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AN ANALYSIS OF DISCOMFORT, RISKTAKING,

SOCIABILITY, AND MOTIVATION IN THE L2


CLASSROOM
Christopher M. Ely
Ball State University
This study investigated a causal model of second language learning. Particular
attention was given to three situation-specific constructs: Language Class Discomfort,
Language Class Risktaking, and Language Class Sociability. It was theorized that
voluntary Classroom Participation mediates the effect of Language Class Discomfort,
Language Class Risktaking, Language Class Sociability, and Strength of Motivation
on success in classroom L2 learning. The subjects were students enrolled in first year
(first and second quarter) university Spanish classes.
Data on Classroom Participation were gathered by means of classroom observation
and audio recording. Proficiency was measured by correctness and fluency on a storyretelling task and correctness on a written final examination. The results of the causal
analysis included findings that: Language Class Discomfort negatively predicted
Language Class Risktaking and Language Class Sociability; Language Class
Risktaking positively predicted Classroom Participation; and Classroom Participation
positively predicted Oral Correctness for the first quarter students.

In the field of personality research, the concept of fixed characteristics or


traits has been questioned by Mischel (1968, 1977, 1981b) and others.'
Although these researchers acknowledge that personality exhibits
consistency, they suggest that it is often difficult to predict, on the basis of
global trait measurements, an individual's thoughts, feelings, and overt
behavior in a particular situation. *
Most of the research on the role of personality in second language
learning has been concerned with general personality traits, with little
consideration given to the interaction of person and situation. A few
investigations, however, have explored situation-specific constructs. In
one study, a variable termed Overall Classroom Personality was formed
'A version of this paper was presented at the 1984 Annual TESOL Convention in Houston,
Texas. This article summarizes portions of the author's doctoral dissertation, submitted at
Stanford University (Ely 1984). The author is grateful to the members of his dissertation
committee-Robert Politzer, Edward Haertel, and Edward LkAvila-for their guidance and
support at every stage of this research. This manuscript has benefited from the comments of
two anonymous reviewers.
'See Endler (1973); also, Bem and Allen (1974); Bem and Funder (1978); Mischel and Peake
(1982); Cantor, Mischel, and Schwartz (1982). A related discussion in the context of L2
learning is presented by Busch (1982).

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from student interview responses (Naiman, Frohlich, Stern, and Todesco


1978:41, 53). This variable included self-reports o f (1) degree of certainty
required when raising ones hand; (2) affective reaction when called on
without raising ones hand; (3) embarrassment when speaking the L2; and
(4) other affective reactions. Another example of situation-specific
personality measurement is the scale of task self-esteem created by Heyde
Parsons (1983, Heyde 1979) in her research with university students of
French. A third instrument designed for use with second language students
is the French Class Anxiety scale developed by Gardner and his associates
(Gardner, ClCment, Smythe, and Smythe 1979; Gardner and Smythe 1974,
198 1; Gardner, Smythe, ClCment, and Gliksman 1976).

Language Class Risktaking, Language Class Sociability, and


Language Class Discomfort
The present study explores three constructs hypothesized to be
predictors of second language learning in a classroom context. These
constructs are: Language Class Risktaking, Language Class Sociability,
and Language Class Discomfort.
The first two constructs, Language Class Risktaking and Language
Class Sociability, are related to extraversion-introversion, a personality
construct that has received considerable attention in studies of affective
variables in second language learning. In these investigations, researchers
have generally assumed extraversion to be promotive of L2 proficiency.
However, while some studies have indeed found extraversion and language
proficiency to be positively related (Chastain 1975; Rossier 1973, others
have found either a negative association (Busch 1982) or no relationship at
all (Busch 1982; Naiman, Frohlich, Stern, and Todesco 1978).4
In these studies, extraversion-introversion was measured by means of
global personality instruments (usually the Eysenck Personality Inventory,
Eysenck and Eysenck 1968). In the present research, the constructs of
Language Class Risktaking and Language Class Sociability are
conceptualized and operationalized in the specific context of the second
language classroom.
3Eysencks (Eysenck and Eysenck 1968) spelling, extraversion, has been adopted in this
study. Note also that there is no distinction made in this paper between the terms learning and
acquisition.
In a further analysis that controlled for sex, Busch (1982) found that extraversion had a
significant positive association with male students scores on one proficiency measure.

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One component of general extraversion-introversion has been


characterized as risk taking and adventuresomeness: spontaneity and
flexibility in social behavior, contrasted with social inhibition and
restraint (Morris 1979:41). Language Class Risktaking is more narrowly
focused, referring specifically to an individuals tendency to assume risks in
using the L2 in the second language class.
Another aspect of global extraversion-introversion has been described
as social activity. . . the intensity of ones activities in social contexts, time
spent in social encounters, talkativeness (Morris 1979:41). The more
delimited construct of Language Class Sociability is defined as a desire to
interact with others in the second language class by means of the L2.
Language Class Discomfort, a third construct explored in this research,
is concerned with the degree of anxiety, self-consciousness, o r
embarrassment felt when speaking the L2 in the classroom. This variable is
similar to French Class Anxiety (Gardner, ClCment, Smythe, and Smythe
1979; Gardner and Smythe 1974), although a new scale was developed for
the present study. French Class Anxiety has been found to be negatively
correlated with proficiency (Gardner, Smythe, ClCment, and Gliksman
1976). Although one causal analysis (Gardner, Lalonde, and Pierson 1982)
failed to show a link between situational anxiety (measured by French
Class Anxiety and French Use Anxiety) and achievement,6 another causal
study (Lalonde 1982) found that self-perception of proficiency mediated
the effect of situational anxiety (measured by French Class Anxiety) on L2
achievement.

