STUDENTS' ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN ENGLISH CLASS ACTIVITIES: AN ACTION RESEARCH

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Students' Active Participation in English Class Activities: An Action Research

Abdul Wali Khan,

F.G Boys H/S Gulaghmuli.

Article Received: 22 March 2018 Article Accepted: 29 July 2018 Article Published: 09 September 2018

BACKGROUND/INTRODUCTION

As a English teacher I am associated with federal government boys High School Gulagahmuli since 2010. My

experience of teaching English in the secondary class inform me that students most of the time become passive

receiver of knowledge instead of becoming active and captain of their own learning. Moreover, all the teachers of

the school use talk and chalk method which requires the students to sit on the back bench and listen to the teachers

silently. All this collectively lead towards making students a dull and low confident individual who has no

confidence to speak in the gathering or experience in life. While the purpose of education is to make the child learn

for life and take education as life (John Dewey, (1935). Attending a one year course at professional development

center, Aga Khan University, exposed on me the literature and teaching strategies which are demanding and needs

of the 21st century classroom. Contrary to this my school in general and my class (The grade 6th) portrayed a

different picture. These hint my view to work and improve my students understanding and confidence. Thus I took A B S T R A C T

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the challenge with the support from the faculty at the PDCN and initiated a change process in the class with a slogan

of “how I can improve students’ active participation in the English class activities employing interactive approach of teaching”

General Idea/Reconnaissance

Teaching is a demanding and challenging job in today's fast changing world. It demands teachers to be fully

equipped with appropriate and sufficient knowledge, skills and dispositions. Moreover, effective learning can't take

place by relying on textbooks only. Khuro and Mithanni (2004) opine that "in an ideal school the formation of a

learning society takes place where students and teachers assist and enable each other’s to inquire and integrate new

thoughts with the learners' existing knowledge” p.4).Despite the fact most of the teachers in our context teach

traditionally and prepare students for exams through selective teaching rather than helping them understand the

concepts clearly. Consequently most of the students remain passive and inactive during class activities.

Fink (1999) associates active learning with students’ involvement in real experiences and engaging in dialogues

and discussions. He furthers for doing observation and doing. It helps (as Finks put it) the students to build their

confidence and boosts up their receptive skills. Teachers in the school try their level best to ensure students

participation but sometimes it seems difficult to do so. Similar was the case with my Students of class 6th who could

not take part in class activities and share and discuss ideas in the class. Consequently, students felt shy and

hesitation to express their ideas in the class and affecting students’ holistic development as a whole. Reflecting on

and sharing the issue with my colleague teachers, I realized that the teachers blindly follow traditional talk and

chalk method and teaching in the class is not activity based and student centered. It didn’t provide any opportunity

for discussion, group work, presentation and other hands on activities and mind of activities which could encourage

student's active participation and grab/arouse their motivation in the class.

Differently, it could be teachers lack of interest and the and the century long traditional culture of the school; where

teachers regurgitate the same things in the way s/he has digested the learning. Whatever, it may, learning was there

in any way. In other words I do not mean that everything was wrong and nothing could be done for the eradication

of that problem. Similarly, I could simply envision many opportunities in the school, if one could dare to overcome

those problem/issues. The opportunities include the availability of talented and experienced teachers in the school

to support me. In addition, I could see the rich classrooms which allow activity based teaching, the library and other

resources could be of advantage if I am brave enough to take the lead for the great cause. While being enough

optimistic I was also mindful that Room was not built over night, so becoming specific and narrowing down my

area of actions dropped me to the grade 6th students whom I taught English. Though engulfed in many issues what

I wanted to change or improve was the active participation of students in class activities. And thus making the

students’ responsive and active learners required applying certain strategies in the real class room situation. In this

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I could practice the following theme in the English class.

 Developed lesson plan with SMART objective

 Student- centered and activity- based teaching

 Encouragement of students for asking questions and equal participation.

