ISBN: 978-607-8356-17-1
Alvarado Huerta Sandra Daniela
Escuela de Lenguas, UJED
Cabrales Rodríguez Nathally Ivonne
Escuela de Lenguas, UJED
Gutiérrez Duarte Ana Patricia
Escuela de Lenguas, UJED
With every class that a teacher has to give she or he has to face the challenge of having a
student or group of students that are not willing to participate. The purpose of this action
research is to create opportunities for all of the students to participate and develop the oral
production in the target language. By observing and having the chance to work with the
observed group practitioners of this action research seek to understand why students are not
participating and try to find a solution for this. The first part of this action research was to
observe students so we could understand and try to solve the problem that the students are
facing in the classroom, keeping in mind that there are certain activities or attitudes that can
encourage students to participate.
This research is focused on a group of beginners from the Escuela de Lenguas de la
Universidad Juárez Del Estado de Durango (UJED). In the area of Centro de Enseñanza de
Lenguas Extranjeras (CELE). The group was composed of a total of twenty two students of
which eleven were men and eleven were women. The range between the students age is from
thirteen to fifty six years being the average age of twenty eight years.
After observing this group, it was noticed that not all students were practicing the
target language in a real context. The majority of the group only participated when asked to
read or give an answer. It was noticeable that four or five students took the lead in the class.
Those four or five students are the ones that always shout out the answers and are the only
ones making questions to the teacher. It is also noticeable that the young ones are the ones
who are not participating in the activities.
Participation plays an important role in a classroom, in order to see if the students
understand the topic that the teacher is teaching. For this reason the researchers considered it
important to focus the investigation in this field. After observing the A1 group, it was clear
that lack of participation was the main problem in the classroom. This was noticeable for
several reasons. First of all it was evident that only 5 students were participating, regardless of
if they were chosen or not. The rest were only picked on from time to time and it was the
only opportunity they had to participate. After speaking to the students it could be observed
that the ones who weren’t participating had a lower level than those who participated more
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often in the class. The previous reasons motivated this action research. By changing certain
activities and actions in class it is expected that students would start to participate more
equally and therefore have the same level of English as the rest of the class.
A needs analysis was designed and applied after a month of observations to get to
know more about the problem with the aim of creating a class according to the students’
likes, preferences and needs.
Literature Review
According to Dancer & Kamvounias (2005) participation can be seen as an active
engagement process which can be sorted into five categories: preparation, contribution to
discussion, group skills, communication skills, and attendance. Participation also has been
defined as ‘‘the number of unsolicited responses volunteered’’ (Burchfield & Sappington,
1999, p. 290). Fritschner (2000) also defined participation as moving from simply attending
class through giving oral presentations.
The Teaching Center (Washington University in St. Louis) mentions the importance
of having all the students participating so that they are not losing opportunities to learning.
Having them participate also makes the class more interesting because this way the class can
explore ideas or issues form different points of view, instead of only one or two opinions. It is
also stated that the way students interact, has to do with the personality of each one and the
learning style that he or she might have, therefore it gives us tips for encouraging the shy ones
to speak and how to hold back from time to time those who seem to speak a lot.
Morita, N. (2004) does a qualitative case study with students to explore how L2
learners negotiate their participation in their new L2 classroom. It makes a study of what
types of activities can encourage students to participate more as well as explaining the point of
view that a student might have towards participation. As a conclusion it tells us about the
importance of providing a variety of materials to motivate students to participate. By using a
variety of techniques students will not just be motivated to learn but will also help learners
improve their pronunciation and listening skills and therefore improve their communication
skills allowing them to participate more.
Larry K. Michaelsen, L. Dee Fink and Arletta Knight (1997) provide guidance for
designing group activities in classes and workshops. The authors identify 4 main problems;
(1) when making group activities; (2) one or two students often dominate the discussions, (3)
some members' ideas are either unexpressed or largely ignored and (4) when groups
frequently have difficulty staying focused on the assigned task.
For this investigation it is also important to understand the difference between
extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. (2000) describe
motivation as the act to be moved to do something. The relations of both types of motives to
basic human needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are discussed.
