Computer-mediated communication: Writing to speak without foreign language anxiety?
Marion Nike Arnold, The University of Texas at Austin, United States
The University of Texas at Austin . Awarded
This dissertation is based on a research study that investigates the relationship between computer-mediated communication (CMC) and foreign language (FL) anxiety. While all four skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) can trigger anxiety, speaking in particular has been found to make learners anxious. Since FL anxiety is usually associated with avoidance behavior (e.g. lack of classroom participation, missing class), it can be difficult for anxious learners to learn to use the FL communicatively. Research in the field of CMC has suggested that electronic discussions can be especially beneficial for students suffering from FL anxiety because they are thought to provide a low-pressure environment.
Participants in this study were enrolled in five sections of third-semester German at the University of Texas at Austin. Over the course of one semester, six small-group discussions were scheduled in each section, which were conducted in three different modalities. For the treatment groups, two sections each participated either in synchronous (n = 21) or asynchronous CMC (n = 23). A fifth section of third semester German was chosen as the control group and engaged in face-to-face discussions (n = 12).
This study was designed as a repeated-measures study, with pretests and posttests, to collect quantitative as well as qualitative data in order to investigate the following research questions: (1) How, if at all, do the different treatments types affect learners' anxiety and self-confidence in using German? and (2) Does the modality of interaction have any effect on students' changes in FL anxiety levels? The major findings of this study were fourfold. First, quantitative analyses revealed that students' self-ratings of their anxiety and self-confidence levels during each discussion did not change significantly differently between the three treatment groups. The study did collect, however, insightful qualitative data providing a list of possible explanations for the difference in ratings, such as group dynamics, technical difficulties and the topic. Second, a pre- and posttest comparison showed a significant reduction in anxiety about speaking German across all three treatment groups. Again, the modality did not have any effect on these changes; rather, this changed appears to be due to the practice the treatment discussions provided. Third, participants who initially suffered from high anxiety levels experienced a significantly greater reduction in FL anxiety than students with initially low or medium levels of anxiety. Fourth, students became less concerned with formal accuracy; instead, their awareness of the communicative aspects of the discussions grew and affected their anxiety and self-confidence levels.
Arnold, M.N. Computer-mediated communication: Writing to speak without foreign language anxiety?. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Texas at Austin.
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