 Effective use of low cost and no cost resources

 Encouraging group, pair work and presentations

Research Question

In order to keep my research focused and on the track, I developed an overarching research question which reads:

How can I improve grade 6th students' active participation in English class activities?

I further expanded the main question into the following subsidiary questions that read:

 What are the strategies can I use to make students active participants?

 What strategy can I use which can help students to ask question, share ideas and discuss their point of view

in the class?

Rationale

The scenario of the school and the nature of the research question required an intervention and practical

involvement in the class in order to facilitate the students to become responsive and active participant in the class.

Secondly, doing the action research I want to shift a paradigm from very traditional and teacher centeredness

classroom to a very robust activity based teaching in the school which will ultimately penetrate to the other classes

as well. And doing this is the most vehement need of the class and the school as a whole. The other reason for taking

this action research is to provide opportunities for students to build their confidence increase their vocabulary

building and improve language skills and intellectual accomplishment. Moreover, active participation will give

them strength to express their ideas before the class and also to enrich their level of conceptual understanding.

Implications of the Study

Doing the study will help me to change my style of teaching and future courses of actions. I will be able to plan

activity based lesson plan which is crucial for my professional development. Furthermore, this action research is

beneficial for the school in terms of good performance of students and teachers. The change occurred in the class 6th

will slowly permeate in other classes and rest of the teachers can replicate this study in other classes to bring change

in their teaching. In this way it will be an informed decision for the teachers in working with the class. As a result

their professional skills will be enhanced and get refreshed. Moreover, community is the major stakeholder of the

school and this study will help them take interest in their children learning achievements. Students’ performance

will satisfy them. As a result parents teacher interaction will increase and trust deficit decrease. In a nutshell this

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Significance of the Study

This is the first research of its kind conducted in Government school Gulaghmuli with regard to bringing a drastic

change in teaching strategies and methodology. The research will prove that teachers will gain an insight of the

importance of the interactive approach as one of the ways to improve skills for active participation in class

activities.

Methodology

Within the qualitative paradigm action research was opted in order to fully address the research question,

employing various tools for data collection such as classroom intervention, classroom observation by critical friend

and reflection after classroom. In addition, during teaching and class work I frequently observed students if they are

paying attention, do the needful in the class and try to speak or not. Moreover, I used to hold informal discussion

with my critical friend in the in free periods. . These informal discussions were fruitful to find out the interests,

needs and motivation of the students. It helped me find out the causes of lack of students involvement in class

activities. Moreover, my critical friend observed my lessons on regular basis. After each lesson, we used to have

had informal discussion in recess about each lesson taught. In his classroom observation my critical friend told me

that my voice did not reach to the back seats. Consequently I changed the seating positions and tried to speak

louder. In sum the multiple sources of data helped enhance students learning and contributed in achieving the goal

of the study. Maxwell (2004) also calls for operation of multiple tools in doing action research.

Analysis and Findings

The data of my action research shows a gradual output of our intervention in the classroom. I introduce each step

taken for the improvement of the students in below with in-built effect on students’ learning. The application of

diverse strategies has been able to make the students realize of the importance of their participation in the class. The

paragraphs details about the two cycle of intervention with the activities in the class and the result which occurred

as a result of the intervention.

Action Steps

The intervention stages in two cycle :in the first cycle I used topics such as meeting, discussions and presentations,

inquiry teaching, vocabulary building, writing reading comprehension activities, interview of teacher and head

teacher, teaching adjectives, questioning and test of students, while in the second cycle I used advanced strategies

such as trust your memory, think-pair and share and reflective strategy which collectively helped me in a satisfying

manner.

Action A

I made a plan and began to teach using interactive learning method of teaching. My first strategy was to make the

students active participants in the class. I divided them into 7group eight students in each group and gave them

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I observed that some students did the presentation very good but majority of them were unable to do the given task.

This activity continued for a week. Initially, it was difficult for the students to share single words but gradually the

students became used to it.

