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Journal of Applied Linguistics and

Language Research
Volume 1

Number 1

2014

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014,
Available online at www.jallr.ir

Table of Contents
Volume 1, issue 1, 2014

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary through Implicit
Exposure: Non-lexicalized Words in Focus
Mohammad Ali Heidari-Shahreza (pp. 1-11)
The Effect of Reading Anxiety and Motivation on EFL Learners’ Choice of Reading
Strategies
Abbas Ali Zarei (pp. 12-28)
The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on Iranian EFL Learners’ L2
Reading Comprehension
Nasrin Shams, Mansoor Tavakoli (pp. 29-44)
Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets in
Persian Learners of English
Mahnaz Allahverdizadeh, Nematullah Shomoossi, Farzad Salahshoor, Zohreh Seifoori
(pp. 45-61)
A Critical Review of the Interactionist Approach to Second Language Acquisition
Saeid Najafi Sarem, Yusef Shirzadi (pp. 62-74)
The Effectiveness of Ur Model in Developing Iranian EFL Learners’ Fluency and
Accuracy in Speaking
Khojaste Askari, Jahanbakhsh Langroudi (pp. 75-86)
Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards Internship
Zabih Ollah Javanbakht (pp. 87-99)
Gender Differences in the Expression of Gratitude by Persian Speakers
Atefeh Yoosefvand, Abbass Eslami Rasekh (pp. 100-117)

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 1-11
Available online at www.jallr.ir

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary
through Implicit Exposure: Non-lexicalized Words in Focus
Mohammad Ali Heidari-Shahreza
Assistant Professor, Shahreza Branch, Islamic Azad University, Iran

Abstract
The researcher aimed at investigating the possible effects of first language-second language
(L1-L2) lexicalization mismatch on the acquisition and retention of productive vocabulary
knowledge. Non-lexicalized words were operationally defined as the L2 words lacking a
lexically-equivalent translation in learners’ L1 (i.e. Persian). In other words, non-lexicalized
words referred to those L2 words that required a longer string of L1 words to cover their
essential semantic features. Ninety Persian-speaking EFL learners were exposed to 10 target
words incidentally. Subsequently, they sat for a test of productive vocabulary knowledge
immediately and after three weeks of delay. The results revealed that there were significant
differences between lexicalized and non-lexicalized target words in the productive
knowledge of associations. Therefore, it might be the case that non-lexicalized words were
most likely to cause extra difficulty for EFL learners in the semantic aspects of vocabulary
knowledge. Input enrichment and explicit instruction within a systematic vocabulary
recycling program were recommended to acquire such words.
Keywords: productive vocabulary knowledge, incidental acquisition, non-lexicalized words,
translation equivalence.

INTRODUCTION
Vocabulary knowledge (or lexical competence) in L2 acquisition has received much
more attention in recent years as a fruitful area of investigation (Hairrell, Rupley &
Simmons, 2011; Meara, 2012). There is a growing consensus among SLA researchers
that total language proficiency incorporates more than just grammatical competence or
the traditional skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking to the effect that
vocabulary knowledge is recognized as a core component of linguistic and
communicative competence (Heidari-Shahreza, Moinzadeh, & Barati, 2014 a; Nation,
2013 to name a few). Scholars tend to view vocabulary knowledge as a multifaceted
construct encompassing a range of interrelated sub-knowledges such as knowledge of
orthography, parts of speech and knowledge of meaning and associations (see for
Correspondence: Mohammad Ali Heidari-Shahreza, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities, Shahreza
Branch, Islamic Azad University, Shahreza, Iran. Email: maheidari.sh@gmail.com
© 2014 Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary …

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example, Webb, 2007). Alternatively, some define vocabulary knowledge (or lexical
knowledge) in terms of binary distinctions such as vocabulary breadth (or size) and
depth, referring to the number of words learners know and how well they know them
respectively (Heidari-Shahreza, Moinzadeh, & Barati, 2014 b; Webb, 2013). Likewise,
Nation (2001) holds the view that knowledge of vocabulary consists of receptive and
productive sub-knowledges in three main domains of form, meaning and vocabulary
use. His view implies that knowing a word entails knowing its primary and secondary
meanings (i.e., denotations and connotations of a word including associations with
other words), spelling and syntactic functions (see also, Kieffer & lesaux, 2012). Within
the perspective of vocabulary acquisition, both intentional (explicit) and incidental
(implicit) approaches have been proposed and practiced (Rott, 2013). Despite ongoing
debates on the way and the extent either approach should be implemented and their
overall effectiveness, it is generally agreed that incidental vocabulary acquisition that is
learning new L2 words while reading texts remains an important means of vocabulary
development and reinforcement (Chen & Truscott, 2010; Hairrell et al., 2011; Rott,
2013; Webb, 2007). Reading (or written input) provides a rich context through which
learners can acquire and complement different aspects of vocabulary knowledge,
contributing to lexical competence both at the recognition level (receptive knowledge)
and production level, productive knowledge (Heidari-Shahreza & Tavakoli, 2012).

Non-lexicalized words
Lexicalization is defined as how a language molds different concepts into words or
lexical items (Heidari-Shahreza & Tavakoli, 2012; Paribakht, 2005). The point here is
languages may have different ways of lexicalizing the same concept (Paribakht, 2005;
Chen & Truscott, 2010). L1 lexicalization indicates the way learners’ L1 lexicalizes
different concepts that might be different from that of their second or foreign language
(Chen & Truscott, 2010). In this regard, L1-L2 lexicalization mismatch addresses the
question of whether or not L2 target words have the same translation in learners’ L1
(e.g., Persian) Therefore, the L2 words which have a lexically equivalent translation are
called 'lexicalized' while those words that need to be translated with a long string of
words to cover their essential semantic components are named 'non-lexicalized' (Chen
& Truscott, 2010; Heidari-Shahreza et al. 2014 a, b). The word ‘brunch’ in English, for
example, does not have an equivalent translation in Persian and has to be paraphrased
in several words as ΩϮη ϑήλ έΎϫΎϧ Ϣϫ ΎΘηΎϧ ̵ΎΟ ϪΑ Ϣϫ Ϫ̯ ̶ϳ΍άϏ (a late morning meal eaten
instead of breakfast and lunch). Therefore, for Persian-speaking EFL learners, the word
‘brunch’ is considered a non-lexicalized (NL, hereafter) word. Whereas the word ‘book’,
for example, is easily lexicalized into one single Persian word, ‘ΏΎΘ̯’. Hence, it falls into
the category of lexicalized (L, hereafter) English words with respect to Persian.

REASERCH ON NL WORDS
Among the few studies with a special focus on NL words is Paribakht's (2005) seminal
study in which she investigated the relationship between L1-L2 (i.e. Persian and

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

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English) lexicalization process and the inferencing behavior of 20 Persian-speaking
learners while reading English passages. The findings revealed that while the
participants made use of the same knowledge resources in inferencing both L and NL
words, they had more difficulty in decoding NL words. Paribakht concluded that L1-L2
lexicalization mismatch might be to the detriment of learners' L2 reading
comprehension and vocabulary development. Her study, however, did not explore how
L and NL words were different in the acquisition and retention of different aspects of
vocabulary knowledge.
To bridge this gap, Chen and Truscott (2010) using a modified version of Webb's
taxonomy of vocabulary knowledge (2007), explored the incidental vocabulary
acquisition and retention of 10 target words by 72 university students. They found that
NL words could cause learning difficulty both immediately and after two weeks. It was
further suggested that even an increase in exposure frequency up to seven encounters
could contribute little to significant learning of NL words since, in their view, these
words were "too difficult to learn from even seven encounters ". Their study, however,
was limited in that, among other things, the position of the target words in the reading
passages, their saliency and informativeness were not fully controlled.
Based on this study, Heidari-Shahreza and Tavakoli (2012) further investigated the
same issue on 90 Iranian EFL learners using 10 English target words. They concluded
that NL words caused learning difficulty mainly in semantic aspects of vocabulary
knowledge such as knowledge of meaning and associations. However, despite some
improvements over Chen and Truscott's study, their study did not control for the
potential cultural connotations of the target words.
Recently, Heidari-Shahreza et al. (2014a, b) in a series of studies investigated the
acquisition and retention of L and NL words in relation to a number of factors such as
exposure frequency and cultural loadedness employing Iranian EFL learners as their
participants. The findings, in general, indicated that NL words could cause extra
difficulty for EFL learners in the semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge.

THIS STUDY
As the small number of studies on L1 Lexicalization in relation to vocabulary acquisition
and the intricacy involved in the acquisition and retention of NL words implies, further
research on this factor is needed. Hence, this study, through a quasi-experimental
design investigated the incidental acquisition and retention of L and NL vocabulary by
90 Persian-speaking EFL learners. Furthermore, the researcher would like to know how
any observed gains in learners’ productive knowledge were retained over a period of
three weeks. Thus, retention is also taken into account by a delayed posttest. This study
is part of a much larger project exploring, number of exposure frequency, L1
lexicalization and cultural loadedness.

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary …

4

The present study tried to answer three research questions:
1. Did the acquisition of non-lexicalized TWs differ from the ones that were lexicalized
in EFL learners' L1 (i.e. Persian)?
2. If so, which aspects of productive vocabulary knowledge were more involved?
3. Was there any significant difference between lexicalized and non-lexicalized TWs in
terms of retention after three weeks?

Participants
The population, out of whom the final participants were selected, were Iranian adult
EFL learners. A call on voluntary participation was announced and 128 students
expressed their interest to participate. They, then, took Oxford Placement Test (OPT)
out of which 111 were identified as intermediate. Afterwards, the Vocabulary Levels
Test (Nation, 1990), a widely-used size test and an appropriate measurement
instrument for vocabulary knowledge was given (Laufer, & Goldstein, 2004). All
participants scored 25 or more (out of 30) on 2000 level of the Vocabulary Level Test,
with an average score of 28.2. As the third stage, the participants filled a sociolinguistic
background survey through which it was assured that the final participants, among
other things, had the same first language and amount of exposure to English. Due to a
significantly different performance on the Levels test or their linguistic background, a
few participants were excluded from the scope of thus study. Finally, 90 participants
were deemed as sufficiently appropriate for this study. They were then, equally divided
into three groups of participants, based on the number of encounters to TWs (i.e. E1, E3,
and E7).

Materials and Instruments
Target words (TWs)
There were 10 target words (TWs, hereafter) which were equally classified into two
groups: Lexicalized (L) and Non-lexicalized (NL).
They all together included four verbs, four nouns and two adjectives (see Table 1). To
select the TWs, the researcher decided to prepare a small corpus of lexicalized and nonlexicalized words. In so doing, after a call on participation, 40 university students who
were native speakers of Persian and fluent in English volunteered to note down the
appropriate words they encountered over a six-month period of reading English texts.
Before embarking on that, the researcher held several meetings with them, to define
and provide examples for L and NL words. Over these 6 months, three more meetings
were held to make sure they were all on the right track. The assistants were also kindly
asked to check their initial guess regarding the suitability of a word against wellestablished English as well as Persian dictionaries and ask other native speakers, if
necessary. All collected words were also accompanied by one example of its use in an

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authentic context. As the outcome of this cooperation, more than 1500 words were
gathered (mainly verbs, nouns, adjectives and few adverbs). The researchers checked
these words once more that resulted in excluding a few ones. Afterwards, based on the
difficulty level, conceptual familiarity and word frequency, 10 words were deemed as
final TWs. It is worth noting that selected TWs were assured to be unknown to all the
participants at the time of the study, based on a checklist.
Table1. Selected target words
Lexicalized(L)

Non-lexicalized (NL)

explain (v)
flee (v)
annoyance (n)
masterpiece (n)
stubborn (adj)

elope (v)
giggle (v)
lounge (n)
brunch (n)
smoggy (adj)

Reading passages
On the whole, the participants read 13 reading passages. These passages were of two
types: Main reading passages (M) which each contained all 10 TWs once and distracter
passages (D) which despite the same length (more or less 250 words) and difficulty
level, did not contain any of TWs. Based on the design of the study (i.e. one, three or
seven encounters to TWs), seven main passages were composed by the researcher and
two native English teachers. The other six remaining distracter passages were taken
from a reading textbook at intermediate level (Kirn& Hartmann, 2002) only for the
participants to read the same number of reading passages regardless of which
experimental group (i.e. E1, E3 or E7) they were in (see Table 2).
Table 2. Distribution of reading passages
Group

Distribution of Main and Distracter passages

exposure

E1

D1

D2

D3

D4

D5

D6

M7

1

E3

M1

D2

D3

M4

D5

D6

M7

3

E7

M1

M2

M3

M4

M5

M6

M7

7

Vocabulary post-test
To have a better picture of the learners' vocabulary knowledge after exposing to TWs,
as in Chen and Truscott's (2010) study, a modified version of Webb’s (2007) test of
vocabulary knowledge was used. The multifaceted focus of this test allowed for
assessing different aspects of productive vocabulary knowledge (see Table 3).

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary …

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Table3. Types of productive vocabulary knowledge &respective sub-tests 
Knowledge measured

No. 

Test type

1

Productive Knowledge of Orthographic Form (PO)

Dictation

2

Productive Knowledge of Parts of Speech (PP)

Sentence construction

3

Productive Knowledge of Associations (PA)

Pragmatic association

Sub-test 1. Productive Knowledge of Orthographic Form (PO)
To assess this aspect of vocabulary knowledge, a dictation test was used. The
researchers played a recording of TWs by a native English speaker twice. The
participants had 20 seconds to write each TW down. Since partial success in
orthography can be attributed to phonological prompts rather than the treatment (Chen
Truscott 2010; Webb 2007), any error in spelling whatsoever resulted in the item
being marked as incorrect.

Sub-test 2. Productive Knowledge of Parts of Speech (PP)
To measure the productive knowledge of parts of speech, the learners were asked to use
the TWs in English sentences. Their sentences were considered as correct if the TWs
were used in the grammatical functions they were expected. For example, the TW,
'lounge' needed to be a 'noun' in a given sentence to be scored as correct.

Sub-test 3. Productive Knowledge of Associations (PA)
As the title of the test suggests, here, the test-takers had to provide a word
pragmatically associated with the TWs. Therefore, for the TW, 'lounge', for instance, an
answer such as ‘room’ was correct. What is more, the participants were told not to
produce grammatical associations.

Data collection
Phase 1: Reading passages
As mentioned above, there were 13 reading passages (seven main and six distracter
texts). However, each group was to read only seven passages. Based on the design of
the study, the first six reading passages in group E1were distracters. Therefore, they
only read one main passage containing the TWs. Group E3 read three main and four
distracter passages hence they had three encounters to the TWs. Unlike E1 and E3,
group E7 did not read any of the distracters. That is, they read all seven main reading
passages. Therefore, they had seven encounters to the TWs. It is worth noting that the
seventh passage in all groups was a main passage and thus contained the TWs. Being so,
all the participants had finished the reading phase an encounter to the TWs. This, in
turn, blocked the effect of how recently they had seen the TWs.

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Phase 2: Immediate post-test
Upon having read the passages, the participants sat for the vocabulary post-test
outlined above. Although the participants did not expect a vocabulary post-test, they
were willing enough to take it. Each subtest was printed on a single page and the
participants were told not to look back to the preceding subtests. There was no time
limit on the submission of the answer sheets. Yet, the test-takers finished the test within
an acceptable time range.

Phase 3: Delayed post-test
To check participants’ retention of any gained vocabulary knowledge from reading the
passages, the participants again, take the vocabulary post-test after three weeks. There
was no sample attrition and the test proceeded following the same procedure as the
immediate post-test. In addition, as far as feasible, the participants' exposure to English
usually via learning tasks or reading materials were generally considered by the
researchers during these three weeks to control for any significant effect on their
vocabulary knowledge.

Data analysis
To analyze the scores obtained from the participants in the three experimental groups
(i.e. E1, E3 and E7) ANOVA and its non-parametric version Kruskal-Wallis were
employed whenever normality requirement was not met. Moreover, Post hoc Tukey and
Least Significance Difference (LSD) tests were used to discern significant effects (at p <
.05). The same statistical procedure was run for the results obtained from the delayed
posttest. In the next section, the results are presented in details.

RESULTS
Effects of L1 lexicalization in the immediate post-test
Based on the analyses of mean score differences between the groups, there was a
significant difference only for group E7 on the Productive Knowledge of Associations
(PA) test. These cases aside, no statistically significant differences between L and NL
word scores were observed (see Table 4).
Table4. Comparison between L and NL words in the immediate post-test
Group
Sub-test

E1

E3

E7

L vs. NL L vs. NL L vs. NL

Productive Knowledge of Orthographic Form

0.243

0.465

0.402

Productive Knowledge of Parts of Speech

0.453

0.541

0.218

Productive Knowledge of Associations

0.279

0.468

0.003*

Note: *= p < .05; L: Lexicalized; NL: Non-lexicalized

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary …

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Effects of L1 lexicalization in the delayed post-test
Based on the same statistical procedure, the mean scores for L and NL words were
analyzed to discern how a three-week delay could make a difference in the observed
results for the immediate post-test. As shown in Table5, the same significant differences
were observed again in the delayed vocabulary post-test. The only exception was the PA
test for group E7 where no significant difference for L and NL words on the delayed
post-test was reached. 
Table5. Comparison between L and NL words in the delayed post-test 
Group

E1

E3

E7

L vs. NL

L vs. NL

L vs. NL

Productive Knowledge of Orthographic Form

0.530

0.223

0.489

Productive Knowledge of Parts of Speech

0.587

0.876

0.323

Productive Knowledge of Associations

0.119

0.273

0.334

Sub-test

Note: *= p < .05; L: Lexicalized; NL: Non-lexicalized

DISCUSSION
The primary purpose of the present study was to investigate the acquisition and
retention of productive knowledge of vocabulary. Simply put, the study aimed at
discerning how the acquisition and retention of non-lexicalized (NL) words would differ
from lexicalized (L) words with respect to different aspects of vocabulary knowledge. A
fundamental question of this study was whether or not NL words could possibly cause
learning difficulty for EFL learners. In this regard, the findings of the study generally
indicates that the main difference between L and NL words lies in the semantic aspects
of vocabulary knowledge (as also concluded by Heidari-Shahreza Tavakoli, 2012;
Heidari-Shahreza et al. 2014 b). That is to say, there were significant differences in the
mean scores obtained by the participants for NL words in comparison with their L
counterparts on the semantic subtests of productive knowledge of associations (PA) in
the immediate posttest after seven encounters (i.e. E7). A complication to this general
pattern of the semantic tests is that while the mean score differences between the two
sets of vocabulary reached significance after seven encounters on PA test, in the delayed
posttest (i.e. after three weeks), it was not the case with the this test. A possible
explanation for this difference might be that PA test entailed mastery at production
level not merely recognition. Furthermore, as Webb (2007) points out the receptive
measure of vocabulary knowledge are slower to respond to "small gains of knowledge".
Another important question here is why significant differences were observed on the
semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge (i.e. association). While certainly further
research is needed, it might be due to the active role of L1 in L2 lexical inferencing and
meaning construction. The literature in this regard, suggests that the initial form-

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meaning linkage of an L2 word is mediated by the learners' L1 lexicon (Barcroft, 2002).
That is, a new L2 form is initially attached to an already existing meaning in the
learners' L1-based mental lexicon. During the process of lexical inferencing from a text,
cognitively speaking, EFL learners seek for the best match in their mental lexicon for the
new L2 word, based on the cues extracted from the context (see Jiang, 2004). As for an L
word, the lexical equivalent is readily retrieved from a learner's L1-based lexicon since
it is already existing as a 'lemma package' (as Paribakht, 2005 calls it). However, the
process of lexical matching (or L1-L2 mental translation, so to speak) is deterred for an
NL word because there is no existing or largely overlapping lemma (i.e. an appropriate
match) for it in the mental lexicon. Therefore, given that EFL learners can extract the
semantic features of an NL word from the surrounding text, they may not be able to
fully acquire the meaning of that word since an NL word cannot trigger a corresponding
lemma in the mental lexicon (Heidari-Shahreza et al., 2014 c; Paribakht, 2005).
Therefore, it seems plausible why the participants were particularly less successful in
the semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge in acquiring NL words.

CONCLUSION
As the primary aim of this study, the researcher was particularly interested to explore
the acquisition and retention of productive knowledge of L and NL words. L words, in
essence, represented a large number of English words that could be easily translated to
(or replaced with) their equivalents in the learners' L1 (here, Persian) with the same
number of lexical items. NL words which were in fact a marked portion of L2
vocabulary, referred to those L2 words that required a longer string of L1 words to
cover their essential semantic features. Based on this definition, the study focused on
the acquisition and retention of 10 TWs (including L and NL words) through reading
English texts by 90 Iranian adult EFL learners. The findings generally indicated that
there were significant differences between L and NL words in the productive knowledge
of associations (PA). These differences in the PA were most apparent when the
participants had seven encounters to the TWs. As for the other aspects of vocabulary
knowledge, this study did not bear any significant results.
The present study was limited in a number of ways. Firstly, it made use of a limited
number of target words. The participants of the study were also only adult EFL learners
of one Iranian university. The findings could be more generalizable if a larger bulk of
target words with a more representative sample of participants including different age
groups and proficiency levels were employed. Therefore, besides alleviating such
shortcomings, the interested researchers may follow this line of research by
investigating longer periods of vocabulary retention. Furthermore, adding qualitative
measure of vocabulary knowledge helps the internal validity of research. Finally, there
are other marked portions of vocabulary such as culturally-loaded words or
collocations which as in NL words may be an area of problem for EFL learners. Hence, it
would also be interesting to expand the scope of this study by taking such words into
account.

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary …

10

ACKOWLEDGEMENT
The researcher would like to thank the participants of the study and the volunteers who
kindly helped in the collection and validation of the target words.

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Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 12-28
Available online at www.jallr.ir

The Effect of Reading Anxiety and Motivation on EFL
Learners’ Choice of Reading Strategies
Abbas Ali Zarei
Associate professor, Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran

Abstract
The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between reading anxiety and
motivation, and the effect of reading anxiety and motivation level on the choice of global,
supportive and problem solving reading strategies. To this end, 120 EFL female preuniversity students were given three questionnaires: FLRAS, SORS, and AMQ. The findings
showed a significant low positive relationship between reading anxiety and motivation. It
was also found that motivation level influences EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies.
However, no statistically significant differences were found among the effects of reading
anxiety levels on the choice of reading strategies.
Keywords: anxiety, foreign language reading anxiety, motivation, reading strategies

INTRODUCTION
There is little doubt that reading is one of the most useful skills, especially in foreign
language contexts where access to foreign language is primarily limited to written
language. Studies on L2 reading over the past few decades have shown that reading is
an important source of input; however, it is also an anxiety provoking activity (Saito,
Horwitz, & Garza, 1999). Previous research also indicates that successful and less
successful readers make use of different reading strategies, and that factors such as age,
learning style, motivation, anxiety, and so on can influence students’ use of learning
strategies in reading comprehension (Yang, 2006). The investigation of language
learning strategies has expanded our understanding of the processes learners use to
develop their skills in a second or foreign language.
Several studies (Carreira, 2006; Miyanaga, 2007) have investigated motivation and
language anxiety. However, little attention has been paid to the direct relationship
between motivation and anxiety. Moreover, there are few studies on foreign language
reading anxiety. In addition, there seems to be a paucity of research (specifically in the
EFL contexts) on the relationships between reading anxiety, motivation, and the choice
of reading strategies. In an attempt to fill part of the existing gap, this study aims at
investigating the relationship between reading anxiety, motivation, and reading
strategies.
Correspondence: Abbas Ali Zarei, Room no. 821, Faculty of Humanities, Imam Khomeini International
University, Qazvin, Iran. Email: a.zarei@hum.ikiu.ac.ir
© 2014 Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

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REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Anxiety
Language learning is an inherently anxiety provoking process. Horwitz, et al. (1986)
define foreign language anxiety as a “distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs,
feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the
uniqueness of the language learning process” (p.128).
Different types of foreign language anxiety have been identified including situationspecific anxiety, state anxiety, and trait anxiety, all of which can be either facilitative or
debilitative. MacIntyre and Gardner (1989) note that situation-specific anxiety
develops from negative experiences, particularly early in language learning. Giving a
speech, taking a test, doing math, and using a second language are examples of
situation-specific anxiety. Foreign language anxiety is a form of situation-specific
anxiety (Horwitz, et al., 1986). State anxiety refers to an apprehension that is
experienced at a particular moment in time as a response to a definite situation” (Amir
Jahansouz Shahi, 2009, p. 22), whereas trait anxiety is related to a “generally stable
predisposition to be nervous in a wide range of situations” (Zheng, 2008, p.2).
Language learning anxiety was – until quite recently – normally associated with
productive skills. Today, there is an increasing recognition of anxiety in receptive skills;
that is, listening and reading. One of the relatively less-explored types of anxiety is
reading anxiety – a specific phobia, a situational type and an unpleasant emotional
reaction toward reading which has physical and cognitive reactions (Jalongo & Hirsh,
2010).
In one of the few studies on anxiety in reading classes, Seller (1998) explored the
relationship between language anxiety and reading anxiety among university students.
89 American university students learning Spanish as a foreign language took part in her
study. Different types of instruments were used to collect data. Two scales were used to
measure anxiety: the Reading Anxiety Scale (RAS), and the FLCAS (Howritz, et al., 1986).
Free written language recall protocol scores and multiple choice test scores were used
to measure comprehension. Also, a think-aloud interview was used to reveal strategies
used by students during the reading process. To measure cognitive processes during
reading, the Cognitive Interference Questionnaire was utilized. The findings showed a
consistent inverse effect of language anxiety on the reading comprehension and recall.
In other words, more highly anxious students recalled less passage content than their
less anxious classmates. The analysis of think-aloud on the relationship between anxiety
and strategy use in reading comprehension showed that anxious students tended to use
more local strategies (i.e., focusing on vocabulary, attention to syntax and translation)
than global strategies. In contrast, the students with low anxiety tended to equally use
both local and global strategies. Moreover, the less anxious students utilized various
types of metacognitive strategies than their highly anxious classmates.

