The Effectiveness of the Gallery Walk Technique in EFL Speaking Classes

Sak Yeourng
Cambodian Education Forum
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

© Cambodian Education Forum 2021
K. Heng, S. Kaing, D. Kao, M. Muong, B. Doeur, & T. Lor (Eds.), Online learning during COVID-19 and key issues in education. https://cefcambodia.com/books/

Introduction

According to Moore and Bounchan (2010), many Cambodian students thought that English is an essential language for the development of Cambodia and for the status of English learners. There are four skills in learning the English language: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Speaking is a very important skill that students need to master to ensure effective communication across languages. Hughes (2006, p. 144) stated that “speaking is the first mode in which children acquire language, part of the daily involvement of most people with language activities, and the prime motor of language change”. Bashir et al. (2011) also noted that “by speaking, we do not mean merely uttering words through the mouth. It means conveying the message through words of mouth” (p. 38). Bashir et al. (2011) added that speaking has played a pivotal role in human life. It is a process of expressing ideas.

Research has shown that many students face many difficulties when expressing themselves in English (see Heng, 2017). This is because “the teaching of English consists mainly of learning correct grammatical structures or forms, increasing vocabulary, working on exercises at the sentence level, and asking students to repeat similar structures over and over” (Katemba & Buli, 2018, p. 98). English is now a global language that spreads across the world. It is spoken by people around the world. In Cambodia, English is not only used for communication and work, but it is also used in the education system to prepare students for their future employment (Igawa, 2008). English is now introduced to the school curriculum as early as grade 4 (Amaro & Chheng, 2017). Despite this, many Cambodian students have been found to face many challenges in using English in speaking (Nhim, 2021).

Chamnan (2017) found several causes of difficulties for Cambodian students when they try to speak English. The difficulties were related to students’ motivation, teachers’ teaching techniques, limited English environment, and students’ lack of time to speak English. Chamnan (2017) also found that students’ difficulties were related to their shyness to speak English, lack of opportunities to use it, and their limited vocabulary. Furthermore, Leong and Ahmadi (2017) found that teaching a crowded class was one of the reasons that made Cambodian students less active in participating in classes. In a large class, not every student could speak at the same time because when one student is speaking, others need to try to listen to him or her. According to Bailey (2003), English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers used teacher-talking time from 50 to 80 percent during the lesson, leaving little time for students to practice speaking English.

Putri (2020) also found that students faced problems in speaking English in classes because of their self-perceptions about English. Specifically, they had the belief that it was hard to speak English. Moreover, other students said that they had a problem with their class performance, making them feel afraid of speaking in front of the class. Putri (2020) also showed that some students feared making mistakes because they felt nervous with English pronunciation and were afraid of being laughed at by their classmates.

Considering the challenges in speaking English faced by many students, this chapter aims to examine a speaking technique, called Gallery Walk, to understand its effectiveness and the challenges in applying it in EFL classrooms. The chapter is based on a review of previous studies on Gallery Walk and based on the author’s master thesis conducted to fulfill the requirements of his master’s degree. 

What Is Gallery Walk?

According to Dinata and Anggraini (2017), Gallery Walk is a technique in which the students have a chance to leave their seats, walk around the class to look at other students’ work, give comments and ask questions to other groups, and share their ideas with the class. Based on Makmuna et al. (2020), Gallery Walk is a kind of strategy that can motivate students to learn actively, work within groups and peers collaboratively, and promote their critical thinking, as they are more likely to share their ideas with peers when engaging in Gallery Walk. Furthermore, the Gallery Walk technique provides students with time to work together in a small group, share their ideas or answers with other students, and enjoy moving around the class (Anwar, 2015).      

