Affective (pre) dispositions towards task-based English L2 learning: A study of third-year Japanese university learners

| October 10, 2007
Affective (pre) dispositions towards task-based English L2 learning: A study of third-year Japanese university learners

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Oliver Dammacco
University of Surrey

This dissertation is submitted to the University of Surrey
in partial fulfilment for the requirement of Master of Arts in Linguistics (TESOL).

This dissertation examines the affective nature of task-based (hereafter TB) L2 English learning, with respect to Japanese third-year university students. In a three-part study, which included: a) a questionnaire b) an experiment incorporating both TB and Structural-functional orientated activities (hereafter SF) and c) a follow-up interview, the data was collected both qualitatively and quantitatively, measuring aspects of learners attitudes, motivation and anxieties towards TB classroom methods. Thus the title: Affective (pre)dispositions towards task-based English L2 among third-year Japanese university learners: a case study was reformulated into the following three hypotheses:

H1 Learners demonstrate a negative attitude towards TB activities
H2 Learners demonstrate low motivation towards TB activities
H3 Learners demonstrate a high level of anxiety towards TB activities

The subjects (N) included 25 Japanese learners majoring in L2 English, in their third year of university. Various theories for attitude and motivation are given in chapter 2.1 for example, Gardner & Lambert (1972), Gardner (1982, 1985), Ajzen (1988), Dornyei & Otto (1998) and Dornyei (2001). For anxiety, see Dulay & Burt (1977), Koch & Terrell (1991), Scovel (1978,1991), Bandura (1991) and Pekrun (1992).

The purpose and rationale of this study is twofold. Firstly, Japanese learners demonstrate problems in oral communication activities – see Prichard (1995). Such problems cannot be accounted for by gaps in language skills, alone. Learners perceptions towards particular styles of learning and teaching warrant some degree of investigation – see Damen (1987). It is worth noting that Western ideals (i.e. The Communicative Approach) in English language teaching have drawn criticism, not only in Japan but, in a number of Asian regions – (See Ellis, 1996).

Secondly, the literature on TB methods and affect is relatively narrow. With the exception of Koch & Terrell (1991), who conducted a study on anxiety in task engagement, research has tended to concentrate on group dynamics rather than styles of teaching. For example, Gass & Selinker (1994) Gass & Varonis (1994) Pica (1994) and McNamara (1996), were concerned with the interactive nature of performance. In addition, MacIntyre et al (1998) focussed on the willingness to communicate (WTC), and, Dornyei & Kormos (2000) researched motivation and social dynamics. In the context of Japan, research on matters of affect has tended to concentrate on L2 English, in studies such as: Berwick & Ross (1989), Widdows & Voller (1991), Benson (1991) and, Kobayashi et al (1992). Other studies have focussed on Native speaker (NS) teachers – e.g. Shimizu (1995, 2000) see chapter 2.2 – and Cultrone (2001).

The findings of this study suggest learners do not simply demonstrate negative affect towards TB activities. However, particular tasks were found to be conducive to varying attitudes, motivation and anxiety, resulting in certain affective patterns emerging within the group, as well as differences among individual learners, the basis of which, stems from the learners perceptions of factors such as task usefulness and group dynamics for optimal learning . Therefore the three hypotheses presented: H1, H2 and H3 could not be confirmed.

Category: Thesis