Cognizance of Rational Choice Theory and Teachers' Intervention in Reducing EFL Learners' Free Riding

Document Type : research article


1 Leila Ahmadpour Ph.D. Candidate of TEFL Department of English Language, Bonab Branch, Islamic Azad University, Bonab, Iran

2 Assistant Professor of TEFL Department of English Language, Bonab Branch, Islamic Azad University, Bonab, Iran

3 Assistant Professor of TEFL Department of English Language, Maragheh Branch, Islamic Azad University, Maragheh, Iran


The enlargement in popularity of group work in English language classrooms has been associated with a raise in the frequency of reports of learners not equally contributing to work in the groups. Termed as free- riding, the impact of this behavior on other group members can make group work an unpleasant experience. Informed by the Rational Choice Theory and Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, this study investigated the degree to which English as a foreign language learner could be directed towards effective group cooperation. For this purpose, a total 140 intermediate (N = 70) and upper-intermediate (N = 70) learners were engaged in picture-cued oral narrative tasks in groups. The teacher familiarized the learners with the tenets of rational choice theory and the effective group work. The classes were observed and learners filled out a free-riding questionnaire. Results statistical analysis demonstrated the effectiveness of knowledge about rational choice theory in the reduction of free-riding. Furthermore, qualitative analysis of the observations revealed that learners particularly those in the low-intermediate group were more inclined towards free-riding. The reasons underlying learners’ lack of interest in group work and possible strategies to reduce this concern were further specified. It is suggested: Teachers should clearly state the goals of the group activities according to the theory of rational choice and clarify the specific goals of the course. By having a clear view of the course objectives and understanding the role of teachers and learners in group work, learners are better placed to meet their expectations and goals.


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