Vocabulary Building through active participation:

To develop the vocabulary of students I started the lesson by writing a word "vocabulary" on the board and asked

the students to make as many words as they could from the given word. It was observed that some students made

big words like cupboard etc and some made small words such as cat and ball etc. after the interval when I asked the

students if the activity helped develop their vocabulary, a student uttered:

"Our vocabulary increased and I know meaning of different words, I know name of things in the sky, on the earth.

This practice encouraged me to learn the meaning of words in school and at home. I am able to speak little in

English, I can read English…………” (See Appendix C.) Moreover, when I gave them test I saw that there were

less spelling mistakes.

Confidence building through presentation and group work

Before this action research students were unable to share their ideas with the class because of lack of confidence.

When I initiated students' center teaching and encouraged them to discuss and share their ideas in groups, than the

students' confidence built up and they started to present group work in the class. Some students even started asking

high order questions. One day I was teaching Seasons of the year" students questioned me that “Why winter doesn't

come after spring? It shows that students' confidence has built to a satisfactory level. One student said "Group work

helped me to share my opinion with the class. We did work our together and now I enjoy doing group work"(Diary,

27-6-13)

Students’ active participation enhances Communications skills

To enhance students’ communication skills, I used debate strategy where I divided the students in to two major

groups and gave them a topic to debate on it. One group opponent while the other group was proponent. This could

create a hot debate in class and sometimes students would start fighting for and try to impose their ideas on each

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Finding of Action A

At the end of cycle one, we possibly witnessed the following difference in the class:

Improved vocabulary of students as they used variety of words in their writing.

They started to express their ideas verbally with some shyness and low confidence.

Students' interest and participation increased due to different teaching strategies.

Less spelling mistakes were observed in the students’ work.

Owing to the satisfying result we thought to go for more advanced strategies to further facilitate students improve

their learning through participation and interaction.

Action B

Discussion in Group Enhances Students Questioning Skill

Based on the findings and reflections of the first cycle, I included some new activities such as innovative and

interesting activities, teaching through pictures. But I continued most of the activities unchanged as it worked well

in the first cycle. I changed my plan in order to manage time in an effective way. In this action I selected topics for

group discussion for each day and taught seasons of the year. I gave more time to students to participate in group

work and presentation by making them more accountable for their learning. Accordingly I changed my grouping

strategy from numbering to naming of students for the purpose of making mixed abilities group. At the same time,

I gave the students different responsibility such as writer, time keeper, manager, presenter, and idea generator to

ensure the participation of the all group members. This time, I used questioning technique to involve all the students

in class activities. I distributed different section of the topic among the groups and encouraged students to discuss

the topic with each other, and prepare for presentation. I also asked them to generate two to three questions during

group discussion about the given task and finally ask to the whole class. I moved around the class and monitored the

work of each group equally. I found that most of the students took part in the class activity. However, there were

students who still did not take part in the assignment. Some students asked me to help them construct questions

during the activity. I helped them to construct questions with W/H (what, why questions. similarly I shared some

questions with them such as:

 Why spring season is king of all the seasons.

 What season comes after winter etc?

Interesting Activities Enhance Students’ Motivation and Participation

Making students work all the time was boring and challenge for them. To sustain their motivation and interest in the

class, I opted and interesting activity titled “Think-Pair- Share”. This technique caught students’ attention in the

lesson. The strategy works as follow;

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Step 1- thinking

I asked the students to think on the issue for one minute. Students need to know that talking is not part of

thinking.

Step 2- Pairing

Then I asked the students to pair off and discuss what they had been thinking about. Students were not

allowed to spend more than five minutes for pairing.

Step 3-Sharing

Finally I asked the pairs to share with the whole class what they had been thinking. My critical friend told

me that students did it very well and all of them were active participant.

Next day I used the “Numbered- Head- Together” approach. It is an approach which checks the understanding of a lessons’ topic.

Step1-Numbering

I divided the students into 3-5 members team and gave them a number so each student in team has a

different number 1to 5.

Step2-Questioning

I asked a question (Why spring season is called the king of the seasons?)

Step3-Head Together

Students put their heads together and made sure everyone knows the answer.

