The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

SAT: How forums and collaborative learning impact on oral proficiency in a foreign language class. (Tommy Ruiz)

Cloud created by:

tommy ruiz
6 January 2016

Using a class activity and its inclusive online collaborative component (open educational resources (OER), Moodle and its forums) the teacher recorded students who would not regularly speak during class time. This presentation discusses the importance of collaborative learning, digital methods and how students perceive their educational learning through an online community. Focusing primarily on the theme of inclusion, the interpretivist lens allows the teacher to focus on ethnographic data collected to extract key concepts. The presentation concludes by outlining the importance of collaborative learning and its impact on inclusive learning.


This presentation explores:

-       How collaborative learning is implemented in a foreign language class.

-       How and why it helps oral proficiency.

-       To what extent forums compliment collaborative learning in a foreign language class.


While interest in the voice of students and teenagers has grown, concerns for their oral participation in a foreign language class can still be a daunting experience for some (Hewitt and Stephenson, 2012).  For those excluded, the teacher needs to implement a safe, positive learning environment where students can feel at ease. Personal growth is mostly achieved whilst connecting, comparing and challenging your peers’ work. As a result, carefully structured group work or collaborative learning has been promoted at the international school of Kuala-Lumpur (ISKL) for a number of years. When applied to a foreign language class, collaborative learning creates random conversations. It focuses on shared knowledge and clear communication skills between students. 


When learning a foreign language, not all students learn at the same pace. Therefore pupils do not have the same learning outcomes. Consequently, a class activity that promotes collaborative learning needs to be tailored for the students’ individual needs. As a result, critical theory (Curseu and Pluut, 2013) suggests that students should work collaboratively in small groups to fulfil their potential whilst avoiding some of the peer pressure issues. Effective communicators listen, reflect and respect each other’s ideas. Students need to take part in conversations to be accepted and thus included in the learning process. Each student should be a creative thinker who can reason critically. They need to defend viewpoints, argue and share experiences. In that context, oral participation is a crucial component towards inclusion.


Placing a similar emphasis on the role of forums, Norvig (2012) views the latter as a platform where communication helps students clarify problems, negotiate meanings, exchange knowledge and share perspectives. Whilst language acquisition is usually linked to input-driven, listening and thus passive learning is as important (Lefkowitz and Hedgcock, 2002). In this context, forums are an extension of the collaborative learning and a reflection tool. Forums allow students to listen to their peers, learn from good examples, engage in critical reasoning and promote a monitored inclusive learning environment.


This presentation will appeal to teachers who are looking for an inclusive approach to enhance an open scholarly practice, as well as those individuals who would like to learn about the forums in a collaborative online learning environment. The presentation will explore an analysis of participant contributions, survey data, and questionnaires to propose a model for collaborative learning in a foreign language class.









Curseu, P and Pluut, H (2013) Students groups as learning entities: the effect of group diversity and teamwork quality on groups’ cognitive complexity in: Studies in higher education vol.38, no. 1, February 2013, pp87-103.


Hewitt, E and Stephenson, J (2012) Foreign language anxiety and oral exam performance: a replication of Phillip’s MLJ study in: the modern language journal, volume 96, issue 2, pages 170-189, Summer 2012.


Norvig, P (2012) The 100,000-student classroom in:


Lefkowitz, N and Hedgcock, J (2002) Sound barriers: influences of social prestige, peer pressure and teacher (dis) approval on FL oral performance in: Language teaching research 6,3 (2002); pp223-244.

Extra content

  1. Transcript 
  2. 1.             Schools are not just a knowledge based environment

At the heart of my approach, Gewirtz’s view (2008) on inclusion resonates with my philosophy. I believe schools are not just a knowledge-based environment, but also a place where pupils develop their social skills, as well as enhance their thinking process. She noted that social inclusion in schools could have long-term effects. In fact, I believe personal growth can only be achieved whilst connecting, comparing and challenging your peers. This, in the long term would create lifelong learners.

Curseu and Pluut (2013) suggest that students should be in small groups to fulfill their potential whilst avoiding some of the peer pressure issues. The groups should be individualized to maximize learning. As a result the groups need to be tailored.


  1. 2.             According to Curseu and Pluut (2013), the groups need to be as diverse as possible:

Collaborative learning can only be successful when the composition of the group has been optimized. Curseu and Pluut (2013) explore the impact of the group diversity. They demonstrate that the group should be as diverse as they can possibly be. More specifically groups with a wide range of nationality, gender and characteristics. I think it is important to highlight my environment. Being in an international school is a very specific field and this research might not apply to most school in the UK.