Strength of Motivation
An additional variable of major concern in this study is level of
motivation. This construct, termed Strength of Motivation, concerns the
degree to which an individual desires to learn the second language. A
number of studies have investigated motivational level; research that has
separated level of motivation from type of motivation (e.g., instrumental
or integrative motivation) has generally found higher levels of
motivation associated with grades (but not with scores on standardized
Other approaches to assessing anxiety in the foreign language classroom are reported by
Kleinmann (1977) and McCoy (1976).
6Anxiety, however, was predicted by prior achievement (Gardner, Lalonde. and Pierson
1982).

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language tests) (Gardner and Lambert 1959, 1972). In a causal analysis,


Gardner, Lalonde, and Pierson (1982) found a latent variable measured by
Motivational Intensity, Desire to Learn French, and Attitudes toward
Learning French to be predictive of French achievement (as measured by
grades, professors rating, and students self-rating) among Canadian
university students (there was also a weaker effect of achievement on
motivation).

Explaining the Role of Affective Variables


While it is of theoretical and pedagogical interest to determine whelher
affective variables influence L2 achievement, it is also important to
discover how this influence may come about. In the present study, it was
posited that: (1) affective variables influence a students voluntary
classroom participation and (2) voluntary classroom participation
(through various cognitive processes) in turn affects second language
proficiency.
The validity of this conceptualization is suggested by a number of
studies. In two investigations (Gardner, Smythe, C16ment and Gliksman
1976; Gliksman 1976; Gliksman, Gardner, and Smythe 1982), Canadian
high school students of French were administered a questionnaire on
various motivational and attitudinal variables and were then observed in
their classrooms. In both studies, it was found that students above the
median on a combined motivational/ attitudinal measure (which was
labeled the Integrative Motive) exhibited a significantly greater number
of several classroom behaviors, including volunteering to answer questions
(handraising). In their research with high school learners of French in
Canada, Naiman, Frohlich, Stern, and Todesco (1978) found that
motivation and Overall Classroom Personality (discussed above) were
significantly correlated with several classroom behaviors, including
handraising. Regression analyses showed handraising and callouts to be
significant positive predictors of French proficiency.
Several other investigations are relevant to the second stage of the
conceptualization. In Seligers (1977) research with adults studying ESL in
the US., it was theorized that students who elicit more teacher input exhibit
greater gains in L2 proficiency. Several of Seligers findings appeared to
support his thesis. On the other hand, Day (1984), whose hypotheses were
similar t o those of Seliger, did not find the voluntary classroom
participation of adult ESL learners in the U.S. significantly related to
proficiency.

Model for Investigation


Figure I displays the theoretical model investigated. (For a detailed
discussion of each component of this model, see Ely 1984.)' As can be seen,
a number of variables were incorporated into the model in addition to
Language Class Discomfort, Language Class Risktaking, Language Class
Sociability, and Strength of Motivation. These other variables were
included in order to construct as complete a causal model as possible.
The model indicates the hypotheses which were tested in the study. First,
Language Class Discomfort was seen as decreasing both Language Class
Risktaking and Language Class Sociability. It was felt that the presence of
such Discomfort discourages a student from taking risks with the language
and also inhibits the student's interaction with others in Spanish.
It was hypothesized that Language Class Risktaking and Language
Class Sociability increase Classroom Participation. In addition, in order
to determine whether Language Class Discomfort reduces Classroom
Participation directly, as well as indirectly (through reducing Language
Class Risktaking and Language Class Sociability), a causal path was
posited between Language Class Discomfort and Classroom Participation.
Classroom Participation was hypothesized to be a positive predictor of
proficiency. Research related to this hypothesis has been discussed above.
It was hypothesized that Strength of Motivation has a positive influence
on Classroom Participation. Strength of Motivation was also posited to be
a positive predictor of proficiency, partly in an attempt to replicate findings
of other studies (Gardner, Lalonde, and Pierson 1982).
Another variable in the model was Attitude toward the Language Class.
Several causal studies (Gardner, Lalonde, and Pierson 1982; Lalonde 1982)

'

'The results of a descriptive study of motivational type were included in the analysis. Space
does not permit a discussion here of this aspect of the research (see Ely in press).
'In the initial planningfor this study, a distinction was made between quantity (number, not
length o r complexity, of utterances) and quality (correctness) of Classroom Participation. It
was hypothesized that Language Class Risktaking and Language Class Sociability would be
linearly (and positively) related to quantity of Classroom Participation. but curvilinearly
related to quality (correctness) of Classroom Participation, with moderate amounts of
Language Class Risktaking and Language Class Sociability most promotive of correctness in
class. Subsequently, it was decided to simplify the model by focusing only upon quantity of
Classroom Participation.
The hypothesis that risktaking is curvilinearly related to accuracy may be especially
attractive in cases where the individual has an opportunity to use the language somewhat
freely, as in a naturalistic environment or at relatively advanced stages of classroom language
learning. For a further discussion of curvilinearity in the association between risktaking and
L2 acquisition, see Beebe (1983).