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Another study introducing the construct of 'foreign language reading anxiety' was done
by Saito et al. (1999). In their study, two aspects of foreign language reading were
investigated which had great effect on eliciting anxiety: unfamiliar scripts of writing
systems and unfamiliar cultural materials. They developed the Foreign Language
Reading Anxiety Scale (FLRAS) to measure the anxiety level of 383 students. Foreign
Language Class anxiety Scale (FLCAS) (Horwitz et al., 1986) and Foreign Language
Reading Anxiety Scale (FLRAS) were used to measure the students' classroom anxiety
and reading anxiety, respectively. They found that despite the intuition of teachers,
reading in a foreign language is anxiety provoking to some students. Moreover, the
study showed that reading anxiety is distinct from general types of foreign language
anxiety. It was also found that increasing students’ reading anxiety levels leads to the
decrease of students’ final grades. However, they could not ensure “whether anxiety is
the cause or effect of the difficulties observed” (p. 215), though they speculated that “the
participants experienced anxiety as a result of actual difficulties in text processing
rather than the reading difficulties stemming from anxiety reactions” (p. 215).
In another study, Zhang (2000) also explored the anxiety of 155 Chinese intermediate
students in ESL reading classes. Zhang used FLRAS (Saito et al., 1999) and informal
interviews as instruments. He added three items to the original FLRAS questionnaire to
elicit participants’ demographic traits. The findings with respect to the interview
suggested that several factors affect both male and female ESL readers’ apprehension;
factors such as students’ lack of L2 proficiency, cultural knowledge, the changed learning
context and their teacher’s diversity effect. It seemed study-abroad context was the
major challenge for ESL learners. Results, with respect to the FLRAS questionnaire and
the three added items also showed that “female and male students experience different
degrees of anxiety in study-abroad context” (p. 31); moreover, reading ESL turned out
to be anxiety-provocative in a study-abroad context.
Brantmeier (2005) examined the effect of students’ anxiety level on reading
comprehension tasks among 92 students enrolled in an advanced level Spanish
grammar and composition course. In his study, the anxiety questionnaire was modified
according to FLCAS (Howritz et al., 1986) into three categories representing different
dimensions of L2 reading and anxiety: general L2 reading; L2 reading and oral tasks, and
L2 reading and written tasks. Besides the reading selection, the written recall, and 10
multiple-choice questions, along with a background questionnaire were used to collect
data. It turned out that students at advanced levels of language instruction did not show
reading anxiety but expressed anxious feelings about the readings in the upcoming
literature courses.
Chen (2007) investigated the relationship between cognitive test anxiety and reading
anxiety on Taiwanese college students’ performance in reading. 81 Taiwanese advanced
EFL students participated in this study. FLRAS (Saito et al., 1999), Cognitive Test
Anxiety Scale and Reading Performance in multiple choice form, fill-in-the-black and

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reading comprehension tests were used as instruments. Findings indicated a high
correlation between test anxiety and reading anxiety.
To sum up, most of the above studies have shown that foreign language reading anxiety
is a construct that is related to, but distinct from general foreign language anxiety (Saito
et al., 1999; Sellers, 1998). Additionally, foreign language reading is an anxiety
provoking skill, but it varies depending on students’ level of proficiency, target
language, gender, the context of study (Saito, et al., 1999; Sellers, 1998; Zhang, 2000;
Brantmeier, 2005), and so on.

Motivation
Motivation is one of the most appealing, multi-faceted, influential and complex factors in
the learning process used to explain individual differences in language learning (Lim,
2007; Jahansouzshahi, 2009). Motivation is of “particular interest to L2 or FL teachers,
administrators and researchers, because it can be presumably enhanced in one specific
learning context but weakened in another learning context” (Yuanfang, 2009, p. 87).
There is little doubt that motivation can greatly facilitate language learning process
(Arnold & Brown, 1999).
Motivation is influenced by a “combination of many factors including effort, desire, and
satisfaction with the learning situation. Different types of motivation have been
discussed in related literature including integrative, instrumental, intrinsic, and
extrinsic motivation. Several studies have investigated motivation and foreign language
anxiety, but there are few studies on the direct relationship between the two. In one
such study, Carreira (2006) examined motivation and foreign language anxiety of 91
EFL sophomore Japanese university students to determine which types of motivation
best predict the students’ foreign language anxiety. Two questionnaires on motivation
for learning EFL and foreign language anxiety were used to collect data. Carreira found
that students with practical reasons to study English and intellectual satisfaction tended
to have lower levels of foreign language anxiety.
Another research on the direct relationship between motivation and foreign language
anxiety was done by Cheng (2006) to examine the effects of differentiated curriculum
and instruction on the teaching of English as a foreign language to university students in
Taiwan. The results revealed that differentiated curriculum and instruction improved
EFL learners’ motivation and interest levels in comparison to the students who were
taught in the teacher-directed lecture model. In addition, she found that using
differentiated curriculum and instruction did not lead to a substantial decrease in
anxiety level in comparison with the teacher-directed lecture model.
As to the relationship between motivation and reading, Yang (2006) studied 120
sophomore ESL students on two types of motivation, integrative and instrumental, and
found a significant relationship between motivation and reading strategy use. She found

The effect of reading anxiety and motivation on EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies

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that integrative motivation relates to social/affective strategies positively while
instrumental motivation correlates with cognitive strategies negatively.
Another study in relation to reading strategies and motivation was conducted by KolićVehovec, Rončević, and Bajšanski (2008). They conducted this study to identify
motivational components of self-regulated learning and reading strategy use in
university students on the basis of goal orientation patterns. 352 undergraduate
Croatian students participated in this study. The Components of Self-Regulated
Learning (CSRL) and the Strategic Reading Questionnaire (SRQ) were used to collect
data. The results showed that different goal orientation groups had different reading
habits. It also turned out that groups with high mastery orientation had more adaptive
motivational profile and more adequate reading strategy use than groups with low
mastery or/and high work-avoidance orientation.

Reading strategies
The importance of learning strategies in language learning is undeniable. By strategies,
Rubin (1975) means the techniques, actions, behaviors, devices, or steps which a
learner may use to acquire knowledge. Several taxonomies of learner strategies have
been proposed, often with a degree of overlap. Oxford’s (1990) and O’Malley, Chamot,
Stewner-Manzanares, Russo, and Kupper’ (1985) taxonomies are two of the more wellknown examples. Oxford’s (1990) divides strategies into two main classes, direct and
indirect, which are further subdivided into six connected and supported groups. They
include cognitive, mnemonic, metacognitive, compensatory, affective and social
strategies. O’Malley et al. (1985) divide learning strategies into three main
subcategories: metacognitive, cognitive strategies, and socio-affective strategies.
In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to different types of strategies and
their effects on language learning. Reading strategies are one example of such
strategies. Mokhtari and Sheorey (2002) suggest that learners’ awareness of reading
strategies will help them improve reading comprehension. They developed Survey
Reading Strategies (SORS) as a simple and effective instrument for assisting students to
have better developmental awareness of their reading strategies, for helping teachers
assess such awareness, and for serving students to be “constructively responsive
readers” (p. 2). The SORS measures three broad categories of reading strategies: global
reading strategies, cognitive strategies, and support strategies.
Several experiments have also been conducted in this regard. Sheorey and Mokhtari
(2001) examined the differences in the reported use of reading strategies when reading
academic materials by 302 college students (150 native-English-speaking. and 152 ESL
students). Results revealed that: First, both native speaking and ESL students were
aware of almost all of the strategies included in the survey. Secondly, both groups,
regardless of their reading ability, reported using cognitive, metacognitive, and
supportive strategies. Thirdly, both native speaking and ESL high-reading-ability

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students reported using a higher degree of usage for cognitive and metacognitive
strategies than lower-reading-ability students in receptive groups. Lastly, it was
reported that the native speaking females use a significantly higher frequency of
strategies.
Zhang and Wu (2009) measured the degree of metacognitive awareness and readingstrategy use of 249 Chinese senior high school EFL students in a quantitative study.
They used the survey of reading strategies (SORS) developed by Mokhtari and Sheorey
(2002) to measure learners’ metacognitive awareness. Based on students’ average
scores in English exams; they divided students into three proficiency groups (high,
intermediate, and low). It was found that the students with higher English achievement
benefited from global strategies. In addition, despite some teachers’ assumption that
senior high school students know little about reading strategies, this study showed
students at all levels “have knowledge of strategies at a moderate to high level” (p. 49).
Anderson (2003) investigated the online reading strategy use of 247 L2 readers (131
EFL and 116 ESL learners) from Casta Rica and the United States. Results showed that
the majority of strategies used by readers are often problem solving strategies. Also, it
was revealed that EFL readers use problem solving strategies such as “reading rate,
rereading difficult text, and pausing to think about what one is” more than ESL readers
(p. 20). However, there were no differences in the use of global reading strategies or the
supportive reading strategies between learners in EFL and ESL contexts.
In one of the rare studies integrating reading strategies, anxiety, and motivation,
Miyanaga (2007) investigated the relationships among reading proficiency level,
reading anxiety level, perception of reading strategies, and reasons for learning English
among 480 Japanese EFL learners in different majors. To collect data, four types of
instruments were used: 1) a practice TOEFL, 2) FLRAS, 3) the Reading Metacognitive
Questionnaire, and 4) the Reason for Learning English Questionnaire. Results showed
that more proficient learners tended to exhibit lower degrees of reading anxiety in
comparison with their less proficient classmates. Results also revealed a variation on
reading proficiency scores and the degree of lack of confidence in reading on the basis
of the reading anxiety levels. Miyanaga showed that even after eliminating the influence
of reading anxiety, the high and low reading anxiety groups showed meaningful
differences on four factors: lack of confidence in reading, difficulty with English sounds,
difficulty understanding text organization and gist, and dictionary use as an effective
strategy. That is, “independent of reading proficiency level, a linguistic variable, the
degrees of confidence in reading and perceptions of the three reading strategies differed
according to reading anxiety level” (p. 98).

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THIS STUDY
The present study aims at investigating the relationship between reading anxiety,
motivation, and reading strategies. To be more specific, it intends to answer the
following research questions:
1. Is there any relationship between EFL learners’ reading anxiety and motivation?
2. Does motivation level influence EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies?
3. Does reading anxiety level influence EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies?

METHOD
Participants
The participants of this study were 120 Iranian female pre-university students at Kosar
Pre-university Center in Zanjan. The participantd age ranged from 17 to 18, had been
studying English for at least 6 years in their guidance and high schools; so they had a
similar educational background. This was to eliminate the possible effects of proficiency
level on the use of reading strategies

Instruments
Three instruments were utilized in this study to collect data: FLRAS, SORS, and AMQ.
a) The Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale (FLRAS) was developed by Saito et al.
(1999) to “elicit students’ self-reports of anxiety over various aspects of reading, their
perceptions of reading in their target language, and their perceptions of the relative
difficulty of reading as compared to other language skills” (p. 204). It originally contains
20 items, but items 10 and 11 were eliminated on grounds of irrelevance. They referred
to new symbols and writing system of the second language, but all the participants in
the present study were familiar with English writing system. Items were based on a 5point scale which ranged from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”.
b) The Survey of Reading Strategies (SORS) with 30 items in rating scale (5-point Likert
type) was made by Mokhtari and Sheorey (2002). This questionnaire was designed to
measure students’ metacognitive awareness and perceived use of reading strategies
when reading academic or school-related materials. The SORS measures 3 broad
categories of reading strategies: Global Reading strategies, Problem Solving Strategies,
and Support strategies.
c) Achievement Motivation Questionnaire (AMQ) was constructed by Hayamizu, Ito, and
Yoshizaki (1989), but was modified by Nam Jung (1996). He modified it to measure high
school students’ achievement goal tendencies, specifically in English classes. It contains
27 items which are scored on a five point Likert scale.

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The validity and reliability of the above questionnaires were already established by
previous research. It should be mentioned that the present study used Abbasi’ (2008)
translation of FLRAS as well as Zarati’ (2004) translation of SORS translation.

Procedure
Having selected the participants with the afore-mentioned characteristics, the
questionnaires were distributed in three stages. In the first stage, the FLRAS was
distributed among the participants. In the second stage, the participants were given
AMQ. In the third stage, SORS was administered in the classrooms. The students were
given 20 minutes to respond to each questionnaire. Having collected the required data,
a correlational procedure was used to measure the correlation between anxiety and
motivation. To answer the second and third questions, two separate Kruskal-Wallis
statistical procedures were used.

RESULTS
The relationship between anxiety and motivation
The first research question sought to investigate the relationship between EFL learners’
reading anxiety and their motivation. To this end, a correlation procedure was used.
Table 4.1 contains descriptive statistics for reading anxiety and motivation, including
the mean, median, standard deviation, range, etc. Additionally, Table 1 summarizes the
result of the correlation procedure. As shown in Table 1, there is a significant but low
positive relationship between reading anxiety and motivation (r =.20, p = .028).
Table 1. Correlation between Reading Anxiety and Motivation

Reading anxiety & Pearson
motivation
Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)
N

Reading anxiety
motivation
1
.200*

120

&

.028
120

The effect of motivation on choice of reading strategies
The second research question sought to investigate whether motivation level influences
EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies. To answer this question, students were
divided into three equal groups of high, medium, and low level of motivation based on
their scores on the AMQ questionnaire. Then, the Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to
see if motivation level influenced the participants’ use of reading strategies. To do this,
the Kruskal-Wallis procedure was run three times to investigate the effect of motivation
level on global, supportive, and problem solving strategies, respectively. The first
Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see the effect of students’ motivation level on

The effect of reading anxiety and motivation on EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies

20

their use of global strategies. Table 2 contains the result of the descriptive and test
statistics.
Table 2. Descriptive and test statistics for Motivation and Global Strategies
Motivation
Score

Group
High
Mid
Low
Chi-Square = 27.699

N
40
40
40

Mean Rank
82.86
55.86
42.78
Asymp. Sig = .001

Based on Table 2, the high motivation group has the highest mean rank (mean rank =
82.86), followed by the medium motivation group (mean rank = 55.86), and then the
low motivation group (mean rank = 42.78). Additionally, Chi-Square value of 27.699 is
statistically significant (p = .001). So, it can be concluded that there are significant
differences among the three motivation groups in the choice of global strategies. To
locate the differences among the groups, three post-hoc Mann-Whitney U test
procedures were used. The following table summarizes the results.
Table 3. Post Hoc comparisons of Motivation and the use of Global Strategies
Motivation
score
Global

group
N Mean Rank
high
40 53.34
low
40 27.66
Mann-Whitney U = 286.500 Sig. = .001
Motivation
group
N Mean Rank
score Global
high
40 50.02
mid
40 30.98

Sum of Ranks
2133.50
1106.50
Sum of Ranks
2001.00
1239.00

Mann-Whitney U = 419.00 Sig. = .001
Motivation
group
N Mean Rank Sum of Ranks
score Global
mid
40 45.39
1815.50
low
40 35.61
1424.50
Mann-Whitney U = 604.500 Sig. = .059
Table 3 shows that the mean of the high motivation group (mean rank = 53.34) is higher
than that of the low motivation group (mean rank = 27.66). Also, the Mann-Whitney U
result of 286.500 is significant (p = .001). So, there is a significant difference between
these two motivation groups in the choice of global strategies. In other words, the
students in the high motivation group use global strategies significantly more than their
counterparts in the low motivation group. Also, the Mann-Whitney U value of 419.00 is
statistically significant. This means that the students in the high motivation group use
more global strategies than their classmates in the medium motivation group. However,
the third Mann-Whitney U result of 604.500 is not significant (p = .059). So, although the
students in the medium motivation group use global strategies more than the low
motivation group, the difference is not statistically significant.

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The second Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see the effect of students’ motivation
level on their use of supportive strategies. Table 4 presents the result of the descriptive
and test statistics.
Table 4. Descriptive and test statistics for Motivation and Supportive Strategies
Motivation
supportive

group N
high 40
mid 40
low 40
2
χ = 19.788Asymp. Sig = .001

Mean Rank
79.25
56.98
45.28

The result shows that the mean of the high motivation group in the choice of supportive
strategies is the highest (mean rank = 79.25), followed by the medium group (mean
rank = 56.98), and then the low group (mean rank = 45.28). Moreover, Chi-Square value
of 19.788 is statistically significant (p = .001). This means that there are significant
differences among these three motivation groups in the choice of supportive strategies.
To locate the differences among the groups, three post-hoc Mann-Whitney U procedures
were run. Table 5 summarizes the results.
Table 5. Post Hoc comparisons of Motivation and the use of Supportive Strategies
Motivation
supportive

group N Mean Rank Sum of Ranks
High 40 51.81
2072.50
low
40 29.19
1167.50
Mann-Whitney U = 347.500 Sig. (2-tailed) = .001
Motivation
group N Mean Rank Sum of Ranks
supportive
High 40 47.94
1917.50
mid
40 33.06
1322.50
Mann-Whitney U = 502.00 Sig. (2-tailed) = .004
Motivation
group N Mean Rank Sum of Ranks
Supportive
Mid
40 44.41
1776.50
low
40 36.59
1463.50
Mann-Whitney U =643.500 Sig. (2-tailed) = .131
Table 5 shows that the mean rank of the high motivation group (mean rank = 51.81) is
higher than that of the low motivation group (mean rank = 29.19). Additionally, the
Mann-Whitney U result of 347.500 is significant. So, there is a significant difference
between these two motivation groups in the choice of supportive strategies. This means
that the students in the high motivation group use supportive strategies more than their
counterparts in the low motivation group. In addition, the mean rank of the high
motivation group (mean rank = 47.94) is higher than that of the medium motivation
group (mean rank = 33.06). Also, the Mann-Whitney U result of 502.500 is statistically
significant (p = .004). So, the students in the high motivation group use more supportive
strategies than the students in the medium motivation group. When it comes to the

The effect of reading anxiety and motivation on EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies

22

comparison of mid and low groups, however, the Mann-Whitney U result of 643.500 is
not significant (p = .131, but the medium motivation group has the higher mean rank
(mean rank = 44.41) than the low motivation group (mean rank = 36.59. Thus, the
students in the medium group use supportive strategies more than their classmates in
the low motivation group, though not in a statistically significant way.
Finally, the third Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see the effect of students’
motivation level on their use of problem solving strategies. The result of the descriptive
and test statistics is summarized in Table 6.
Table 6. Descriptive and test statistics for Motivation and Problem Solving
Motivation group N
Mean Rank
Problem
high 40
79.16
Solving
mid 40
58.30
low 40
44.04
2
χ = 20.789 Asymp. Sig = .001
A brief look at Table 6 makes it clear that much like the result of the two previous
strategies, the mean of the high motivation group in the choice of problem solving
strategies is the highest (mean rank = 79.16), followed by the medium group (mean
rank = 58.30), and then the low group (mean rank = 44.04). In addition, Chi-Square
value of 20.78 is statistically significant (p = .001). So there are significant differences
among these three motivation groups in the choice of problem solving strategies. To
locate the differences among the groups, three other post-hoc Mann-Whitney U’ test
procedures were run. Table 7 presents the results.
Table 7. Post Hoc comparisons of Motivation and the use of Problem Solving
Motivation
Problem Solving

group
N Mean Rank
high
40 52.02
low
40 28.98
Mann-Whitney U = 339.00 Sig. = .001
Motivation
group
N Mean Rank
Problem Solving
high
40 47.64
mid
40 33.36
Mann-Whitney U = 514.500 Sig. = .006
Motivation
group
N Mean Rank
Problem Solving
mid
40 45.44
low
40 35.56
Mann-Whitney U = 602.500 Sig. = .056

Sum of Ranks
2081.00
1159.00
Sum of Ranks
1905.50
1334.50
Sum of Ranks
1817.50
1422.50

Table 7 makes it clear that the mean rank of the high motivation group (mean rank =
52.02) is higher than the low motivation group (mean rank = 28.98). Besides, the MannWhitney U result of 339.000 is statistically significant (p = .001). Thus, it can be
concluded that the students in the high motivation group use problem solving strategies

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

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more than their counterparts in the low motivation group. It can also be seen that the
mean rank of the high motivation group (mean rank = 47.64) is higher than that of the
medium group (mean rank = 33.36). Also, the Mann-Whitney U result of 514.500 is
significant (p = .006). So, there is a significant difference between these two motivation
groups in the choice of problem solving strategies. That is, the students in the high
motivation group use problem solving strategies more than their counterparts in the
medium motivation group. However, although the medium motivation group has the
higher mean rank (mean rank = 45.44) compared to the low motivation group (mean
rank = 35.66), the Mann-Whitney U value of 602.500 is not statistically significant (p =
.056).

The effect of reading anxiety on choice of reading strategies
The third research question sought to investigate whether or not reading anxiety level
influences EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies. To answer this question, similar to
the second question, students were divided into three equal groups of low, medium and
high reading anxiety levels based on their scores on the FLRAS questionnaire. Then the
Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see if reading anxiety level influences the
participants’ use of reading strategies.
The first Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see the effect of the students’ reading
anxiety levels on their choice of global strategies. The following table contains the
result.
Table 8. Descriptive and test statistics for Reading Anxiety and reading Strategies
Anxiety
Global

N Mean Rank
low 40 60.04
mid 40 58.04
high 40 63.42
Chi-Square = .492 Asymp. Sig = .782
Anxiety
N Mean Rank
Supportive low 40 62.28
mid 40 64.80
high 40 54.42
Chi-Square = 1.945Asymp. Sig = .378
Anxiety
N Mean Rank
Problem
low 40 58.91
Solving
mid 40 59.48
high 40 63.11
Chi-Square = .346 Asymp. Sig = .841
Table 8 shows that none of the Chi-Square values is statistically significant. In other
words, the choice of reading strategies is almost similar in the three groups.

The effect of reading anxiety and motivation on EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies

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DISCUSSION
The findings of the present study show a significant, though low positive relationship
between reading anxiety and motivation. This is contrary to the findings of Miyanaga
(2007), who found no statistically significant relationship between reading anxiety and
motivation. Neither did Carreira (2006) find any significant correlation between
motivation and foreign language anxiety, which is a distinct, but related construct.
One reason for such findings may be the participants’ gender in the present study,
which included only female students. Previous studies show that females are more
anxious (Elkhafaifi, 2005; Zhang, 2000), and more motivated (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997)
than males in language learning. So, it may naturally be inferred that since the
participants were both anxious and motivated, there must be a positive relationship
between the two constructs. Moreover, the participants in the present study were preuniversity students who were getting ready for their university entrance exam, which is
a really high-stake exam in the context of Iran. Competition may have pushed them to
study hard strengthening their motivation. At the same time, the university entrance
examination may have made them feel more anxious. Therefore, when both reading
anxiety level and motivation level are high, the positive correlation between the two
traits seems natural and conceivable.
As to motivation and reading strategies, as the results indicate, motivation levels have a
pervasive influence on students’ choice of reading strategies. The obtained results
showed that all the motivation groups used all reading strategies, but the students in
the high motivation group performed significantly better than the other two groups in
overall strategy use. These findings are in line with a number of studies (Shokrpouris &
Fotovatian, 2007; Zhang & Wu, 2009; Lau & Chan, 2003) showing that highly motivated
students use various strategies more than their classmates. It seems that highly
motivated students have intentionally and carefully planned techniques in their reading
to aid comprehension. The findings of the present study lend support to those of Oxford
and Nyikos’ (1989) findings that learners who are highly motivated to learn a language
are likely to use a variety of strategies. The results also support Lau and Chan’s (2003)
findings, which indicated significant differences between good and poor readers in their
strategy use and reading motivation. They found that good readers scored higher than
poor readers in using all reading strategies, especially in using sophisticated cognitive
and metacognitive strategies.
The findings of the present study also corroborate those of Sheorey and Mokhtari
(2001). They report that both U.S and ESL students are aware of almost all of the
strategies in the survey. Additionally, students with high reading abilities tend to use a
higher frequency of metacognitive and cognitive strategies than their low-reading
ability counterparts. Furthermore, some of the present study’s findings are in
accordance with Zhang and Wu (2009), who reported that the high proficiency group
performed better than their intermediate and low proficiency group classmates in the

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

25

use of global and problem solving strategies. However, they failed to find statistically
significant differences among the three proficiency groups in using supportive
strategies. The present study showed that the highly motivated students perform better
than their counterparts in all strategies (global, problem solving, and supportive
strategies).
On the other hand, the results of the present study are different from those of
Shokrpour and Fotovatian’ study (2007). They showed that skillful readers use various
reading strategies while poor reads seldom use strategies during reading the text. Poor
readers are not familiar with the correct use of metacognitive strategies. In contrast
with these findings, the present study shows that all students use all strategies, though
in different degrees.
The present study found no significant differences in the choice of reading strategies of
students with various degrees of reading anxiety. Chen, L’s (2007) findings are partly in
line with those of the present study. Chen, L’s findings showed that there were no
significant differences between low-anxiety readers and high-anxiety readers in choice
of the overall reading strategies they used. On the other hand, Chen, L observed that
students with higher levels of reading anxiety were less likely to use global reading
strategies than supportive reading strategies. The high anxiety readers also used two of
the supportive reading strategies more frequently than their low anxiety group
classmates did. These findings are in contrast with the present study’s findings
indicating that the high anxiety group tended to use global and problem solving
strategies more frequently than supportive strategies. The observed discrepancy
between the findings of the present study and Chen, L’s study might be attributable to
the fact that the present study found a positive relationship between reading anxiety
and motivation while Chen, L’s findings showed that students with a low level of anxiety
were more motivated in English reading.
The results of the present study also contradict Miyanaga’s (2007) finding that anxious
students used global and local strategies less than low anxiety students. Miyanaga
reported that students with high level of anxiety tended to use bottom-up strategies, to
look up words in the dictionary, and to be in difficulty with grasping the organization
and the gist of the text, while the present study indicated that there were no significant
differences in the strategy use of learners with different anxiety levels.
The findings of the present study are also in contrast to those of Sellers (1998), who
strongly believes that anxiety causes some differences in strategy use. Sellers’s findings
showed that more anxious students recall less passage content than their less anxious
classmates. Additionally, her finding showed that more anxious students use more local
strategies such as focusing on vocabulary, attention to syntax and translation. On the
other hand, less anxious students experience the text more holistically and use
strategies like integrating information, rereading and attention to text structure and

The effect of reading anxiety and motivation on EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies

26

utilize both local and global strategies equally. Such results are in contrast with the
present study.
One possible reason for such results may be partially attributable to the difference in
the cultural and educational knowledge of the students in this study. It might be argued
that different factors such as cultural and social distance, lack of local English channels,
and no cooperation with native English teachers in Iranian high schools cause Iranian
students to be less familiar with the English culture as an essential ingredient in English
reading. So, it is not very surprising to find such students lacking cultural knowledge.
Additionally, such results may be due to the proficiency level of the participants. The
participants of the present study were EFL pre-university students who could be
considered roughly pre-intermediate learners. Intuitively, proficiency influences
reading anxiety levels and learners choice of reading strategies.

