López González, María Dolores
Self-perceptions of communicative competence: exploring self-views among first year students in a Mexican university.
PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
This research assessed students’ self-perception of communicative competence in EFL in a Mexican university. I argued there was a gap in the knowledge available in the field at the tertiary education level in Mexico that needed filling because of the impact that self-perception has on individuals’ decisions to act, in this case, to engage in communication acts in the foreign language. The objectives guiding my research were: first, to address the information gap; second, to test the scale created for this study (CCQ); and third, to explore influences on students’ self-perceptions in this context.
Self-perception and its cognitive (efficacy) and affective (confidence) elements were proposed as the aspects of the self-concept to be addressed. Evidence supported identifying Language Identity, Attribution Theory, and Ideal and Ought-to Self Theory as emerging frameworks to understand students’ self-perceptions. Willingness to communicate was also related to this research. A mixed methods approach was followed: A quantitative survey (CCQ) assessed self-perception for a sample of first year university students (n=372); PCA was conducted on the scale and reliability was established (Cronbach alpha .950). Descriptive statistics of background variables displayed the characteristics of the sample. Independent samples t-tests explored differences between self-perception and two-group variables, while one-way between groups ANOVA was applied to variables with three or more groups. Effect size (eta square) helped determine the strength of the relationships found. Two focus group sessions (n=5) comprised the qualitative component of the inquiry (investigated with exploratory thematic analysis), designed to explore influences sustaining participants’ self-perceptions and concepts about English in the era of globalisation.
CCQ analysis provided an overall mean score (M=2.98), suggesting a moderately positive self-perception among the sample. Contrastingly, qualitative data revealed that participants’ self-perceptions, constructed from social and personal influences, were constantly short of the communicatively competent ideal and ought-to selves. The analysis suggested complex interrelationships between self-confidence and self-efficacy were behind consistently fragile self-perceptions of communicative competence in EFL in this setting. The tension between the data (highlighted by the complementary use of mixed methods of data collection), and the contextual and methodological limitations are discussed. The implications of the investigation include both macro and micro levels of analysis. Further recommendations include longitudinal studies and individual interviews to collect richer data about participants’ personal experiences in EFL.
The contributions to knowledge are: First, the inquiry addressed the knowledge gap about students’ self-perceptions of communicative competence at university in the EFL context. Second, a new context-specific scale measuring self-perception (CCQ) was developed and validated for the university setting. Third, I offer a theoretical model relating self-perception, self-efficacy, and self-confidence, and a proposition of the influence of the theories identified on the social context and the self. In conclusion, university students’ self-perceptions of communicative competence were analysed and the outcome showed an overall picture of moderately positive self-perception among the cohort. Further analysis revealed a contrasting story of very low perceptions among individual students and the influences shaping self-perceptions were explored.
Thesis (University of Nottingham only)
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