Research proposal: Enrolment in higher education – language anxiety


Although enrolments to Higher Education institutions have increased steadily in South Africa, the graduation throughput figures remain low at 51%* (Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET), adding concern of work readiness of graduates as they enter the job market. With an unemployment rate of 24.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, it is important that graduates remain inspired to complete their studies, increase their employability and obtain transferable skills to apply in the workplace.

Modern economies are increasingly moving from industrial to knowledge based (Guay and Catherine F. Ratelle) and place greater importance on research, innovation, specialisation, data interpretation and continuous learning. The employability of graduates rest on their ability to remain motivated and pursue academic achievements that is required in the current knowledge worker economy. Researchers have shown that both student motivation (Fre??de??ric Guay and Catherine F. Ratelle) and anxiety (Mustafa Balog?? lu*) are significant factors that influence quality of education.

South Africa is a truly multicultural country, with eleven official languages. According to Census 2011, isiZulu is the most common home language is, spoken by nearly a quarter of the population. It is followed by isiXhosa at 17.6%, Afrikaans at 13.3%, Sepedi at 9.4%, and Setswana and English each at 8.2%. In most cases tertiary education in South Africa is conducted in English. Previous research has linked language anxiety to motivation and the ability of students to achieve academically, (cite)

Self-determination theory (SDT) developed by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan states that motivation can be classified into intrinsic motivation (coming from within the self) and extrinsic motivation (environment or external factors) and Amotivation is the when individuals feel that their behaviour is derived from forces outside of their control. Students with amotivation might not realise the value of education and could lead to dropping out of university. A number of research has been done to better understand the factors that positively impact student motivation in relation to greater academic success (Chowning & Campbell, 2009; Guay, Ratelle, & Chanal, 2008; Kistnasamy,2014). However, motivation is a complex psychological process which is difficult to explain or predict.

In South Africa, statistics form part of most fields of study at tertiary level including Business, Science, Engineering, Technology and Humanities, and international as well as local researcher have done studies to gain better understanding on the factors that influence performance of students studying statistics (cite).

Attitude and levels of anxiety experienced by student towards a specific course or module could impact their academic performance (cite). Motivation has been shown to positively influence academic performance (Guay, F., Ratelle, C. F., & Chanal, J. (2008).,. Student motivation is key requirement that determine the successful completion of studies and quality of the education received. Students Anxiety associated with communicating or studying in a second language can have an incapacitating effect on students’ motivation and ultimately their educational objectives.

Guay and Catherine F. Ratelle 2008) conflicting opinions exist to whether motivations are subject-specific ‘ some concluding that a relationship exists, whereas others were not. Coetzee 2010 believed that evidence is growing to indicate the relationship between students’ attitudes and academic performance in statistics and that negative student attitudes towards the statistics impact course registrations, involvement, motivation and academic accomplishment. Students with more positive attitude towards certain subjects will have more motivation and will achieve more academic success. Although students agreed that statistical skills will improve their employability ( Coetzee), high levels of anxiety and distress is still associated with the subject matter. Educating students on the importance of statistics, in everyday life and professionally, could change student attitudes towards the subject matter and positively impact student motivation. (Coetzee (2010). However, Garfield and Ben-Zvi (2007), concluded that good attitudes do not automatically assure success in statistics and that factors such as conscientiousness, the desire to learn and motivation may be better forecasters. Students with extrinsic motivation also report a greater degree of tension from academic stressors than intrinsic motivation students (Karolyn Chowning and Nicole Judice Campbell). Excessive entitlement ‘ an exaggerated or unrealistic belief about what one deserves ‘Students with high levels of entitlement has been associated with a variety of maladaptive behaviours, including a decline in motivation, effort and been reported to show low levels of conscientiousness (Karolyn Chowning and Nicole Judice Campbell / Donna Anderson1, Jamin Halberstadt1 & Robert Aitken2 (2013)) Finally, refinement is still needed in the area of relationships among statistics anxiety, mathematics anxiety, and test anxiety. Thus, future research on the topic is encouraged Mustafa Balog?? lu*

Although Balog?? lu indicated that no significant differences exists between men and women regarding statistics anxiety levels, other studies Mills (2004) on the influence of gender on attitudes toward statistics offer no conclusive results. In some cases men were less likely than women report anxiety relating to statistics. Previously poor experience with mathematics contributes to the anxiety around statistics. This is in accordance with results from Latief and Blignaut (2008) who also found that throughput in an undergraduate statistics course at a South African university was related to students’ Grade 12 Mathematics results. Schau (2003) noted that many students think that statistics is mathematics, especially at the beginning of an introductory course to statistics. Both Coetzee and Balog?? lu (Balog?? lu, confirmed relationship between previous mathematics achievement with reduced levels of statistics anxiety. Many of the difficulties in statistics courses may not be a result of insufficient aptitude; rather, they may be reflections of attitudinal factors such as anxiety related to statistics (Mustafa Balog?? lu* ) However, in South African the proportion of Grade 12 learners enrolling in mathematics is falling year on year, indicating more students enter tertiary education is lacking confidence in their mathematical skills which could increase their anxiety towards a statistics module.

In the South African only 8.2% of the population speak English as a first language, as reported during the 2011 Census. Additional research is necessary to determine the impact of language anxiety and ability of statistics students to achieve academically.

Language anxiety were used as the independent variable, academic performance is the dependent variable, which was measured using the cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA).