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Proficiency
9 t r m vt h

\//*
Language
Class
Discomfort

Class
Language
Class
Sociability

Figure I. Theoretical model for investigation.

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have found students attitudes toward the teacher and the course to be
predictive of motivation. In the present study, Attitude toward the
Language Class was hypothesized t o be a positive predictor of Classroom
Participation.
It was theorized that students who have a strong desire to achieve high
grades (high Concern for Grade) manifest high Classroom Participation.
Concern for Grade was also seen as a positive predictor of proficiency.
Another positive contributor to Classroom Participation, as well as to
proficiency, may be the students Language Learning Aptitude. Gardner
and Lamberts (1972) extensive factor-analytic study of U.S. high school
learners of French yielded numerous significant common factor loadings
of aptitude and proficiency. Lalonde (1982) found aptitude to be a
predictor of French achievement among Canadian university students.
In addition to the main constructs (shown in Figure l), two variables
representing prior learning of Spanish were introduced as control
variables. These were: amount of previous classroom study of Spanish and
presence or absence of a Spanish-speaking home environment. These
variables were included in the prediction of Classroom Participation and
proficiency.

METHOD
Setting of the Study
The subjects were students enrolled in first year Spanish courses at a
university in northern California. The study involved six classes: three
classes of students in their first quarter of Spanish study (Level 1) and three
classes of second quarter students (Level 2). The students, who gave their
written consent to participate in the study, were told only that the study
concerned various aspects of language learning. Similarly, the six
teachers were not advised of the specific objectives of the research; they
were aware, however, that it was the students, rather than the teachers, who
were the focus of the study. The data were gathered during the winter
quarter of the 1982-83 academic year.

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Overview of Scale Operationalization


There were several steps in the development of the Language Class
Risktaking, Language Class Sociability, Language Class Discomfort, and
Strength of Motivation scales. First, the theoretical dimensions of each
scale were established, and representative items were ~ r i t t e n A
. ~pilot
questionnaire was then constructed from these items, and administered to
fifty students in first year (third quarter) and second year Spanish classes.
(Participation was voluntary, and students did not identify themselves on
the questionnaire.) Item-analysis of the pilot questionnaire results was
carried out in order to select the most appropriate items for the final
questionnaire. The following sections discuss the conceptual development,
item construction, and item analysis of the individual scales.

Language Class Risktaking


In the operationalization of Language Class Risktaking, lo four
dimensions of the construct were posited: a lack of hesitancy about using a
newly encountered linguistic element; a willingness to use linguistic
elements perceived to be complex or difficult; a tolerance of possible
incorrectness or inexactitude in using the language; and an inclination to
rehearse a new element silently before attempting to use it aloud.
Twelve pilot questionnaire items, representing the four dimensions of
the construct, were constructed. These items were included in the general
pilot questionnaire, interspersed with items for the scales of Language
Class Discomfort, Language Class Sociability, Concern for Grade, and
9The decision regarding the number of items for each scale was influenced by two
constraints. First, there was a relatively large number of variables to be included in the final
study. Also, it was felt that in order to make the constructs less obvious to the subjects, it
would be useful to insert a number of foil items (distractors). In view of these limitations, it
was decided to construct scales of five to seven items each for Language Class Risktaking,
Language Class Sociability, Language Class Discomfort, and Strength of Motivation. It is
possible that future versions of these scales will include more items.
?his variable may be regarded as a manifestation of personality a n d / o r cognitive style. It
is, in fact, often difficult to distinguish clearly between personality and cognitive style. For
example, tolerance of ambiguity is classified as a personality construct by Naiman, Frohlich,
Stern, and Todesco (1978) but as a cognitive style variable by Brown (1980). For a related
discussion, see Brown (1980:90).
A student interview question included in the variable of Overall Classroom Personality
(Naiman, Frohlich, Stern, and Todesco 1978:53)appears to represent this aspect of Language
Class Risktaking: Do you wait until you are absolutely certain before you put your hand up
or d o you take a chance and attempt an answer anyway? (1978:41).

