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Learning English Vocabulary in a Computer-Supported Collaborative Environment: A Case Study in a Junior High School in Taiwan
computer-supported collaborative learning
English vocabulary learning
The study was intended to explore students’ perceptions of learning English vocabulary in a computer-supported collaborative environment, in the hope of probing into the relationship between learners’ perceptions, learning effects, and influencing factors. Three main research questions were addressed in the current study: (1) Are there any significant differences between the group of individual learning without computers, the group of collaborative learning without computers, and the group of collaborative learning with computers in vocabulary tests? (2) What are EFL high school students’ perceptions of learning vocabulary in a computer-supported collaborative environment? (3) What are the possible factors that influence learners’ perceptions? We recruited 91 eighth-graders from three intact classes in a junior high school in Taiwan, assigning one class to learning individually without computers, another group learning collaboratively without computers and the other learning collaboratively with computers. All participants took a pretest before three sets of vocabulary exercises in three periods; after each set, they took an immediate posttest; and, a month after the experiment, all took a delayed posttest. The computer group also completed a questionnaire and six students were interviewed. The quantitative data showed that despite the individual-oriented nature of vocabulary learning, the treatment of computer and collaboration did not debilitate learners’ acquisition of vocabulary. The participants learning collaboratively with computers were not outperformed in vocabulary tests designed for individual study; moreover, they showed better retention, outperforming the others in the delayed posttest. From the qualitative data, more than 70% of the participants in the computer group reported a positive attitude and anticipation to learning vocabulary in such an environment. A further analysis found the nature of tasks, sharing of computers, and grouping not only influence our participants’ perceptions but also have an effect on learning approaches they adopted as well as the learning outcomes. Finally this study agrees that success is not guaranteed but deliberate design needs to be considered before learners are engaged in a computer-supported collaborative learning environment. Several pedagogical implications and suggestions for future research are proposed.
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