CONCLUSION
The present study showed a low positive relationship between motivation and reading
anxiety. This probably implies that for those learners who are motivated to read,
reading automatically assumes a greater level of significance than in normal
circumstances. The increased level of importance, then, influences the anxiety. On the
other hand, the low correlation index might actually be due to a curvilinear relationship
between the two constructs. This would mean that one of the assumptions of the
Pearson Product Moment correlation may have been violated. At the same time, it may
be concluded from the findings of the present study that the higher the motivation level,
the more strategic L2 readers will become. However, reading strategies do not seem to
be influenced by the learners' anxiety.
The above points, coupled with the areas of controversy between the findings of the
present study and those of other studies, further fan the flame of interest, and are
probably indicative of the need for further research in this area.

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Mokhtari, K., & Sheorey, R. (2002). Measuring ESL students’ awareness of reading
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Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 29-44
Available online at www.jallr.ir

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on
Iranian EFL Learners’ L2 Reading Comprehension
Nasrin Shams
PhD Candidate, University of Isfahan, Iran

Mansoor Tavakoli
Associate Professor, University of Isfahan, Iran

Abstract
This study investigated the impact of peer, self, and traditional (or teacher) assessment on
improving EFL learners' reading comprehension. To this aim, 77 Iranian students from a
private institute were selected as homogeneous from a population pool of 102 volunteers
based on their performance on a standard English proficiency test (Nelson, 2001). They
were randomly divided into three experimental groups and subsequently exposed to the
research treatment. The three groups received peer, self, and traditional assessment on
second language (L2) reading comprehension. Then, the reading comprehension
achievement test was given to the students in the three groups to find out their reading
comprehension ability after the treatment. Statistical analyses of the results revealed that
the peer-assessment group significantly outperformed the traditional assessment group in
terms of L2 reading comprehension. The results also showed that that there exist no
meaningful differences in the performance of the other two groups on comprehension
measures. Hence, the findings of this study indicated that utilizing peer-assessment can be
influential in language learning in general and L2 reading comprehension in particular. Results
may also have important implications for foreign language syllabus designers and language
instructorsas well.
Key words: peer-assessment, self-assessment, traditional assessment, L2 reading
comprehension

INTRODUCTION
An essential feature of education is assessment and the significance and
popularity of student-oriented learning demand alternative techniques of
assessment to evaluate teaching and learning. Assessment sets the agenda more
persuasively than any syllabus or course outline and it is “one of the most significant
influences the students’ experience of higher education and all that they gain from it”
(for more details see Boud & Associates, 2010, p. 1). In recent years, assessment has
generally been seen as one of the key challenges in the field of learning. Assessment, in
the broad sense, means “any methods used to better understand the current knowledge
Correspondence: Nasrin Shams, Department of English, Faculty of Foreign Languages, University of Isfahan,
Isfahan, Iran. Email: shams.nasrin@yahoo.com
© 2014 Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on L2 Reading Comprehension

30

that a student possesses” (Collins & O'Brien, 2003, p. 29). According to Crooks (2001),
assessment is “any process that provides information about the thinking, achievement
or progress of students” (p. 1).
Because assessment is important in teaching and learning, every teacher should assess
his/her students’ learning regularly. Some of the methods which teachers use to
measure their students’ learning are paper and pencil tests, oral presentations,
standardized tests, and question-and-answer activities. Therefore, teachers spend a
great deal of their class time engaged in one type of assessment or another (Stiggins,
2001). On the other hand, assessment of students entails using a well organized system,
namely tests, to make judgments about the students' achievement (Gronlund & Linn,
1990). While this type of assessment is a mainstay of educational programs educators
and critics from various backgrounds have raised a number of concerns about its
usefulness as the primary measure of students. There are many reasons for
undesirability of traditional (or teacher) assessment in which student' knowledge is
evaluated by one or two single scores. This element makes students rely on their
memorization ability and reproduce these pieces of information from their memory on
the exam to score high and after the exam this information disappeared. This traditional
assessment distracts the students from meaningful learning. Also many other factors,
among other things, distraction, anxiety and stress may influence students'
performances.
Recent approaches towards assessment stress the learning potential of assessment
(Taras, 2008). This is labeled as formative assessment and defined as “assessment that
is specifically intended to provide feedback on performance to improve and accelerate
learning” (Nicol & Milligan, 2006, p. 64). Some consider this as a key quality of
assessment and regard this as the “consequential validity” of assessment (Gielen et al.,
2003). Consequential validity is put next to the two other traditional psychometric
qualities of an assessment: reliability and validity. According to Messick (1994)
consequential validity is one of the six aspects of his unified concept of validity.
Today, there are innovations in assessment procedures, where the change is from
summative assessment to formative assessment. These innovations involve thinking of
alternatives, which require questioning the learning process and using learning and
assessment activities together rather than habitual testing applications. Alternative
assessment asks students to show what they can do, that is to say, students are
evaluated on what they integrate and produce rather than on what they are able to
recall (Coombe et al., 2007). A large number of novel approaches of assessment have
hence been suggested which meant to develop the integration of learning and
assessment by enhancing the engagement of students in the assessment tasks
(Sluijsmans et al., 2003).

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

31

REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The literature suggests that students need to develop as independent learners in order
to be successful in their higher education programs and also in their professional lives
post-graduation. Boud and Falchikov (2007) have described the ability to evaluate one’s
learning and performance as an essential part of “becoming an accomplished and
effective professional” (p. 184). Similarly, Biggs and Tang (2007) argued that the ability
to make judgments about whether a performance or product meets a given criteria is
vital for effective professional action in any field. Tan (2007) also argued for “selfassessment development practices that can develop and sustain students' selfassessment ability beyond its immediate programme of study” (p. 115). However, part
of this preparation for the future requires helping students to learn to continuously
monitor the quality of their work during the act of production itself, so they can make
improvements in real time (Montgomery, 2000). Two effective teaching and learning
processes that can assist with the development of such judgment are self-assessment
and peer-assessment, and the literature provides examples of how these processes have
been used successfully in education.
Involvement of students in assessment can be organized in two ways: peer and selfassessment. 'Peer-assessment', as one of the main forms of alternative assessment, has
gained much attention in educational learning and educational research. It is considered
as an arrangement in which individuals consider the amount, level, value, worth,
quality, or success of the products or outcomes of learning of peers of similar status
(Topping, 1998). It is "the process of having the readers critically reflect upon, and
perhaps suggest grades for the learning of their peers" (Roberts, 2006, p. 80), and being
judged for the quality of the appraisals made (Davies, 2006). Immediate support in the
classroom, gains for both the assessor and the assessed, and being individualized and
interactive are some benefits of peer-assessment to consider (Black & William, 1998).
Saito (2008) believes peer-assessment encourages reflective learning through
observing others' performances and becoming aware of performance criteria. In
general, peer-assessment seems to generate positive reactions in students, although
some students have concerns and worries, it leads to the development of selfawareness, noticing the gap between one's and others' perception, and facilitating
further learning and responsibility for it. In addition, focusing on peers' strengths and
weaknesses can enhance students' learning, raise their level of critical thinking, and
lead them to autonomy. According to Zhi-Feng and Yi Lee (2013), the students made
positive modifications to their work with the help of feedback from others after
participating in peer-assessment activities. Most of the students had positive opinions
regarding peer observation.
Based on the new developments in learning theories teachers open up discussion of
assessment with students; this is actually what presents a major challenge for
assessment in 21st century because it is putting demands on the teacher to obtain

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on L2 Reading Comprehension

32

specific skills needed for this new, additional role. The process of learning should be
assessed by more intense, interactive methods and that work should be undertaken in
collaboration, either between teacher and student or a group of peers (Matsuno, 2009;
Wikstorm, 2007).
Boud (1995) stresses that the assessment process shouldn't be thought only as an
instrument to give students a diploma, but it should also be a process that leads up to
student development and better learning conditions and applications. Such alternative
views on assessment have given rise to new approaches like self-assessment It has
been argued that 'self-assessment' serves as an effective language learning strategy to
promote autonomous language learning because it encourages language learners to
assess their learning progress and in turn helps them to stay focused on their own
learning (Chamot & O’Malley, 1994; Chen, 2005; O’Malley & Pierce, 1996; Oscarson,
1997). The proponents of self-assessment strategies maintain that participating in selfassessment can help learners become skilled judges of their own strengths and
weaknesses and establish realistic and attainable goals for themselves, thus developing
their self-directed language learning ability (Chamot & O’Malley, 1994; Dickinson, 1987;
Oscarson, 1997).
Tavakoli (2010) argued that in self-assessment, students concurrently create and
undergo the evaluation process, judging their achievement in relation to themselves
against their own personal criteria based on their own objectives and learning
expectations. Matsuno (2009) is of the belief that self-assessment can give students a
chance to build up their experiences in language learning and this experience can
motivate students to be more involved in the classroom because they feel that they have
control in their own learning rather than just having the teachers tell them what they
have to learn. It also provides an opportunity for English (as a foreign or second
language) learners to monitor their own progress and take responsibility for meeting
goals. Therefore, self-assessment brings autonomy for learners. Portfolio assessment
that is one type of self-assessment also fosters learners’ autonomy that may contribute
to enhancing motivation and language learning (Hosseini & Ghabanchi, 2014). Weisi
and Karimi (2013) found a significant effect of self-assessment initiatives in enhancing
the students’ willingness and ability to engage in self-assessment and in creating
positive outlooks toward English language learning.
To conclude, peer and self-assessment are the alternatives in language assessment. In
peer-assessment, according to Falchikov (2005, p. 27), students use criteria and apply
standards to the work of their peers in order to judge that work". Building on the latter,
in self-assessment students use criteria and apply standards to judge their own work.
Both peer and self-assessment are expected to decrease the central role of the teacher
in assessment activities. During the last decades, there has been an increase in the
implementation of peer and self-assessment in higher education learning environments
(Cheng & Warren, 2005; Glyn et al., 2011; Matsuno, 2009; Patri, 2002; Tavakoli, 2010;
Weisi & Karimi, 2013; Wikstorm, 2007).

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

33

In line with previous studies, although not aiming at reviewing and replicating the
extensive literature on peer and self-assessment, the present study is conducted to shed
light on the status of peer, self, and traditional assessment in Iranian classrooms where
teacher-centered classes are the norm. Considering the importance of reading
comprehension in an EFL context, the current study focuses on investigating the effect
of these three types of assessment on Iranian learners' L2 reading comprehension.
Even though there are several ways for assessing reading comprehension in an EFL
context, using peer and self-assessment for L2 text comprehension has not been
appreciated at least in Iranian EFL classrooms. As a result, the need arises to study the
effect of peer, self, and traditional assessment on the students’ achievement in
comprehension of L2 texts. Some researchers report that there are several
shortcomings and limitations among traditional testing methods. Traditional
assessment involves the employment of paper-and-pencil tests and standardized tests
to assess student's performance under time pressure. Typically, traditional or teacher
assessment is used only to monitor students’ learning. Under this model, students who
know are separated by those who do not know. In other words, traditional assessment
creates a system that classifies and ranks students (Berlak, 1992, Stiggins, 2001).
In traditional assessment, generally the teacher alone has the power to make decisions
about what is learned and how it is assessed and students do not participate in making
decisions about what is important for them to learn or in determining how well they are
learning (Heron, 1988; Sessions, 1995). But, the focus of alternative assessment is on
developing real-world problem solving skills that will lead people to observe, think,
question, and test their ideas (Herman et al., 1992). Alternative assessment embraces a
democratic decision-making process (Heron, 1988). In contexts that use alternative
assessment practices, students and instructors are co-learners, freely expressing and
testing their ideas together.
There are many kinds of alternative assessment like peer-assessment, self-assessment,
play-based assessment, conference assessment, and so on. The educational system in
Iran is based on traditional or teacher assessment and rote learning. This traditional
assessment is not authentic and does not demonstrate actual level of proficiency. In this
study, peer, self, and traditional assessment were selected as tools and the skill be
assessed is L2 reading comprehension. Reading is one of the four major skills in
learning a foreign language and the one that provides the students with the best
opportunity of being in contact with English after education. The teacher researcher's
presupposition in this study is that students' difficulties in reading comprehension can
be at least minimized if she uses peer and self-assessment for assessing of EFL learners
because this way facilitates the learning process, enhances peer and self-directed
learning, encourages learner's autonomy, raises learner's awareness about learning
strategies, and improves learners' reading comprehensions ability. Therefore, the
researchers try to investigate the effect of peer, self, and traditional assessment on the

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on L2 Reading Comprehension

34

Iranian learners' L2 reading comprehension in order to have an empirical evidence of
such an effect.

THIS STUDY
The purpose of this study is threefold: first, it attempts to investigate the impact of peer,
self, and traditional assessment on EFL learners' reading comprehension ability; second,
it aims to enable teachers and students to share the responsibility for setting learning
goals and for evaluating progress toward meeting those goals; third, it may help
students become peer and self-directed learners; teachers are no longer knowledge
transmitters but mentors, facilitators and collaborators. Students can become active
learners by taking more responsibility in learning and having more involvement in
assessment. It may also help students to become realistic judges of their own
performance, by enabling them to monitor their peer and own learning, rather than
relying on their teachers for feedback. The goal is to compare peer, self, and traditional
assessments with one another and decide which is more suitable and effective for the
students in promoting L2 reading comprehension in an Iranian EFL classroom setting.
According to the stated problem and the purpose of the study, the following research
question is addressed:
Is there any significant difference between the three modes of assessment
such as peer, self, and traditional in terms of their effects on EFL learners’ L2
reading comprehension ability?

METHOD
The present study was carried out in an EFL classroom. A quantitative research design
was employed due to the nature of this research and the research question.

Participants
The population from which the participants were selected was 102 female EFL learners
who were aged between 17-21 years old in a private English Language Institution in
Isfahan. To assess their general language proficiency level, the standard test of Nelson
(2001) was administered. The students' performance on the reading comprehension
section of Nelson test was analyzed to ensure that they were homogeneous in terms of
their proficiency level. Only the participants whose scores on this test fell between one
standard deviation above and one standard deviation below the mean was selected as
the sample of the study. Finally, 77 participants were qualified to be included in this
study. Later, these homogenized participants were randomly assigned to three
experimental groups who subsequently exposed to peer, self, and traditional
assessment.

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

35

Materials
Nelson test
In order to determine the general proficiency level of the participants and to screen
them, reading section of Nelson test (2001) including 30 questions, was used for the
selection of 77 intermediate participants. The individual scores on this section of Nelson
were analyzed to ensure that they were of the same level of language proficiency. These
three groups were almost equal regarding reading comprehension ability at the
beginning of the study.

Achievement comprehension test
A 24 item multiple-choice test of reading comprehension following 4 reading passages
(including the same title and the same key words and expressions but different in
content from reading passages of treatment) was used as an achievement
comprehension test for experimental groups to find out the learners' reading
comprehension ability at the end of the treatment. The reliability and validity of the
reading comprehension test were established. Four specialists in language teaching and
testing were asked to review the test, and there was a general consensus among them
concerning the content and face validity of the test. In order to ensure that the
achievement test was reliable, KR-21 reliability method was used in this study, and it
was 0.86.

Procedure
After the teacher researcher made certain that the participants form a homogenous
sample, they were randomly assigned to three experimental groups. On the day of the
exposure to the treatment, the experimental groups received peer, self, and traditional
assessment on L2 reading comprehension. In the first meeting with the participants of
experimental groups, the teacher researcher presented the idea of peer, self, and
traditional (or teacher) assessment, the purpose, the basic components and the
procedures of these assessments for each experimental group respectively. All groups
were asked to read 4 reading passages in the class and answer its comprehension
questions. Then, the peer, self, and traditional assessment process was subsequently
done in each experimental group.
Reading Logs for each passage were used as peer, self-assessment tool for monitoring
the reading comprehension and strategy use, questing students' progress over time,
evaluating the reading passages, reflections about the various reading challenges
students (peers or individuals) faced, the different approaches they experimented with,
and summarizing the whole text into an appropriate reading strategy chart.
In order to depict the three groups' performance and to examine the effect of treatment
(peer, self, and traditional assessment) on L2 reading comprehension, in the next

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on L2 Reading Comprehension

36

session which was held seven days after treatment, the 24 item multiple-choice test of
reading comprehension following 4 reading passages was used as an achievement
comprehension test for each experimental group. It should be mentioned that the
contents of reading passages of the achievement comprehension test were different
from those of the treatment; however, they include the same title and the same key
words and expressions.

Data analysis
The raw scores of the 77 participants were compiled for data analyses. Descriptive
statistics were used to determine the mean and standard deviation of each group on the
achievement reading comprehension test. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was
performed to compare the groups on the basis of outcome measures at the .05 level of
significance. ANOVA accomplishes its statistical testing by comparing variance between
the groups to the variance within each group. A significant statistical finding would
indicate that group means were significantly different from each other. In case of a
significant statistical finding, there is a need to use a Post-Hoc test (Tukey, Scheffe,
Bonferroni or others) to find exactly which groups differed from which other groups
(Balian, 1994). In this research, because of a significant finding from ANOVA, Bonferroni
test was used to find exactly which groups differed from each other. In other words,
one-way ANOVA was employed to calculate the amount of variance between and within
the three groups, and Post hoc test was run to determine whether the difference
existing among groups was significantly meaningful for peer, self, and traditional
assessment.

RESULTS
The research question concerned the effect of peer, self, and traditional assessment on
improving EFL learners' reading comprehension. Table 1 represents the descriptive
statistics and ANOVA results of the achievement reading comprehension test for three
experimental groups.
Table 1. One-way ANOVA of the comprehension test for the three groups
Groups
Peer-assessment
Self-assessment
Traditional assessment

N
25
26
26

Mean
6.88
5.46
4.81

SD
2.00
2.16
2.62

Between groups
Within groups
Total

df
2
74
76

F
5.475

Sig.
.006

According to Table 1, since the significance level (.006) is smaller than the alpha level
(.05), there were significant differences among the three groups (peer, self, and
traditional). As the results suggest, types of assessment in this study appear to have a
differential effect on the learners’ abilities to comprehend L2 texts. The Post hoc
Bonferroni test in the following table shows the level of significant differences among
three groups.

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

37

Table 2. Post-Hoc Bonferroni test results for comprehension scores
(I) condition

(J) condition
Mean Difference (I-J) Std. Error Sig.
Self-assessment
1.4185
.6390
.089
Peer-assessment
Traditional
2.0723
.6390
.005*
Peer-assessment
-1.4185
.6390
.089
Self-assessment
Traditional
.6538
.6327
.914
Peer-assessment
-2.0723
.6390
.005*
Traditional assessment
Self-assessment
-.6538
.6327
.914

As shown in Table 2, the level of significance for peer-assessment group and selfassessment group is .089, meaning that no significant difference exists between these
two groups in reading comprehension test. The level of significance for peer-assessment
group and traditional assessment group is .005, which means there is a meaningful
difference in the performance of the groups on peer-assessment comprehension
measures. Based on the results of the post hoc test, the level of significance for selfassessment group and traditional assessment group is p>.05. Thus, this conclusion can
be drawn that there exists no significant difference between these two groups. The
results indicate that a meaningful difference was found only between the two
assessment types (peer and traditional) for the reading comprehension test.

DISCUSSION
With respect to the effect of peer, self, and traditional (or teacher) assessment on
improving EFL learners' reading comprehension, the results of the present study show a
significant statistical difference in reading comprehension between the performance of
peer-assessment group and traditional assessment group which means that peerassessment results in better reading comprehension for Iranian EFL learners. This
finding supports the findings of (Langan et al., 2008) that peer-assessment enhances
learning process more than traditional assessment. According to Matsuno (2009), the
merits attributed to applying peer-assessment cannot be ignored. Peer-assessment is an
effective tool in both group and individual projects, and can encourage reflective
learning through observing others' performances and awareness of performance
criteria, but traditional or teacher assessment cannot (Ballantyne et al., 2002; Saito,
2008).
Regarding the impact of peer-assessment and traditional assessment on L2 text
comprehension, the finding of this study confirm the previous findings (Patri, 2002;
Saito, 2008; Yamashiro, 1999) that learners could rate their peers acceptably and
improve their judgments so that they could acquire a better understanding of their
own skills. According to Langan et al., (2008) the lower intra-class correlation
suggested that peers and teachers still interpret the criteria and indicators of the rubric
in a different way. Within the group of peers, not all students could have applied the

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on L2 Reading Comprehension

38

same criteria in a consistent way. Lastly, the peers report higher marks as compared to
teachers. The finding of the current study also is in agreement with the results of other
study (Praver et al., 2011) in that peer-assessment wherein students provide comments
are regarded, both in their production and reception, as more useful for English reading
comprehension skill development.
Concerning the impact of self-assessment and traditional (or teacher) assessment on L2
text comprehension, the results of this study indicated that the self-assessment group
outperformed the traditional assessment group but not significantly. This finding is in
line with the study conducted by Patri (2002). He found that the self-assessment scores
are, mostly, higher than the marks given by teachers in traditional assessment. The
findings of the present study is in consistent with the results of other studies which
report lower correlations values between self and traditional (or teacher) assessments
as compared to the correlation values between traditional and peer-assessment
(Campbell et al, 2001; Langan et al., 2008; Patri, 2002). Nevertheless, others consider
self-assessments to be as valid as peer-assessment (AlFallay, 2004; Hafner and Hafner,
2003). Tavakoli (2010) believes that self-assessment would mitigate the student
teacher relationship by giving responsibility to students as to their own progress and to
their own learning would so that they can become more motivated in participating in
their evaluation for future learning expectations. It has been argued that selfassessment serves as an effective language learning strategy to promote autonomous
language learning because it encourages language learners to assess their learning
progress and in turn helps them to stay focused on their own learning (Chamot &
O’Malley, 1994; Chen, 2005; O’Malley & Pierce, 1996; Oscarson, 1997).
With regard to the comparison of self-assessment scores and peer-assessment scores,
there was no meaningful difference between the performance of self-assessment and
peer-assessment groups in L2 text comprehension measures. As the results of the
present study showed the peer-assessment group insignificantly outperformed the selfassessment group in L2 reading comprehension. This finding is in agreement with the
findings of (Segers et al., 2003) that both self and peer-assessment are expected to
decrease the central role of the teacher in assessment activities. Topping (2003)
additionally mentions economic benefits to adopt self and peer-assessment. Shifting
part of the responsibilities for assessment and feedback from the teacher to the student
has, next to educational benefits, also benefits in terms of reducing teaching workload.
Weisi and Karimi (2013) found that new and alternative forms of assessment such as
self or peer-assessment can be beneficial in language learning. Self and peer-assessment
result in a more active involvement of students in their own learning process (Ozogul &
Sullivan, 2009). A student who always expects teachers to present a judgment will
develop, to a lesser extent, a self-assessment orientation (Boud & Falchikov, 2007).
Topping (2009) explains this by linking peer-assessment to the provision of immediate,
individualized and richer feedback. Since this feedback is formative in nature, it has a
clear potential of fostering the subsequent learning process (Hattie, 2009).

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

39

CONCLUSION
This research study made attempts to launch an investigation into the effects of peer,
self, and traditional (or teacher) assessment on improving L2 learners' reading
comprehension ability. Three main conclusions can be drawn from the findings. Firstly,
there was statistically a significant difference between the performances of the peer and
traditional assessment groups in terms of their reading comprehensions ability. The
comparisons made showed that the reading comprehension of those students in the
group where peer-assessment implemented differed significantly from those of
students in the group where traditional or teacher assessment implemented. Secondly,
there was no significant difference between the impact of self-assessment and
traditional assessment on EFL learners’ reading comprehension ability. Thirdly, no
meaningful difference was also found in the performance of self-assessment and peerassessment groups in L2 reading comprehension.
Peer assessment recently has been regularly practiced as an alternative
assessment technique, predominantly in higher education. Peer-assessment is an
integral segment of learning experiences. During the course of the assessment,
students learn to shoulder high levels of responsibility and to concentrate on
learning itself. Peer assessment also offers the learners a situation in which they
can perceive the role of their teachers and appreciate the nature of assessment. It
supports students to learn about learning and, consequently, increases students’ metacognitive understanding about their own learning.
The results of the present study have several implications. This study helps students
become peer and self-directed, and enables teachers to be facilitators and collaborators.
Students are able to witness their peers and arrive at a better understanding of how
their peers learn. They are autonomous learners. They take more responsibility in their
own learning, and have more involvement in assessment. Syllabus designers can get the
insight from the results of this study in designing an appropriate syllabus. Syllabus
designers should also consider and value learners’ right for their own decisions and
suggestions and criticism while designing syllabuses. In the current study, the findings
promote the meaningful learning and decrease the problems of the rote learning. They
also showed that peer-assessment is more useful in teaching and meaningful learning.
There have been some limitations in conducting this study. In the present study, the
researcher was in the shortage of time, and the study lasted in a few weeks. This study
was conducted only with 77 participants in a private language institute in Isfahan, and
the researcher also had to select only from female students with average age of 17-21
years old. Similar studies can change variables of age and gender. Finally, among
different types of alternative assessment, just peer and self-assessment, and among all
skills of language learning, just reading, have been taken into account in this study. So,
interested researchers can investigate the impact of other types of alternative

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on L2 Reading Comprehension

40

assessment techniques such as portfolio and conference assessment on other language
skills such as listening, speaking and writing.