With mixed ability groups and what Anna mentioned in the comment in the cloud, the groups can be competitive amongst themselves. The purpose of collaborative learning is to do well as a group. Therefore it is crucial that students help each other. For example, the most able student can model the answer, and the others would change few bits to make it their own. Within the same group a student can become “the teacher” and lead the conversation.


Curseu and Pluut reinforce the argument. The more diverse the group is, the more creative and effective it becomes. Also, an internationally diverse group enables many prospects. The group will have different life experiences and different point of views, therefore will have more to share.


Curseu and Pluut emphasize the concept that a less pressured environment lead to better results. If Students value the activity they become risk takers because they trust each other. This concept resonates with Arnot and Reay’s (2012) argument. The idea of not being judged and being able to share personal information with peers is crucial in creating social relationships. Teachers should praise rather than threat to get best results! This is what John Kerr was mentioning in the comment. This Vygotskyan approach is the backbone of my research.

To support this however, strong expectations and a clear rubric are needed. Student should always feel that there is a purpose and a goal for the activity.



  1. 3.             Networked practitioner:

As part of the networked practitioner, I referred back to to share the practice, raise issues on inclusion using examples to possibly reflect on the methodology. However, several difficulties were met. First of all, the forum has a filtering system. This translates as a serious delay. The administration needs to approve the message (as long as two week) and at times relocate it in the correct forum if needed. Secondly, the online community can be volatile and slow during December (end of term exams, holidays…). So, I joined another one! The online community was extremely active and positive. I managed to get a few hints on how to modify some aspects of the research.   


  1. 4.             Oral part of learning a foreign language can be a daunting experience (Hewitt & Stephenson, 2012)

The oral part of learning a foreign language can be a daunting experience for some students (Hewitt and Stephenson, 2012). There are numerous reasons. Firstly, students find it difficult to speak in front of their peers. Peer pressure in foreign language classes is still a serious issue (Lefkowitz and Hedgcock, 2002). The authors argue that the concept of power in foreign language classes is directly linked with oral proficiency. As a result, the classroom needs to be an inclusive positive learning environment where every student can feel at ease with their speaking.

  1. 5.             The class activity

For the class activity, groups of three or four students were created. In those group talks, student focused on using the target language for at least five minutes.  During each session, the teacher sat with a group and took part in the conversation when needed. The other groups recorded their conversations using MP3 recorders. At the end of the lesson, they sent the recordings to the teacher by email. Before the following lesson, the teacher gave detailed feedback to the students. Using a detailed rubric, every student was told the stage he/she was working at and what he/she had to do to improve. After each class activity, the teacher selected one recorded conversation and uploaded it on Moodle. The students had to listen to the conversation, create a thread on the forum linked to the conversation, and reflect on their own progress.


  1. 6.             The group-talk activity creates opportunities for students to learn from their peers and reuse the language learnt (Dobao, 2014)


To recap; the group talk focuses on shared knowledge. Students in a group need to take part in conversations to be accepted and thus included in the learning process. They need to defend viewpoints, argue and share experiences. In that context, oral participation is crucial in foreign language classes. In terms of pedagogy, Booth (2011) preconizes for the group to have a community feel. Within the group, every student should be responsible and have a duty. Every child matters, and therefore every point of view should be respected. The group talk is a perfect place to be accepted and develop social skills through topics seen in class.


  1. 7.             Moodle
  2. 8.             Networked practitioner:

However, setting up forums in a school context, it is not as easy as Norvig (2012) mentioned. Over the two months process, I worked with Moodle and the Moodle specialist. First of all, the settings for Moodle are shared with the whole school. It is difficult to apply settings for one course only. At ISKL, forums are used as post boards where teachers make announcements. Students are not allowed to reply. The specialist had to go through Moodle forums and explore the myriad of different options, whilst considering the different demands and needs of all the teachers at ISKL. Ultimately, The teacher and the specialist decided to group students, create a group within the teacher’s Moodle course and give rights to students only for this forum. Table 3 and 4 shows how a guest or in this case, several specialists explored the Moodle page to tackle the issue.



From the analysis of the TMA02 and the presentation, it is evident that students and the teacher saw a small progression of the oral part of learning French. SEveral students highlighted the benefits of collaborative learning. I found that students’ progress was linked to the group talk activity and the collaborative learning. Furthermore it should be emphasized that the networked element is crucial to optimize the outcomes of activities such as the forum and an effective use of Moodle. Finally, by March, the networked practitioner will have collected more data from and will be able to explore different angle for the class activity.



tommy ruiz
00:52 on 10 February 2016

Embedded Content