Creating a Low-Anxiety Classroom


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Creating a Low-Anxiety Classroom

  1. 1. How to Create a Low-Anxiety Classroom Environment By Katherine Puderbaugh
  2. 2.  Current challenges in second and foreign language teaching include providing students with a low anxiety environment     “Regardless of method, we know that learners need to adopt attitudes and strategies that pay off in terms of low anxiety, high motivation, and ultimately in the ability to convey information and communicate ideas and feelings” (Young) Language anxiety research has significantly advanced in the past few years due to improvements in measurement and theory Some research suggested that a relationship between language learning and anxiety in the classroom did exist, while others did not However, many research studies did not include variables such as language setting, anxiety definitions, anxiety measures, age of subjects, language skill, and research design
  3. 3.  From all of the studies conducted on language learning anxiety, 6 sources of language anxiety have been established  1) Personal and interpersonal anxieties 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) Learner beliefs about language learning Instructor beliefs about language teaching Instructor-learner interactions Classroom procedures Language testing
  4. 4.   Most common source of language anxiety – generally caused by low self-esteem and competitiveness Bailey   Krashen   Study suggested that competitiveness leads to anxiety when students compare themselves to other or to their idealized self image Study suggested that people with low self-esteem worry about what their peers think and go through a psychological phenomena known as “group membership” – causes anxiety in a lot of people Price  Subjects of study believed that their language skills were weaker than others and that they were not as good. Study suggested that those who start out with a selfperceived low ability level are likely to have anxiety
  5. 5.  Terrell  Research suggests that anxiety exists due to a similar “group membership” phenomenon – anxiety exists due to the desire to belong and identify with a group  Rardin  Research suggests a deeper psychological cause of language anxiety in which a learner is afraid that they will lose their own self-identity
  6. 6.  Major contributor to language anxiety  “When beliefs and reality clash, anxiety results” (Young)  Horwitz  Learners in study expressed concern over the correctness of their utterances, stressed over accents, and believed that two years was enough time to become fluent in a language. These beliefs are unrealistic, but lead to anxiety.
  7. 7.  Brandl  Research showed that many instructors believe that intimidation is necessary to enhance a student’s performance and objected to a friendly student-teacher relationship.  Teachers that believe their role is only to correct students and lecture, and do not believe in students working together because they may lose control, are most likely contributing to anxiety.  “The social context that the instructor sets up in the classroom can have tremendous ramifications for the learners” (Young)
  8. 8.  Horwitz et al., Koch and Terrell, Price, and Young   Anxiety often stems from instructors harsh manner of correcting students Students often report anxiety from responding incorrectly, standing in front of classmates, and sounding dumb. Overall, they express major concerns over how mistakes are treated in the classroom environment.  The manner in which errors are corrected has a huge effect on language anxiety
  9. 9.  Anxieties associated with classroom procedures usually stem from having to speak the learning language in front of an entire classroom  Koch and Terrell  Research found that more than one half of students within a classroom thought that giving an oral presentation while standing in front of the class was the most anxiety-producing activity  Young  Study found that more than 68% of subjects felt more comfortable when they did not have to get up in front of the class to speak
  10. 10.  Madsen  et al. Research found that students experience anxiety over certain test formats. Students also experience anxiety when the test does not reflect the things they studied for hours on or does not reflect the same format the class was taught in.  Daly  Research found that the more unfamiliar and ambiguous the test tasks and formats, the more the learner anxiety produced
  11. 11.  MacIntyre  and Gardner Research suggests that students do not begin their language learning experience with anxiety – rather they develop anxieties through language learning experience  “Student language anxiety might be an indication that we are doing something fundamentally unnatural in our methodology” (Young)
  12. 12.  Suggest students use supplemental instruction or a support group   Promote self-talk   Tutors or language clubs – a smaller atmosphere where they can overcome anxieties associated with language learning. Students are more likely to not be afraid of saying the wrong answer in front of a smaller group than a larger group. Instructors should place a lot of emphasis on students rehearsing the language they are learning. Rehearsing in privacy with just an instructor allows for students to make corrections with the teacher and become less anxious for oral presentations in front of the class. Only test what you teach  Tests should be fair and reflect in-class instruction and format. Students experience less anxiety when they know exactly what to expect on tests, and from the teacher as well.
  13. 13.  Instructors as facilitators   Intimidation is not the key to a students language learning successful performance. Teachers should be seen as facilitators, not drill sergeants that only correct errors. Instead, teachers should facilitate activities and productive communication between students. Positive corrections to errors/Teaching approach    “Instructors who had a good sense of humor and were friendly, relaxed and patient, who made students feel comfortable, and who encourages students to speak out were cited as helpful in reducing foreign language class anxiety” (Young). Students feel more at ease when they feel that their instructors manner of correction was not harsh. Teachers should also practice being more clear on what they would like the students to do – thus leading to less confusion and anxiety.
  14. 14.  More group classroom procedures   Instructors should implement more pair work and games. Instructors should also not seat students alphabetically, but rather allow them to sit in an informal group setting. Calling on students at random should be avoided as well. Ommaggio   The Natural Approach   Research suggests that anxiety is alleviated when students work in small groups, work in pairs, or receive personalized language instruction. Personalize instructions by using pictures to present vocabulary. It also emphasizes listening comprehension and an initial period where students don’t have to speak in the foreign language being learned. Low-anxiety oral presentation  Students can practice reading an script orally after practicing it with a small group, or presenting with a small group – idea that they are all in it together alleviates anxiety.
  15. 15.  Young, Dolly Jesusita. "Creating a LowAnxiety Classroom Environment: What Does Language Anxiety Research Suggest?" The Modern Language Journal 75.4 (1991): 426439.