Questioning the Stability of Learner Anxiety in the Ability-Grouped Foreign Language Classroom

| September 3, 2014

Title

Questioning the Stability of Learner Anxiety in the  Ability-Grouped Foreign Language Classroom

Keywords: language anxiety, language learning, ability grouping

Author

Hui-ju Liu
Department of English,
Da-Yeh University, Taiwan

Hui-ju Liu is an associate professor in the Department of English at Da-Yeh University in Taiwan. She received her doctoral degree from the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, USA, in 1998. Her research interests include ability grouping and individual differences in foreign language learning.

Abstract

This study explores the change of language anxiety in the ability-grouped foreign language classroom over time. Subjects of the study consisted of university EFL freshmen divided into three proficiency levels. The findings revealed that at the initial stage of grouping, students placed in the high proficiency level had significantly lower language anxiety than those grouped into the low and average levels; the differences in anxiety levels between the latter two groups were insignificant. Over the course of the study, the low- and average-performing students still remained homogeneous in terms of their anxiety level. High-achieving students also continued to have significantly lower anxiety levels than their counterparts. However, it is important to note that regardless of the proficiency levels, learner anxiety significantly diminished for all three groups of students in the ability-grouped learning context. Even the discrepancy in anxiety levels between low- and high-achieving students decreased over time. Throughout the entire study, the most distinct differences in anxiety levels between the two proficiency groups were identified in: (1) a stronger feeling of tension in English classes than in other classes, (2) a feeling of nervousness and uneasiness when speaking English in class, and (3) worry about being laughed at when speaking English. Additionally, the findings indicated that the students were mostly in favor of ability grouping, and the majority of them agreed that this practice was beneficial to their language learning.

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Category: Quarterly Journal