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Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 45-61
Available online at www.jallr.ir

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and
Thematic Sets: A Case of Persian Learners of English
Mahnaz Allahverdizadeh
MA in TEFL, Department of English, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz Branch, Iran

Nematullah Shomoossi
Assistant Professor, Sabzevar University of Medical Sciences, Sabzevar, Iran

Farzad Salahshoor
Assistant Professor, Department of English, Azarbaijan University of Teachers Education, Tabriz, Iran

Zohreh Seifoori
Assistant Professor, Department of English, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz Branch, Iran

Abstract
In the present study, the effects of presenting new L2 vocabulary in semantic and thematic
sets on vocabulary learning of Persian learners of English were investigated. There were 80
participants: 40 elementary and 40 intermediate levels. Four types of vocabulary sets (i.e.,
semantically related sets, semantically unrelated sets, thematically associated sets and
thematically unassociated sets) were presented through reading passages. For each set, two
passages were selected including six words in each reading passage. Consequently, there
were eight reading passages with 48 new words at each level, which were presented to the
participants to learn. The participants at each level took a placement test, a proficiency test,
a pretest and a posttest. The statistical analyses showed that participants recalled more
words from the thematic sets, while the semantic sets were the least to recall at each level.
These differences were more apparent at the elementary level than in the intermediate.
Also, participants recalled more words from semantically unrelated sets than from the
thematically unassociated ones. Therefore, a scaled pattern of recalling may appear as:
thematically associated sets, semantically unrelated sets, thematically unassociated sets and
semantically related sets.
Keywords: L2 reading comprehension, lexical sets, thematic association, semantic relation,
lexical acquisition

INTRODUCTION
The mastery of vocabulary is essential in the process of second (L2) or foreign language
learning. It facilitates comprehension as one of the primary factors leading to good
Correspondence: Nematullah Shomoossi, Email: nshomoossi@yahoo.com
© 2014 Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets

46

progress in language learning (Al-Jabri, 2005). One of the challenges facing the second
language learner is how to master a vast vocabulary in order to communicate
successfully and appropriately with others (Nation, 2000). The last decade witnessed a
growing interest in the lexical approach to English as a foreign language (EFL) teaching.
Development in lexical semantics and the mental lexicon also inspired the development
of the semantic field theory, semantic networks or grids, which help organize words in
terms of interrelated lexical meanings (Amer, 2002).
ESL learners are often presented with new vocabulary in ‘semantic clusters’, which
refer to sets of semantically and syntactically similar words, such as the words knife,
fork, spoon, bowl, plate and so on. Although this is a common practice in ESL textbooks,
many researchers argue that learning vocabulary in semantic clusters at the same time
will interfere with learning. In a first language study, it was found that if the presented
words are too similar, it would interfere with learning. Such findings led to the
formation of “interference theory”, stating that when words are being learned at the
same time, but are too similar or share too many common elements, they will interfere
with each other and thus impairing their retention (Waring, 1997).
Some researchers (e.g., Chepyshko & Truscott, 2009; Mirjalali, Jabbari, & Rezai, 2012)
argue that the semantic cluster can help L2 learners to acquire L2 words in a more
advantageous manner. In order to support their views, they return to a number of
psychological studies which indirectly confirm their opinion. At the same time, a
number of empirical investigations demonstrated negative effects of learning L2
vocabulary in semantic clusters (e.g. Tinkham, 1993 and 1997; Waring, 1997; Nation,
2000; Finkbeiner & Nicol, 2003; Al-Jabri, 2005; Etern & Ekin, 2008; Mirjalali, Jabbari, &
Rezai, 2012). These findings are based on psychological theory of interference (Waring,
1997).
An alternative to semantic cluster organization of L2 vocabulary is the thematic
clustering of L2 words (Tinkham, 1997), where the term "thematically associated
clusters" or "thematically related clusters" are often applied. In this organization, words
of different syntactic categories which co-describe certain common situations might be
linked as a single vocabulary unit. The theory of semantic frames was the primary base
for the justification of such arrangements (Chepyshko & Truscott, 2009). In thematic
clusters, lexical items belonging to different syntactic and semantic categories can be
organized with their participation within certain frames, schemata, or concepts
reflecting partitioning of a speaker’s background knowledge. This proposal was also
linked to Fillmore’s theory of the semantic frames (Fillmore, 2006).
Tinkham (1997) proposed the thematic arrangement of the L2 target vocabulary as a
plausible alternative for the semantic clusters. According to his view, lexical items in the
thematic clusters which belong to different syntactic and semantic categories can be
organized in accordance with their participation within certain frames or schemata
reflecting partitioning of a speaker’s background knowledge. The words to book, ticket,

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

47

airport, fancy, taking off, and tired show this kind of word chaining, and are related to
the concept of traveling by air. He further stated that presenting words in such an
organization might avoid negative effects found in learning L2 vocabulary and can be
beneficial for memorizing the L2 target vocabulary.
Therefore, the purpose of the present study is to compare the effects of learning
vocabulary in semantically related sets, semantically unrelated sets, thematically
associated sets and thematically unassociated sets at Elementary and Intermediated
levels of Persian learners of English in Iran. These labels are intended to differentiate
between different methods of organizing lexical items. Semantically related sets are
defined on the basis of grouping words that share semantic and syntactic characteristics
(e.g., mother, father, daughter, son); semantically unrelated sets are based on grouping
words that do not share semantic and syntactic characteristics; thematically associated
sets are based on psychological association between clustered words and a shared
thematic concept (e.g., frog, pond, swim, and green which cluster around the concept of a
pond, and might come to mind when a speaker is thinking about a story involving a
pond and its inhabitants); finally, thematically unassociated sets are based on no such
association.

REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE
Second language acquisition is a field of investigation that has seen an explosion of
experimental research in the past decades. There are many dimensions to this topic, and
vocabulary instruction has consistently emerged as a key area in second language
learning, bilingual education and literacy instruction (Nagy & Scott, 1990). Moreover,
research shows a strong relationship between vocabulary knowledge in English and
academic achievement as well as a direct correlation between vocabulary knowledge
and reading proficiency and comprehension (Carrell & Grabe, 1999). In addition, there
are strong relationships between opportunities to read and the development of
vocabulary and reading comprehension ability (p. 235).
Nunan (2001) states that in terms of language, in most language teaching approaches,
vocabulary has played second fiddle to grammar. This was particularly true during the
days when structural linguistics and audiolingualism were most popular. "Proponents
of audiolingualism argued that foreign language teaching would be most effective if
learners concentrated their efforts on mastering the basic sentence patterns of the
language. Once these patterns had been memorized, new vocabulary could be slotted in.
In recent years, the teaching of vocabulary has assumed its rightful place as a
fundamentally important aspect of language development, which is partly due to the
influence of comprehension-based approaches to language development, partly due to
the research efforts of influential applied linguistics, and partly due to the exciting
possibilities opened up by the development of computer-based language corpora (p.
103).

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets

48

Richards and Renandya (2002), on the contrary, assert that vocabulary learning was
often left to look after itself and received only incidental attention in textbooks and
language programs (p. 255). However, the status of vocabulary seems to be changing
now. For one thing the notion of a word has been broadened to include lexical phrases
and routines, and it has been suggested that in the initial stages of learning, these play a
primary role in communication and acquisition. In addition, access to lexical corpora
has made it possible for applied linguists to access huge samples of language in order to
find out how words are used, both by native speakers and by second language learners.
Such research has enabled applied linguists to identify common patterns of collocation,
word formation, metaphor, and lexical phrases that are part of a speaker's lexical
competence (p. 255).
DeCarrico (2001) explains that while grammatical and phonological structures have
been given more emphasis, and are considered as the starting point in the learning
process, vocabulary building has been downgraded. This underestimated status for
vocabulary building results from the adoption of language teaching approaches based
on the American linguistic theories dominant from the 1940s to1960s. Al-Jabri (2005)
also states that "teaching vocabulary has not been a central goal of English language
instruction during the very active decades of the mid-twentieth century, nor was it
considered a priority in the larger context of language teaching and learning at that
time”. Consequently, learners have often faced communication barriers in various
situations which require control over a large variety of vocabulary rather than a narrow
range of syntactic structures. However, this dominant view has been challenged since
the late 1970s and early 1980s. More emphasis and considerable attention have been
directed to vocabulary building since that time. Educational researchers and
psychologists began, even early in that period, to produce a number of word frequency
studies in different languages in response to the increasing need for vocabulary control
in language courses (Stern, 1983).
Richards (1976) states that "the teaching and learning of vocabulary have never
aroused the same degree of interest within language teaching as have such issues as
grammatical competence, contrastive analysis, reading, or writing" (p. 77). It was not
until two decades later with the publishing of the book titled The Lexical Approach
(Lewis, 1993) when the crucial role of lexis was recognized. Thus, Lewis (1993, p. iv)
claims that "language consists of grammaticalized lexis, not lexicalized grammar".
Nowadays, the presence of lexis in L2 teaching is no longer debated. Instead, concerns
centered on what vocabulary to teach and how to teach it (Lopez-Jimenez, 2009).
Accordingly, Willis (1990) summed up the importance of vocabulary learning as
"Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be
conveyed". In other words, if you spend most of your time studying grammar, your
English will not improve very much; and you will see most improvement if you learn
more words and expressions; one can say very little with grammar, but almost anything
can be said with words. Finally, two key developments challenged the hegemony of

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49

grammar; one was the lexical syllabus, a syllabus based on those words that appear with
a high degree of frequency in spoken or written English; the other was recognition of
the role of lexical chunks in the acquisition of language and in achieving fluency. Both
these developments were fuelled by discoveries arising from the new science of corpus
linguistics (Thornbury, 2002, p. 14)

Explicit Instruction of Vocabulary
According to Nation (1990; cited in Paribakht & Wesche, 1996), intentional learning
through instruction significantly contributes to vocabulary development. Hunt and
Beglar (2002) contend that explicit instruction of vocabulary depends on identifying
specific vocabulary acquisition targets for the learner. Information is now available on
what such targets should be for learners at different proficiency levels. For example, a
target of 4500 words is identified in the Cambridge English Lexicon (Hindmarsh, 1980),
a core vocabulary for secondary school learners in EFL contexts.
Explicit instruction is essential for beginning students whose lack of vocabulary limits
their reading ability. Coady (1997) calls this the beginner's paradox; he wonders how
beginners can "learn enough words to learn through extensive reading when they do
not know enough words to read well (p. 229). His solution is to have students
supplement their extensive reading with study of the 3000 most frequent words until
the words' form and meaning become automatically recognized (i.e., sight vocabulary).
The first stage in teaching these 3000 words begins with word pairs in which an L2
word is matched with an L1 translation.
Ellis (1995) identifies two main points on explicit vocabulary learning; (1) A strong
explicit-leaning hypothesis holds that a range of metacognitive strategies such as
planning and monitoring are necessary for vocabulary learning; in particular, the
greater the depth of processing involved in the learning, the more secure and long term
the learning is likely to be. This hypothesis draws strongly on Craik and Lockhart's
(1972) work on levels of processing and cognitive depth; the conclusion is that the more
processes involved in the learning of a word, the superior the retention and recall will
be particularly influential. (2) A weak explicit-learning hypothesis holds that learners
are active processors of information and that a range of strategies are used to infer the
meaning of a word, usually with reference to its context. Most vocabulary is learned
from context by inference strategies and learners retain better words learned in context
than in marginal glosses or explanation on the page (Carter, 2001).

Semantically Related words: Linguistic Perspective
Since vocabulary consists of a series of interrelating systems and is not just a random
collection of items, there seems to be a clear case for presenting items to a student in a
systematized manner which will both illustrate the organized nature of vocabulary and
at the same time enable him to internalize the items in a coherent way (Gairns &
Redman, 1986). Many authors of ESL textbooks have not mentioned their rationale for

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets

50

presenting new vocabulary items in semantic clusters; an exception is Seal (1991) who
provides two reasons for his use of semantic clusters. First, he claims that they give
students the sense of structure they need. Second, he feels that this organization may
help students guess the meaning of new words within the lexical sets; of course, where
one can easily see that a word's class membership might be clear from its inclusion in a
semantic set, it is difficult to see how the specific meaning could be guessed from such
membership. Gairns and Redman (1986) believe that presenting L2 words grouped in
semantic clusters helps the learner to understand the semantic boundaries or even to
see where meaning overlaps for learning the limits of using an item (p. 32). Thus,
semantic clustering is thought to help the learner see the distinctions between
semantically related words. They also claim that this grouping can provide a clear
context for practice (p. 69); it can also help speeding up the learning process and
facilitate learning (p. 89).

Semantically Related words: Methodology Perspective
Learning new words in semantic clusters serves the needs of two approaches in second
language acquisition: the structure-centered methodology and the learner-centered
methodology. According to Tinkham (1993, p.372), curriculum designer of a structurecentered persuasion, especially those driven by a syntax-based methodology, consider
semantic clusters to fit nicely into the open slots within structures targeted by
substitution drills or tables, and thus allows students to change the meaning of the
sentences they produce.
For example, in Unit 2 of Connect 1 by Richards and Barbisan (2005), five types of
nationalities, including (Canada, Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Peru) are presented as fillers
for the slots, "Nicole is from …….."; "Tyler is from …….", etc. (p. 24). Another example is
Unit 12 of Interchange (Intro) (Richards, 2005); headache, backache, earache, toothache
and stomachache are possible fillers in the sentences, "I have a ………." (p. 79). Through
these substitution activities with semantic clusters, learners are able to become familiar
with specific syntactic structures.
Many curriculum writers also followed a more learner-centered approach, producing
the course syllabus based on what they perceive language learners need to
communicate in English, in terms of situations (e.g., going to see a doctor), notions (e.g.,
expressions of time, location), or functions (e.g., requests). These course designers choose
vocabulary according to various situations, notions and functions, and many
semantically related words seem to inevitably appear in the same situations, notions or
functions (Tinkham, 1997). For example, sick, dizzy, nauseous, and tired are all
adjectives learners might use to describe their health (Tinkham, 1993).
Further justification for semantic clusters may be found in notional syllabi. The notional
syllabus is an idea proposed by Wilkins (1976) who provides justification for semantic
clusters through focusing on what speakers communicate through language. The basic

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51

idea is that content supersedes form. Therefore, Wilkins suggests a number of notional
categories and lists expressions which would fit within each category. Once again, as
with thematically inspired syllabi, the expressions grouped in notional syllabi tend to
form semantic clusters. For example, confirm, corroborate, endorse, support, assent,
acquiesce, agree, concur, consent, ratify, and approve are listed under the category
"agreement". According to Wilkins "it is probably necessary to establish a number of
themes around which semantically related items can be grouped and from which in
constructing a notional syllabus an appropriate selection can be made" (p. 76). Once the
idea of a notional syllabus became popular in second language development, it became
the norm to use semantic clusters in ESL textbooks based on this approach.

Thematic clustering
Investigating the way speakers organize words in their mental lexicons, lexical
semanticists proposed that speakers subconsciously organize words in "frames" or
"schemas" with reference to the speaker's background knowledge rather than in
semantic fields (Fillmore, 2006). A cluster of words drawn from such a frame or schema
might include frog, pond, hop, swim, green, and slippery; words of different parts of
speech that are all closely associated with a common thematic concept (in this case,
frog). Such words reflect the schemata that English speakers share for a word (CelceMurcia & Olshtain, 2000). Based on associative strength, clusters of this sort are
cognitively rather than linguistically derived, and consequently would appear to fit most
easily into learning-centered second language acquisition programs, which are more
concerned with learning processes than with linguistic analysis.
Thematic clustering depends upon psychological associations between clustered words
and a shared thematic concept. For example, Haunted, ghost, yell, moonlight, and groan,
are said to be thematically related, since they are all words drawn from a haunted house
schema. Neither the Interference theory nor the Distinctiveness Hypothesis attempted to
predict the effect of thematic clustering. Although researchers have been concerned
with similar words in studies of interference, word clusters such as frog, green, swim,
and slippery have not been their concern when seeking evidence for interference.
Similarly, sets of words such as car, raceway, team, champion, and drive, which did not
attract researchers of the Distinctive Hypothesis to study their learnability (Al-Jabri,
2005). Finally, Folse (2004) rephrases thematic organization: "another way to organize
vocabulary is by looser themes. In thematic sets of words, words that naturally occurred
when discussing a given theme are included. The words are not synonyms, antonyms,
coordinated or superordinates of each other. The words have no obvious relationship to
each other; their only connection is that they are all "true" with regard to the theme. For
example, under the theme "replanning a vacation", a learner might encounter the words
ticket, internet, to book, a reservation, to select, a seat, an aisle seat, meal, arrival time,
gate, jet and silver".

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets

52

In short, the arguments for presenting related lexical items together in sets are mainly
based on theoretical rather than experimental evidence. Words can be related and
grouped in various ways. This type of word grouping is called clustering. There are two
basic forms: linguistically based clustering or words grouped in lexical sets such as body
parts or words grouped by sense relations such as synonyms, as well as cognitively
based or thematic clustering.

METHODOLOGY
This quasi-experimental study involved a dependent variable (i.e., vocabulary test
scores) and two independent variables (i.e., types of word grouping and levels of
students). Because of having more than one independent we used a factorial design
(Zohrabi & Farrokhi, 2006 . The present study aimed at investigating the effect of
presenting words in semantic and thematic sets on Persian learners of English at
elementary and intermediate levels.

Participants
There were 40 participants from elementary level (learners at Hekmat Institute in
Miandoab, Iran with the age range of 14 to 18 years); they were selected through a
placement test from among 60 learners by taking the proficiency Key English Test
(KET). Finally, 40 subjects were selected the elementary level participants. As for the 40
intermediate level participants (from College Institute in Miandoab, Iran with the age
range of 20 to 24 years), the same procedure was adopted; 65 learners took the
proficiency Preliminary English Test (PET); finally, there were 40 intermediate level
participants. All participants had a bilingual background (i.e. Turkish and Persian). All
participants of both levels had a pretest. In each level, we had four types of pretest
(semantic sets, unrelated sets, associated sets and unassociated sets). Each test included
12 multiple questions. Therefore, we had eight pre-test in this study.

Procedure
The participants of both level had seven sessions treatment. The participants of each
level studied eight reading passages. In other words, we had 16 reading passages in this
study. Each level studied two reading passage for each word groups, i.e. reading passage
of semantic sets, unrelated sets, associated sets and unassociated sets, respectively. In
each reading, we presented six new words of each type that we underlined them;
therefore, we had 12 new words for each word groups. All new underlined words of
semantic sets and unrelated sets were nouns; while, all the new words of associated sets
and unassociated sets were from different parts of speech including noun, adjective, and
verbs. These passages included before-you-read, reading, and after-you-read parts. Also,
participants of each level took posttests after studying reading passages. We had four
types of posttests, i.e. semantic sets, unrelated sets, associated sets and unassociated
sets for each level. Therefore, we had eight posttests. Each posttest had 12 multiple
choice questions.

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

53

Data Analysis
In order to calculate the reliability of teacher-made tests (the pretest and posttest),
Pearson Reliability test was used in SPSS 11.5. Also, in order to investigate the effect of
four types of word grouping at each level and at both levels, Repeated ANOVA was used
to calculate these effects. Finally, in order to compare each word groups of elementary
and intermediate levels together (e.g., semantic sets of both groups together), One-way
ANOVA was used.

RESULTS
In order to show the reliability of teacher-made tests (the pretest and the posttest), a
pilot study was conducted before the treatment stage. Forty elementary and 40
intermediate EFL learners took pretests and posttests of each word sets twice; the
second set of tests was given a week later. The test-retest reliability was calculated
through Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, where the coefficient of
pretests 1 and 2 of semantic sets in the Elementary level was 0.760. Also, the reliability
of pretests of unrelated sets (r=0.897), associated sets (r=0.713) and unassociated sets
(r = 0.788) in the elementary level were calculated; all values came up to be within the
acceptable range of reliability. Similarly, the reliability of four types of posttests in the
elementary level were calculated and the results were (r = 0.883 for semantic sets), (r =
0.756 for unrelated sets), (r = 0.858 for associated sets) and (r = 0.859 for unassociated
sets). For the intermediate level, the same procedure was followed and the results
showed an acceptable level of reliability of pretests of semantic sets (r = 0.915),
unrelated sets (r = 0.835), associated sets (r = 0.822) and unassociated sets (r = 0.868);
as for pretests, reliability coefficients were reported for semantic sets (r = 0.873),
unrelated sets (r = 0.657), associated sets (r = 0.949) and unassociated sets (r = 0.891).
All in all, the teacher-made tests showed satisfactory levels of reliability.

Lexical Sets and Learners’ Levels
In order to examine the difference between presenting new L2 vocabulary in
semantically related sets on both levels, one-way ANOVA was conducted; the results
showed significant differences between means of semantic sets at elementary and
intermediate levels (F(1)=4.64 , p=0.34). Therefore, presenting new L2 vocabulary in
semantically related sets have an effect on students of both elementary and
intermediate levels. However, when one-way ANOVA was used to compare mean
differences of unrelated sets in both levels, significant differences were observed
between unrelated sets in both levels (F(1)=1.12, , p = 0.29); in other words, presenting
new L2 vocabulary in semantically unrelated sets did not have any effects on
elementary and intermediate levels of students.
Also, one-way ANOVA was conducted to compare mean differences of associated sets in
both levels, significant differences were observed between means of associated sets in
elementary and intermediate levels (F(1)=3.87, p= 0.043). Therefore, presenting new

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets

54

L2 vocabulary in thematically associated sets affects elementary and intermediate levels
of students. However, repeating one-way ANOVA to compare mean differences of
unassociated sets in both levels showed that presenting new L2 vocabulary in
thematically unassociated sets did not affect vocabulary learning at elementary and
intermediate levels (F(1)=3.07, p=0.08).

Lexical Sets in the Elementary Level
A repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to show the effect of the four types of
lexical sets in elementary-level participants. The mean of semantic sets (7.53±1.80) was
the least, and the mean of associated sets (10.18±1.26) was the highest. Also, the mean
of unrelated sets (8.26) was higher than that of the unassociated set (8.06). Also, there
were significant differences between four types of word groups at this level (F (3,117) =
27.87 , p = 0.00) (Table 1); in other words, presenting new English words in
semantically related sets, semantically unrelated sets, thematically associated sets and
thematically unassociated sets affected learning vocabulary of students in the
elementary level.
Table 1. Repeated ANOVA of four types of word clustering in the Elementary Level
Type I Sum
of Squares

df

Mean
Square

160.850

3

53.617

27.862 .000

.417

GreenhouseGeisser

160.850

2.646

60.792

27.862 .000

.417

Huynh-Feldt

160.850

2.856

56.315

27.862 .000

.417

Lower-bound

160.850

1.000

160.850

27.862 .000

.417

Lower-bound

225.150

39.000

5.773

Source
factor Sphericity
Assumed

F

Sig.

Partial Eta
Squared

The mean of four types of word clustering were also compared at elementary level. The
differences between factor 1 (semantic) and factor 2 (unrelated) with mean differences
(-0.72) was significant (p=0.03). Also, the differences between factor 1 (semantic) and
factor 3 (associated) with mean differences (-2.66) was significant (p=0.00). Finally, the
differences between factor 1 (semantic) and factor 4 (unassociated) with mean
differences (-0.42) was significant too (P=0.16). Also, the mean of factor 2 with other
factors were compared, where the differences between factor 2 (unrelated) and factor 3
(associated) with mean differences (-1.93) was significant (P=0.00). But the difference
between factor 2 (unrelated) and factor 4 (unassociated) was not significant (P=0.06).
Also, the difference between factor 3 (associated) and factor 4 (unassociated) was
significant (P=0.00). In sum, differences between semantic sets with unrelated sets,

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

55

semantic with associated sets, semantic with unassociated sets, unrelated with
associated sets, and associated with unassociated sets were significant; however, the
difference between unrelated with unassociated sets was not significant.

Lexical Sets in the Intermediate Level
To explore the effect of presenting new English words in semantically related sets,
semantically unrelated sets, thematically associated sets and thematically unassociated
sets had an effect on the vocabulary learning of intermediate-level students, a repeated
measures ANOVA was conducted; the mean of semantic sets (7.92±1.60) was the least
and the mean of associated sets was the highest.
Table 2. Repeated ANOVA of four types of word groups in the Intermediate Level
Type I Sum
of Squares

Df

Mean
Square

Sphericity
Assumed

57.519

3

19.173

22.836 .000

.369

GreenhouseGeisser

57.519

2.107

27.298

22.836 .000

.369

Huynh-Feldt

57.519

2.230

25.790

22.836 .000

.369

Lower-bound

57.519

1.000

57.519

22.836 .000

.369

Sphericity
Assumed

98.231

117

.840

GreenhouseGeisser

98.231

82.175

1.195

Huynh-Feldt

98.231

86.981

1.129

Lower-bound

98.231

39.000

2.519

Source
factor

Error
(factor)

F

Sig.

Partial Eta
Squared

Also, the differences between four word groups in the intermediate level were
compared. Significant differences were observed between Factor1 (semantic) and factor
2 (unrelated) with the mean difference (-0.90); between Factor 1 (semantic) and factor
3 (associated) with the mean difference (-1.68), there were significant differences; also,
factor 1 (semantic) and factor 4 (unassociated) showed a significant difference (-0.66)
(P<0.05). Additionally, the differences between factor 2 and factor 3, and factor 3 and
factor 4 were significant too. The only non-significant difference was found between
factor 2 and factor 4 (P=0.06). On the whole, like the elementary level, differences
between semantic with unrelated sets, semantic with associated sets, semantic with
unassociated sets, unrelated with associated sets, and associated with unassociated sets
was significant; however, the differences between unrelated with unassociated sets was
not significant (Table 2).

