This paper reports on a pilot introduction of group work, utilizing Hiroshima University’s CALL system. The aim is to assess the potential and challenges of learner-centered approaches in a CALL class, where limitations of movement in tight classroom spaces typically make face-to-face group activities difficult.
The research was conducted in two English reading classes, with approximately 40 students in each, in 2018 and 2019. While these classes were TOEIC®-oriented, they were taught using the knowledge-based jigsaw method, enabled by the intercom functionality of the CALL system. The students were first divided into four different “expert groups” to discuss with their neighboring classmates how to explain the rationale for the answers to the questions assigned for each expert group. Then they worked in groups of four, called “jigsaw groups,” where one student from each expert group was reassigned to a new group. Since jigsaw groupings were made using the pair/group function of the CALL system, the students did not need to move physically in the classroom. Sitting separately and wearing headsets, the jigsaw members presented to one another on what they prepared in their previous expert group. An online questionnaire survey was administered to the participants at the end of each course.
Overall, the participants gave positive feedback for the TOEIC®-oriented classes, based on group work using the CALL function. The intercom functionality of the CALL system helped introduce full-fledged group work in a small, jam-packed CALL classroom; on the other hand, groupings had to be made carefully and flexibly according to the number of students present, and the possibility of technical problems with the CALL system had to be taken into account.