Strength of Motivation. Each item was followed by a six-point Likert


response scale, with the alternatives labeled: strongly disagree,
moderately disagree, slightly disagree, *slightly agree, moderately
agree, and strongly agree.* Following the use of item-analysis
procedures, the following six items were selected (a minus sign indicates an
item which is negative on the scale):
I. I like to wait until I know exactly how to use a Spanish word before
using it. (-)
2. I dont like trying out a difficult sentence in class. (-)
3. At this point, I dont like trying to express complicated ideas in
Spanish in class. (-)
4. I prefer to say what I want in Spanish without worrying about the
small details of grammar.
5. In class, I prefer to say a sentence to myself before I speak it. (-)
6. I prefer to follow basic sentence models rather than risk misusing the
language. (-)

Language Class Sociability


The pilot questionnaire items representing Language Class Sociability
explored several aspects of the construct. First, it was theorized that
students high in Language Class Sociability want to use the L2 for the
purpose of becoming better acquainted with others in the class. Second, it
was thought that those high in Language Class Sociability tend to prefer a
learning situation in which there are a number of other people present (and
thus not favor an individualized study program, such as the one available at
the university). Finally, it was posited that students high in Language Class
Sociability seek to create and maintain a sense of camaraderie in the
language classroom. In addition to items representing these three
dimensions, there was a fourth group of items designed to measure the
overall degree of enjoyment provided by interacting in Spanish.
After item-analysis of the pilot questionnaire scale, the following items
were selected for the final questionnaire: l 3

*Therewas no neutral point; see Ely (1984:31) for discussion.


%pace does not permit a detailed account of the item-analysis procedure (see Ely 1984).
Statistical analyses for this procedure, as well as for reliability, descriptive analysis, factor
analysis, and regression, were done with SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences)
Update 7-9 (Hull and Nie 1981).

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I.

2.
3.
4.
5.

VoL 36, No. I

Id like more class activities where the students use Spanish to get to
know each other better.
I think learning Spanish in a group is more fun than if I had my own
tutor.
I enjoy talking with the teacher and other students in Spanish.
I dont really enjoy interacting with the other students in the Spanish
class. (-)
I think its important to have a strong group spirit in the language
classroom.

Language Class Discomfort


In designing the Language Class Discomfort scale, a major criterion was
that the items be as moderate and low-key as possible, in order to
encourage students to reveal their feelings of awkwardness or discomfort
frankly. Item analysis of the pilot test results led to the inclusion of the
following items in the final questionnaire:
1. I dont feel very relaxed when I speak Spanish in class.
2. Based on my class experience so far, I think that one barrier to my
future use of Spanish is my discomfort when speaking.
3. At times, I feel somewhat embarrassed in class when Im trying to
speak.
4. I think Im less self-conscious about actively participating in Spanish
class than most of the other students. (-)
5. I sometimes feel awkward speaking Spanish.

Strength of Motivation
A nine-item Strength of Motivation scale was designed for the pilot
questionnaire. After item analysis of the results, two items with low
corrected item-total scale correlations were deleted; the seven items used in
the final questionnaire are listed below. (Items 1, 2, and 3 were patterned
after items on the scales of Motivational Intensity and Desire to Learn
French [see, Gardner, Cltment, Smythe, and Smythe 1979; Gardner and
Smythe 1981; Gliksman, Gardner, and Smythe 1982].)14
1nitially, it had been intended to employ the Motivational intensity and Desire to Learn
French scales. However, a close examination of these scales led to the decision to use an
instrument designed expressly for the specific target population. See Ely ( 1984:28-32) for
further discussion. (In comparing this scale with the pilot questionnaire scale, note that items
3 and 5 of the original scale were those deleted [cf. Ely 1984:31].)

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11

1. Outside of class, I almost never think about what Im learning in


class. (-)
2. If possible, I would like to take a second year Spanish course.
3. Speaking realistically, I would say that I dont try very hard to learn
Spanish. (-)
4. I want to be able to use Spanish in a wide variety of situations.
5. I dont really have a great desire to learn a lot of Spanish. (-)
6. Learning Spanish well is not really a high priority for me at this
point. (-)
7. I dont really feel that learning Spanish is valuable to me. (-)

Attitude toward the Language Class


A number of studies have utilized semantic differential scales by which
students evaluate their language course and teacher on various dimensions
(Gardner, Lalonde, and Pierson 1982; Lalonde 1982; see also Gliksman,
Gardner, and Smythe 1982). In the present study, it was decided to focus on
the students interest in and enjoyment of the class. The following items
were designed:
1. I find Spanish class to be very boring. (-)
2. I would say that Im usually very interested in what we do in Spanish
class.
3. I dont really like the Spanish class. (-)
4. In general, I enjoy the Spanish class.
Students responded to these items, in Likert scale format, on the final
questionnaire (the scale was not included in the pilot questionnaire).

Concern for Grade


The following item was written to assess Concern for Grade:
It is very important to me to get a good grade in Spanish this quarter.
While it would have been preferable to construct more than one item for
this variable, it was felt that the topic was a sensitive one and that a
students attitude toward the questionnaire might be adversely affected by
presenting another item. The item was in Likert scale format.

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Vol. 36, No. 1

Previous Language Study and Language Background


Prior learning of Spanish was represented by two control variables:
previous classroom Spanish study and home language background.
Previous language study was operationalized as number of Years of High
School Spanish Study. The item ascertaining Language Background asked
students Is/ was Spanish spoken at home by either parent? Questions
regarding Years of High School Spanish Study and Language Background
were not included in the pilot questionnaire.

Summary of the Final Questionnaire


The final questionnaire consisted of three sections. In the first section,
students responded to the items comprising the scales of Language Class
Discomfort, Language Class Risktaking, Language Class Sociability,
Strength of Motivation, Attitude toward the Language Class, and Concern
for Grade. The items of each scale were interspersed with those of the other
scales and with seven foil items (concerning various aspects of language
study). The second section of the questionnaire concerned Motivational
Type and is described elsewhere (Ely in press). The third section gathered
additional data on students previous and current opportunities for
learning Spanish. Included were the questions regarding Language
Background and Years of High School Spanish Study.