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets

56

Effects on Participants of the Elementary and Intermediate Levels
In order to explore the effect of presenting new English words in semantically related
sets, semantically unrelated sets, thematically associated sets and thematically
unassociated sets on the participants of both levels, repeated measures ANOVA was
conducted. The means of semantic sets at both levels was the least, and means of
associated sets at both levels was the highest. Also at both levels, the means of unrelated
sets was higher than those of the unassociated sets.
In examining the effects of elementary and intermediate levels on the learning of four
types of word groups, significant differences were found (F (1) = 6485.12, P= 0.00). In
other words, there were significant differences between the two levels as regards the
four types of word groups. Therefore, presenting new English words in semantically
related sets, semantically unrelated sets, thematically associated sets and thematically
unassociated sets affected students of both elementary and intermediated levels.
However, there were significant differences among four types of word sets at
elementary and intermediate levels (F (3, 234) = 48.412, P = 0.00). In other words, there
were significant differences among four types of word group at elementary level (F (3,
234) = 4.26, p=0.006); in fact, there were significant differences among four types of
word group at intermediate level too. Therefore, presenting new English words in
semantically related sets, semantically unrelated sets, thematically associated sets and
thematically unassociated sets affected students of both elementary and intermediated
levels.

DISCUSSION
In the present study, the effects of presenting new L2 vocabulary in semantic and
thematic sets on vocabulary learning of Persian learners of English were investigated.
The statistical analyses showed that participants recalled more words from the
thematic sets, while the semantic sets were the least to recall at each level. These
differences were more apparent at the elementary level than in the intermediate. Also,
participants recalled more words from semantically unrelated sets than from the
thematically unassociated ones. Therefore, a scaled pattern of recalling may appear as:
thematically associated sets, semantically unrelated sets, thematically unassociated sets
and semantically related sets. On the whole, there were significant differences among
four types of word groups at elementary and intermediate levels.
The findings of the present study are compatible with the study of Tinkham (1993), who
investigated the effect of presenting L2 students with new lexis grouped together in sets
of semantically and syntactically similar words; he compared the learning rates of
subjects memorizing semantically related and semantically unrelated new L2 words in
two experiments. He discovered that students had more difficulty learning new words
in semantic clusters than learning unrelated words together. Waring (1997) also did a
replicated research which confirmed the findings of Waring (1997) concluding that

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

57

presenting new words that share a common semantic superordinate in a set of words to
learn does interfere with learning. The present findings are compatible with Tinkham’s
(1997) study, where the impact of the interference effects on learning words were
investigated both in semantic and thematic clusters. The subjects learned the paired
words of English and artificial words, either in semantic clusters, semantically unrelated
sets, thematic clusters, or in thematically unrelated sets; the results revealed that the
new L2 words, arranged semantic clusters, were learned with more difficulty than those
in unrelated sets; while new L2 vocabulary items in thematic clusters were more easily
learned than new L2 vocabulary items arranged in thematically unassociated sets.
Also, the finding of this study is in line with the finding of Peterson (1997). His
experiment involved the students in learning one of two lists of words on a computer.
One list was semantically related six paired- words in L1 and L2, while the other was six
semantically unrelated words. He discovered that learning words in semantic clusters
was clearly of more difficulty than learning words in unrelated sets. Finally, the findings
of the present research support the findings of Mirjalali and colleagues (2012),
Finkbeiner and Nicol (2003), Al-Jabri (2005), Erten and Tekin (2008) and
Papathanasiou (2009). Schneider, Healy and Bourne (1998) conducted two experiments
which brought contradictory finding from the previous studies; they found that learning
related words together was easier than learning a set of unrelated words initially, but
seemed to hinder subsequent relearning and long-term retention. Finkbeiner and
Nicol’s (2003) study strengthened conclusions about undesirable effect of introducing
L2 vocabulary in sets of semantically related items. In their studies, participants learned
32 new artificial L2 labels for concepts from four different categories in either related or
unrelated condition. The conclusion was that presenting semantically grouped L2
words to learners had a deleterious effect on learning. Al-Jabri (2005) compared the
effects of semantic and thematic clustering on learning English vocabulary, and
investigated whether thematic grouping or the use of context facilitates vocabulary
learning; he showed that participants recalled more words from the thematic list than
from the semantic list. Words from the semantic list were the least to be recalled by all
participants. Our study was compatible with all results of these scholar studies.
The finding of this study supported the study of Erten and Tekin (2008), who examined
the effects of the semantic cluster on learning vocabulary. The subjects learned two
word sets. The semantically unrelated vocabularies were 20 animal names and 20
names of foods. The semantically unrelated vocabulary was all concrete nouns taken
from various semantic categories. The results revealed a statistically significant
advantage for learning semantically unrelated vocabulary. And finally this study is in
line with the study of Papathanasiou (2009), who investigated learning sets of
semantically related and unrelated vocabulary by intermediate and novice English
learners. The results showed that the semantic set caused additional difficulties for the
beginners but had no effect on the intermediate learners of FL.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets

58

CONCLUSION
It can be concluded from the present study that presenting new words in semantic sets
can interfere with learning. Synonyms, antonyms, hyponyms, and other lexical relations
can cause confusion, and thus require extra time and effort. Although semantically
related items may call for deeper levels of semantic analysis, the presumably lower
workload and reduced interference from co-activated lexical items involved in
analyzing semantically unrelated vocabulary items appears to outdo the heavy
workload placed upon language learners by semantically related words (Hashemi &
Gowdasiaei, 2005). In sum, learning new L2 vocabulary items in semantically related
sets appeared to serve as a detriment to the learning of vocabulary while learning
words in thematically associated sets appeared to serve as a facilitator for learning. The
negative effect of semantically related sets upon L2 vocabulary would be anticipated by
researchers concerned with interference theory, and the positive effect of thematically
associated sets would be anticipated by researchers concerned with the effects of
schemata upon learning. Also, the higher the proficiency levels of students, the lower
the effect of learning words in semantic sets and thematic sets will be. In simpler terms,
the negative effect of learning vocabulary in semantically related sets and positive effect
of learning new L2 words in thematically associated sets was more apparent at
elementary level as compared to the intermediate level.
As for implications, the findings may prove helpful for material developers, especially
those interested in lexical sets and vocabulary development. From this perspective,
developing exercises to help learners avoid interference can benefit from this study; it is
expected that more thought is given to the theoretical backbone of vocabulary books
before publishing, and textbooks are viewed as a source of facilitating learning. In future
research, it might be appropriate to examine real textbooks and real discourse data to
reach a more natural and realistic results in foreign language or second language
instruction environments.

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Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 62-74
Available online at www.jallr.ir

A Critical Review of the Interactionist Approach to Second
Language Acquisition
Saeid Najafi Sarem
PhD Candidate of TEFL, English Department, Hamedan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Hamedan, Iran

Yusef Shirzadi
MA in TEFL, English Department, Hamedan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Hamedan, Iran

Abstract
The realm of language acquisition, either first or second language, has been under the
influence of three major theories, namely Behaviorism, Innativism, and Interactionism. The
key figures in these schools of thought are Skinner, Chomsky, and Vygotsky respectively.
Each theory has contributed to the field by highlighting a specific aspect of the language
acquisition process. Behaviorist theory has given the main role to the environment,
introducing the concepts of imitation and habit-formation. On the other hand, the innativist
theory has focused on the role of mind and cognitive processes in language learning. Taking
advantage of both the behaviorist and innativist theories, in the 19th century, the
interactinist approach emerged which concentrated on the role of social interaction in
language learning. Based on this approach, learners should be exposed to comprehensible,
negotiated, or modified input in their attempts to acquire a language. In the same line, the
present article tries to provide a critical literature on the interactionist approach in second
language learning. Therefore, this review first sheds light on the major theoretical points
introduced by this theory; then it tries to discuss some of the main implications and
applications of the social interactionist approach in the domain of second language learning.
Keywords: constructivism, interactionist approach, interaction hypothesis

INTRODUCTION
Language is part of every human, and the ability to communicate effectively is the goal
of all languages. In Second Language Acquisition (SLA), a person tries to learn and
acquire a language in addition to his/her native language. So far, many studies have
been conducted by different researchers all of which have tried to shed light on the
process of learning a second language. As a result, many approaches, theories and
models have emerged trying to describe the way SLA occurs. Taking a look at the early
days of language teaching and learning in 15th century the behaviorist approach
proposed by Skinner was dominant in the realm of SLA. In summary, this theory
Correspondence: Saeid Najafi Sarem, Email: s_najafisarem@yahoo.com
© 2014 Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

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emphasizing on the role of environment, imitation and reinforcement suggested that
students learn language or are conditioned in a language as a result of stimulusresponse situations. The main problem with this theory was the fact that it was
impossible to learn all the sentences in a language through imitation. However, a
contribution of this theory was the role given to the external factor of environment in
the process of second language learning. In opposition to the behaviorist theory, the
nativist theory, also known as rationalism or cognitive psychology, rooted in Chomsky’s
ideas came out to be noticed. It considered human mind and cognitive processes as the
key in acquiring language. It was claimed that all humans have access to a language
acquisition device (LAD), an innate system, used in acquiring knowledge of a language.
Language was believed to be innate and part of our genetic endowment. The nativist
theory stated that all languages possess commonalities which emphasize universal
grammar. The overemphasis of this theory on cognitive abilities as well as on the
syntax, or grammar, and its ignorance of all other aspects of a language specifically the
ignorance of the role of the environment were among the main limitations of this
theory. Finally, drawing on the advantages of the previous behaviorist and nativist
theories, in nineteenth century, the social interactionist approach under the influence of
the constructivist school of thought emerged which revealed new insights on the
process of acquiring a second language. This theory as well as its applications and
implications in learning a second language will be disused in detail through this paper.

CONSTRUCTIVIST SCHOOL OF THOUGHT
Constructivist school of thought has been considered as one of the main foundations
influencing trends, fashions, approaches, as well as theories concerning SLA. The
notions introduced within this school have had a great impact on the emergence of the
interactionist approach of SLA. Constructivism associated with the names of Jean Piaget
and Lev Vygotsky, emerged as a prevailing paradigm only in the last part of the
twentieth century. According to Brown (2000) constructivists, like some cognitive
psychologists, argue that all human beings construct their own version of reality, and
therefore multiple contrasting ways of knowing and describing are all considered to be
equally acceptable. Spivey (1997, p. 23, cited in Brown, 2000) describe this perspective
as "an emphasis on active process of construction of meaning, attention to texts as a
means of gaining insights into those processes, and an interest in the nature of
knowledge and its variations, including the nature of knowledge associated with
membership in a particular group" (p. 11).
Constructive scholarship can focus on “individuals engaged in social practices…on a
collaborative group or on a global community” (Spivey, 1997, cited in Brown, 2000). As
Brown (2000) maintains a constructivist perspective goes a little beyond the
rationalist/innatist and the cognitive psychological perspective in its emphasis on the
primacy of each individual’s construction of reality. Piaget and Vygotsky, both
commonly described as constructivists, differ in the extent to which each emphasizes
social context. Piaget (1972, cited in Brown, 2000) stressed the importance of individual

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cognitive development as a relatively solitary act. Biological timetables and stages of
development were basic; social interaction was claimed only to trigger development at
the right moment in time. On the other hand, Vygotsky (1978, cited in Brown, 2000)
maintained that social interaction was fundamental in cognitive development and
rejected the notion of predetermined stages. Hickmann (1986) concluded that in the
cognitive perspective of Piaget, social interaction is given a secondary role, whereas in
Vygotsky’s perspective, social interaction is primary for development. Therefore,
Vygotsky and Piaget differ in how they relate social interaction to language acquisition.
For Piaget, language has propositional and context-independent properties and it is a
tool for abstract reasoning. Context and social functions of language have been given a
secondary role in acquisition. In the perspective of Piaget, different stages in the child
development are hierarchically related to each other, so that moral reasoning
presupposes role-taking skills which presupposes, in turn, logico-mathematical
reasoning. In Vygotsky’s perspective, context-dependent and social interaction is
primary in language acquisition. He claims that meaning is socially constructed and
emerges out of the learner interactions with his/her environment (Vygotsky 1978, cited
in Kaufman 2004).

INTERACTIONIST APPROACH
Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991, p. 266) argue that the interactionist views are more
powerful than other theories “because they invoke both innate and environmental
factors to explain language learning”. They are the first to view language not only as a
matter of syntactic structures but also as a matter of discourse. Vygotsky, a psychologist
responsible for the foundation of the social interactionist theory states that meaningful
interaction with others is the basis of new knowledge acquisition (Vygotsky, 1987).
According to Brown (2000), Vygotsky proposed the zone of proximal development
(ZPD), where learners construct the new language through socially mediated
interaction. Learning must take into account the socio-cultural features and daily life
experiences of a person. In a social interactionist view, knowledge develops first
through social interaction and then becomes an internalized part of the cognitive
structure of the learner.
To date, the role of social interaction in L2 acquisition has received very different
interpretations in research, ranging from what can be considered a strong to a weak
conception of this role. According to Mondada and Doehlier (2004) the weak version of
the interactionist approach acknowledges that interaction is beneficial (or even
necessary; e.g., Gass & Varonis, 1985) for learning by providing occasions for learners to
be exposed to comprehensible, negotiated, or modified input (e.g., Long, 1983, 1996).
This framework basically assumes that social interaction plays an auxiliary role,
providing momentary frames within which learning processes are supposed to take
place. Contrary to this position, the strong version of the interactionist approach
recognizes interaction as a fundamentally constitutive dimension of learners’ everyday
lives. That is, interaction is the most basic site of experience, and hence functions as the

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most basic site of organized activity where learning can take place. In this view, social
interaction provides not just an interactional frame within which developmental
processes can take place; as a social practice, it involves the learner as a co-constructor
of joint activities, where linguistic and other competencies are put to work within a
constant process of adjustment vis-à-vis other social agents and in the emerging
context. This position is typically adopted by conversationalist or sociocultural
approaches to L2 acquisition (Mondada & Doehlier, 2004, p. 502).
The Social Interactionist theory does not neglect the previous theories, but gives an
additional social perspective of language acquisition. According to Gass (1997) the
interactionist approach has paid particular attention to the nature of the interactions L2
learners typically engage in. It has focused on investigating, for example, the role of
negotiation for meaning in the context of NS-NNS (Native Speaker - Non-Native
Speaker) conversations. Long’s (1985) idea that comprehensible input is necessary for
second language acquisition forms a basic tenet of the interactionist position. However,
interactionists view the communicative give and take of natural conversations between
native and non-native speakers as the crucial element of the language acquisition
process. Their focus is on the ways in which native speakers modify their speech to try
to make themselves understood by English-learning conversational partners.
Interactionists are also interested in how non-native speakers use their (budding)
knowledge of the new language to get their ideas across and to achieve their
communicative goals. This trial-and-error process of give-and-take in communication as
people try to understand and be understood is referred to as the negotiation of
meaning. As Aljaafreh and Lantolf (1994) maintain, in the interactionist approach, the
role of feedback given to learners when they make mistakes has also been the object of
attention. Lyster and Ranta (1997) found that the most common feedback given to
learners when they produce incorrect forms are recasts, i.e. a repetition of the learner's
utterance minus the error; however, they also found that recasts were the kind of
negative feedback learners were most likely to ignore.
According to Swain (1985) in addition to the importance placed on social interaction,
some researchers have looked more closely at output, or the speech produced by
English language learners, as an important variable in the overall language acquisition
process. Language learner’s output can serve to elicit modification of input from
conversational partners to make it more comprehensible.
The most obvious manifestation of the interactionist approach is Long’s interaction
hypothesis which is discussed in detail below.

INTERACTION HYPOTHESIS
The interaction hypothesis developed on the basis of the social constructivist and
interactionist theories of language learning was introduced by Long in 1996. The word
interaction, in this context, refers to the interaction between the language learner and

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their teacher, other native speakers and nonnative speakers. Reynolds (2009) states
that Long’s interaction hypothesis compared to Krashen’s notion of input is an
interactionist theory by contending that input in general is made comprehensible
through modified interaction, essentially, the negotiation of meaning that occurs
between the language learner and their teacher or other native speaker or the
interlocutors to arrive at the appropriate level of language input. Krashen (1987) said
that there are three ways to obtain comprehensible input: context, simplified input and
interaction. He hypothesized that language data which could be understood but with a
slight effort, and which were slightly more advanced than the learner’s level of
understanding (i+1), fostered learning. Although the importance of this concept of
comprehensible input was considered paramount by many researchers, and became a
dominant theme in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theories, interactionist critics
pointed to some of its insufficiencies. They doubted that mere exposure to input, even if
comprehensible, could promote language learning. Long (1980, cited in Ellis 1999)
agreed with Krashen that comprehensible input is necessary for acquisition, but he
asserted the importance of “modified input”. In Long’s view, the comprehensible input,
paramount in Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, is the result of “modified interaction”. Long
(1985) maintains that it is becoming clearer that in order for learners to successfully
construct their own learner-language, conversation and interaction in social contexts
must play a central role in the acquisition process. Reynolds (2009) adds that, clearly,
this mechanism is reminiscent of Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development.
Moreover, the emphasis on learner language and interaction reflects social
constructivist learning theory in general. According to Lightbown and Spada (1999, p.
43) the interaction hypothesis posits a three-step process: (a) Interactional
modification makes input comprehensible; (b) Comprehensible input promotes
acquisition; (c) Therefore, interactional modification promotes acquisition.
Lightbown and Spada (1999) continue to elaborate three types of modified interaction
that facilitate the creation of comprehensible input: 1) comprehension checks—where
the native speaker (NS) makes sure that the non-native speaker (NNS) understood, 2)
clarification requests—where the NNS ask the NS to clarify, and 3) self-repetition or
paraphrase— the native speaker or the non-native speaker repeat their sentences
either partially or in their totality. In addition to this classification, Long (1983)
considers some other conversational modifications including:
Here-and-now topics - topics limited to the immediate environment, or to experiences
the native speaker imagines the non-native speaker has had.
NS: Did you prepare this by yourself?
Expansions - native speakers reacts to non-native speakers’ errors by correcting and
expanding what they have just said.
NNS: I have read it already yesterday

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NS: Oh yeah, of course you read it yesterday
Topic-initiating moves - more abrupt and unintentional topic shifts are accepted when
native speakers interact with non-native speakers. (It seems that this is due to the fact
that even if interlocutors may want to understand each other, they do not always have
the time or motivation to work toward this goal.
NNS: I arrived here first this morning
NS: Can you show me your work?
Shorter responses - high frequency of yes-no responses
Furthermore, Long (1983, p. 218-219) considers other linguistic adjustments typical of
NS/NNS interactions including the following:
- Phonological: slower paced speech; more use of stress; pauses; more clearly
enunciated; avoidance of contractions
- Morphology and Syntax: more well-formed utterances; shorter utterances; less
complex utterances; few ‘wh’ questions
- Semantics: fewer idiomatic expressions, high average lexical frequency of nouns and
verbs.
Long (1996, p. 415) claims that such modified input is evident in first language
acquisition in the form of “motherese” and is realized in SLA by NSs using “simplified
codes” such as foreigner talk, child language, pidgins, early second language (L2) forms,
telegraphese, and so forth.
Long (1980) performed a discourse analysis of dialogue transcripts of dyads made up of
native speakers (NS) and non-native speakers (NNS). Long found there was much more
interaction between NS-NNS dyads than between NS-NS dyads, and concluded that
increased interaction was due to misunderstandings between language partners and
subsequent linguistic negotiations and modifications in order to resolve
misunderstandings. Based on the findings, he extracted six generalizations:
First, linguistic simplification tends to increase comprehension; however, simple
sentences alone are not always helpful and may even hinder.
Second, simplification and elaboration often co-occur, but simplification is not
necessarily superior to elaboration.
Third, comprehension is consistently improved by interactional modifications and a
combination of simplification and elaboration.
Fourth, modifications appear to be of more use to NNSs of lower L2 proficiency.

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Fifth, isolated input or interactional adjustments are not sufficient for improving
comprehensibility of whole texts.
Sixth, NNSs indicate a more favorable perception of their own comprehension when
they have been exposed to modified speech. (p. 127)
Doughty and Long (2003) have cited, Long’s (1996) interaction hypothesis as
negotiation for meaning triggers interactional adjustments by the NS, facilitates
acquisition because it connects input, internal learner capacities and output in
production ways. Interaction hypothesis emphasizes on the role of negotiated
interaction in language development. According to Gass and Torres (2005) during
negotiation works, the learner’s attention is directed to:
1) The discrepancy between what s/he knows about L2 and what the L2 really is and
2) The areas of L2 which he doesn’t have information. In this case, negotiation is the
initial step to learning and it is one part of interaction.
Lightbown and Spada (2006) maintain that interaction hypothesis says that interaction
is essential condition for SLA, through which speakers modify their speech and
interaction patterns to help learners participate in a conversation. Ellis (1999) refers to
interaction hypothesis as the conversational exchanges that arise when interlocutors
seek to prevent a communicative breakdown or to remedy an actual communication
stop that has arisen. He believes that acquisition is promoted when the input to which
learners are exposed is made comprehensible through the interactional modifications
that arise when meaning is negotiated.

THE ROLE OF INPUT IN CONSTRUCTIVIST/INTERATIONIST APPROACH
Input is the most important element in SLA and without it one cannot acquire a second
language. Ellis (1985, p. 127) defines input as “the language that is addressed to the L2
learner either by a native speaker or by another L2 learner and his interlocutors”. All
theories of second language learning have recognized the importance of input, but their
interpretations of it vary. Ellis (1994) states that for behaviorists input consists of
stimuli and feedback. Stimuli refer to models of a language and feedback refers to either
positive reinforcement or correction. However, according to Brown (2000), nativists
look at input as a trigger to our predisposed language capacity, arguing that everyone is
equipped with a language acquisition device, which helps to acquire a second language.
Krashen (1987) in his Input Hypothesis argues that learners have to have access to
comprehensible input and the input should be slightly beyond their current
competence.
Finally, constructivism as the school of thought underlying the interactionist approach,
according to Brown (2000) emphasizes the importance of social context because human
beings develop their linguistic competence in interaction with others. Piaget and
Vygotsky, as two important constructivists, emphasize the importance of social contexts

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in making the input comprehensible, but they have different views. As it was mentioned,
Piaget (1972, cited in Brown, 2000) believes that human beings are equipped with
language capacity, and social interaction is important to trigger our innateness. On the
other hand, Vygotsky (1987, cited in Brown, 2000) rejects the notion of predisposition
and claims that acquisition happens only through social interaction. To support
Vygotsky’ idea, Ellis (1997) states that children are able to acquire new knowledge
which is slightly beyond their current competence as a result of the interaction with
more competent interlocutors. Furthermore, having recognized the importance of
social interaction, Roger, one of the constructivists, suggests that teachers should create
a relaxed learning environment so that learners can free themselves to interact with
others, and thus, maximize the effect of learning (Brown, 2000).

THE ROLE OF INTERATION IN LEARNING
In language learning social interaction with peers is seen as an essential part of
language and improves the cognitive development of those involved in this activity. In
the area of language teaching, it is obvious that all the communicative approaches have
paid a special attention to the role of interaction in classroom. The most widespread
communicative approach namely task-based language teaching has been developed on
the basis of this crucial concept. It is believed that through interaction, learners can
enhance both their cognitive abilities as well as their productive skills in language.
Within the domain of social interactionist approach different researchers have
emphasized the role of interaction in language learning. Hatch (1978, p. 404) maintains
that “one learns how to do conversation, one learns how to interact verbally, and out of
this interaction syntactic structures are developed”. Interaction helps learners to
enhance their language proficiency as Vygotsky (1987, cited in Ormrod, 2003, p. 38)
states “the range of tasks that children cannot yet perform independently but can
perform with the help and guidance of others”. According to Gass (1997, p. 104)
“conversation is not just a medium of practice; it is also the means by which learning
takes place”. Furthermore, interactionists contend that face-to-face interactions plays a
significant role in language learning because it provides learners with opportunities to
orally produce language, engage in negotiation and to receive negative feedback (Ellis,
2003).
Ellis (1994) defines interaction as when the participants of equal status that share
similar need, make an effort to understand each other. If role relationship is
asymmetrical, meaning negotiation is inhibited. He says that some other factors that
influence interaction, except status, are: the nature of the task, characteristics of
participants and participant structure. Today, with the focus on “process” in the path of
language acquisition, it is believed that language is emerged through interaction and
negotiation for meaning.

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SOCIOCULTURAL THEORIES ON THE ROLR OF INTERACTION
One significant theoretical inspiration for the socio-interactionist view of learning is the
sociocultural approach to cognition stressing the sociocultural dimension of activities
and of cognitive development. This approach based on the work of the Russian
psychologist Vygotsky, claims that cognitive development and learning originate in a
social context (Vygotsky 1978, 1986). Socio-cultural approach has investigated the role
of interaction in L2 acquisition and has emphasized how collaborative discourse
construction lead to interaction. According to Mondada and Dohlier (2004) a central
idea in the sociocultural approach is the Vygotskian (1978) notion of mediation, that is,
higher forms of human mental functioning are mediated by tools (objects and symbolic
means such as language) collaboratively constructed by members of a culture, and the
development of these forms is rooted in socio-interactional practices within that
culture. Cognition is thus understood to be situated in social interaction and in larger
contexts: As Wertsch (1991, p. 6, cited in Mondada and Dohlier, 2004, p. 504 noted:
“Human mental functioning is inherently situated in social interactional, cultural,
institutional and historical contexts”. Activities take a particular shape in particular
social and institutional settings, a process that implies specific forms of conduct and
socialization, and therefore specific forms of social acceptance, recognition, and valuing
of displayed competencies. Learning a language is understood as being profoundly
bound to social practices dependent on the learner’s participation as a competent
member in the language practices of a social group (cited in Mondada & Dohlier, 2004).
Vygotsky (1978) believed that higher psychological functions, such as learning, develop
in interaction between individuals. He hypothesized the existence of a Zone of Proximal
Development (ZPD), where functions learnt in a social dimension are transferred to a
cognitive dimension. Socio-cultural perspective considers the role of multilingual
society and argues that SLA should pay attention to the role of learners when they use
language for different purposes and in different contexts. Lantolf (1996, cited in Ellis,
1999) argued that SLA in the view of interaction hypothesis is the process that occurs in
the mind of learners rather than in people-embedded activity. He further asserts that
interaction is a form of mediation through which learners construct new forms and
functions collaboratively (Lantolf, 2000). Ellis (1999) says that the ethnographers
believe that “interaction” is constructed by participants as they dynamically negotiate
not just meaning, but also their role relationships and their cultural and social identities.
Ellis (1999) claims that in spite of the fact that socio-cultural paradigm has a lot to offer
how interaction leads to acquisition and constructs meaning, it has some weaknesses.
One is that the followers of this theory have examined L2 use rather than L2 acquisition.
There is no distinction between “use” and “acquisition” in socio-cultural perspective.
Second is that there should be some formal criteria to determine what type of speech,
private or social, learners are producing. Private speech is performed by learners under
guidance, whereas social speech is performed without help. The third one is that this
theory is carried out cross-sectionally, rather than longitudinally. By doing longitudinal

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study, it may be found whether there are some cognitive changes on the part of the
learners as the result of interaction.

