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Title: A challenging path : seeking improvement for English speaking anxiety in Chinese university students through an intervention-based action research with drama
Author: Li, Yu
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2016
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Over the last four decades, the research interest on foreign language anxiety (FLA) as a distinct complex of situational anxiety has been arising in EFL setting. Especially in Chinese EFL classrooms, such an anxiety is observed frequently among Chinese learners in their English speaking apprehension. Many scholars have investigated the anxiety-provoking factors to FLA or English-Speaking Anxiety in their empirical studies within different Asian contexts and findings have shown varying associations to cultural and contextual variables. However, these cultural and contextual-subjective influences on Chinese students English speaking anxiety (ESA) have not been explored extensively or specified and most importantly, little research exists for experimenting ways to a solution through systematic teaching practice. With Stern’s (1980) proposal and the researcher’s personal experience in the subject, drama approach has inspired the researcher to take the study further. Therefore this thesis focuses on formulating theories of the nature of the English-speaking anxiety experienced by Chinese learners of English, establishing the relation between the anxiety and drama approach, and exploring the influence of a specifically-designed drama class intervention in a higher education setting. The research questions aim to answer how the level of the participants’ anxiety is influenced by the diverse factors situating in this drama English class, e.g. classroom social factors, cultural variables, teacher and learner variables. In addition, this study aims to identify the crucial factors to the ESA experienced in the Chinese context as for explicating the cultural-situational dimension and how this relates to the application of drama approach. This study reflects the nature of action research and adopts mainly qualitative and partially quantitative data collection procedures. The field work took place in a Chinese university over a period of three months. The researcher designed the course and worked as the teacher of a random group of thirteen students who reported the anxiety. The survey was included as part of the questionnaire to assess the participants’ general ESA levels, selected and reformed on existing scales. Qualitative data was obtained from the teacher’s journals, observing the class and interviewing every participant. Both group results and three individual cases were presented and analysed. The findings of this research suggest that this drama course has a positive effect on reducing participants’ anxiety to various degrees. Three types of change in the anxiety level were revealed as drastic, fluctuated and mild decrease. The decrease in anxiety was explained by the increase in self-confidence through repeated conversation rehearsals of drama plays as oral practice in a learner-friendly language environment. The potentials of creating learning interest, effective collaboration and interaction contributed to a supportive language environment, which helped the reversal of vicious cycle of ESA. The teacher’s role is also essential in facilitating such a friendly learning environment. The predictors of the anxiety are shown to link to socio-psychological factors interacting with classroom social variables. Self-confidence was found to greatly influence the anxiety level and the willingness to communicate, which was directly or indirectly connected to fears of negative evaluation, public attention, face-protection and face loss. The lack of experience in learning and using oral English was highlighted as the main source of the anxiety to affect the self-confidence. This study furthers the understanding of ESA construct in the Chinese context, and contributes to increase the methodological and socio-geographical diversity in both FLA research and action research for language programme development in drama approaches.
Supervisor: Huettner, Julia ; Zotzmann, Karin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available