Language Learning Aptitude


The instrument used to measure a students aptitude for learning a
foreign language was the Short Form of the Modern Language Aptitude
Test (Carroll and Sapon 1959; Gliksman, Gardner, and Smythe 1979).
Carroll and Sapon report Short Form split-half reliability coefficients of
.93 for college males and females.

Classroom Participation
The classroom behaviors hypothesized to predict proficiency were those
representing students self-initiated utterances in Spanish. As discussed
earlier, a number of studies have examined voluntary participation in the
language class (Day 1984; Gliksman, Gardner, and Smythe 1982; Naiman,
Frohlich, Stern, and Todesco 1978; Seliger 1977). In the present

investigation, Classroom Participation was operationalized as the number


of times a student asked or answered a question or provided information in
Spanish without being individually nominated t o d o so. Four categories of
utterances were included: (1) responding to a question addressed to the
group (coded provide information-general solicit); (2) providing
information without being asked to do so (provide informationvolunteer); (3) asking a question requested of the group by the teacherthat is, a question in response to a solicit such as Can anyone ask Bill
about his weekend? (seek information-general solicit); and (4) asking a
question without being asked to do so (seek information-volunteer). A
students Classroom Participation score was the total number of
occurrences in all four categories.
The classroom observers were two female native speakers of Spanish
who were blind to the hypotheses of the study. These individuals received
extensive training in observation and coding. Each observer was
responsible for three of the six classes. The classes were observed six times;
the last four observations (totaling 200 minutes) were used in the data
analysis.
The observers used an observation form on which they noted: (1) the
identity of each new speaker (using the first letter of the persons name) and
(2) the first word or two each speaker uttered. In addition, the observers
made audio recordings with minute ( I 3) condensor microphones (Sony
ECM-150) which were centrally placed and wired to a cassette tape
recorder. I s
The coding of classroom interaction was carried out by the two
individuals who had observed the classes. Each person coded the classes
she had observed, using the observation sheets and the audio recordings. l 6
To assess the reliability of the process of first noting speakers on the
classroom observation sheet and then coding the utterances on the coding
sheet, both individuals observed the same class for several periods and then
coded the classroom interaction for the last period. The percentages of
agreement for the classroom observation sheet were computed: coder A
had noted (and agreed with the identification of the speaker of) 91 percent
See Ely (1984) for details of microphone placement and effectiveness.
16A set of specific guidelines was followed in coding (Ely 1984). For example, a new
behavior was considered to occur: ( I ) when a different individual began to speak or (2) when
the current speaker changed from one behavior type (e.g., seek information-volunteer) to
another (e.g., provide information-volunteer).

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Yo/. 36, No. 1

of the utterances noted by B; coder B had done the same for 92 percent of
the utterances noted by A. A reliability check was made of the specific
codings: of the utterances coded as volunteer or general solicit by the other
coder, coders A and B agreed with 99 and 97 percent of the codings,
respectively.

Proficiency
Three proficiency measures were employed: Oral Fluency; Oral
Correctness; and Written Correctness. Oral Fluency and Oral Correctness
were assessed by means of a story-retelling task (see Oller 1979). The
stories were developed by the investigator, in consultation with the teachers
participating in the research. Lists were compiled of all grammatical
structures and lexical items in the textbook chapters studied during the
quarter. From these lists, two stories were written, one for Levei I (first
quarter students) and one for Level 2 (second quarter students). The
content of the two stories was similar, relating a series of events common
among college students. The stories were recorded by a female native
speaker of Spanish. These stories were relatively short (103 words for Level
1; 122 words for Level 2); however, to help relieve students possible
concern about their ability to remember the story, a handout was provided
with picture frames showing the sequence of events.
Each class performed the task in the university language laboratory
during class time. Students sat in alternate booths and listened to and
retold the story using individual tape recorders. Students were not allowed
to take notes and were told that memorization of the story was not
necessary. The stories were presented twice, following four conversational
questions (designed to help the students become accustomed to the
speakers voice).
The tape recordings were transcribed by a native speaker of Spanish.
These transcripts were the basis for determining an individuals Oral
Fluency and Oral Correctness. A high Oral Fluency score reflected a
relative absence of self-interrupted elements. Interrupted elements fell into
two categories: fragments and disfluent words. Fragments were phonemes
This is probably a conservative estimate of the overall reliability of this process, since the
coders commented that the interaction was unusually fast-paced during the final class period.
These stories, as well as the examinations used for Written Correctness, are not
reproduced here because of the possibility of their future use by the university.

