To see how Vygotsky's theory applies to my classroom, I recently conducted a case study in Chinese IV class. Here is the procedure and results.
Will there be a significant difference in achievement on a test comprised of vocabulary learning items between students learning individually and students learning collaboratively?
In individual learning, I first explained to the students the academic task. They were given 15 minutes to work on 4 new characters. They could use any ways that they thought the best ways to learn these 4 characters. They could look up the dictionary or any book. The students then worked by themselves individually.
When implementing collaborative learning, I also first explained the academic task to the students. The students would use Tapped-In as a tool for their discussion, and they could look up the online Chinese-English dictionary which was more convenient to use than a traditional dictionary. They were given 15 minutes to work on another 4 new Chinese characters. They were encouraged to discuss the meanings of the characters, and read carefully comments of other members of the group. Every group member was given an opportunity to contribute his or her understanding of the meanings, and together the group would construct the knowledge of the characters. The students then worked in small groups.
I gave a surprise quiz consisting of 4 characters from the first list (the ones the students learned alone) and 4 characters from the second list (the ones the students learned in groups).
The Test Results
Individual learning: 60% correct on the meanings and 50% correct on the pronunciations.
Collaborative learning (online): 100% correct on the meanings and 85% correct on the pronunciations.
Students were asked to respond to these questions after the test:
1. Do you think you learned better by discussing the meanings of the words in a small groups?
2. If the answer for #1 is yes, why do you think collaborative learning helped you understand better?
3. If the answer for #1 is no, why do you think individual learning helped you understand better?
All students were actively involved, and in their responses to the activity said that they felt discussing the words through Tapped-In really helped. Their scores on the test supported what they stated. No one missed any point on the test of meanings. Some students felt the online collaborative learning helped them greatly because they could read others explanations, ask questions, and many people repeated the pin yin(Chinese phonetics) with tones. Some students said that Tapped-In was fun. They said this was the learning without stress.