NEGOTIATION OF MEANING
In the process of conversation interlocutors are involved in interaction and in order for
the interaction to proceed smoothly, interlocutors should comprehend each other and
this not possible unless they engage themselves in negotiating meaning. One reason that
interaction helps second language learning is that it allows learners to engage in
negotiation of meaning. Long (1996) defined negotiation in this way:
The process in which, in an effort to communicate, learners and
competent speakers provide and interpret signals of their own and
their interlocutor’s perceived comprehension, thus provoking
adjustments to linguistic form, conversational structure, message
content, or all three, until an acceptable level of understanding is
achieved. (p. 418)
Negotiation of meaning fosters language acquisition because of the occurrence of
interactional modifications.
According to Long (1996) negotiation for meaning, also called negotiation work causes
native speaker or more competent interlocutor to make modifications in interactional
exchanges. Negotiation for meaning makes language acquisition easier, since it connects
input, internal learner capacities, particularly selective attention, and output in
productive ways.
Furthermore, negotiation of meaning is important for language acquisition, because
according to Long (1996, p. 452) it involves “denser than usual frequencies of
semantically contingent speech of various kinds” and the contingency is necessary for
language acquisition because of the following reasons:
The frequencies of the target forms in the reformulations tend to be
higher, as negotiation involves recycling related items while a problem
is resolved, which should increase their saliency and the likelihood of
their being noticed by the learner.
Many of the input modifications, such as stress of key words, partial
repetitions, lexical switches and decomposition involved in some
reformulations can also serve to make target forms salient independent
of increased frequency in the input.
The reformulations also often involve rearrangements of adjacent
utterances that both reveal how their constituents should be
segmented, and weave rich semantic nets that illustrate the
communicative value of target language forms. (p. 452)
It is concluded that it is the interactional adjustments that lead to comprehension and
thereby making language acquisition occur. Swain (1985) refers to the advantages of

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negotiation of meaning in terms of language acquisition and sates that learners are
forced to produce output. According to Swain (1985) learners need not only
comprehensible input but also comprehensible output in order to achieve native-like
proficiency. On the other hand, despite the benefits of the interaction in the process of
language acquisition, some scholars question it. For instance, Ellis (2003) claims that
frames such as confirmation checks or clarification requests may be used for a
completely different function rather than being used for negotiation of meaning in
conversation. For example, the person may simply repeat a word to show that he wants
to continue the conversation. Furthermore, as Ellis (2003) contends whether or not
comprehension is the result of negotiation of meaning is doubtful, because learners
might comprehend input due to their schematic knowledge or contextual assistance. In
addition, Krashen (1985) questioned the effect of internationally modified input on
acquisition because he believes the effect of premodified input on acquisition is the
same as the internationally modified input. Finally, Sato (1986, cited in Ellis, 2003)
doubts the effect of interaction on language acquisition because in her 5-months study,
two Vietnamese children did not succeed in acquiring English morphological markers of
past tense in spite of frequent interaction with native speakers of English for 10 months.

FINAL REMARKS
So far many approaches and theories have been proposed looking at the process of SLA
from different perspectives. Taking a look at the literature above, it seems that, the
social interactionist approach to SLA provides the best environment needed to acquire a
second language. In this environment, social interaction with teacher and specifically
with peers is considered as the key and as an essential part of language which leads to
cognitive development. As a pedagogical approach, taking the notions of the
interactionist approach into account, it is clear that in the area of language teaching the
task-based methodology known as TBLT can be effectively administered in the
classroom. TBLT can be thought of as an appropriate teaching method that encourages
the social interaction among the students in the classroom. This method encourages the
scaffolding of tasks, the negotiation of meaning, the flexibility of group work, and
student-centered atmosphere which are all met within the principles of interactionist
approach. This fact draws the attention of the teachers and L2 instructors to choose and
apply the principles of TBLT in their classrooms. One of the main problems of those
teaching methods putting the teacher as the center of the class was the inability of the
students in conversational and productive skills. However, interactionist approach, as
the basis of TBLT can promote students to engage in productive activities both inside
and outside the classroom. Also, teachers should try to provide circumstances that
encourage oral discussions in their classes through which students can interact freely,
express their ideas and take responsibility for their own learning. Whether by small
groups or whole-class discussion, teachers can do much to create an interactive
classroom. One important implication of interactionist perspectives is for material
developers and textbook designers. They have to avoid the mechanical drills by

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replacing them with meaningful activities, tasks; exercises as well as games all intended
to encourage interaction and oral skills among the students in the classroom. Finally,
teacher training courses would be beneficial in familiarizing teachers with the
principles of collaborative learning and motivating them to opt for interactive practices
in their classrooms.

REFERENCES
Aljaafreh, A. & Lantolf, J. P. (1994). Negative feedback as regulation and second language
learning in the zone of proximal development. Modern Language Journal, 78(4),
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Brown, H. D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching. New York. Longman.
Doughty, C. J. & Long, M. H. (2003). Optimal psycholinguistic environments for distance
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Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding second language acquisition. New York: Oxford
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Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University
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Ellis, R. (1997). Second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University
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Gass, S. (1997). Input, interaction, and the second language learner. Mahwah, NJ:
Erlbaum.
Gass, S. M., & Torres, M. J. (2005). Attention when? An investigation of the ordering
effect of input and interaction. SSLA, 27, 1-31.
Hatch, E. M. (1978). Discourse analysis and language acquisition. In Hatch, E. M. (eds.),
Second Language Acquisition: a book of readings (pp. 401-35). Rowley, MA:
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Hickmann, M. (1986). Psychological aspects of language acquisition. In P. Fletcher & M.
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Kaufman, D. (2004). Constructivist issues in language learning and teaching. Annual
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Krashen, S. (1985). The Input Hypothesis: issues and implications. London and New York,
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Krashen, S. D. (1987). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. London:
Prentice-Hall International.
Lantolf, J. P. (2000). Sociocultural theory and second language learning. Oxford: Oxford
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Larsen-Freeman, D. & Long, M. (1991). An introduction to second language acquisition
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Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (1999). How languages are learned. Oxford: Oxford
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Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2006). How languages are learned (3rd Ed.). Oxford:
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Long, M. H. (1980). Input, interaction, and second language acquisition. Unpublished
Doctoral Dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles.
Long, M. H. (1983). Linguistic and conversational adjustments to non-native speakers.
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Long, M. H. (1985). Input and second language acquisition theory. In S. Gass, & C.
Madden (Eds.), Input in second language acquisition (pp. 377–393). Rowley, MA:
Newbury House.
Long, M. H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language
acquisition. In T. Bhatia & W. Ritchie, (Eds.), Handbook of second language
acquisition. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Lyster, R., & Ranta, L. (1997). ‘Corrective feedback and learner uptake: Negotiation of
form in communicative classrooms’. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 19,
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Mondada, L., & Doehlier, (2004). Second language acquisition as situated practice: Task
accomplishment in the French second language classroom. The Modern Language
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Ormord, J. (2003). Educational psychology: Developing learners (4th Ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Reynolds, E. D. (2009). The need for a comprehensive SLA theory: What place does that
theory have in TEFL? Interfaces, 3(1), 1-27.
Swain, M. (1985). ‘Communicative competence: Some roles of comprehensible input and
comprehensible output in its development’. In S. Gass, & C. Madden (Eds.), Input in
second language acquisition (pp. 235–256). Rowley, MA: Newbury House
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 75-86
Available online at www.jallr.ir

The Effectiveness of Ur Model in Developing Iranian EFL
Learners’ Fluency and Accuracy in Speaking
Khojaste Askari
MA in TEFL, Department of Foreign Languages, Islamic Azad University, Kerman, Iran

Jahanbakhsh Langroudi
Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages, Shahid Bahonar University, Kerman, Iran

Abstract
The present study set out to investigate the effect of Ur's model on Iranian EFL learners’
fluency and accuracy in speaking ability. To do so, a sample of 60 Iranian EFL learners were
selected based on their performance on Oxford Placement Test (OPT). The participants
were then randomly assigned to two equal groups of Ur model and control. The groups
received speaking instruction based on the 5-component model of Ur and routine
techniques of speaking instruction. Based on the statistical results of the paired sample ttest, Ur model had been proved to be successful in enhancing both fluency and accuracy of
EFL learners. The findings of the present study was a supporting empirical evidence for a
model presented by Ur (2009) that highlighted both mechanical and communicative
practices to lead learners from accuracy to fluency.
Keywords: Ur model, accuracy, fluency, speaking ability

INTRODUCTION
Nowadays, learning a foreign language has an incontrovertible role in every day's life.
With the continuing progress of communications and technologies this role is even
highlighted much more than before. Among all the languages across the world, the
English language is more widely used. Speaking is a productive oral skill which is known
as the most difficult skill, in teaching English at a foreign language (EFL) since it
happens in real time (Nunan, 2003). Moreover, speaking includes productive verbal
utterances to convey meaning. Spoken language is auditory and temporary. Speaking
can be defined as the people way to convey the message to others. The purpose of
speaking is to make the receiver understand the topic being uttered.
Speaking is systematic articulation of verbal utterances in order to convey meaning.
Speaking is “an interactive process of constructing meaning that involves producing and
receiving and processing information” (Florez, 1999, p. 1). It is “often spontaneous,
open-ended, and evolving” (p. 1), but it is not completely unpredictable. Speaking in
Correspondence: Khojaste Askari, Email: kagat_450@yahoo.com
© 2014 Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

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second language has great value for individual language learners since their proficiency
in language learning is often measured by productive skills specially speaking ability.
Speaking is the primary skill for evaluating the efficacy of a course, since it is a medium
to realize the proficiency in other language skills and sub-skills. Haung (2006) stated
that non- native speakers believe that speaking in the target language is one of the most
demanding and crucial tasks in their everyday life. Furthermore, Ferris and Tag (1996)
mentioned that even highly proficient language learners are not satisfied with their
speaking skills and are looking for chances to improve their speaking ability. Regarding
these facts, speaking can be considered as one of the most studied and discussed areas
of applied linguistics.
According to Richards (2008), concerning speaking instruction, three issues should be
considered. First, a decision needs to be made on the types of speaking skills in class
based on questionnaires, interviews, and diagnostic testing. Second, the types of
teaching strategies to teach speaking should be identified. The third issue refers to
characterizing the expected level of learners' performance on speaking and the criteria
for assessment of their performance. Most successful learners consider their own goals,
needs and stage of learning and use the appropriate learning strategies whose manners
are more adjustable with them. It seems that more successful learners use a wider
range of strategies in a great number of situations than poor ones do.
Richards and Renandya (2002) pointed out that reading and writing are the necessary
skills however, the skill of speaking and listening are paid no or little attention. CelceMurcia (2003) argued that for most people “the ability to speak a language is
synonymous with knowing that language since speech is the most basic means of
human communication.” (p. 103).
According to Ur (2013), teaching should not be primarily based on a method but rather
on a set of principles and procedures based on teachers’ practical situated experience,
enriched by research, theory, and practice relevant to teaching and learning of any
subject. It is suggested that it is unhelpful and counterproductive to urge teachers to use
a method that they would be better served by being encouraged to develop theory and
practice in situated methodologies.
Liu (2014) analyzed the necessity of establishing an authentic communicative
environment by using communicative language teaching (CLT) in teaching listening and
speaking with the help of computers and websites. He introduced a model consisting of
components of the learning and teaching in the authentic communicative environment
by using CLT with the feedback and evaluation from both the students and the teachers.
Ho and Binh (2014) investigated the effect of communicative grammar teaching method
on students’ grammatical knowledge and oral communication. The results of the study
showed that both grammatical knowledge and oral communication were developed. It
was concluded that the communicative grammar teaching helped the students improve

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their grammar competence and use it effectively in communication, at least in oral
production.
Speaking in the foreign language has always been considered the most demanding skill
to develop in the learners of the target language compared to such other skills as
listening, reading, and writing. This is due to the fact that it involves more than simply
knowing the linguistic components of the language. In effect, knowledge of the linguistic
components such as vocabulary and grammatical structures seems essential but not
sufficient. What makes speaking different from the other skills is that the speaker needs
to have a quick access to all the relevant knowledge required to produce the
appropriate language in relatively short lags of time, whereas in other skills the learners
normally have enough time to either match the input with the existing knowledge, e.g.,
in reading or writing or to search for the accurate forms to produce the language with
no immediate recipient who might be waiting even some times impatiently to receive
the language, e.g., in writing.
Pathan, Aldersi and Alsout (2014) mentioned that EFL learners have various problems
while communicating in English and speak the language in their own way with the
flavor of their mother tongue. Furthermore, some limitations such as neglect of errors,
emphasis on global meaning, and big class size and unreal peer communication can
impede the use of CLT in the classroom (Dan Lu & Julie Y. F. Ng, 2013).
This study sought to find the effectiveness of Ur model in developing EFL learners'
accuracy and fluency in speaking. To address the objectives of the study, the following
research questions were posed:
1. Does Ur's model have any significant effect on Iranian EFL learners' fluency in
speaking?
2. Does Ur's model have any significant effect on Iranian EFL learners' accuracy in
speaking?

METHOD
Participants
The participants of this study were 60 language learners who were all in preintermediate level and learn English conversation in two Iranian language institutes.
Their age range was from 20 to 28. They were studying English in two language
institutes located in the city of Rafsanjan. They have been studying English as a foreign
language for at least five years. Their level of English language proficiency was
determined on the basis of their scores on the Oxford Placement Test (OPT). The
learners were then randomly divided to two groups including (1) control group (n =30)
and Ur model group (n =30).

The Effectiveness of Ur Model in Developing Fluency and Accuracy in Speaking

78

Instruments
The first instrument used in this study was the Oxford Placement Test (OPT). The
validity of the test is self-evident. This test enabled the researcher to select those
learners who were compatible with the conditions of the study. Oxford placement test
(OPT) has been used to assess students’ language proficiency. It also enabled the
researcher to have a greater understanding of what level (i.e., elementary, preintermediate, intermediate) their participants were at. This test consists of 70 items,
including 10 multiple-choice and true-false items for reading, 10 items for writing, and
50 multiple-choice language use items. According to OPT, those who could attain 39 and
above (out of 70) are considered as intermediate learners.
The speaking section of Preliminary English Test (PET) was selected for the pretest and
posttest of the study. The speaking section contains four parts. Each candidate interacts
with the interlocutor. The interlocutor asks the candidates questions in turn, using
standardized questions. The questions include giving information of a factual and
personal kind. The candidates respond to questions about present circumstances, past
experiences, and future plans. In the second task, candidates interact with each other.
Visual stimulus is given to the candidates to aid the discussion task.

Measures
In this study, accuracy was measured according to Tavakoli and Rezazadeh (2014) who
measured a dependent clause and at least one additional clause. The dependent clause
was one which contained a finite or a non-finite verb and additional clause was one of
the subject, object, complement or adverbial. Fluency was measured based on
Wigglesworth and Storch (2007) who measured in terms of the average number of
words, T-units and clauses per text.

Procedures
At the beginning of the study, OPT was administered in order to manifest the
participants' homogeneity in terms of English language proficiency. Fourteen
participants (out of 74) could not attain the minimum score for the intermediate level
and they were excluded from the whole participants. The participants were then
randomly assigned to two equal groups of Ur model (n = 30) and control (n = 30). The
groups were pretested by a speaking pre-test. Then, the participants of each group
received the same material, speaking instruction, and the same amount of time was
spent teaching speaking in each class.
The performance of each participant on pretest was analyzed and scored based on the
definite rating scales by two raters. The focus of the raters was on fluency and accuracy
of the participants. The raters' scores were compared in order to detect the inter-rater
reliability of the scores. The groups' scores were also compared in order to ensure their
homogeneity in terms of fluency and accuracy in speaking ability.

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The third group of the study received instruction based on the 5-component model
provided by Ur. The instruction was communicative-based with the purpose of teaching
the students to use the conventional correct forms in their own output, while
encouraging awareness of variants in different types of input. Using traditional
explanation and practice, as well as communicative procedures helped students achieve
accuracy. The five components of the lesson were as follow:
1. Task-based instruction + focus on form: The focus of this component was on form
within the framework of task-based language teaching.
2. Presentation + practice-based instruction: In this component, a grammatical rule,
was presented inductively or deductively and then the learners practiced
activities, and progressed from mainly form to mainly meaning focus.
3. Communication only: Examples of activities in this component were: (receptive)
listening to recorded or improvised speech; extensive reading; watching movies,
TV. Examples (productive) talking, communication games; exchanging
information; creative or transactional writing
4. Form-focused only: The fourth component of Ur's model consisted of purely
form-focused activities. Examples were ‘Tip of the day’ – isolated language
points; grammar rule explanations.
5. Exemplar-based: Finally, the learners were bombarded with a variety of
examples in order to fully understand the instruction.
The second group received speaking instruction according to routine and traditional
methods. Initially, the students were asked to listen attentively while the teacher was
presenting a dialog, a conversation between two people. The students were expected to
eventually memorize the dialog. All of the teacher's instructions were in English. The
students listened several times and repeated each of the lines of the dialog after her
model. Students were imitators of the teacher's model. They follow the teacher's
direction s and respond as accurately and as rapidly as possible. The teacher taught the
new vocabulary, grammar structures through the dialog. The grammar was induced
from the given examples. The accurate use of the forms was emphasized. Generally, the
learners' speaking interactions were restricted in dialog practice.

RESULTS
The speaking section of PET was selected as the pretest of the present study. Pretest
was administered on the participants of all three groups in order to check their fluency
and accuracy in speaking at the beginning of the study. The pretest was scored
independently by two experienced teacher according to PET rating scale. The mean
(arithmetic average) of two scorers were calculated and the descriptive statistics
related to the pretest scores are shown in Table 1.

The Effectiveness of Ur Model in Developing Fluency and Accuracy in Speaking

Pretest

80

Table 1. Descriptive statistics of groups' performance on pretest
N Minimum Maximum Mean
Std.
Deviation
Fluency 30
2
9
6.34
2.30
Ur
Accuracy 30
2
9
6.09
2.25
Fluency 30
1
8
5.83
2.05
Control
Accuracy 30
1
9
5.86
2.52

A Pearson-product moment correlation coefficient was performed in order to test the
inter-rater reliability of scores on pretest obtained by two raters in two groups of the
study. The results of a Pearson correlation for Ur group are provided the Table 2.
Table 2. Inter-rater reliability of the Ur group on pretest
Pretest interactive
(Rater 1)

Pretest interactive
(Rater 2)

Pearson
1
Correlation
Pretest interactive
Sig. (2-tailed)
(Rater 1)
N
30
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

.986**
.000
30

It was revealed that there is a significant relationship (r = 0.98, p < 0.05) between the
scores of pretest obtained by two raters in interactive group. Thus, the inter-rater
reliability of scores for interactive group is highly significant.
The inter-rater reliability of pretest speaking scores of control group was calculated
using a Pearson correlation coefficient among two sets of pretest scores of control
group. The results are shown in Table 3.
Table 3. Inter-rater reliability of the control group on pretest
Pretest control
group(Rater 1)

Pretest control
group(Rater 2)

Pearson
1
.981**
Correlation
Pretest control
Sig. (2.000
group (Rater 1)
tailed)
N
30
30
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
The results of a Pearson correlation for control group showed that there is a significant
relationship (r = 0.98, p < 0.05) between the scores of pretest obtained by two raters in
control group. Thus, the inter-rater reliability of scores in control group is also highly
significant.

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In order to prove the normality of the scores of the pretest, another statistical
procedure, namely, one sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was performed. The results
are presented in Table 4.
Table 4. One-Sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov of Pretest
Ur
Ur
Control
Fluency
Accuracy
Fluency
(Pretest)
(Pretest)
(Pretest)
N
30
30
30
Normal
Mean
6.34
6.09
5.83
Parametersa,b
Std.
2.300
2.254
2.051
Deviation
Most Extreme
Absolute
.164
.199
.200
Differences
Positive
.124
.199
.116
Negative
-.164
-.145
-.200
Kolmogorov-Smirnov Z
.972
1.179
1.185
Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed)
.301
.124
.121

Control
Accuracy
(Pretest)
30
5.86
2.522
.179
.163
-.179
1.061
.210

As the Table 5 shows, the most extreme differences between the scores is not
significant. The measured significance level for Ur and control groups were higher than
the assumed level of significance (i.e., 0.05); thus, it can be concluded that there was no
significant difference between the observed distribution of selected scores of pretest
and the scores are normally distributed.
In order to ensure that there is no significant difference between the groups regarding
their fluency and accuracy in speaking, a two-way ANOVA was performed. The results
are provided in Table 6.

Source
Corrected Model
Intercept
groups
Fluency and
accuracy
groups * Fluency
and accuracy
Error
Total
Corrected Total

Table 6. Two-way ANOVA on pretest
Dependent Variable: Pretest
Type III Sum
df
Mean Square
of Squares
17.110a
4
3.422
8209.376
1
8209.376
7.267
1
3.633
9.643
1
9.643
.200

1

F

Sig.

.400
958.889
.424
1.126

.849
.000
.655
.290

.012

.988

.100

1746.514
114
8.561
9973.000
120
1763.624
119
a. R Squared = .010 (Adjusted R Squared = -.015)

As seen in Table 6, the interaction effect between the groups and their fluency and
accuracy was not significant, (F = .01, p = .98 > .05). In other words, there was no
significant difference between different groups in their fluency and accuracy.

The Effectiveness of Ur Model in Developing Fluency and Accuracy in Speaking

82

The mean of two raters' scores on the posttest scores of each group was considered for
final analysis. The descriptive statistics of the three groups' scores has been presented
in Table 7.
Table 7. Descriptive statistics of groups' performance on posttest
N
Minimum Maximum Mean
Std.
Deviation
Fluency
30
9
12
10.57
1.14
Ur
Accuracy
30
8
12
10.00
1.16
Posttest
Fluency
30
4
12
6.94
2.56
Control
Group
Accuracy
30
6
12
8.06
1.69
The inter-rater reliability of the Ur group's performance on posttest was calculated by
means of Pearson correlation. The results of statistical analysis are provided in Table 8.
Table 8. Inter-rater reliability of the Ur group on posttest
Interactive (Rater 1)
Interactive (Rater 2)
Pearson
1
.990**
Correlation
Ur group (Rater 1)
Sig. (2-tailed)
.000
N
30
30
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
The results suggested that there is a strong and significant (r = .99, p < .05) correlation
between two raters' scores on posttest of Ur group. The inter-rater reliability of the
control group's performance on posttest was calculated by means of Pearson
correlation. The results of statistical analysis are provided in Table 9.
Table 9. Inter-rater reliability of the control group on posttest
Posttest Control Group
Posttest Control
(Rater 1)
Group (Rater 2)
Pearson
1
.989**
Correlation
Posttest Control Group
Sig. (2-tailed)
.000
(Rater 1)
N
30
30
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
The results of a Pearson correlation for control group showed that there is a significant
relationship (r = 0.98, p < 0.05) between the scores of posttest obtained by two raters in
control group. Thus, the inter-rater reliability of scores in control group is also highly
significant.
In order to prove the normality of the scores of the posttest, a one sample KolmogorovSmirnov test was performed. The results are presented in Table 10.

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

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Table 10. One-Sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov of Posttest

N
Normal
Parametersa,b

Mean
Std.
Deviation
Most Extreme
Absolute
Differences
Positive
Negative
Kolmogorov-Smirnov Z
Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed)

Ur Fluency
(Posttest)

Ur Accuracy
(Posttest)
35
10.00
1.163

Control
Fluency
(Posttest)
35
6.94
2.566

Control
Accuracy
(Posttest)
35
8.06
1.697

35
10.57
1.145
.217
.172
-.217
1.286
.073

.186
.186
-.186
1.099
.179

.205
.205
-.126
1.215
.104

.285
.285
-.113
1.685
.007

As the Table 10 shows, the most extreme differences between the scores is not
significant. The measured significance level for Ur and control groups were higher than
the assumed level of significance (i.e., 0.05); thus, it can be concluded that there was no
significant difference between the observed distribution of selected scores of posttest
and the scores are normally distributed.
In order to verify the research question of the study in finding whether Ur model have
any significant effect on Iranian EFL learners' fluency in speaking, a paired-sample t-test
was performed between EFL learners' fluency scores in pretest and posttest. The results
are provided in Table 11.
Table 11. Paired samples t-test between fluency in pretest and posttest

Mean

Pair
1

Ur Fluency
(Pretest) (Posttest)

-4.22

Paired Samples Test
Paired Differences
Std.
Std.
95%
Deviation
Error
Confidence
Mean
Interval of the
Difference
Lower Upper
1.592
.269
-4.77
-3.68

t

df

Sig. (2tailed)

-15.71

34

.000

The results of paired samples t-test indicated that there is a significant difference (t = 15.71, p < .05) between the participants of the Ur group's fluency on pretest and
posttest. In other words, the Ur's model caused learners' progress in fluency in speaking
ability. Therefore, the first research question of the study was verified.
In order to investigate the second research question of the study in finding whether Ur
model have any significant effect on Iranian EFL learners' accuracy in speaking, another
paired samples t-test was performed between the pretest and posttest of interactive
group. The results are provided in Table 12.