or syllables which did not constitute words. Disfluent words were words
(either isolated or in phrases) which did not convey a complete thought, but
which were interrupted when the speaker began to frame the same idea in
an alternative manner or began to express a new idea.
The transcripts were marked for Oral Fluency by the investigator.
Reliability was measured by comparing practice transcripts marked
separately by the investigator and a bilingual Spanish speaker: there was an
average of 98 percent agreement (97 and 99 percent) with the other person
regarding utterances marked as disfluent. A students Oral Fluency score
was calculated by adding the number of fragments and disfluent words,
and then dividing by the number of fluent words.
Oral Correctness was assessed by marking errors in morphology, syntax,
and lexical choice in the transcripts. In order to prevent Oral Correctness
from being confounded with Oral Fluency, the transcripts were first
marked for fluency; only non-disfluent elements were marked for
correctness. Oral Correctness was judged by two individuals who had
recently taught first year courses in the Spanish program at the university.
The judges had two tasks: first, to mark the transcripts, indicating and
correcting mistakes; and second, to assign a score (a count of the number of
pertinent errors). Errors were ignored if they did not represent language
elements covered in the textbook chapters (see Ely 1984 for scoring
guidelines). A students Oral Correctness score consisted of an average of
the judges error counts divided by the number of fluent words. The degree
of agreement between the judges was assessed by means of a Pearson
correlation coefficient calculated for all of the scores assigned: the
correlation was .98.
The third proficiency score, Written Correctness, was the numerical
grade on the regular final written examination. The examinations focused
on grammar and included opportunities for using language in the context
of connected discourse. These final examinations covered the same
textbook chapters used in the story-retelling task. Each level had one
examination, which was prepared by a group of teachers. The exams were
graded by the teachers; the grading was checked by the investigator and,
where necessary, the number of points taken off for a particular type of
error was equated across exams (see Ely 1984). A modified form of splithalf reliability was calculated (with totals for odd and even numbered
sections constituting the two halves) and stepped up using the SpearmanBrown prophecy formula. The estimates of reliability for the Level 1 and 2
examinations were .94 and .91, respectively.

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FINDINGS
Preliminary Analyses
After the final questionnaire was administered, two items were found to
have low corrected item-total correlations, Risktaking item 4 and
Sociability item 5." These two items were omitted from the scales in
subsequent analyses.
The scales were subjected to a reliability assessment before use in the
causal analysis. The Cronbach alphas for the scales were: Strength of
Motivation, .86; Language Class Discomfort, .79; Language Class
Risktaking, .65; Language Class Sociability, .66; and Attitude toward the
Language Class, .86.2032'
For all the variables in the model, the data were examined for significant
differences in the means. The one significant difference among the means
for the six classes was for classroom participation. (As discussed below,
differences attributable to class were controlled for in the prediction of
Classroom Participation.)
An additional analysis was carried out in order to investigate the factors
which may underlie the variables of Language Class Discomfort, Language
Class Risktaking and Language Class Sociability. All the items on the three
scales were subjected to a single factor analysis. The items were found to
load on three factors (see Ely, 1984 for a more detailed presentation and
discussion).

I9A reexamination of the results for the pilot questionnaire showed these two items to have
had the lowest corrected item-total correlations for their respective scales (as detailed in Ely
1984).
*?he levels of reliability for Risktaking and Sociability were lower than expected; it may be
noted, however, that they compare favorably with reliability coefficients for certain other
personality, motivation, and cognitive style scales used in research with L2 learners. See, for
example, Gardner and Smythe ( 198 I ) and Lalonde (1982). as well as Budner (1962, used in
Naiman, Frohlich, Stern, and Todesco 1978). In general, the reliability figures for the final
questionnaire scales were lower than those of the pilot study; this may have been due to the
addition of foil items, the shortening of the scales, differences in the samples, etc.
"In a subsequent study with a larger sample of first year university Spanish students (125
subjects), a considerably higher Cronbach alpha of .74 was obtained for Language Class
Risktaking. A report of that study, which had a different overall purpose from that of the
present research, is in progress.

17

Overview of the Causal Analysis


The method used to examine the validity of the causal model (Figure 1)
was path analysis, with an ordinary least squares (OLS) multiple regression
procedure employed at each stage of the analysis. Thus, the standardized
regression (beta) coefficient obtained for a predictor of an outcome
measure was the coefficient assigned to the causal path hypothesized to link
the two variables. It should be noted that the test for causality carried out
by the path analysis is based on the theoretical model investigated, rather
than on the experimental manipulation of variables. (Scattergram plots
were examined to determine if any independent variable was related in a
way other than linearly to a dependent variable; it was judged that no such
relationship existed.) The following sections describe the analysis
conducted at each stage of the model.
Data from 75 students were available for the prediction of Language
Class Risktaking, Language Class Sociability, and Classroom
Participation.

Prediction of Language Class Risktaking and Language Class


Sociability
Language Class Discomfort had been hypothesized to have a negative
effect on both Language Class Risktaking and Language Class Sociability.
Separate forward stepwise regressions were carried out to test the
hypotheses; the results were duplicated using a backward procedure. (The
level of significance for a variable to enter all of the regressions in the study
was set at p = .05.)
The results of these regressions showed Language Class Discomfort to
be a significant negative predictor of both Language Class Risktaking and
Language Class Sociability. The beta weights were, for Language Class
Risktaking and Language Class Sociability respectively: -0.47 (t = -4.53,
p < .01) and -0.31 (t = 2.72, p = .01). Language Class Discomfort
accounted for 22 percent of the variance ( R2) in Language Class Risktaking
and 9 percent of the variance in Language Class Sociability.22

"In the study mentioned in the previous note, the corresponding R 2 figures were .37 for
Language Class Risktaking and . I I for Language Class Sociability.

