
pre-test, homogeneous high students proved 
to outperform heterogeneous high students. 
As can be seen from table 1, homogeneous 
high students obtained a higher mean gain 
 than the heterogeneous ones (0.55 and 
0.41 respectively). This discloses that the 
homogeneous grou

File đính kèm:

  • pdfthe_effects_of_grouping_types_on_promoting_critical_thinking.pdf
Tài liệu liên quan