Step-4 Answering

I called a number and students from each group with the same number raised their hands and provided

answer to the whole class. They shared useful information with each other. We observed that clear information is

very important for students. It was also observed that students take more interest when they are given something

new than text book. The data revealed that these activities were very fruitful for students’ motivation and

participation. One student said that it was really a wonderful activity.

Innovative Activities Enhance Students Thinking Skills

My ultimate aim to introduce innovative activities in the class was to keep students motivated and active participant

in the class activities. Over the time, I have used different activities to keep their interest alive and to facilitate them

become active learner, but this time I also wanted to improve their thinking skill through innovative activities. So I

used “One Minute Monologue” and then “Trust Your Brain” activity. The one minute monologue approach

required me to first pair up the students and explained that each of them will have sixty second to speak to the other.

The topic is open. I also explained to them that after the paired monologues, they will respond one thing to the other

said to the whole group. Each student reported one thing said by their partners to the whole group, while for the

second approach (Trust Your Memory) I divided the students in circle of ten students and ask them to bring an idea

to the mind something they are happy or good at. The first student in each group gave their names and mentioned an

activity they were good at e.g. one student said I am Nazakat and I am good at speaking. Similarly, the second

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at. One student responded like this “ Nazakat good at speaking and this is Rehmatullah and I am good at writing” in

this way the activity continued till the last students in the circle repeats all the information about everyone else

before saying what he himself is good at. This was really a challenging task, but I was amazed to see the

performance of student. I quote below one of the groups work:

“I am Sajid good at drawing, Sajid good at drawing, and this is Tajwar and happy doing homework, Sajid drawing,

Tajwar happy doing homework and this is Khorshid alam good at writing. Sajid drawing, Tajwar homework,

Khorshid writing and this is FarooqAhamad good at answering the reading and writing” (dairy note 22/8/13). The

observation shows that students took great interest in such kind of innovative activities. Moreover, these activities

have been inspired and recommended by Paul Davis and Rinvolucri (1997) for active participation in class

activities)

Describe a Picture Enhances Students’ Participation

As a final activity on the next day I used picture description strategy in my class. I prepared a file with different

pictures and asked the students to look at the pictures and read the sentences written with them and share it with the

class. Students took great interest in it. Then I asked them to draw pictures and write about the pictures. It was very

easy for those students who were sharp at drawing. However, some students had difficulty doing it. One student

drew the school and write about it (See appendix B). Moreover, these activities are inspired and supported by Killen

(1996) who thinks that interactive learning can be an effective way of achieving both academic and social learning

out comes. These activities are particularly used to improve students’ communication skills and to enhance

students’ motivation and increase their active participation in learning.

Major Findings

Upon completion of second cycle we observed that:

Students improved their participation in class activities and questioning skills. when they are provided with

the enabling and encouraging environment to formulate and ask questions. For example in the beginning of

my study out of fifty five students only twenty students were taking part in class activities. When I

encouraged them and provided an environment of constructing and asking questions the scenario changed

and in the last action except fifteen participated actively.

Students’ interest and participation increased due to different teaching techniques.

Students learn from each other when they are encouraged to help each other. For example during second

cycle when I assigned individual role and responsibility and also encourage them for helping each other, I

found that most of the students were able to formulate and ask questions.

Assigning roles and responsibilities to each member of the groups help to ensure all group members’

participation. For example in the 1st actions some brilliant students were dominating the groups. However,

when I assigned them responsibilities individually, I found that except for a few all of the group members

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Challenges

Coverage of syllabus was identified as a hindrance to interactive teaching and learning. The syllabus was extensive

and time allocated for each topic was insufficient. In our context priority is given to the completion of syllabus and

in doing so there is limited time to have interactive and live classes. Moreover, time was one of the major

challenges which I faced during the implementation stage. Despite the fact, I managed all of them by asking extra

time from teachers and also taking their periods/subject in my free period.

