Decision support model to help language teachers grouping adult learners in a classroom


Language Teachers’ tasks are overwhelmingly complex. The most to burden them is motivating their learners. A vast sea of literature has suggested different motivational strategies, one, in particular, is a group-work strategy. In this study, first, we proposed DSM, a decision support model (a type of unsupervised one), to group adult learners in a classroom based on four narratives (personal, analytic, introspective, and interactive) and their attributes. Following, a quasi-experimental design was performed to examine the effect (within/between -group) of the proposed model, on the level of motivational variables (motivation, attitude, anxiety) and the language performance by the learners, from the one hand, and on the level of motivation by the language teachers on the other hand. From Istanbul, Turkey, English intermediate level, learners (N = 234) and teachers (N = 10) participated in the study. The experimental treatment involved the integration of DSM system in the classroom over a 12-week period; in parallel with that, the control group received a traditional grouping method based on the teachers’ decision. Multivariate analysis revealed that within-group, the motivation, attitude and language performance have significantly increased, and the language anxiety significantly decreased by the learners in the experimental group as well as the motivational level of their teachers. That’s on the contrary to what has been observed within the learners and the teachers in the control group. Furthermore, the result revealed that motivational variables (motivation attitude, and anxiety) were counted for the differences between-group by 26.2%, 33.3%, 23.9%, respectively. Other results and their implications are discussed.

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Decision Support Model


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This study was supported by Ekrem AYDIN as the data mining specialist and system engineer.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Correspondence to Moh R. Dahman.

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  1. 1)

    Age, age is an important attribute in a language classroom. Number of studies have indicated the effect of age inside the classroom for adult learners, in particular. Such a classroom (homogenous types) has mixed age group, it’s not as a formal educational classroom where all learners within the same age group. Thus, age is an important attribute, in the proposed model, to be considered. On the effect of age on language learning see e.g. (Muñoz 2006; Muñoz 2010).

  2. 2)

    Hometown; Istanbul, Turkey is a multicultural city. It is the business hub of the country. It is where you can find almost every nationality scattered in all areas around the city. However, there is still a distribution pattern of the population in the city. You can see that each populated district accommodates people from the same cultural background. For example, people who are from east of Turkey live in neighborhoods more likely to be populated from the east. Likewise, from west, north, and south. The co-author of this study is a longtime language teacher, based on her personal experience she observed the effect of the learner’s hometown on the way learners prefer to learn, even the style or the task they like to perform. To this end, we have identified seven hometowns in Turkey. Each of which is considered to gather people from the same (or close) cultural background. The regions are (Marmara, karadeniz, ege, akdeniz, iç anadolu, doğu anadolu and güneydoğu Anadolu).

  3. 3)

    Marital status; the MS of the learner might have effect in the way they learn or experience the learning process. For a married learner, he or she will prefer and enjoy doing some activities different of the interest by other single learner. Thus, we considered this attribute as a potential for the grouping method.

  4. 4)

    Educational background; the level of education in the classroom is an important factor. When the teacher intends to form a group, he or she might consider the educational background of the learner. If the learner is a postgraduate person, he or she will have a different perspective of doing any activity from other fresh graduate university learners or high-school educated learners. Thus, this attribute is considered to be effective.

  5. 5)

    Job; the job and experience of the learner is an attribute might have a good impact on the way teacher think to group the learners. People whose their job is into a practical field such as engineering will be interested to do activities which are close to their profession. This attribute is also observed from the teaching experience by the co-author of this study.

  6. 6)

    Sport activities; this attribute is a unique attribute we brought in light of this study. We didn’t find any study on grouping strategies considered this attribute seriously. However, from our experience we found that learners who are in the domain of the same sport activities are more likely to perform very well as a group work, although, they might seem to be not friends. The co-author of this study had performed, many times, group work based on the sport activities of the learners and reported a positive result. Furthermore, the satisfaction of the learners was very good. We considered eight common sport activities in Tukey which are (swimming, tennis, handball, biking, basketball, volleyball, running, tough sports), we added also to the list one more item (I don’t like sport activities) for learners who don’t do any sport hobby.

  7. 7)

    Football sport; Tukey is a county have a large fans of football sport. People in Turkey are fan of some local/international teams. In some cases, they group themselves just based on the team to support. From personal experience by the co-author we consider this attribute is an important one to group learners based on their favorite football team for some activities. We have considered some local and international teams which are common in Turkey. In addition, we considered also learners who don’t like football sport at all.

  8. 8)

    PlayStation hobby; in Turkey playstation and gamming is a trend. Some learners, regardless of the age, have very much interest in computer games. From personal experience by the co-author we considered this attribute as a potential to group learners for some activities.

  9. 9)

    Music; Music in Tukey is a very deep cultural trend. People in Turkey prefer type of music based on many factors. The co-author observed from longtime teaching experience that some learners who prefer the same type of music are more likely to perform as a team for some activities in the classroom. To this end we have 9 types of music and one more option for people who are not very much into music.

  10. 10)

    Perspective of being motivated; we asked the learner how does he or she evaluate themselves to be motivated. Four statements were given, and they were asked to select one of which can be a match to their character. The statements are: (1) Very hard to be motivated, because of my environment and responsibilities; (2) Maybe a bit hard for me to be motivated; (3) Maybe a bit easy for me to be motivated; (4) Very easy for me to be motivated,

  11. 11)

    Perspective of team/individual work; we asked the learners to evaluate themselves working individually or in a group. Four statements were given, and they were asked to select the one of which can be a match to their character. The statements are: (1) I don’t feel that I can be a team leader or working as a team member. I like to work on my own; (2) I don’t feel that I can be a team leader, BUT I like to be a team member; (3) I think that I can be a team leader, OR working as a team member; (4) I think that I can ONLY be a team leader

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Dahman, M.R., Dahman, S. Decision support model to help language teachers grouping adult learners in a classroom. Educ Inf Technol 25, 4329–4352 (2020).

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  • Decision support model
  • Classroom grouping
  • Group work