Continental J.

Education Research 4:1 - 6, 2011 © Wilolud Journals, 2011 ` Printed in Nigeria

ISSN: 2141 - 4181 http://www.wiloludjournal.com

PERSONALITY IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY AND ACHIEVEMENT Reza Zabihi English Department, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, PO box 91779-48974, Park Square, Ferdowsi University Mashhad, Iran. Email: zabihi.rz@gmail.com ABSTRACT This study seeks to explore the relationships between personality, English language proficiency, and achievement in foreign language classes. After administering the Interchange Objective Placement Test to 209 EFL learners studying at the intermediate level at private English language institutes in Mashhad, 168 homogeneous intermediate EFL learners were selected. The homogenized learners were then asked to complete the Revised NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI-R). To see whether there is any significant relationship between the variables under study, Pearson product-moment correlation was applied to the data. The results showed significant relationships between personality traits and proficiency as well as achievement scores. To examine whether personality traits could predict English language proficiency and achievement, Multiple Regression Analysis was run. The results revealed that neuroticism and extraversion can impair language learning, while conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness may lead to higher levels of English language learning. Finally, implications of the findings were discussed in the context of English language teaching. KEYWORDS: Personality traits, Big Five, English language proficiency, English achievement INTRODUCTION Psychologists and sociologists of education have long been interested in predicting academic achievement, and a plethora of studies were conducted in this regard (e.g., Busato, Prins, Elshout, and Hamaker, 2000; Crosnoe, 2004; Goh and Moore, 1987; Khodadady and Zabihi, in press; Merenluoto, 2009; Pishghadam, Noghani, and Zabihi, in press; Savage, 1962; Schlee, Mullis, and Shriner, 2009; Willingham, 1974). From a psychological point of view, personality is an important factor because it provides a framework for the description of an individual, and also specific differences between individuals. These individual differences are important because they can be used to predict future behavior such as: academic success (e.g., Duff, Boyle, Dunleavy, and Ferguson, 2004; Laidra, Pullmann, and Allik, 2006). However, due to the divergent findings of previous research, we may still cast doubt upon the extent to which cognitive abilities may affect learners’ academic performance. When it comes to personality, this divergence in findings is more tangible. Therefore, the predictive power of personality traits in the prediction of academic success has yet to be replicated, across different contexts, among different participants, and via different instruments. In the present study, thus, the researcher has tried to examine the role of EFL learners’ personality traits in their English language proficiency and achievement in private language institutes. Review of literature There have been a number of studies done to try to examine the effects of personality traits on students’ academic achievement, in general, and on their second language learning, in particular (e.g., Kiany, 1998; Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, 2003a; Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, 2003b; Bratko, ChamorroPremuzic, and Saks, 2006; Duff, Boyle, Dunleavy, and Ferguson, 2004; Laidra, Pullmann, and Allik, 2006). In an attempt to investigate the relationship between extraversion, English language proficiency and academic achievement, Kiany (1998) administered the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) (for measuring extraversion) and two standardized tests for language proficiency (TOEFL and IELTS) to forty Iranian nonEnglish major postgraduates who were doing their Ph.D. in U.K. Negative relationships were found both between extraversion and students’ GPAs, and between extraversion and their subscores on tests of language proficiency. Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2003a) did a study on two samples of undergraduate students from University College London to explore the relationship between personality and academic performance. Academic performance was measured by students’ exam marks and their performance on a final-year project.

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Reza Zabihi: Continental J. Education Research 4:1 - 6, 2011

