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Utilizing group work in English proficiency test preparation classes
This paper reports on a pilot introduction of group work into TOEIC® Listening and Reading Test preparation classes for first-year students at Hiroshima University. The aim was to assess the potential and challenges of a learner-centered approach in English proficiency test preparation classes, where a teachercentered approach has been traditionally preferred. It was conducted in six classes altogether, with approximately 40-50 students in each, taught by two instructors (authors Enokida and Kusanagi) in 2017 and 2018. They were part of the compulsory English courses targeting approximately 1,000 first-year students at Hiroshima University, where the course materials, weekly schedule, and assessment tools are standardized. Four of the six classes were taught using the knowledge-based jigsaw method in a large classroom optimized for group work, while in the other two, taught in a traditional classroom, multiple types of activities involving pair and group work were randomly combined. An online questionnaire survey was administered to the participants at the end of each course.
Overall, the participants gave neutral to positive feedback for the TOEIC® Listening and Reading Test preparation classes based on group work. While statistically strong correlations were observed among the questionnaire items, there was a relatively low correlation between their engagement in the course as a whole and their attitudes toward group work. Their positive attitudes toward group work did not necessarily lead to greater overall commitment to the course, possibly due to their belief that group work is not so effective for the English proficiency test preparation.
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