Upper Primary Students' Perceptions of Small Group Learning in Learning Vietnamese Language
The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of upper-year students in Vietnamese primary schools about learning in small groups when studying Vietnamese language in comparison to traditional methods. Students’ perceptions of small group learning were explored through examination of five main factors: benefits, difficulties, group types, individual accountability, and group assessment. An interpretive approach was used to explore the topic, from which data were collected in a two-phase multi-case study using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Four classes of three primary schools in Ho Chi Minh City, having different applications of small groups in learning, were selected for observation and survey by questionnaire. Twenty four students from the first phase of the study varying in gender and learning achievement were chosen for face-to-face interviews to examine more in-depth their perceptions about small group learning. To improve the trustworthiness of the research, teachers from these classes and principles of the schools were interviewed to obtain a more accurate overview of the research. The study found that overall, Vietnamese upper-primary students preferred to learning in small groups to the traditional whole-class model despite the differences in implementing small group learning in each school. The results showed a positive concurrence with existing literature on the main findings, such as the three main benefits to students’ outcomes (e.g. academic achievement, social skills, and attitudes); and some inevitable difficulties when using this method for learning (e.g. time management, isolation and lack of group skills). The students’ choices of group types also reflected the current international students’ perceptions (e.g. preference for heterogeneous ability but homogeneous gender group). The research also presented some interesting points unique to the Vietnamese context which might enrich the current literature of students’ perceptions of small group learning. They were the preference for large group sizes, the two-aspects of leadership, the preference for whole-group assessment, and the suitability of this method for learning Vietnamese language rather than other subjects. The research also showed the underlying influences of the desire for better achievement, the consideration for others’ feelings and the collective cultural context on Vietnamese upper primary students’ views of small group learning in learning Vietnamese language. The relationships between students’ gender and achievement to their perceptions of small group learning were also mentioned and described though these were not strong enough to generalise. A theoretical framework was proposed to illustrate the research findings. These findings suggest that small group learning should be implemented more frequently in Vietnamese primary schools and the study recommends that there be further training in group skills for students.