According to Lawrence O. Hamer (2000), Larry K. Michaelsen , L. Dee Fink, Arletta Knight
(1997), Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. (2000) and in addition to other authors, it is clear
that there are activities and actions that can be done to improve students’ performance in
Many past researchers have sleeked to understand the importance of participation
from students in the classroom; there are several theories of how to encourage students to
participate took from different previous researches. How to create opportunities for all
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students to participate and develop the oral production in the target language? This was the
question that emerged after observing a class and noticing that this was a problem. Therefore
a series of investigations were done to try to answer this question and find the solution to the
First of all it is important to understand definitions that exist for participation. In the
class there were students that were very participative and students who decided to keep to
themselves and rarely speak. According to Dancer & Kamvounias (2005) participation can be
seen as an active engagement process which can be sorted into five categories: preparation,
contribution to discussion, group skills, communication skills, and attendance. Based on
several definitions founded from previous researchers, the practitioners of this action
research define participation as a process of group negotiation; where natural oral discussions
take place in order to share ideas and listen to others, providing opportunities to learn.
After having a clear idea of the definition of participation, there were serious of steps that had
to be followed in order have students participating more and increasing oral production in
the target language.
First of all, it was important to observe the class where the action research was going
to be executed. During each observation, there was an observation format being filled out by
all three practitioners. The observation format helped determine what aspects of the class
were wrong and which ones were to be kept the same. During the observations the
practitioners leaned a great deal from the group, which helped design lesson plans that were
later used in the practice.
Practices started to take place a week after the observations, intercalating one week of
observations and one week of practices.
During practices researchers had the opportunity to try out different materials,
activities and teaching methods to see which one gave better results. It also gave the
opportunity to try out different materials or teaching methods to see which one gave better
Also there were questionnaires designed based on the observations and practices.
The questions that were asked were meant to answer doubts about the participant’s
preferences when it came to learning. There were multiple choice questions and open
questions giving participants the opportunity to answer questions freely and express their
thoughts as well.
In order to solve the problem, a set of activities were applied, taking into account findings
from other researchers, to improve students’ participation in class. One of the activities tries
to minimize the 3 main problems that Larry K. Michaelsen, L. Dee Fink and Arletta Knight
(1997) mention; one or two students often dominate the discussions, some members' ideas
are either unexpressed or largely ignored, groups frequently have difficulty staying focused on
the assigned task. To avoid these problems, the interaction pattern was changed to ensure the
participation of all the students; each pair will have the same amount of opportunities to
participate in the activity encouraging the shy students to speak and to hold back the students
who speak a lot.
Researchers also consider that using games provides the setting to socialize with all the
participants as well as to promote critical thinking. As Felner, Mertens and Lipsitz says,
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teaming exhibited improved work climate, more frequent contact with parents, increased
teacher job satisfaction, and higher levels of student achievement (Felner, Mertens, & Lipsitz,
1996; Mertens, Flowers, & Mulhall, 1998). Communication skills are improved with games
because the students have to listen to their partner´s answers, practice pronunciation and
provide equal opportunities for all the students to participate.
The following information gathered is from the questionnaires applied to students. Right
away a big challenge was faced because students’ ages ranged from thirteen to fifty three
giving us a wide rank between the students’ ages. Therefore suitable activities for all ages were
needed. Also, it was found that learners presented a wide variety between their language
proficiency; one of the reasons was that some of them had previous contact with the language
before starting the course.
Learners enrolled on the course also had different reasons for learning English.
Academic purposes and because they enjoy the target language were some of the most
common reasons. This shows that the majority of the students had an intrinsic motivation.
Ryan & Stiller (1991) state that intrinsic motivation has emerged as an important
phenomenon for educators; a natural wellspring of learning and achievement that can be
systematically catalyzed or undermined by parent and teacher practices.
Results also expressed that students preferred to work with different types of activities.
The activity that they most liked was games followed by speaking and listening activities. This
was something that had to be changed because at the time students did not work with visuals
or activities that involved interaction. The only tool they were using was the course book.