For measuring personality, the researchers used the NEO Five-Factor Inventory-Revised for the first sample (N = 70), and used the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ-R) for the second sample (N = 75). The results revealed that conscientiousness and extraversion were positively, while neuroticism negatively, related to and predictive of academic performance. In another study, Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2003b) administered the NEO Personality Inventory to two hundred and forty seven British undergraduate university students. Results revealed that three personality subscales (Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Extraversion) together accounted for 15% of the total variance in examination scores: conscientiousness was positively correlated with examination grades, but neuroticism and extraversion were negatively associated with examination performance. In a similar vein, Bratko, Chamorro-Premuzic, and Saks (2006) investigated the relationship between two hundred and fifty five Croatian pupils’ personality and their school performance. They matched students’ grades with their scores on the Five Factor Personality Inventory. Based on the results of their study, conscientiousness was found to be the most significant personality trait in explaining academic performance. However, similar to the finding obtained in Kiany (1998), extraversion was negatively correlated with school grades. In their attempts to examine the relationship between personality and academic performance, Duff, Boyle, Dunleavy, and Ferguson (2004) compared the grade point average (GPA) of one hundred and forty six social science undergraduate students at a university in Scotland at the end of an academic year with their scores on the Big Five personality factors as measured by Cattell’s 16PFi. Similar to the studies conducted by Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2003a; 2003b) and Bratko, Chamorro-Premuzic, and Saks (2006), conscientiousness was best correlated with academic performance. Laidra, Pullmann, and Allik (2006) studied the role of personality in 3618 schoolchildren’s academic achievement in Estonia. They considered students’ grades in several academic subjects (e.g., Literature, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, Biology, and History) as indicators of academic achievement, while using the NEO Five Factor Inventory for measuring personality. Academic achievement was best predicted by three dimensions of personality, namely, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Neuroticism, however, was found to have a negative relationship with academic achievement. Purpose of the present study As noted earlier, the current study aims to examine the relationship between personality and English language proficiency and achievement in foreign language classes. Therefore, this research is conducted to find out answers to the following questions: Q1: Is there any significant relationship between personality and English language proficiency? Q2. What are the predictors of personality in English language proficiency? Q3. Is there any significant relationship between personality and English achievement? Q4. What are the predictors of personality in English achievement? METHOD Participants Participants for this study consisted of 168 intermediate EFL learners studying at five private language institutes (College, Ferdowsi Language Institute, the Iran Language Institute, Kish Air, and Jahad-e-daneshgahi) in Mashhad, a city in north-eastern Iran. These institutes were selected because they were among the most creditable private language institutes in Mashhad. The sample involved 132 females and 36 males whose age varied from 14 and 33 years old (mean [M] = 18.73, standard deviation [SD] = 3.86). They were homogenized intermediate EFL learners selected from among 209 EFL learners who took the Interchange Objective Placement Test (Lesley, Hansen, & Zukowski-Faust, 2005). Instrumentation Two instruments were utilized to collect the data: The Interchange Objective Placement Test and The NEO-Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). The Interchange Objective Placement Test Designed by Lesley, Hansen, and Zukowski-Faust (2005), the Interchange Objective Placement Test is a 70item multiple-choice test and primarily measures the receptive skills (listening, reading, and grammar components). It was applied to ensure groups’ equality with reference to their EFL proficiency. The test consists of three sections: Listening (20 items), Reading (20 items), and Language Use (30 items). The administration of

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and answering the Objective Test requires 50 minutes. The Listening items assess learners’ ability to understand main idea, context, and supporting details in a conversation, as well as the speaker’s intent. The Reading questions, likewise, measure learners’ ability to understand main and supporting ideas in written passages, vocabulary, and also the author’s intent. Moreover, the Language Use section investigates learners’ ability in recognizing contextually appropriate and grammatically correct statements. As Lesley, Hansen, and ZukowskiFaust (2005, p. 5) have pointed out, “the different components of the test may be administered to individuals or to groups, and in any order”. In the present study, the researcher has utilized the total Objective Placement Test containing three subcomponents of proficiency: Listening, Reading, and Language Use. NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) The Persian adaptation of NEO Five Factor Inventory (Costa and McCrae, 1999) was used for measuring personality. The NEO-FFI is a self-report paper and pencil questionnaire which covers the five main domains of the Big Five model. The five dimensions of personality measured by this inventory are: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. The inventory consists of 60 items that are scored according to the Likert- type scale of five points ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. Each personality dimension on this inventory is measured by 12 items. The reliability and validity of this inventory were also examined in Iran by Garousi, Mehryar, and Ghazi Tabatabayi (2001). Cronbach’s Alpha coefficients were between 0.66 and 0.87 and the inventory was validated through the criterion-related validity with coefficients between 0.65 and 0.76. Procedures The administration phase occurred during class hours by prior arrangement with the instructors. The instruments were administered to students in one session and they were asked to fill them out under standard conditions. The data gathered from the two questionnaires was analyzed by utilizing SPSS version 16.0. Pearson productmoment correlation was applied to the data to see whether there is any significant correlation between the learners' personality and their English language proficiency and also their achievement. Furthermore, the researcher used Multiple Regression Analysis with a Stepwise Method to detect the best predictors of English language proficiency and achievement in terms of learners’ personality traits. RESULTS Correlations between learners’ personality traits and English language proficiency (Research question 1) To examine whether there is any significant correlation between the learners' personality and their English language proficiency, Pearson product-moment correlation was applied to the data. The results revealed that there is a significant correlation between learners’ English language proficiency and extraversion (r = -0.230, p < 0.01), openness to experience (r = 0.165, p < 0.05), agreeableness (r = 0.161, p < 0.05), and conscientiousness (r = 0.203, p < 0.01). However, neuroticism did not correlate significantly with proficiency grades (r = -0.129, p > 0.05) (see Table 1). Table 1. Correlations between learners' personality and their English language proficiency Proficiency Neuroticism -0.129 Extraversion -0.230** Openness to Experience 0.165* Agreeableness 0.161* Conscientiousness 0.203** ** Shows the existence of significant relationship at the level of 0.01 * Shows the existence of significant relationship at the level of 0.05 Prediction of English language proficiency by learners’ personality (Research question 2) To further analyze the data, regression analysis was conducted. The results reveal which variables are important in predicting English language proficiency. English language proficiency explained 11% of the total variance, (Adjusted R² = 0.11, p < .05) using a combination of extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience. While openness to experience was predictive of higher proficiency scores, extraversion and neuroticism were the best predictors of lower grades on the proficiency test. Table 2 presents the results for English proficiency scores being regressed on the variables of interest in this study (NEO).