18

Language Learning

Vol. 36, No. I

Antecedents of Classroom Participation


It had been hypothesized that Classroom Participation is influenced by
Language Class Discomfort, Language Class Risktaking, Language Class
Sociability, and Strength of Motivation, as well as by Attitude toward the
Language Class, Concern for Grade, and Language Learning Aptitude.
The two control variables included were: number of Years of High School
Spanish study, and Language Background (whether or not Spanish was
spoken at home). In addition, the differences in the means for Classroom
Participation among the six classes (see above) suggested that certain
aspects of the individual classes might influence the degree of Classroom
Participation. Class was therefore included as a variable.
Classroom Participation was regressed on these variables using a
forward stepwise procedure. The variables were regressed in several blocks.
The first block included Language Class Discomfort, Language Class
Risktaking, Language Class Sociability, Strength of Motivation, Attitude
toward the Language Class, Concern for Grade, and Language Learning
Aptitude. The second block Years of High School Spanish Study, followed
in the third block by a dummy Language Background variable (indicating a
positive or negative answer to the item). Finally, five dummy variables
representing contrasts for the six classes were entered as a block and tested
for significance in the presence of all other variables that had entered the
eq~ation.~
The
' results, which were duplicated in a backward procedure,
are presented in Table 1. (In this table, significance is presented in terms of
an F ratio, in order to permit comparison with the test for Class.) It should
be noted that, for all regressions reported, the beta coefficient for a variable
not in the regression equation represents the hypothetical addition of that
variable alone to the final equation, not the result if all variables were
added. The table shows the simple correlation of the predictor with the
outcome measure (r), the standardized coefficient (beta), the t statistic
showing the significance of the beta coefficient, and the significance level of
the t statistic (P).
As shown in Table 1, Language Class Risktaking was a significant
positive predictor of Classroom Participation. Language Class
Discorfort, Language Class Sociability and Strength of Motivation were

"As discussed in Ely (1984), the dependent measure represented a log transformation of
Classroom Participation.

19
Table I
Summary of srepwise regression of Classroom Parriciparion

Variables
in equation

beta

Risktaking
Class*

.39

0.40

13.92
2.91

<.01
.02

beta to
enter

F to
enter

-0.19
-0.1 I
0.07
0.07
0.06
0.06
-0.05
-0.02

2.66
1.10
0.50
0.50
0.34
0.34
0.20
0.04

.lI
.30
.48
.48
.56
.56

Variables not
in equation
Discomfort
Yrs. Hi. Sp.
Att. Lang. C.
Aptitude
L a n g u v e Back.
Str. of Motiv.
Concern Grade
Sociabilitv

-.21
-_
14
.I4
.01
.02
.I9
-.04

.ox

.65
.83

N = 75
5 Contrasts: d.f. 5. 68
R = 30

not predictors; there was, however, a significant effect for Class. The
equation explained 30 percent of the variance in students voluntary
participation in the Spanish classroom.

Antecedents of Proficiency
For each of the three proficiency measures, a separate regression analysis
for Level 1 and Level 2 was carried out. The results for the story-retelling
task (Oral Correctness and Oral Fluency) represent 63 of the 65 students
(two outliers had been omitted) who were present on the day of
administration: 27 at Level 1 and 36 at Level 2. The Written Correctness
results represent a total of 72 students: 32 at Level 12 and 40 at Level 2 (see
below for comments on group sizes).
The beta coefficients for significant predictors in all six proficiency
regressions (three proficiency measures at two levels) are presented in
Table 2 (and, together with tests for level comparability, discussed in Ely
1984). Oral Correctness was predicted by Classroom Participation (Level
I), Concern for Grade (Level 2), and Language Learning Aptitude (Level
2). Oral Fluency was predicted by Language Background (Level 1) and the
number of Years of High School Spanish study (Level 2). Written
Correctness was predicted by Strength of Motivation (Level 2) and

20

Language Learning

Vol. 36, No. 1

Table 2
Standardized regression coefficients of significant predictors ofproficiencv

Level I
0r.C.
Classrm. Partic.
Aptitude
Str. of Motiv.
Concern Grade
Yrs. Hi. Span.
Language Back.

Or.F1.

Level 2
Wr.C.

0r.C.

.31

.31

0r.FI.

Wr.C

.40
.4 1

.39
.40

.38
.45

R2
.I6
(probability level to enter set at .05)

.20

.I4

.25

.I5

.30

Language Learning Aptitude (Levels 1 and 2). (The direction of association


has been reversed for the tables reporting proficiency regression outcomes,
since the three proficiency measures were calculated from error counts.)
Table 3 indicates the correlations of all predictors with the criterion
measures.
As Table 2 indicates, the regression in which Classroom Participation
was found to have a significant effect on proficiency was that of Oral
Correctness at Level I . Oral Correctness was regressed on the six
independent variables using a forward stepwise procedure (the results were
duplicated in a backward procedure). Four variables were in the first block:
Classroom Participation; Language Learning Aptitude; Strength of
Motivation; and Concern for Grade. In the second and third blocks were,
respectively, Years of High School Study and Language Background. The
beta weight for Classroom Participation, shown in Table 2, was 0.40 (t =
2.21, p = .04). Classroom Participation accounted for 16 percent of the
variance (R2)in Level 1 Oral Correctness. No other single variable added
significantly to the prediction.