With the assumption from many students enrolled for statistic mistakenly associate it to be similar to mathematics, leads to high levels of anxiety towards the subject which negatively impacts their motivation and performance.

South African students need to be able to be proficient in their use of the English language to achieve academic success. As most tertiary educations classes are thought in English and prescribed literature are most widely available in English, where most South Africans do not further their education in their mother tongue. While most learners are required to take English as a subject at school for a number of years a large portion of school leavers are still unable to use the language effectively.

The goal of the research is to better understand the impact of language anxiety on the effect of academic performance of students registered for research methodology and statistics in South Africa. The study strives to add to the body of knowledge on factors influencing motivation and academic performance.

Objectives of the research
It has been noted that students (sic) that experience language anxiety hesitate to participation in class or group activities as well as seek out input or advice from lectures to clarify subject matter. If language anxiety is experienced, it is important for institutions to understand the impact and investigate corrective action which can be implemented to increase likelihood of graduate success.

This study investigated factors that influence motivation of students registered for research methodology and statistics at a Distance Learning Institution that are able to contribute to their academic performance and success. The study strives to add to the body of knowledge on factors influencing motivation and academic performance, with specific reference to students attending Distance Learning Institutions in the South African context.

The objectives of the study is to build on existing research and determine if there is a relationship between language anxiety of students registered for research methodology and statistics at ODL institutions whose first language is not English and the impact this could have on their academic performance.
The objectives can be listed as follows:
– Examine the level of language anxiety when students enrolled for statistics are required to speak, write academically or interpret results in English, as second language
– Identify if language anxiety impacts test anxiety.
– Determine if language anxiety influence their motivation to achieve in a statistical module
– Evaluate if language anxiety has an impact on students’ academic results

Information revealed could be of great interest to institutions and statistic lectures. Students experiencing language anxiety might experience additional challenges in a statistical course, and that the needs of English first language students and English as a second (or third) language students might differ. , both

5.1 Research design.

The research will follow a non-experimental, correlation research design as no cause and effect relationship is being investigated. The researcher will also not directly manipulate any of the variables, as the aim is to only examine the relationship between students that experience language anxiety and their academic performance in a statistics module.

A quantitative approach will be implemented in this study as it maximise objectivity by using figures, structure, and statistics. Quantitative research prompts participants for their opinions in a controlled manner. Electronic questionnaires will be utilised to reduce the cost and complexity of collecting information and will be able to accommodate a larger sample without substantially increasing project costs. Statistical tools, including Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) and Microsoft Excel.will be utilise to analyse the primarily numerical data collected.

Research Population

5.2 Sampling. Different requirements and methods of sampling exist for sampling in a qualitative or quantitative study. Whether you are conducting a qualitative or quantitative study, the following aspects should be discussed as part of the planning of your sample:

The study population is 2340 postgraduate students registered for research methodology and statistics, at a distance education institution. Simple random sampling will be utilised on a sample size of 750 student to better predict generalisability

Data collection.

A survey questionnaire will be used as the primary technique to gather data. Questionnaires is the most common and preferred collection method for quantitative research as it supplies measureable data for statistical analyses. Participants will be required to supply biographical information including age, gender, first language, race and employment status.
In addition, Horwitz’s (1983) Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS) will be adapted for this study. The FLCAS has been used in a number of different studies and have reported high internal reliability and high test-retest reliability. The FLCAS measure attitudes, test-anxiety, fear of negative feedback; communication apprehension, speaking in a classroom as well as writing comprehension and writing confidence in a second language The questionnaire instrument consists of 32 items, each one on a 5-point Likert scale, the most wildly used scale in quantities studies, ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’, designed to determine the opinion / attitude of second language English students to the level of language anxiety experienced towards a statistical module that could have an impact of their academic achievement.
In the development of the questionnaire, experts in English language and literature will be consulted for input and review of the survey design to ensure face validity of the questionnaire.
This questionnaire has a test-retest reliability of 0.85 and predictive validity of 0.43 for predicting average academic performance.

Data analysis

The data and information collected from all the participants will be analysed using Microsoft Excel and the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). The analytical computer programmes are able translate raw data into graphs and pivot tables for easy interpretation and further analysis and insight.

Data analysis will be conducted by means of using SPPS18.0. In order to determine the degree to which students regard their research skills to be important for their employability, descriptive statistics, namely a frequency distribution and the mode will be calculated.

Lastly, the Pearson correlation coefficient will be calculated to determine if there is a relationship between students’ opinion regarding the importance of research skills and their commitment to their studies. Effect sizes will be used to decide on the practical significance of the findings, where 0.10 will be regarded as a small effect, 0.30 as a medium effect and 0.50 as a large effect (Cohen, 1988

Ethical considerations.

For this study permission will be obtained from the participating ODL institutions, and their respective ethics committees.

When approaching participants for the study the following will be communicated:
o The purpose of the research and the duration and producers will be clearly defined and explained.
o Participation is voluntarily and any participant is able to withdraw from the research even after it has started.
o Participants over the age of 18 will be able to give electronic consent as this study is based on factors that relate to motivation and academic achievement, information that poses low risk to the participants
o Participates will be guaranteed anonymity’ no individual results will be made known and will only be used as aggregated data.
o Identities of the participants will not be revealed to assure confidentiality of all sensitive information that was used
o Any information and data collected will be kept on a secure server with limited access
o The findings and results of the study will be made public to all participants
o Should there be any questions, the research team can be contacted via telephone or email
o Any prospective research benefits.

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