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Table 2. The results of regression analysis for learners’ personality and their English proficiency Predictors R R² Adjusted F P B R² English Proficiency Extraversion 0.230 0.053 0.049 11.605 0.00 -0.329 Neuroticism 0.316 0.100 0.091 11.457 0.00 -0.194 Openness to 0.362 0.131 0.118 10.317 0.00 0.183 experience Correlations between learners’ personality traits and English achievement (Research question 3) To explore the relationship between the learners' personality and their achievement, Pearson product-moment correlation was employed. The results indicated that there is a significant correlation between learners’ achievement and neuroticism (r = -0.249, p < 0.01), extraversion (r = -0.170, p < 0.05), and conscientiousness (r = 0.463, p < 0.01). However, openness to experience (r = 0.061, p > 0.05) and agreeableness (r = 0.133, p > 0.05) were not significantly related to achievement scores (see Table 3). Table 3. Correlations between learners' personality and their achievement Achievement Neuroticism -0.249** Extraversion -0.170* Openness to Experience 0.061 Agreeableness 0.133 Conscientiousness 0.463** ** Shows the existence of significant relationship at the level of 0.01 * Shows the existence of significant relationship at the level of 0.05 Prediction of English achievement by learners’ personality (Research question 4) To further analyze the data, regression analysis was conducted. The results reveal which variables are important in predicting foreign language achievement. Achievement explained 24% of the total variance (Adjusted R² = 0.24, p < 0.05) using a combination of conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism. Conscientiousness was the best predictor of higher achievement grades (Adjusted R² = 0.21, p < 0.05). Table 4 shows the results for English achievement scores being regressed on the NEO subscales. Table 4. The results of regression analysis for learners' personality and their English achievement Predictors R R² Adjusted R² F P B English Achievement Conscientiousness 0.463 0.215 0.211 56.556 0.00 0.405 Extraversion 0.482 0.233 0.225 31.224 0.00 0.164 Neuroticism 0.505 0.255 0.244 23.413 0.01 0.160 DISCUSSION Neuroticism was negatively related to achievement scores. It means that learners who are generally badtempered, anxious, or depressed tend to get lower scores on the proficiency test. This finding is quite in line with those found in other studies (Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, 2003a; Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, 2003b; Laidra, Pullmann, and Allik, 2006). Likewise, Extraversion was found to be negatively correlated with, and predictive of, proficiency and achievement grades. This finding is similar to those found in Bratko, Chamorro-Premuzic, and Saks (2006), Entwistle and Entwistle (1970), Kiany (1998), Savage (1962), and Sanchez-Marin, Rejano-Infante, and Rodriguez-Troyano (2001) who have referred to introverts’ better performance in comparison with their extrovert counterparts in academic settings. Extroverts are, according to Dörnyei (2005), sociable, gregarious, active, assertive, passionate, and talkative. One possible interpretation is that extroverts’ excessive engagement

