Cooperative and collaborative learning interactions in sign language

Cooperative and collaborative learning is one of the principles in Communicative Language Teaching. ASL students practice signing with one another in pairs, trios, or groups. They help correct, give corrective feedback, and learn from one another.

In a classroom of 24 students at the university, not only the instructor gives each of the students constructive feedback, recast, and such, but the students are also encouraged to help one another with learning the language to maximize with language exposure and feedback.

The students practice signing with one another in pairs, trios, and groups after being introduced to new vocabulary and grammar. In addition, they incorporate past learned vocabulary from the previous classes or lessons into their signing practice. In this way, the students review the previous vocabulary corpus and practice the newly learned vocabulary with each other.

Meaning negotiation is another way they collabroatively learn together. If a student forgets a sign or doesn't know it, the other student would explain it in the target language, exposing more language use to the partner. If the moment a student gives an answer in English, unfortunately it terminates the opportunity to negotiate meaning and to practice signing more thus to acquire language a bit further.

Regularly giving an answer in English (one-word translation) may give the pair of students a quick time-saving learning, but they don't realize that they don't exactly help each other with language learning.

Yes, it can be inevitable that a student may correct his/her partner the wrong way or wrong production (pronunciation). But, communicative competency and language acquisition is a priority to give them a chance to learn the language without much anxiety about making errors. The instructor will eventually correct them or the highly skilled students will help the other students as long as the partners, pairs, or trios are mixed every time.

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Further readings

"Developing Oral Communication Skills." pp 287-297.

Related posts: negotiating meaning in sign language learning.

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