DISCUSSION
As hypothesized, Language Class Risktaking was found to be a positive
predictor of students voluntary Classroom Participation. Language Class
Discomfort influenced Classroom Participation only indirectly, through
its negative effect on Language Class Risktaking. The apparent lack of a
significant effect of Language Class Sociability on Classroom

21
Table 3
Correlations of predictors with criterion measures
~

Level I

Classrm. Partic.
Aptitude
Str. of Motiv.
Concern Grade
Yrs. Hi. Span.
Language Back.

Level 2

0r.C.

Or.Fl.

Wr.C.

0r.C.

0r.Fl.

Wr.C.

.40
.I4
.I6
.00
-. I I
.I0

.09
.I6
.12
.08
.22
.45

.I8

.02
.29
.I2
.39
.25
.05

-. 10

.08
.39
.36
.I9
-.05
-.I I

.37
.07
-.03
-. 18
-.08

.I4
.I0
.26
.38

-.oo

Participation could have been due to the nature of language use in the first
year classes. It may be that Language Class Sociability has greater
importance at subsequent levels of language study, when increased
linguistic skills permit a higher degree of interaction.
The fact that Oral Correctness, but not Written Correctness, was
influenced by Classroom Participation may be attributable to differences
in the cognitive skills involved in the two tasks. Thus, performance on the
written examinations may have benefited from the use of L2 skills and
learning strategies not specifically practiced in voluntary oral
participation. Alternatively, the findings may indicate that the real-time
oral test reflected the effect of (relatively) unmonitored (Dulay, Burt, and
Krashen 1982) or automatic (McLaughlin, Rossman, and McLeod 1983)
language performance developed through classroom interaction.
In the case of Oral Fluency, the influence of former language learning
experiences appeared to outweigh the other hypothesized predictors.
However, perhaps the relative effect of such experiences would be
attenuated at later stages of L2 learning, with on-going classroom
interaction becoming increasingly important.
The results of the study should be interpreted in the light of several
potential limitations. First, the separate level regressions predicting
proficiency were based on sample sizes smaller than are normally desirable.
This served to increase the possibility of Type 11errors; that is, effects that a
larger sample would have revealed were not detected. The magnitude of
causal relationships in the population was thus probably underestimated
by the results of these proficiency regressions.
In addition, a number of alternative models incorporating the variables
used in this study could be proposed. However, due to the lack of
additional independent data for cross-validation of the empirically derived

22

Language Learning

Vol. 36, No. 1

results, it was necessary to limit the investigation only to the model which
had been specified a priori on the basis of theory and previous research. 24
Third, while path analysis procedure is designed to test causal relations
among variables, a cross-sectional, correlationally-based study is not
capable of definitively proving causality. For this, it would be necessary to
conduct research following an experimental paradigm or using repeated
measurements obtained over time. 2 5
It is felt that situation-specific scales such as those employed in this
research may offer a viable alternative to the use of global psychological
measures. However, it should be noted that the instruments developed for
this study are regarded as exploratory in nature; further research is planned
which would continue to refine the operationalization of these constructs.
Finally, in evaluating the present findings, concerns regarding the study
of affective states through self-report (Oller 1981, 1982; Oller and Perkins
1978a, 1978b) should be taken into consideration, as should responses to
these concerns (Gardner 1980; Gardner and Gliksman 1982; Mischel
1981a; Upshur, Acton, Arthur, and Guiora 1978).
The population addressed in this study was that of university foreign
language students in the United States. Research should be carried out to
assess the applicability of the findings to other groups of second language
learners. There may be differences, for instance, between university and
secondary school students. In certain secondary school settings, peer
approval may be extremely important, resulting in levels and effects of
Language Class Discomfort, Language Class Risktaking, and Language
Class Sociability that differ from those among college students. In addition
to extending the present research to different age groups, it will be of
interest to conduct similar studies in bilingual, ESL, and EFL settings.
Classroom teachers may find in these results an indication of the
importance of Language Class Risktaking and Classroom Participation in
various language learning situations. However, the fact that a negative
causal relationship was found between Language Class Discomfort and
Language Class Risktaking suggests that simply exhorting students to take
24
In addition, a number of variables not included in the present study could be explored in
future research. For example, it may be useful to incorporate test anxiety (Madsen 1982) in
the model.
25
It should also be noted that path analysis models rest upon a number of assumptions
regarding the relationship of the variables in the population (Gallini 1983; see Ely
198498-99).

more risks and participate more may not be effective. Apparently, before
some students can be expected to take linguistic risks, they must be made to
feel more psychologically comfortable and safe in their learning
environment. To this end, classroom teachers may wish to devise and test
the relative effectiveness of various strategies for lessening Language Class
Discomfort. As students come to feel more secure, they can then be
encouraged to assume a more active role in the classroom.

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