This kind of teaching is the traditional instructional format of college and university
educators, it promotes passive learning because learning occurs while students passively listen
to and take notes on a lecture without actively being engaged (Benjamin 1991; Dabbour
On the questionnaire students mentioned that one of the strongest abilities were
working in teams and role playing. Michaelsen, Fink, and Arletta (1997) mention that a
number of different types of tasks will produce high levels of group interaction, assignments
increase group cohesiveness (and, over time, eliminate social loafing) when they require
members to make a concrete decision based on the analysis of a complex issue: in other
words, when asked students or workshop participants to apply a rule or solve a problem. For
these reasons it was decided to implement group work and speaking activities as well.
Students learning techniques were also integrated to the activities; students prefer to
take notes, read out loud and walk around showing that the majority of the students have a
kinesthetic learning style.
By discussing with their classmates students can develop their listening and speaking
skills promoting the communicative approach. When learning new words pupils prefer to
have the actual meaning of the words and some examples of the use in context.
Finally, students expressed their feeling of their English class; they mentioned that the
class was not bad but it was not an excellent class either. This might be because the course
was not meeting students’ needs and wants. Another reason might be that there was not a
previous needs analysis at the beginning of the course to find students’ needs and likes.
ISBN: 978-607-8356-17-1
After observing the CELE group who consists of both men and women between the ages of
thirteen and fifty six years of age it was noticed that there were some students who felt
intimidated by the older or more outgoing students in the class. Thus being the reason why
participation was not being carried out evenly in the classroom. Therefore a needs analysis
was designed for the students of CELE so that the students’ needs and wants could be
understood better. After receiving feedback from the students with the help of the needs
analysis and after several observations, practitioners set of to find techniques that would
create opportunities for all students to participate and develop the oral production in the
target language.
Some of the techniques that were useful for the students were to make a name raffle,
to include games or activities that encouraged them to speak more and to modify teachers’
attitude when working with the students. Once practices with these new techniques started to
take place practitioners were able to see changes in students behavior. The results for each
change were the following.
The first big thing that was important to change was the way the way students were
being called upon. From the observations it was noticeable that the only students being called
were those who were already participating a lot and that the quiet ones were being left
behind. Therefore there was a name raffle designed to make the participation more equal
and fair for everybody allowing those who never participated to participate and silencing
those who always wanted to have control of the class. Before each exercise the teacher would
chose somebody from the name raffle and he or she had to be the one to answer the teachers
question or give their opinion about the topic being seen. This really seemed to work for the
students and gave the results that were looked for. More of the shy students were
participating and those who spoke a lot realized that they had to allow their classmates to
participate as well, allowing for more flow in the participation. The name raffle was
something that only had to be done the first several weeks. Afterwards it seemed like the shy
students had lost fear of speaking so they were willing to participate without the need of being
called. Those who always spoke kept allowing students to participate without decreasing their
own participation.
The second thing that was important to change was the activities being done in the
classroom. Students were only asked to work in their books and work individually, being
these, boring for students. Also the interaction was only between teacher and students instead
of allowing them to have communication among their classmates. Therefore it was decided to
add games and activities that allowed students to get out of their seat and talk with their
classmates thus promoting the communicative approach among the students. Many games
were incorporated into the classroom and students really seemed to enjoy the class a bit more
and they started to produce in the target language a lot more. If they had to work in the book
they had the opportunity to work with a pair or sometimes even make larger groups. Students
seemed more confident to practice the language when they only had to speak to two or three
of their classmates instead of approaching the teacher to practice the target language. The
grouping among the students was something that was decided to be carried out for the rest of
the course because this way there was more speaking among them. The games were also
something that was used for the rest of the course to create opportunities for all of the
students to speak.
