Ten potential advantages of group activities in language instruction

Hi Everyone!

In this first posting of 2016, I want address group work.

Ellis (2005) refers to Jacobs (1998), who compares the characteristics of group work with those of teacher-centered instruction.


Ten potential advantages of group activities in language instruction Advantages



1. The quantity of learner speech can increase In teacher-fronted classrooms, teachers typically speak 80% of the time; in group work more students talk for more of the time.
2. The variety of speech acts can increase In teacher-fronted classrooms, students are cast in a responsive role, but in group work they perform different roles, including those involved in the negotiation of meaning.
3. There can be more individualization of instruction In teacher fronted-lessons, teachers shape their instruction to the needs of the average student; in group work  to the needs of individual students.
4. Anxiety can be reduced Students feel less nervous speaking in an L2 in front of their peers than in front of the whole class.
5. Motivation can increase Students are less competitive when working in groups and more likely encourage each other.
6. Enjoyment can increase Students are ‘social animals’; they enjoy interacting with others; in teacher-fronted classrooms student-student interaction is often proscribed.
7. Independence can increase Group activities help students to become independent learners.
8. Social integration can increase Group activities enable students to get to know each other.
9. Students can learn how to work together with others In typical teacher-fronted classrooms students are discouraged from helping each other; group work helps students to learn collaborative skills.
10. Learning can increase Learning is enhanced by group work because students are willing to take risks and can scaffold each other’s efforts.

Adapted from: Ellis 2005, p.22

In Miccoli (2013, p. 143) I refer Wobeto (2012), who conducted a study with beginners involved in collaborative group work. The results indicated 6 advantages and 4 disadvantages. The advantages: in collaborative group work students (1) negotiate meaning, (2) maximize their output, (3) share knowledge and information, (4) use Portuguese to maintain interaction, (5) co-construct their learning and (6) strive to comprehend and help partners. The disadvantages are: (1) pronunciation problems, (2) doubts as to how to structure ideas in sentences, (3) disagreements and conflicts, and (4) uncorrected errors. In spite of these limitations, students evaluate collaborative group work as positive for the development of their foreign language skills.

Even with such limitations, advantages outnumber disadvantages. Group work contributes to renew the teacher’s role in the classroom – a conductor of pedagogical activities. For that to happen, group work has to be planned, structured, and tailored to students’ needs and to the classroom contextual characteristics. Students should not be abandoned during group work; on the contrary, they should be monitored, identifying conceptual gaps or performance difficulties so as to receive the teacher’s guidance as to how to overcome them.

So, don’t hesitate – the more group work, the more students develop their language skills.


ELLIS, R. (2005). Instructed second language acquisition: a literature review. Ministry of Education: New Zealand.

Taken from:

Download: 12/03/2012.

JACOBS, G. (1998). Cooperative learning or just grouping students: The difference makes a difference. In: RENANDYA, W.; JACOBS, G. (Eds.). Learners and language learning. Singapore: SEAMEO, p. 145-171.

MICCOLI, L. (2013) Aproximando Teoria e Prática para Professores de Línguas Estrangeiras. Belo Horizonte: Fino Traço, 2013.

WOBETO, R. Collaborative written text production in English: a case study. 2012. 159 f. Dissertação (Mestrado em Linguística, Letras e Artes) – Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, 2012.

Taken from:

Download: 26/02/2016

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Laura Miccoli

Laura Miccoli is a professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais and a researcher, consultant, and founder of Transforma Educacional – a social business to develop teachers professionally. She has authored “Ensino e Aprendizagem de Inglês: experiências, desafios e possibilidades” and “Aproximando Teoria e Prática para Professores de Línguas Estrangeiras”.

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