The Effectiveness of Ur Model in Developing Fluency and Accuracy in Speaking

84

Table 12. Paired samples t-test between pretest and posttest of UM group

Mean

Pair
1

Ur Accuracy
(Pretest) (Posttest)

-3.91

Paired Samples Test
Paired Differences
Std.
Std.
95% Confidence
Deviation Error
Interval of the
Mean
Difference
Lower
Upper
1.579
.267
-4.45
-3.37

t

df

Sig.
(2tailed)

-14.66

34

.000

The results of paired samples t-test indicated that there is a significant difference (t = 14.66, p < .05) between the participants of the Ur group's accuracy on pretest and
posttest. In other words, the Ur model enhanced EFL learners' accuracy in speaking
ability. Therefore, the second research question of the study was verified.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Speaking is an interactive process between the speaker and the oral text as well as the
interaction between bottom-up and top-down strategies. This study was an attempt to
investigate the effectiveness of the model provided by Ur in measuring accuracy and
fluency of EFL learners in speaking. The results of this study supported the use of Ur's
model in speaking as they allow the students to comprehend more information,
associate it with other ideas and incorporate new ideas into their prior knowledge.
Therefore, when information is decoded by using Ur's model, speaking will be easier.
The first research question of the study addressed the impact of Ur model in enhancing
EFL learners' fluency in speaking. The results of paired sample t-test showed that EFL
learners' fluency in speaking significantly improved after they have received speaking
instruction through Ur model. This findings was a supporting empirical evidence for a
model presented by Ur (2009) that highlighted both mechanical and communicative
practice to lead learners from accuracy to fluency.
The second research question of the study addressed the impact of Ur model in
enhancing EFL learners' accuracy in speaking. The results of another paired sample ttest showed that EFL learners' accuracy in speaking significantly improved after
implementing Ur model. This finding is able to support the findings of Nation (1989)
who found that learners' fluency, accuracy and control of content was enhanced during
the performance of a speaking activity which involves repeating the same unrehearsed
talk.
The results of this study have important implications useful for teachers. Ur's model
provides the teachers both with the learners’ actual level of performance and with their
learning potential. They can prescribe different individual learning plans for learners
with different learning needs. In other words, two students with the same non-dynamic
but different high and low learning potential scores can be treated differently. The

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learner with a low learning potential should be provided with learning and information
processing strategies; likewise, the teacher can prepare different plans for each
individual learner.
This study was not without its limitations. One limitation of this study relates to the
selection of participants. It was impossible to randomize the selection of participants
because of limited number of available students. The study was conducted as a
component of regularly scheduled EFL coursework.
The age of the learners is another issue which may affect the practicality of Ur's model.
Participants of the current study were adult learners. Young learners are the next
possible participants for further research. This study focused on the speaking of the
learners. Other areas and skills such as listening, writing and grammar can be
investigated using Ur's model as an instructional tool.

REFERENCES
Celce-Murcia, M. (Ed). (2003). Teaching English as a second or foreign language (3rd
Ed.). Boston: Heinle.
Ferris, D., & Tagg, T. (1996). Academic oral communication needs of EAP learners: What
subject-matter instructors actually require. TESOL Quarterly, 30, 31- 58.
Florez, M. A. C. (1999). Improving adult English language learners’ speaking skills.
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Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, 87-99
Available online at www.jallr.ir

Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards
Internship
Zabih Ollah Javanbakht
EFL Teacher, Department of Education, Isfahan, Iran

Abstract
The purpose of the present study is to identify problems of internship course (teacher
training) in teacher training centers and to provide appropriate solutions for eliminating the
problems and improving the quality of internship courses in order to prepare student
teachers to obtain qualifications for teaching job. In a qualitative-quantitative one-group
research design, the data were collected via internship problems questionnaire. In effect, the
questionnaire was categorized into four groups of pedagogical, attitudinal, structural and
physical problems. The participants were selected based on whole-sampling. Data were
analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively using the descriptive statistics such as frequency
statistics. The findings showed that the most significant problems of internship courses were
cooperating teachers' lack of using technology-based teaching materials as well as having
little knowledge in education theories, developmental psychology and learning theories, and
not using new and innovative teaching methodologies (pedagogical), lack of opportunity for
cooperating teachers to talk with student teachers about their teaching methodologies and
attempt to tackle their potential problems as well as supervisors' lack of provision of a
teaching sample for student teachers (attitudinal), training in urban schools (structural), and
lack of appropriate physical space for implementing new teaching methodologies (physical).
Keywords: internship, teacher training, attitude, Iranian teachers

INTRODUCTION
Internship in teacher training means to put theoretical knowledge into practice by
means of numerous and repeated experiences to gain practical skills for teaching
(Raouf, 1996, p. 99). It is also known by terms such as teacher training, teaching
practical teaching, internship training, and teaching exercise.
Internship is the culmination of all teacher-training activities that learning situations
provide opportunities for intern's success and failure; it needs each participant's
undivided attention (Virginia Commonwealth University of Education, 2011).
Internship refers to a series of applied and organized activities that facilitate the trend
of student teachers' preparation from theoretical knowledge to the performance of
science-applied activities. The internship experience occurs when pre-service teachers
are exposed to diverse aspects of being a teacher such as “classroom management,
Correspondence: Zabih Ollah Javanbakht, Email: zabihjavanbakht@yahoo.com
© 2014 Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards Internship

88

motivation, reflective thinking and differentiation” through immersion in an actual
functioning classroom (Kennedy & Archambault, 2012, p. 186).
Internship, as a general concept, has long been used through the history. Humans have
always tried to transfer their experiences and findings to their children. In the primitive
communities, teaching and learning had been done by traditional practices through
rebuilding experiences, maintaining and developing them as required information in
life. Traditional schools which were held in temples, churches and mosques prepared
learners to teach literacy to others, because the aim was to equip learners with literacy.
Learners with skills in literacy, reading and writing must teach them to others.
In Iran, the first semi-official teacher education program for practical teaching was
presented in a course, in 1911, called "Principles of Education" in Drolfonoon School. No
formal study has been conducted to investigate its objectives and administrative
procedures. The study of teacher training background and the remainders indicates the
consideration of scholars, experts, planners and all those involved in teacher training to
necessity and efficiency of practical teaching program. In 1982 and 1983, some studies
formally focused on practical teaching that was led to including practical teaching
course in all disciplines of teachers training centers since 1983. (Moshfegh Arani, 2003,
p. 7).
Teachers learn theories and techniques in university and apply that knowledge in
internship with guidance, support and increasing responsibilities. The major purpose of
the Internship program is to develop and strengthen student’s skills and to prepare
them for the profession. It provides an opportunity to the fresh candidates to
experience working conditions and requirement of today’s professional business
environment (Parveen & Mirza, 2012). Internship must be carefully designed to allow
teachers to gain a wide experience, reflect on their performance, learn a number of
teaching strategies to learn and learn to solve problems (Darling-Hammond, Gendler &
Wise, 1990).
Undoubtedly, if teaching skills are not put into frequent practices in teacher training
centers and theories are not blended into personal experiences, student teachers will
never reach at the level of relative skill for teaching and class management. Internship is
"a plan devised to ensure the readiness process in the course of transition from theory
to practice. Student teachers, while passing actively and carefully these steps, can use
their theoretical and practical knowledge confidently and skillfully in the classroom and
laboratory" (Moshfegh Arani, 2000, p. 7).
The ultimate goal of teacher training is "to strengthen the self-confidence, competencies
and professional skills required to accept the duties and responsibilities of education"
(Moshfegh Arani, 2003, p. 10). Passing this course in two semesters, student teachers
can identify teaching in the real environment and professional conditions, adopting the
curriculum to the learners' needs, effective and useful communication with learners,
classroom management and, generally, acquiring the required skills for teaching

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

89

profession. The most important objectives of practical teaching course is getting
students interested in teaching profession and attaining a positive attitude toward it.
Internship should be run in such a way that the students learn their professional
policies and skills and they can easily organize and manage their class. Some novice
teachers are concerned about how well they would be able to establish intimate
relationships with their students while they have a good control over the class. Thus, as
long as teachers are unable to manage classroom well, they would not expect that
effective learning takes place.
Parveen and Mirza (2012) believe that the internship program is of great significance
because it ensures the professional preparation of students in various ways such as
understanding of the target profession and future prospects of working conditions in
that profession. Teacher training centers are not able to provide all necessary
information and knowledge for student teachers. Internship is unable not only to teach
the theoretical information to the students but provided numerous problems and
questions for interns. The experienced and qualified teachers and principals can
provide clear answers to the numerous questions of student teachers; solve their
educational and training problems by consultation and cooperation with each other and
internship's instructors in order to provide relative readiness for their job. However, it
was observed that for several reasons that principals and cooperating teachers do not
provide collaboration adequately. While internship course is complementary to
teaching-learning activities in teacher training centers and brings about success for
student teachers, but actually it is considered as a recess for student teachers.
Regarding the issues in internship, no study was directly specified to investigate the
problems of internship course in teacher training centers. Therefore, this study entitled
"Qualitative analysis of student-teachers' perspective toward internship problems" was
developed to detect the existing problems of internship programs.
Teaching is art, science and experience, and these three factors give the teacher ability
for teaching and transferring knowledge to the learners. The importance and necessity
of internship programs for professional qualification of teachers is to the extent that
without passing this course, the teaching qualification certificate and teaching
assignment should not be given to the graduates of teacher training centers (Safi, 2001).
The perfect learning depends on the development of knowledge in three areas of
cognitive, affective and motor. Mental-motor skills is achieved when there is an
interaction between cognitive and affective learning. This interaction is established
when the conditions are provided for the manifestation of motor skills and behavior
(Moshfegh Arani, 2003, p. 9).
Beck and Kosnik (2002) indicated seven aspects of positive field experiences based
student teachers' experiences: (a) emotional support from the cooperating teacher, (b)
mutual relationship with the cooperating teacher, (c) collaboration with the cooperating
teacher, (d) flexibility in teaching methods and content (e) feedback from the
cooperating teacher, (f) cooperating teacher's appropriate approach to teaching and

Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards Internship

90

learning, and (g) a heavy but not excessive workload during the experience. Hence, in
order to prepare student teachers for teaching, it is necessary to send them to schools
once a week to apply their theoretical knowledge and thereby they could be relatively
self-sufficient.
Viciana and Mayorga-Vegato (2013) investigated the effect of an internship on the preservice teachers' conception of the planning of physical education. A sample of 149 preservice teachers from the University of Granada participated in their quasiexperimental study. A questionnaire and a semi-structured interview were employed to
measure the pre-service teachers' attitudes. Results showed that before the internship,
planning was the most important phase for the pre-service teachers. After the
internship, intervention significantly increased with regard to the pretest and became
higher than planning. A significant increase of doubts about planning design and
interactive decision-making inside the physical education classes were also detected.
The internship made the teacher aware of the problems in coordinating theory and
practice, thus causing important changes related to teaching physical education.
Hendrikse (2013) conducted a qualitative case study drawing from the subjective views
of both the mentor teachers and the student-teacher interns already immersed in the
ethos and everyday workings of a functioning local private school. The purpose of the
study was to find factors that facilitated or impeded the development and professional
growth of the student-teacher intern. The participants comprised of the student
teachers already studying through open and distance learning together with their
assigned mentor teachers. The findings revealed an expansion of the student-teacher
intern’s field of involvement and participation in the school and all school related
activities. The mentor teachers also benefitted in various ways and most importantly
were provided with an opportunity to reflect on their personal teaching practice and
philosophy. It was also found that the facilitating and impeding factors affecting interns'
professional growth had a direct bearing on the relationship that existed between the
student teacher and their class mentor teacher.
Gage (1978, as cited in Mehrmohammadi, 2000) believes that no person other than a
teacher can have more influence on what happens in schools; the teacher can combine
the education process with joy and prosperity, or the make it ineffective. Therefore, the
students' educational success and achievement is dependent on the teachers who have
the necessary theoretical and practical abilities, since the teacher, in addition to his/her
responsibilities to design, implement and evaluate the teaching process in educational
contexts, he/she also provides the appropriate environment for accelerating the
education. Hence, the student teachers in internship can get familiar with the actual
teaching environment, put their theoretical knowledge into practice; gain confidence
through practical teaching; relatively become self-sufficient and prepare to teach in
schools without anxiety. The present study seeks to answer this question:
What are the problems of student teachers in internship?

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91

METHOD
Participants
Total enumeration sampling method with one group was used in the present study. In
other words, all students (n = 120) who were studying in teacher training center located
in the city of Yasuj were participated in this study.

Instruments
The present study has been conducted using qualitative and quantitative methods, with
emphasis on Delphi that is a qualitative assessment. Delphi is a systematic method of
extraction and accumulation of conscious judgments of a team of professionals on a
subject or a question. Maleki (2007) stated that "Delphi is a technique that studies the
individual's opinions, judgments and attitudes on the needs and intentions of
organizations or professions and then tries to reach a certain agreement" (p. 60).
"Delphi is used either as a method of research or a method of data collection" (Salsali,
Parvizi & Bagheri, 2007, p. 46). This technique is done using a series of questions that is
gradually given to the participants (Maleki, 2007, p. 60).
According to Brown, Kutcheran and Drakly (1989, as cited in Maleki, 1997, p. 63), it is
not necessary that all participants of the Delphi technique be expert and scholar. They
believed that if some of the participants are knowledgeable, the participation of less
knowledgeable and experienced people will not create a specific problem.

Procedures
The Delphi method as a qualitative assessment instrument was used in order to collect
data. This method was led to the development of the questionnaire. Then, focusedgroup was administered on cooperating teachers. In the first phase, with regard to the
intern's perceptions and their problems and cooperating teachers' (n = 38) opinions, a
set of questions was presented. According to the participants' responses, a five-point
Likert-type questionnaire was developed and submitted to the participants of study.
Their answers were then rated and ranked, and the results were given to the
participants. Regarding their performance, the participants were asked to respond to
the questionnaire and also moderate their responses if their opinions did not match
with the obtained rankings.

RESULTS
With regard to the results of study, the problems of internship were categorized into
four groups of attitudinal, structural, educational and physical. It should be noted that
this categorization was done to provide a more understandable insight toward the
internship problems; in fact the problems exists as a unified whole that affect the
quality of internship courses. Thus, the problems are not separable since they have
reciprocal effects on each other. The results identified each question's rank in specific

Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards Internship

92

group as well as all groups. Final scoring and ranking of students and cooperating
teachers was calculated. The results are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Questionnaire on Internship's problems
Items
Educational problems
1-1
Cooperating teachers do not use educational media in teaching.
1-2
Cooperating teachers do not use new teaching methods and models, they
continue with the traditional methods of teaching.
1-3
Cooperating teachers do not help students for designing lesson plans.
1-4
There is a significant difference between theories and what cooperative
teachers practice.
1-5
Cooperating teachers do not help students how to manage the class.
1-6
In internship days, interns gave the opportunity to teach courses such as
dictation, composition and physical exercise; they cannot experience to teach
other courses.
1-7
Cooperating teachers have little knowledge about appropriate ways to
communicate with students.
Attitudinal problems
2-1
Cooperating teachers either avoid teaching in our presence or behaving
artificially.
2-2
Staffs do not make students aware of various school activities.
2-3
2-4

3-1
3-2
3-3
3-4
3-5
3-6

4-1
4-2
4-3

The Psychological condition of school is not appropriate for discussion among
students, cooperating teachers and other school teachers.
Cooperating teachers just ask interns to help them in correcting papers and
asking questions from the students.
Structural problems
Training in urban schools is not proportionate with the future working
conditions of students.
Internship supervisors do not have enough opportunity to attend at school to
discuss with students and solve their problems.
Cooperating teachers have a little information about theories of education,
developmental psychology and learning theory.
Teacher training center does not provide transportation service for students.
The relationship between the courses and teacher training administrative
procedures with the students' needs is weak.
Principals' and Cooperating teachers' knowledge regarding the objectives of
practical teaching is low.
Physical problems
The physical structure of class or sitting arrangement of students is not
appropriate to implement teaching methods.
The physical structure of classes in schools is not appropriate for group
activities
The physical structure of schools is not appropriate for students' joy and fun

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The results indicated that 18 participants did not obtain any score. Table 2 shows the
educational problems. The results showed that the highest scores of educational
problems referred to the cooperating teachers' non-use of educational media and new
teaching methodologies.
Table 2. Ranking of educational problems
Items
1-1
1-2
1-3
1-4
1-5
1-6
1 -7

Rank in the educational problems
1
2
3
3
4
5
6

Total Rank
3
5
6
6
8
9
14

Table 3 shows the attitudinal problems. The results indicate that the highest score in
attitudinal problems is related to the avoidance of cooperating teachers to teach in the
presence of students or providing an artificial teaching. Other problems are 'not making
students aware of the school activities by school staff', and 'lack of appropriate school's
psychological condition for discussion among teachers, cooperating teachers,
instructors and students'.
Table 3. Ranking of attitudinal problems
Items
2-1
2-2
2-3
2-4

Rank in attitudinal
problems
1
2
3
4

Total Rank
7
10
12
16

Table 4 shows the structural problems. The results show that the highest score in
structural problems is related to incompatibility of internship schools (Urban schools)
to students' working conditions in the future. Other factors include 'not having adequate
opportunity for instructors to attend at school for discussing students' problems and
attempt to solve them', cooperating less knowledgeable teachers regarding the theories
of education, 'developmental psychology and learning theories'.

Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards Internship

94

Table 4. Ranking of structural problems
Items
3-1
3-2
3-3
3-4
3-5
3-6

Rating the structural
problems
1
2
3
4
5
6

Rank in total
1
2
4
7
13
18

Table 5 shows the physical problems. According to the results, the major physical
problems are 'lack of physical space and necessary facilities to implement the active
methods of teaching in the classroom', another major problem was related to the
physical structure of classroom and schools that is not appropriate to conduct group
activities and having joy and fun.
Table 5. Rating of physical problems
Items
4-1
4-2
4-3

Rank in physical
problems
1
2
3

Rank in total
11
15
17

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Various studies show that both experienced teachers and teachers who have recently
graduated believe that experiences they gained in the internship is one of the most
powerful components and even the most powerful component of teacher preparation
program (Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2002, p. 17). During the internship, the
prospective teachers have the opportunity to develop their attitudes and educational
practices. Despite the importance of this period in the development of teachers, few
studies have been investigated the experiences of student teachers in internship in
various fields (Giebelhaus & Bowman, 2002; Hawky, 1998; Wilson et al., 2002). In Iran,
no comprehensive study has been performed in the area of internship and teacher
training program; the present study is the beginning of research in this area.
The current internship programs do not pay much attention to the evaluation and
preparation of candidates regarding the employment of specific assessment tools. They
do not provide the necessary aid for critical transition from studentship to teaching
profession. They also do not develop the skill of self-evaluation. There are other factors
out of new teachers' control that make it most difficult to fairly assess about whether or

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

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not he/she has acquired good teaching skills (Darling Hammond, Gendler & Wise ,
1990). A teaching internship program will be different from current programs if:
1. The intern learn by and modeling.
2. The intern gradually assumes the degrees of responsibility.
3. The intern receives regular supervision and guidance from senior teachers.
4. The intern is responsible for doing specified range of experiences (Darling
Hammond, Gendler & Wise, 1990).
Regarding the extent of problems in internship course and the urgent needs of the
student teachers for acquiring the scientific and practical skills of teaching, it seems that
the current process of internship administration is not accountable and it is time for
education and teacher training authorities to revisit planning and its implementation by
changing their attitude and specific attention to this course. The findings of the present
study show that incompatibility of internship schools and the students' current needs,
teacher's lack of time, teachers' non-use of educational media, inappropriateness of
teachers' scientific information with technology advancement received higher ranks. In
similar manner, Panda and Nayak (2014) found that novice teachers mainly face
problems related to managing students and maintaining discipline in classroom.
However other problems such as using teaching aids, communication related problems
also explored during the investigation.
The results of this study indicated that the most important problems of internship
course are as follow: training in urban schools, lack of opportunities for teachers to have
discussion with students, to criticize their teaching practices and to solve their potential
problems, teachers' non-use of educational media and their little knowledge in
educational theories, developmental psychology and learning theory, not using new
teaching methods and models and following traditional teaching methods.
With regard to four categorizations of problems, to say, educational, attitudinal,
structural, and physical the problems are teachers' non-use of educational media
(educational), cooperating teachers' avoidance of teaching in the presence of students
(attitudinal) internship in urban areas (structural) and inappropriateness of classroom
physical conditions for implementation of new teaching methods (physical). Common
problems in intern/student teaching are as follows:
Competing activities: activity might be in the form of a job, academic work, social or
athletic activities. However, any activity that stops an intern/student teacher’s
performance should be abandoned or intensively modified for the duration of
internship. The student teacher’s major responsibility is to the students, their parents,
the cooperating teacher and the school.

Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards Internship

96

Appearance: the teaching role is a professional role, so an appropriate dressing and
personal hygiene is expected from a person who plays this role.
Lack of understanding of tasks that are basic to teaching: A list of some problems
include: 1) inability to manage and control classroom 2) not motivating students 3) not
being organized 4) incomplete planning 5) failure to budget time 6) lack of mastery
over the subject matter 7) unethical behavior.
Once a problem area is identified, the student teacher, cooperating teacher, and
university supervisor should work together to solve it. The prospective teacher is
responsible for his/her behavior, and the final evaluation should reflect all existing
problem areas (Virginia Commonwealth University of Education, 2011).
Planning for implantation of internship should be done with the aid of qualified
teachers, the heads of teacher training centers, regional and provincial education office
on August every year. Then, the following steps should be taken:
1. Inviting the principals and teachers of selected internship schools to teacher
training center and holding the briefings on the objectives of internship
programs, exchanging the experiences of interns and collaborating with them and
holding workshops on teaching and evaluation methodologies in order to
implement the internship program.
2. The purpose of interns' evaluation is to help them to develop and to document
the development during the semester. Evaluation begins during the first week
and continues through the end of the internship. Cooperating teacher's
observations and critiques and the university supervisor are designed to guide
and enlighten the intern’s teaching performance and to assist in socializing
interns as professionals.
3. A major part of the evaluation process is the weekly meeting between the
cooperating teacher and the intern. This should be at least a one-hour period
where they can discuss, uninterrupted, the interns’ planning, decisions,
management, strengths and weaknesses, and what kinds of specific behaviors
need to be improved. At the end of the meeting, both the intern and the
cooperating teacher should be aware of what is expected for the upcoming week
(Virginia Commonwealth University of Education, 2011).
4. The selection of schools for internship should be based on the following
conditions:
x

These schools should be a combination of regular (urban or mono-grades)
and rural (multigrade) schools since student teachers will spend at least their
first five years of experience in multigrade schools.

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

97

x

The selected schools should have qualified and experienced teachers and
principals and interested in collaboration with students.

x

They should have educational materials and media and their teachers should
use media in practice.

x

School teachers should have adequate knowledge regarding the educational
and learning theories and developmental psychology and necessary skills for
transferring this knowledge to students.

x

The schools' programs should be designed in such a way that it could be
changed once every two weeks based on students' needs and student
teachers could be familiar with teaching methodologies of different subjects.

x

The school teachers should be able to teach different subject in the presence
of interns without anxiety.

x

The school teachers should make the student-teachers aware of class
management skills, appropriate ways to communicate with students, lesson
planning and demonstration.

In a study developed by Grossman and colleagues (2000) on 10 beginner teachers,
interview and classroom observations was used to determine how teachers
appropriated their pedagogical ideas through their first three years of teaching
(including their student-teaching). Some student teachers were assigned to cooperating
teachers' classes with teaching similar ideas toward teaching; other student teachers
were placed with cooperating teachers whose opinions were significantly different.
Student teachers in both situations were able to develop their pedagogical knowledge
and personal teaching styles that were independent of the cooperating teachers' styles.
Similar results were found by Hollingsworth (1989), Weber, Radu and Rhoads (2011).
1. The representative of education office should be attended at schools on
internship days to monitor the administration of internship program; the head of
teacher training center should also attend once every two weeks and try to
alleviate the problems in addition to monitoring.
2. A stipend should be allocated to education and official staff of schools regarding
the number of student teachers.
3. Vehicles should be considered for the transportation of students and instructors
from teacher training centers.
4. On internship's day, at least one hour should be dedicated to discussion among
teachers, student teachers and university instructors in order to help to overcome
the potential problems.

Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards Internship

98

5. The official staff of schools should make students aware of the current school
activities such as clerical activities (book of indicator, book of statistics, etc) since
students may become school principal in addition to teaching at the beginning of
their teaching experience.
6. School principals should regard student teachers like formal teachers, monitor
their work and provide a place for their break time.
7. The teaching hours of internship should be declined to 6 hours per 10 students in
order to provide the opportunity for instructors to criticize and discuss on
student-teachers' teaching methodology and help to overcome them.
8. Once every two months, a meeting should be held for cooperating teachers and
principals of internship schools, with the participation of students and internship
instructors in order to negotiate the ideas and cooperate between executive
personnel of practical teaching course. The head of teacher training center should
encourage the participants morally and pecuniary.

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student teaching handbook: educator as critically reflective practitioner. Retrieved
August 6, 2014, from www.soe.vcu.edu%2FStudent%2Fforms%2F Student
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insider's view from the outside. Journal of Teacher Education, 53 (3), 190-204. 