How to Use Gallery Walk

According to Francek (2011), as cited in (Anwar, 2015, p. 77), to implement Gallery Walk in English classes, the following steps are necessary:

  1. The teacher gives students the sheets or cartons, glue, different coloured pens and discusses questions as the learning materials.
  2. The teacher groups the students into small groups of 4 or 5 students and provides each group different coloured pens.
  3. Learners design their gallery and work on the question or topic provided.
  4. Learners move from one chart to another in individuals, in the group, or by assigning directions to move randomly by the teacher.
  5. Learners have a small group discussion about their observation after they have responded to all the charts and taken notes of their observation on a worksheet.
  6. Lastly, everyone discusses the activity as a whole class.

Bowman (2015, p. 1) provided general instructions for Gallery Walk as follows:

Before the training, tape a number of large sheets of chart paper to the walls of the training room. Space the chart pages so that learners have to walk from one chart to another. Label each chart with a question, statement, or issue related to the topic. While upbeat music plays (optional), learners walk around the room writing their responses on the charts.

In addition, Bowman (2015) mentioned that teachers can provide students with a direction to move or allow them to move randomly. Students can also engage in the Gallery Walk activity as individuals or in small groups. After they have “written on all the charts, they take a ‘gallery walk’ or tour of the room, reading the charts and jotting down their observations on a worksheet. Participants then spend a short period of time in small groups discussing their observations” (p. 1). Finally, teachers can discuss the activity with the whole class and ask students to share the discussion that they had during the activity. The following questions can be used in the whole class discussion.

  • What interesting things did you notice as you read the charts?
  • What written items were listed on more than one chart?
  • What was something that you expected or didn’t expect?
  • What were some apparent patterns?
  • What is a question you still have? (Bowman, 2015, p. 2) 

The Effectiveness of Gallery Walk

Research has shown that Gallery Walk is one of the effective techniques which can enhance students’ speaking skills in English classes. In fact, Gallery Walk provides a lot of benefits for English language students, as discussed in the following sections.

Improve Students’ Knowledge

Namaziandost et al. (2018) stated that students who focused on teamwork in the Gallery Walk activities learned better than those who did not. In other words, Gallery Walk helps students learn the target language more effectively. Similarly, Othman and Mohdradzi (2020) found that when teachers used Gallery Walk in their speaking classes, their students could improve their knowledge by 25 percent and increase their knowledge of vocabulary and grammar by 19 percent. They justified that there was a lot of information that students learned through interacting with their group and visiting the galleries during the activity. Additionally, the students have improved their vocabulary and grammar through participating in Gallery Walk activities and listening to other students’ presentations.

Engage Students in Learning

Othman and Mohdradzi (2020) mentioned that Gallery Walk is an interesting teaching technique that allows students to have fun, communicate with others, and get to know each other well during the discussion; therefore, they liked and wanted to participate in Gallery Walk activities. More importantly, the class was well organized and more engaged when the Gallery Walk technique was used (Otoyo, 2018). The students could also remember the lesson easily and be involved in learning activities actively with their classmates during the repetition session. The Gallery Walk activities made students motivated, active, and interested in learning through speaking activities (Dinata & Anggraini, 2017; Otoyo, 2018). Dinata and Anggraini (2017), for example, stated that the students became involved in learning when they shared their ideas or communicated in English with guided questions and expressions. Otoyo (2018) added that the students were active and enjoyable in the learning process when their teachers used attractive teaching materials such as pictures, posters, and laptops in the Gallery Walk activities. Katemba and Buli (2018) also found that Gallery Walk engaged students in learning as they could move around the classroom and share their opinions about the galleries. Similarly, Namaziandost et al. (2018) claimed that the Gallery Walk technique attracted students’ attention because they got out of their seats and moved around the class to visit the galleries.

Improve Student’s Confidence in Speaking

Othman and Mohdradzi (2020) showed in their experimental research that students improved their confidence level by 37 percent after engaging in Gallery Walk activities. They felt more confident in speaking because they were given time to express their ideas and knowledge without any fear. According to Namaziandost et al. (2018), Gallery Walk was not a formal class so that the students could enjoy and speak freely in front of the class. Puspitasari’s (2019) research also revealed that Gallery Walk was a good technique that encouraged students to speak by using the target language to express their ideas and thoughts. Hakim (2019) also showed that Gallery Walks helped students feel free to speak or express their views and communicate with others in the class.