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in social relationships might have led to their having little time for studying meticulously. This, in turn, could have reasonably lowered their academic outcomes. Dörnyei (2005) refers to open-to-experience learners as concerned with factors such as fantasy, aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas, and values. Moreover, Costa and McCrae (1992) regard it as the tendency to look for new experiences, and to appreciate and develop novel ideas. In the present study, similar to what Laidra, Pullmann, and Allik (2006) have found, openness to experience proved to be positively correlated with, and predictive of, English proficiency. Similarly, agreeableness was found to have an important role in students’ academic achievement (e.g., Laidra, Pullmann, and Allik, 2006). In the present study, however, agreeableness bore no significant relationship to learners’ achievement grades. On the other hand, it proved to be significantly correlated with proficiency scores. That is to say, learners’ level of trust, altruism, straightforwardness, modesty, compliance, and tendermindedness are the factors which pave the way for the learners’ higher proficiency levels. In most of the studies which attempted to examine the role of personality traits in academic achievement, conscientiousness was found to be the best predictor of academic success (Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, 2003a; Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, 2003b; Duff, Boyle, Dunleavy, and Ferguson, 2004; Bratko, Chamorro-Premuzic, and Saks, 2006; Laidra, Pullmann, and Allik, 2006). Consistent with several earlier studies, in the present study, conscientiousness had the highest correlation with achievement grades. It was also the best predictor of English achievement by explaining 21% of the variances in achievement scores. Conscientiousness, which deals with involvement and fulfillment of rules, might be a trait making learners take responsibility for their learning of a second or foreign language. Therefore, it is suggested that English teachers enhance learners’ conscientiousness through reinforcing in them the sense of competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation, all of which might lead to higher performance on the part of learners. Finally, it is suggested that researchers conduct further research concerning the effects of personality traits on second or foreign language learners’ achievement, performance, and attainment in different contexts coming up with a solid understanding of the role of personality factors in English language learning. REFERENCES Bratko, D., Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Saks, Z. (2006). Personality and school performance: Incremental validity of self- and peer-ratings over intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 131-142. Busato, V. V., Prins, F. J., Elshout, J. J., & Hamaker, C. (2000). Intellectual ability, learning style, achievement motivation and academic success of psychology students in higher education. Personality and Individual Differences, 29, 1057–1068. Chamorro-Premuzik, T., & Furnham, A. (2003a). Personality predicts academic performance: Evidence from two longitudinal university samples. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 319-338. Chamorro-Premuzik, T., & Furnham, A. (2003b). Personality traits and academic examination performance. European Journal of Personality, 17, 237-250. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO personality inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor inventory (NEO-FFI). Professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1999). Inventario NEO reducido de cincofactores (NEO-FFI). Manual Professional. Madrid. TEA Ediciones. Crosnoe, R. (2004). Social capital and the interplay of families and schools. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 267-280. Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. University of Nottingham. Mahva: New Jersey.

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Duff, A., Boyle, E., Dunleavy, K., & Ferguson, J. (2004). The relationship between personality, approach to learning and academic performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 1907-1920. Entwistle, N., & Entwistle, D. (1970). The relationships between personality, study methods and academic performance. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 40, 132–143. Garousi, M. T., Mehryar, A. H., & Ghazi Tabatabayi, M. (2001). Application of the NEO- PI- R test and analytic evaluation of its characteristics and factorial structure among Iranian University students. Journal of Humanities, 11, 173-198. Goh, D., & Moore, C. (1987). Personality and academic achievement in three educational levels. Psychological Report, 43, 71–79. Khodadady, E., & Zabihi, R. (In press). Social and cultural capital: Underlying factors and their relationship with the school achievement of Iranian university students. International Education Studies. Kiany, G. R. (1998). English proficiency & academic achievement in relation to extraversion-introversion: A preliminary study. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8(1), 113-130. Laidra, K., Pullmann, H., Allik, J. (2007). Personality and intelligence as predictors of academic achievement: A cross-sectional study from elementary to secondary school. Personality and Individual Differences, 42(3), 441451. Lesley, T., Hansen, C., & Zukowski-Faust, J. (2005). Interchange passages: Placement and evaluation package. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Merenluoto, S. (2009). The connection of cultural capital with success in master’s degree programs in Finnish higher education. Research on Finnish Society, 2, 29-38. Pishghadam, R. Noghani, M., & Zabihi, R. (In press). Parental education and social and cultural capital in academic achievement. International Journal of English Linguistics. Sanchez-Marin, M., Rejano-Infante, E., & Rodriguez-Troyano, Y. (2001). Personality and academic productivity in the university student. Social Behavior and Personality, 29, 299–305. Savage, R. (1962). Personality factors and academic performance. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 32, 251–253. Schlee, B. M., Mullis, A. K., & Shriner, M. (2009). Parents social and resource capital: Predictors of academic achievement during early childhood. Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 227-234. Willingham, W. W. (1974). Predicting success in graduate education. Science, 183, 273–278. Received for Publication: 02/03/2011 Accepted for Publication: 18/03/2011

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