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 100-117
Available online at www.jallr.ir

Gender Differences in the Expression of Gratitude by Persian
Speakers
Atefeh Yoosefvand
MA in TEFL, Najafabad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Najafabad, Iran

Abbass Eslami Rasekh
Associate Professor, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran

Abstract
This study tried to investigate the strategies Persian native speakers employ for expressing
gratitude in different situations. The current study intended to examine if there was any
difference between gratitude strategies used by male and female Persian speakers. To collect
the data, 60 participants (30 male and 30 female) were selected from among the population
of BA and MA students at Kermanshah Islamic Azad University in Iran. Participants were
asked to complete a Discourse Completion Task (DCT) designed by Eisenstein and Bodman
(1993). The results revealed that there were significant differences in the ways Persian male
and female speakers use the speech act of gratitude. The findings also suggested that female
Persian speakers use gratitude strategies more than male speakers.
Keywords: gratitude, gratitude strategies, speech act, gender differences, Persian speakers

INTRODUCTION
The communicative aspect of the language can be said to be realized as ‘pragmatic
competence’, which refers to “the ability to perform language functions in a context”
(Taguchi, 2008, p. 34). Pragmatics is simply the study of meaning in interaction. Crystal
(1997) defined pragmatics as “the study of language from the point of view of the user,
especially of the choices they make, the constraint they encounter in using language in
social interaction and the effects of their use of language on other participants in the act
of communication” (p. 301).
One of the most fundamental parts of pragmatics is speech act that is defined by Austin
(1962) as actions which are performed in saying something (as cited in Cutting, 2002).
To express themselves, people do not only produce utterances containing grammatical
structures and words, but they also perform acts via those utterances. Examples of
speech acts include invitations, refusals, suggestions, apologies, compliments,
compliment responses and so on.

Correspondence: Atefeh Yoosefvand, E-mail: a.yoosefvand@yahoo.com
© 2014 Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

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Expressing gratitude is one of the speech acts frequently used in interpersonal
relationships between language users. Eisenstein and Bodman (1986) have defined
gratitude or thanking as a kind of illocutionary act which a speaker perform based on
the act done by the hearer in the past. This performed act has some benefits for the
speaker and the speaker believes in this matter. Therefore, the speaker has the feeling
of gratefulness or appreciation and expresses his/her feeling through an expression of
thanking or gratitude. Kumar (2001) highlights the significance of expressions of
gratitude in the following words:
Expressions of gratitude in the normal day-to-day interactions between
the members of a society seem obviously to fall in the category of the
“social” use of language. Expressions of gratitude and politeness are a
major instrument the use of which keeps the bonds between the
members of a society well-cemented and strong (p. 114).
Saying thank you is a problem not only for NSs, but also for L2 learners who need to
know when and how to thank in the target culture (Bodman and Eisenstein, 1988;
Eisenstein and Bodman, 1986, 1993). Each individual gives thanks in many situations in
his/her daily life interactions with family members, friends, classmates, acquaintances
and strangers. It is necessary to learn how to understand and produce language that is
appropriate to the situations in which one is functioning, because failure to do so may
cause misunderstandings and miscommunications. Expressing gratitude is a speech act
that is taught at an early age, and is commonly performed by NSs of most languages. It
is, thus, often assumed that learners can successfully say thank you in the target
language.
It is noticeable that the use of thanking may differ from culture to culture. For instance,
‘thank you’ used in American English is more common as an expression of gratitude;
while in British English it is more a formal marker (Hymes, 1972, cited in Eisenstein &
Bodman, 1993). As Coulmas puts it:
The social relation of the participants and the inherent properties of the
object of gratitude work together to determine the degree of
gratefulness that should be expressed in a given situation. Differences
in this respect are obviously subject to cultural variation (Coulmas,
1981, p. 14).
Thomas (1983) stated that the development of pragmatic and sociolinguistic rules of
language use is important for language learners. He pointed out that it is necessary to
understand and create a language that is appropriate to the situations in which one is
functioning because failure to do so may cause users to miss key points that are being
communicated or to have their message misunderstood. Misunderstandings may occur
among people of different cultures.
Apart from cultural differences, gender differences should be taken into consideration.
Mills (2003) points out that gender may play a significant role in determining which

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strategies are appropriate in different situations and that the relationship between
gender and politeness is even more complex when comparing different cultures.
Therefore, knowledge about gratitude strategies in other languages can very beneficial.
The current study is an attempt to fill this gab by examining gratitude expressions used
by Persian male and female speakers in different situations.

LITERATURE REVIEW
Lakoff (1975) argued that women identify themselves in terms of the men they are
related to and that women tend to use more indirect requests, apologies, and qualifiers
than men. Lakoff’s work was criticized for over-generalizing anecdotal evidence from
primarily Anglo middle-class Western women to women across cultures (Mills, 2003).
Nevertheless, even though gender is considered an important factor influencing
speakers’ and listeners’ use and interpretation of linguistic politeness strategies
(Cordella, 1991; Ide, 1992; Mills, 2003), little research has specifically addressed gender
and politeness in the second or foreign language setting. As the following review will
reveal, there is an obvious gap in the literature related to gender and politeness studies
across different cultures.
Ide (1992) investigated the phenomenon of politer speech among Japanese women than
among Japanese men. Based on a survey of 256 men and 271 women, middle-class
parents of college students at a college in Tokyo, the author concluded that gender
differences in language are the result of the duplex indexing functions of deference and
demeanor, two behaviors characterizing politeness in this context.
Also in Japan, Smith (1992) examined the linguistic practices of Japanese men and
women giving directions and explained gender differences in terms of both a general
theory of politeness as well as the culturally specific strategies for encoding politeness
and authority in Japanese.
In another study, Saito (2010) explored seven Japanese male workplace superiors’
linguistic practices, particularly their use of directive speech acts. Findings revealed that
the gender of the speaker, in addition to various contextual factors, plays a role in the
choice of the directive form chosen and that actual practice is not always consistent
with gender stereotypes.
For Arab learners of English, Al-khateeb (2009) conducted a study to explore the speech
act of thanking as a compliment response. Findings showed that gender did not have a
great effect on the compliment responses since both males and females used politeness
strategies when the situation requires a person to be polite. However, when it comes to
the physical appearances, house decors, clothes styles, food and diet, women are more
sensitive to compliments and thanking responses in such situations.
In another study, Kashdan, Mishra, Breen and Froh (2009) conducted a study on gender
differences in gratitude. He found out that men's expression of gratitude is less familiar

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and more discomforting compared with women’s. Men’s gratitude is more challenging
and anxiety provoking and strengthens social bonds.
Froh, Yurkewicz, and Kashdan (2009) stated that females experienced and expressed
gratitude more than male did. The reason might be that females' utterances are more
elaborate. Most females enjoyed talking and using language to establish personal
relationships, while males viewed language as a tool for sending and receiving
information. They found that women’s and men’s dispositional gratitude related
differently to aspects of well-being across time. Women derived greater benefits from
gratitude, including (1) greater satisfaction of the need to feel connected to and cared
for by others (belongingness) and (2) increased feelings of freedom to act in ways that
are consistent with core values (autonomy).
In a similar vein, Fauziyah (2010) compared and contrasted gratitude expressions and
responses between male and female characters of Rachel Getting Married movie based
on Hymes's theory of gratitude expressions. The researcher found out that women were
more polite in expressing gratitude in all conditions and situations, and their utterances
were longer. Men, on the other hand expressed gratitude much in formal situation.
The relation between gender and politeness strategies has also been studied by Agis
(2012). She observed the use of the politeness strategies suggested by Brown and
Levinson (1987) in the popular Turkish series “Avrupa Yakasi” (European side). The
aim of this study was to analyze the negative politeness, positive politeness, bald onrecord, and bald-off record strategies of Brown and Levinson (1987) employed in the
Turkish series. She concludes that women and men employ different politeness
strategies in the same places and circumstances, talking to the same people.
Cui (2012) investigated the expressing gratitude among speakers from various language
and cultural background. Data for NSs did not show the gender differences. They
equally produced the same speech act set. The data for the rest of the language groups,
to an extent, suggested gender differences. The data for NNSs showed that the number
of idea unit produced by female participants were higher than those of male
participants in each language groups. It suggested that generally women are more likely
to express thanks than man. It also showed that female participants tended to use
lengthy expressions than male participants when giving thanks.

THE PRESENT STUDY
As shown in the above review of the literature, there is an obvious gap in the literature
related to gender and politeness studies especially in in Iranian context. Therefore, the
current study sought to investigate the gratitude expressions used by Persian male and
female speakers. In addition, another objective of this research is to examine if Persian
male and female speakers differ in the expression of gratitude. To achieve these aims,
the following research questions are raised:

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1. What are the common gratitude expressions used by Persian male speakers?
2. What are the common gratitude expressions used by Persian female speakers?
3. How do Persian male and female speakers differ in the expression of gratitude?

METHOD
Participants
Eighty Iranian Persian speakers, 40 female and 40 male, studying at Kermanshah
Islamic Azad University, participated in this study. Their age ranges from 22 to 30. All
participants were native speakers of Persian. Therefore, they showed homogeneity in
terms of age, education, profession and most importantly native language.

Instrument (DCT)
According to Nkwain (2011) responses from data elicitation procedures such as
Discourse Completion Tests (DCTs) reflect the sum of prior experience with language.
Furthermore, data elicited in this method is consistent with naturally occurring data, at
least in the main patterns and formulas (cited in Varghese and Billmyer 1996). They
also accounted for some other advantages of using DCTs in pragmatics studies. They
stated that DCT creates model responses, which are likely to occur in spontaneous
speeches. Of course, the researcher was aware of the weakness of using the DCT, in
cases, data might be unnatural, but regarding the kind of study, its limitations and the
type of data needed, DCT was deemed the most suitable data gathering means for this
study.
As for the purpose of this study, the mean of eliciting gratitude strategies was a DCT
questionnaire which was a modified version of DCT designed by Eisenstein and Bodman
(1993). The questionnaire consisted of eleven separate paragraphs describing various
real life situations. The participants were asked to express their response(s) to each
described situation, in the provided blank space after each of the paragraphs. These
eleven scenarios varied on the contextual factors of interlocutor familiarity and social
status. Familiarity (i.e., social distance) and social status (i.e., power) were selected
because they have been identified as the salient factors that affect speech behavior in
cross-cultural pragmatics research (Brown & Levinson, 1987).

Procedures
The DCTs were distributed among the participants. At the beginning, the instructor
explained the format of the DCT to ensure that participants clearly understand the
instructions. She encouraged the participants to answer the questions and emphasize
that their responses would be kept confidential, and they are just for conducting this
research. They were given enough time, as long as they wished to complete the DCT
carefully. The DCT consisted of scenarios describing various real life situations.
Participants were supposed to read each situation and picture themselves in the

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situations and respond accordingly. They wrote down as many words or utterances as
they wanted to express their gratitude towards the speaker.

Date analysis
After the participants had filled in the DCTs, gratitude strategies were coded based on
the scheme proposed by Cheng (2005). The collected responses were classified
according to Cheng’s taxonomy with regard to the gender of participants. Both
descriptive and inferential statistics were analyzed using the SPSS statistical program.
The frequencies, percentages, and Chi-square tests were used to analyze the data.

Gratitude strategies taxonomy
Cheng’s (2005) taxonomy was based on 8 strategies for the expression of gratitude. The
taxonomy of thanking is elaborated below:
1) Thanking
Participants say “thank you” in three ways:
a. thanking only by using the word “thank you” (e.g. Thanks a lot! Thank you very
much!)
b. thanking by stating the favor (e.g. Thank you for your help!)
c. thanking and mentioning the imposition caused by the favor (e.g. Thank you for
helping me collect the papers.)
2) Appreciation
a. using the word appreciate (e.g. I appreciate it!)
b. using the word “appreciate” and mentioning the imposition caused by the favor (e.g. I
appreciate the time you spent for me.)
3) Positive feelings
a. by expressing a positive reaction to the favor giver (hearer) (e.g. You are a life saver!)
b. by expressing a positive reaction to the object of the favor (e.g. This book was really
helpful!)
4) Apology
a. using only apologizing words (e.g. I’m sorry)
b. using apologizing words and stating the favor or the fact (e.g. I’m sorry for the
problem I made! )
c. criticizing or blaming oneself (e.g. I’m such a fool!)
d. expressing embarrassment (e.g. It’s so embarrassing!)
5) Recognition of imposition
a. acknowledging the imposition (e.g. I know that you were not allowed to give me extra
time!)

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b. stating the need for the favor (e.g. I try not to ask for extra time, but this time I need
it!)
c. diminishing the need for the favor (e.g. You didn’t have to do that!)
6) Repayment
a. offering or promising service, money, food or goods (e.g. Next time it's my turn to
pay!)
b. indicating indebtedness (e.g. I owe you one! )
c. promising future self-restraint or self-improvement (e.g. It won't happen again!)
7) Others
Expressions that do not belong to the above strategies are categorized as other
strategies. There are four subcategories under the other strategy:
a. here statement (e.g. Here you are!)
b. small talk (e.g. Your face is very familiar to me but I can’t remember where I saw you.
What do you study?)
c. leave-taking (e.g. Have a nice day!)
d. joking (e.g. Don’t forget to pay again next time)
8) Attention getter
In the thanking situations, attention getter and address term are likely to occur in the
same utterance. The alerters include:
a. attention getter (e.g. Hey, Hi, Well)
b. title (e.g. Dr., Professor! Sir!)
c. name (e.g. John, Mary)

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
As mentioned earlier, this study was an attempt to examine gratitude strategies used by
Persian speakers. In addition, the current research was designed to see if Persian male
and female speakers differ in the expression of gratitude. The results of DCTs are coded
and reported separately comparing the data of gratitude speech act across gender.

Results for Persian male speakers
The first research question addressed the gratitude strategies used by Persian male
speakers. In order to investigate this question, the frequency of the gratitude strategies
among Persian male participants are reported in Table 1 and Figure 1.
Table 1: Frequency and percentage of overall strategy use for Persian male NSs
Gratitude Strategies

Number

Percentage

Thanking
Appreciation

247
6

42.43
1.03

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2014, 1(1)

Positive feeling
Apology
Recognition of imposition
Repayment
Other
Alerter
Total

84
30
5
102
19
89
582

107

14.43
5.15
0.85
17.52
3.26
15.29
99.96

Figure 1: Frequency of overall strategy use for Persian males
Figure 1 and Table 1 show that thanking strategy (42.43%) is the most frequent
strategy used by Persian males. The second most frequent strategy for Persian males is
repayment strategy (17.52%). The third strategy in order of frequency was alerters
(15.29). Positive feeling was the fourth most frequent strategy among males (14.43%).
The other strategies apology, other, appreciation and recognition of imposition
accounted for 5.15%, 3.26%, 1.03 and 0.85% respectively. It can be inferred from the
results of the table that the Persian males’ speakers use thanking, repayment and
alerters strategies as the common strategies much more than the others. The summary
of the results for Persian males is shown below:
Persian male speakers: Thanking > Repayment > Alerter > positive feeling >
Appreciation > Apology >Imposition>other

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108

Results for Persian female speakers
The second research question addressed the gratitude strategies used by Persian female
speakers. In order to answer this question, the frequency of the gratitude strategies
among Persian female participants are reported in Table 2 and Figure 2.
Table 2: Frequency and percentage of overall strategy use for Persian female NSs
Gratitude Strategies

Number

Percentage

Thanking
Appreciation
Positive feeling
Apology
Recognition of imposition
Repayment
Other
Alerter
Total

350
42
157
33
9
166
16
101
874

40.04
4.80
17.96
3.77
1.02
18.99
1.83
11.55
99.92

Figure 2: Frequency of overall strategy use for Persian females
Figure 2 and Table 2 illustrated that the female participants used thanking strategy
(40.04%) as the first most frequently used strategy. The second common strategy used
by female participants, was repayment (18.99%). Positive feeling (17.96%) is the third
most frequently used strategy for Persian females. The fourth strategy with the highest
frequency was alerters (11.55%). Persian female speakers used appreciation, apology,
other and recognition of imposition strategies 4.80%, 3.77%, 1.83% and 1.02%
respectively. The summary of the results for Persian females is shown below:

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Persian female speakers: Thanking > Repayment > Alerter > positive feeling >
Appreciation >Apology >Imposition>other

Comparison of strategies used by Persian male and female participants
The third research question addressed the difference between male and female
speakers with regard to gratitude strategies. In order to compare the whole gratitude
strategy in detail between male and female participants in Persian results are reported
in Tables 3 and 4.
Table 3: Frequency and percentage of overall strategy use for Persian NSs based
on gender
Gratitude
Strategies
Thanking
Appreciation
Positive feeling
Apology
Recognition of
imposition
Repayment
Other
Alerter

Male

Female

Total

Frequency

Percentage

Frequency

Percentage

Frequency

Percentage

241
6
84
30
5

41.37
12.5
34.85
47.61
35.71

350
42
157
33
9

58.62
87.5
65.14
52.38
64.28

597
48
241
63
14

99.96
100
99.99
99.99
99.99

102
19
89

38.05
54.28
46.84

166
16
101

61.94
45.71
53.15

268
35
190

99.99
99.99
99.99

Table 4: The results of the chi-square for the difference between gender and
gratitude expressions
Expression
Thanking
Appreciation
Positive feelings
Apology
Recognition of
imposition
Repayment
Others

Gender
Male
Female
Male
Female
Male
Female
Male
Female
Male
Female
Male
Female
Male

Observed N Expected N Chi-Square df Sig. (p)
247
350
6
42
84
157
30
33
5
9
102
166
19

298.5
298.5
24.0
24.0
120.5
120.5
31.5
31.5
7.0
7.0
134.0
134.0
17.5

17.77

1

0.001

27.00

1

0.001

22.11

1

0.001

0.14

1

0.705

1.14

1

0.285

15.28

1

0.001

0.25

1

0.612

Gender Differences in the Expression of Gratitude by Persian Speakers

Alerters
Total

Female
Male
Female
Male
Female

16
89
101
582
874

17.5
95.0
95.0
728.0
728.0

110

0.75

1

0.384

58.56

1

0.001

A. Thanking
The first strategy in Cheng (2005) coding scheme is “thanking”. Responses such as
“thank you, thank you very much; mamnoonam, kheili mamnoon” are examples of this
strategy. As it was shown in Figure 3 and Table 3, thanking strategy was used 597
times; Persian females composed 58.62% (350 times) of the responses while Persian
male speakers used this strategy 41.37% (247 times). Results of the chi-square test (see
Table 4) show that there is a significant difference in the use of the thanking strategy
between Persian males and females. Thanking strategy frequency was significantly
greater in females than in males (p=0.001<0.05). It implies that most Persian female
participants tend to thank others in every situation to observe the rules of politeness.

Figure 3: Percentage of thanking strategy between Persian speakers
B. Appreciation
Appreciation is the second strategy in Cheng (2005) scheme. Responses such as “I
appreciate it, I appreciate the time you spent for me; az shoma ghadr dani mikonam, be
khatere vaghti ke be man dadid ghadr dani mikonam” are examples of this strategy.
Table 3 and Figure 4 show that the frequency of appreciation strategy was 48; Persian
females composed 87.5% (42 times) of the responses while male used this strategy
12.5% (6 times). As it was shown in Table 3 Persian females agreed with gratitude
through the appreciation strategy more than Persian males did. Results of the chisquare test show that there is a significant difference in the use of the appreciation
strategy between Persian males and females. Appreciation strategy frequency was
significantly greater in females than in males (p=0.001<0.05).

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Figure 4: Percentage of appreciation strategy between Persian speakers
C. Positive feeling
The third strategy in Cheng (2005) coding scheme is positive feeling. Responses such as
“you are a life saver, this book was really helpful; shoma ye nejat dahand hasti, in ketan
vaghean mofid ast” are examples of this strategy. As it is shown in Figure 5 and Table 3,
frequency of this strategy among Persian participants is 241 times and the female
participants respond 65.14% (157 times) and males 34.85% (84 times) through this
strategy. Based on the result in Table 3 Persian females tend to use this strategy more
that Persian males. Results of the chi-square test, in Table 4, show that there is a
significant difference in the use of the positive feeling strategy between Persian males
and females. Results of the chi-square test show that the positive feeling strategy
frequency was significantly greater in females than in males (p=0.001<0.05).

Figure 5: Percentage of positive feeling strategy between Persian speakers
D. Apology
The fourth strategy in Cheng (2005) coding scheme is apology. Responses such as “I am
sorry, It’s so embarrassing; moteasefam, baes sharmandegi e” are examples of this
strategy. Table 3 and Figure 6 illustrated that apology frequency among Persian
participants was 63 times in which the female participants responded 52.38% (33
times) and males 47.61 (30 times) through this strategy. Table 3 shows that Persian
male and female respondents indicated approximately the same inclination in choosing

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112

apology strategy. Results of the chi-square test in Table 4 show that there is no
significant difference in the use of the apology strategy between Persian males and
females. (p=0.705>0.05).

Figure 6: Percentage apology strategy between Persian speakers
E. Recognition of imposition
The fifth strategy in Cheng (2005) coding scheme is recognition of imposition.
Responses such as “I know you didn’t have to allow me extra time, you didn’t have to do
that; midoonam ke nabayad vaght bishtari be man midadid, nabayad in kar o mikardi”
are examples of recognition of imposition strategy. Table 3 and Figure 7 show that
recognition of imposition strategy frequency among Persian participants was 14 times
in which the female participants responded 64.28% (9 times) and males 35.71% (5
times) through this strategy. Table 3 illustrated that Persian males and females
indicated approximately the same inclination in choosing this strategy. Results of the
chi-square test show that there is no significant difference in the use of the recognition
of imposition strategy between Persian males and females. (p=0.285>0.05).

Figure 7: Percentage of recognition of imposition between Persian speakers
F. Repayment

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The sixth strategy in Cheng (2005) coding scheme is repayment. Responses such as
“next time is my turn, I owe you one; dafe bad nobat e man e, yeki talab man” are
examples of this strategy. As it was shown in Figure 8 and Table 3, frequency of this
strategy among Persian participants was 268 times in which the female participants
responded 61.94% (166 times) and males 38.05% (102 times) through this strategy.
Based on the result in Table 3 the Persian females tend to use this strategy more that
Persian males. As revealed in Table 4, results of the chi-square test show that there is a
significant difference in the use of the repayment strategy between Persian males and
females. Results of the chi-square test show that the repayment strategy frequency was
significantly greater in females than in males (p=0.001<0.05).

Figure 8: Percentage of repayment strategy between Persian speakers
G. Other strategy
The seventh strategy in Cheng (2005) coding scheme is other. Responses such as “here
you are, good bye, have a nice day; befarmaeed, khoda negahdar, roz e khoobi dasht e
bashi” are examples of this strategy. Table 3 and Figure 9 illustrated that other strategy
frequency among Persian participants was 35 times in which the female participants
responded 45.71% (16 times) and males 54.28% (19 times) through this strategy. Table
3 illustrated that Persian males and females indicated approximately the same
inclination in choosing this strategy. Results of the chi-square test show that there is no
significant difference in the use of the other strategy between Persian males and
females (see Table 4).

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114

Figure 9: Percentage of other strategy between Persian speakers
H. Alerters
The eighth strategy in Cheng (2005) coding scheme is alerters. Responses such as “oh
my god, Professor, John; vay khoda ye man, ostad, Ali” are examples of this strategy. Table
3 and Figure 10 illustrated that alerters strategy frequency among Persian participants
was 190 times in which the female participants responded 53.15% (101 times) and
males 46.84% (89 times) through this strategy. Table 3 illustrated that Persian males
and females indicated approximately the same inclination in choosing this strategy.
Results of the chi-square test show that there is no significant difference in the use of
the alerters strategy between Persian males and females (p=0.384>0.05).

Figure 10: Percentage of alerters strategy between Persian speakers
I. Total
As reported in Table 4, results of the chi-square test show that the total gratitude
strategy frequency was significantly greater in females than in males (p=0.001<0.05).

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CONCLUSION
The results revealed that female participants used thanking strategy more than male
participants. It showed that most female participant tend to thank others in every
situation to observe the rules of politeness. There was a significant difference between
the use of thanking strategy, appreciation, positive feeling and repayment, among male
and female participants. Frequencies of these strategies were significantly greater in
females than in males. These results also showed that generally women are more likely
to express thanks than man. Besides, results of the Chi-square test illustrated that there
are no significant differences between the usage of recognition of imposition, apology,
alerter, and other strategies between male and female participants.
All in all, this study showed that women were more polite in expressing gratitude in all
conditions and situations, and their utterances were longer than male. Moreover, results
illustrated that there were no significant differences between the usage of recognition of
imposition, apology, alerter, and other strategies between male and female participants.
So, according to the results of this study thanking strategy is the most frequently used
one by Persian speakers.
Some important pedagogical implications can be raised from the findings of this study
Dornyei and Thurrell (1994) believed that teaching conversational skills according to a
systematic approach, based on the knowledge of how conversations are structured,
helps to have authentic teaching material for teaching languages especially for
discourse. It is more useful to gain and base the material on the real information and
strategies that people used in their interactions. This will grow learners who are
capable of working out the new language in a natural, sensible way.
One important step in order to provide the sociopragmatic differences is to analyze the
single languages and contrast them. Second or foreign language syllabus designers
should examine learners’ needs considering the understanding and production of
gratitude speech acts in the target language. Results of the current research can be used
to detect the range and variety of these needs by studying the Persian language features,
cultural points and strategies that the Persian speakers use.
Several limitations come to light in interpreting the results of the present study. First,
the main instrument which was used in this research was a written DCT. The biggest
challenge is the fact that the collected data by this instrument may be different from
reality. Another limitation is that, this research was limited to a particular group of
respondents, thus the findings and results can be generalizable only to this population.
That is Iranian and English undergraduate and graduate students in academic contexts.
The current study also leaves some room for other potential issues for investigation.
First, further research like this is needed to provide a better understanding of
expression of gratitude in Persian. Second, future research can also be done in private
language institutes with younger participants. Third, in Iranian language many modern

Gender Differences in the Expression of Gratitude by Persian Speakers

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language textbooks have appeared and are taught as an attempt to incorporate sociocultural information as an integral part of language use. Therefore, one can examine the
gratitude strategies used by learners who have more background knowledge of
pragmatics in institutes and to discover the extent to which these learners transfer their
L1 pragmatic patterns into L2 productions.

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