My Learning

Action research is a powerful means for improving teaching and learning. The entire process of action research was

not only a learning experience for me but also for my critical friends and students. I went through practical

experiences of the rigorous process of planning, acting, reflecting and re-planning. At the same time I learnt how to

be a facilitator and learner simultaneously. I observed that it is pivotal for professional development. Sharing ideas

and successes help teachers improve their teaching and learning. The same case was observed in this research. My

critical friends and I used to share our commonalities and differences with us, and ultimately reached to a solution.

In this way our own teaching skill developed and improved very well. Moreover, when students are encouraged and

appreciated, they show their skills and potential in the farm of active participation in class. It shows that students

have many skills and innovations and our job is to facilitate in bringing out and sharpen their inner abilities.

Case of Students X

One student did not take part in class activities throughout my action research. When I asked about the problem,

first he did not share the problem with me. When I built friendly relationship and personal ties with him, then he

told me about it. He told me that in the class some teachers were teasing and kept a name for him. It discouraged

him that is why he was not taking interest in any kind of school activities. Moreover, he went on saying that even he

didn’t take part in curricular activities. This situation was serious issue for me in research point view. Therefore, I

took some steps to make him streamline. In my class activities, I encouraged him to take part in activities and then

I kept close relation with him. I brought this problem to the notice of Headmaster. He told me to discuss it in the

staff meeting. In the meeting I did not take the names of the teacher, but generally, I told all the staff that we should

behave students with love and affection. We should encourage them and help them in the time of need. In this way

a change can be seen in them. The meeting ended and all the staff agreed with this opinion and it was decided that

no teacher will misbehave with any students. After that the students showed gradual improvement in the class.

CONCLUSION

In short it is concluded that a variety of teacher’s teaching approaches of learning provided to the students is linked

with their learning enhancement. The greater the technique used for teaching the higher the participation is.

Moreover, different innovative and attractive activities ensure students’ involvement in the learning which

eventually supplements the thinking and understanding level of students. Similarly, all the activities which I carried

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environment of the said class penetrates from the class and permeates in other classes as well. Observing and

reflecting on the change teachers also apply the same strategy in their class rather than regurgitating the traditional

teaching. My critical friend reflected that the strategies I apply were interesting and he also used the same in his

class. Another teacher observed my class too and appreciated it. Now he is initiating the same strategy for his Urdu

class.

In brief, I urge that students have the capacities to learn, the only think is to ignite and initiate the change. Ultimate,

this would spread out from classroom to classroom. As a teacher, it is our prime responsibility to be active and

reflective learner in order to become updated first ourselves and then facilitate students to get updated knowledge.

REFERENCE

Davis.P and Rinvolucri.M (1997) The confidence Book, building trust in the language classroom. Addison Walsey

Longman Limiter England

Killen.R. (1996) Effective teaching strategies, lessons from research and Practice

Fink (1999) Active learning retrived on 20/10/13 from hht/wwww.honoluly.homaon.edu.internet/activelearnin

Appendices

Interview protocol for selected teachers

 What is the importance of students’ participation in class activities?

 Most of the teachers complain that students do not take keen interest in class activities; How do you

see this

 Have you observed such case in your class? If yes, how you tackle it?

 What are some of the reasons for students not to take part in class activities

 What is the role of parents in students’ active participation in class activities?

 What are the techniques you use in your class to ensure active participation of students in class

activities?

 What are your past practices in this regard?

 Would you like to tell me some measurers to overcome this issue?

Interview protocol for Head and deputy head

 What is the importance of students’ participation in class activities?

 Most of the teachers complain that students do not take keen interest in class activities; How do you

see this

 Have you observed such case in your class? If yes, how you tackle it?

 What are some of the reasons for students not to take part in class activities

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 What are the techniques you use in your class to ensure active participation of students in class

activities?

 What are your past practices in this regard?

 Would you like to tell me some measurers to overcome this issue?

 As head what steps have you taken to tackle this issue?

 What do you suggest teachers to follow while teaching so that students will take active part in class

activities especially in English class?

 It is fact that English is tough and difficult for students to learn but at the same time necessary to

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