Build up the Learning Community

According to Hakim (2019), by working as a team in the Gallery Walk activities, students found it easier to share their ideas, information, and knowledge with others because there was a learning community in which they could work together as a team to complete the task, teach each other, and learn things they had never encountered. In fact, Gallery Walk encourages teamwork among the students who help each other as well as gain knowledge in various ways (Othman & Mohdradzi, 2020). Othman and Mohdradzi (2020) also mentioned that when students worked in teams or groups, each member was excited to study and participate in class activities more collaboratively than in normal classes.

Enhance Students’ Speaking Skills

Researchers who used the Gallery Walk technique in their experiment found that students’ speaking skills have improved. For example, Anwar (2015) conducted classroom action research with first graders and found that the Gallery Walk technique enhanced students’ speaking skills. Dinata and Anggraini (2017) also found that after implementing the Gallery Walk technique in speaking classes, there was a considerable improvement in students’ speaking skills. Other studies (Katemba & Buli, 2018; Namaziandost et al., 2018; Puspitasari, 2019) also indicated that Gallery Walk had a positive impact on EFL students’ speaking skills. Therefore, in general, the Gallery Walk technique helps students to improve their speaking skills.

The Challenges of Using Gallery Walk

Despite its effectiveness, Gallery Walk is a technique like any other teaching strategy that has its own weaknesses and strengths. Majiasih (2012) stated that Gallery Walk is a technique in which teachers need to expend more energy to monitor and control students’ movement, while it is also time-consuming. Therefore, teachers will find it difficult to control students’ movement in order to make the technique particularly suitable to the elementary level, where students tend to move around more often. Lack of student participation is also an issue as some group members may not take part in the discussion or talk about subjects other than what should be discussed.

In addition, as Otoyo (2018) stated, some students are introverted and do not like interacting with others. Another issue is that this technique requires hard work on the part of the teachers who need to prepare for it well to ensure its effectiveness. Therefore, when preparing students for a Gallery Walk activity, teachers need to ensure that group leaders in Gallery Walk activities understand their responsibility to solicit responses from all group members during the discussion.

Conclusion and Recommendations


This chapter has discussed the effectiveness of the Gallery Walk technique in EFL speaking classes. As the discussion shows, previous studies have indicated that Gallery Walk is a good technique that is helpful to improve EFL students’ speaking skills. Specifically, Gallery Walk can offer some benefits, such as helping students gain knowledge, engaging them in learning, improving their confidence level, building up the learning community, and improving students’ speaking skills. Despite some challenges, it is recommended that this speaking technique should be put into practice in the Cambodian EFL classroom setting.

Teaching and learning speaking skills are not easy for both teachers and students in EFL classes. Teachers may feel difficult to teach speaking skills because they have problems in teaching methods or techniques and students may face various challenges in speaking, such as shyness, being stuck in sharing ideas, and having limited vocabulary. Therefore, to overcome these challenges, teachers and all stakeholders involved in helping students to learn to improve their English skills should find ways to address the challenges.

To effectively implement this technique, English teachers should know clearly how to implement it before applying it into their classes. For example, they should prepare the teaching and learning materials beforehand and try to make the class enjoyable during the lesson. More importantly, they should understand that when using Gallery Walk, they are the facilitator, controller, and guide to help students engage in the discussion. Teachers should also keep motivating students to speak to help them overcome their speaking challenges and shyness.

In conclusion, as this chapter is based on a review of past studies, future research, including classroom research, should be conducted to explore how the Gallery Walk technique can be applied in the Cambodian EFL classes and how effective it is in helping students to enhance their English-speaking skills.  

References

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