To explore the impact of cooperative learning (CL) on Chinese students’ English oral proficiency, a 15-week quasi-experiment was conducted in a Chinese university during the first term of the Academic Year 2007-2008. A non-randomized pre-test-post-test control group research design was adopted with 37 first-year students in the experimental class (the EC) and 36 in the control class (the CC). The EC students participated in CL in conjunction with regular language instruction in an integrated skills course. They were exposed to CL activities for about 30 minutes in each session, making up a total of 90 minutes every other week. The CC students only received conventional whole-class instruction. \ud The oral pre-test and post-test were conducted before and after the intervention to measure the students’ gains in oral proficiency. The National College Entrance English Exam (NCEEE) and a final term English exam (FTEE) were employed to measure their improvement in general proficiency. Interactional data of two EC groups (the ESs) and two CC groups (the CSs) were collected by the oral pre-test and post-test, and a pre-task and post-task in the classroom. The purpose was to detect any change in their interactional strategy use. The interactional data of the ESs and the CSs were transcribed, and interactional strategies were identified in the transcriptions. The quantitative results are presented using descriptive analysis as well as inferential analysis. Effect size was also measured to examine the relative magnitude of the treatment. The interactional strategies used by these two groups were compared. \ud The quantitative results revealed a null experimental effect on overall oral proficiency and on its components: grammar and vocabulary, pronunciation and discourse management, but the effect on interactive communication was inconclusive. Conversation analysis showed that the ESs appeared to do somewhat better in interactional strategy use than the CSs. Also, the results did not significantly favour CL in comparison with conventional whole-class instruction in helping Chinese students improve their general proficiency. As this study was conducted with intact classes with a small sample, the results may only be generalized to similar universities in China, and may not be generalized to all the foreign language learners or institutions in China
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