The third and final thing that was considered in making the change among the
students was the teachers’ attitude. At first the teachers’ attitude was very rigid. It was obvious
that students were not feeling comfortable to ask teacher questions that they might have had
ISBN: 978-607-8356-17-1
likewise decreasing the participation of the students. There was also no praising from the
teacher when students did something good. So, it was decided that the teacher should always
try to have a good attitude toward the students. There were four main things that the teachers
tried to do when working with the students. Smile to students to know they are doing a good
job. Pat students in the back when they did something good, use comforting words like good
job or keep it up, take them awards like candies when they had a good answer and call every
student by his name. Students had a positive response to these actions, and it looked as if
students were more comfortable to speak and ask questions as well as the fact that they
wanted to participate more to receive good feedback form teacher or an award.
There are some important factors which must be taken into consideration when creating
activities such as timing, teaming and the task itself. Students’ level has to be considered as
well as their willingness to participate in order to create material suitable for them. In this
research, we fostered students’ participation through different activities; to ensure students
participation, it was necessary to take into account the time. Leaners were in a beginner’s
level, so the activities needed to be suitable for them. Students’ needs and want also had to be
taken into account; since the group had a wide variety of differences regarding age, likes and
For further researchers, it is highly recommended to use activities that motivate
learners to communicate with each other. Subsequently, this motivates students to produce
the target language.
In addition to this, students will practice their social skills by having contact with
others. It is also recommended to create an appropriate environment for the students. With
this action research it was noticed that by creating a nice environment; anxiety in students is
reduced helping them to feel more confident in class. Therefore, they will participate more
during class.
• Joan M. Barth, Sarah T. Dunlap, Heather Dane, John E. Lochman, Karen C. Wells;
Journal of School Psychology Volume 46, Issue 2, April 2008, Pages 107–128
• Evelien Buysea, Karine Verschuerena, Sarah Doumena, Jan Van Dammeb, Frederik
Maesb; Journal of School Psychology, Volume 46, Issue 4, August 2008, Pages 367–391
• Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. De.; Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic
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• Dimitrios Thanasoulas; Motivation and Motivating in EFL; 2002; • Dörnyei, Z. (1994). Motivation and motivating in the foreign
language classroom.The modern language journal, 78(3), 273-284.
• “Increasing Student Participation” The Teaching Center. Washington University in St.
• Zoltán Dörnyei (1998). Motivation in second and foreign language learning. Language
Teaching, 31, pp 117135
• Morita, N. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic
communities. Tesol Quarterly, 38(4), 573-603.
• Lawrence O. Hamer, The Additive Effects of Semi-structured Classroom Activities on
Student Learning: An Application of Classroom-Based Experiential Learning Techniques.
Apr 1, 2000:
• Larry K. Michaelsen, L. Dee Fink and Arletta Knight, Designing Effective Group
Activities: Lessons for Classroom Teaching and Faculty Development, 1-1-1997:
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Behavioral Sciences. Volume 46, 2012, Pages 3931–393, 02-05 February 2012.
• Nancy Flowers, Steven B. Mertens and Peter F. Mulhall, How Teaming Influences
• Diane Dancer, Patty Kamvounias, (2005), Student involvement in assessment: a project
designed to assess class participation fairly and reliably; Assessment & Evaluation in Higher
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•The Teaching Center; (NY) Increasing Student Participation; Washington University in St.
Escuela de
Juárez del Estado de Durango
en Docencia de Lengua Inglesa.
The purpose of this questionnaire is to identify the activities you
like the most during your English class.
Read carefully every question and then respond in your own words.
1. How old are you?
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2. Why do you want to learn English?
3. At what age did you start to learn English?
4. Mention 3 activities you like during your class.
Instructions: circle the best answer for you.
Do you like books whit pictures?
Instructions: answer the questions by choosing the answers that suit you the best
1. I do well in:
a) role playing
b) oral presentations
c) essay writing
d) other _____________________________________________________.
For me the best way of studying is:
by reading out loud
by taking notes
By walking around while you read
other ______________________________________________________.
When I am learning a new topic in class I like to:
outline the key information
discuss with my classmates
look for information on my own
other _______________________________________________________.
4. When I learn new words, I like to:
a) memorize them
b) listen to the words
c) write the words and its meaning
d) other ___________________________________________________________.
How do you consider your English class?
ISBN: 978-607-8356-17-1