An examination of communication apprehension among 11 to 12 year-old learners in Malaysian primary schools

Rajeindram, Priyadharishiny (2023) An examination of communication apprehension among 11 to 12 year-old learners in Malaysian primary schools. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

[img] PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Repository staff only until 22 July 2025. Subsequently available to Repository staff only - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Available under Licence Creative Commons Attribution.
Download (34MB)


Learners who experience communication apprehension (CA) have a tendency to avoid and withdraw from interactions, and subsequently have reduced opportunities for both language learning and mastery of language specific skills through verbal interactions in the classroom. There is a lack of understanding of CA phenomenon among young learners resulting in difficulty to identify and address CA at an early age. This research used a mixed method design through four studies to understand CA among young learners (11 – 12 years old) in Malaysian primary school classrooms.

Study 1 (presented in Chapter 2) identified the association of individual trait factors, namely gender, ethnicity and personality traits on the total CA, classroom communication fear, general communication fear and stranger communication fear of 614 Malaysian primary school learners. It employed a cross-sectional quantitative design survey method. Study 2 (presented in Chapter 3) and Study 3 (presented in Chapter 4), used the qualitative multiple case study research design to explore the behaviours of five high CA learners and five low CA learners respectively. Learners’ interactional behaviours with their teachers and in relation to CA were identified through classroom observations, and both teacher and learner interviews. Study 4 (presented in Chapter 5) explored six English language teachers’ perceptions of CA through a qualitative design comprising semi structured interviews that focused on their understanding of the causes, characteristics, impact and mitigation strategies of CA.

Firstly, the regression analyses revealed that higher neuroticism personality and Indian ethnicity uniquely predicted higher general and stranger CA scores, while higher extraversion and openness personalities, and being a male learner uniquely predicted lower total CA scores. However, the regression analyses and the chi-squared test in this research highlighted that at a young age, gender attributes may only play a small role for the influence on learners’ CA. Secondly, behavioural observations highlighted specific behaviours (e.g., gaze behaviours, facial activities, and body movements) that were found to be different as well as similar between young learners with high CA and low CA. Studies 2 and 3 identified a combination of CA behaviours instead of individual behaviours among the high CA learners. Although both high CA and low CA learners displayed smiling and glancing away behaviours, there were specific nuances that differentiated them as high CA and low CA behaviour. Thirdly, teachers’ perceptions of CA causes were interconnected with their perceived CA mitigation strategies. Although they demonstrated an understanding of learners’ CA in the classroom context, their reported classroom practices and questioning strategies were not drawn from instruction that could effectively mitigate learners’ CA in the classrooms.

Through the studies conducted in this thesis, this research extended current knowledge on the CA phenomenon to young learners, specifically on the prominent characteristics of young learners with CA (i.e., traits and behaviours) during interactions with teachers in the Malaysian classroom context. Although there are similarities in CA among young learners and adult learners, young learners differ by demonstrating more smiling behaviours, and also by the additional associations found between specific personality traits (i.e., openness and emotional sensitivity) and CA. By unravelling the prominent behaviours and traits reported in this research, this research has implications for the language learning classrooms to identify and mitigate learners with CA. Future studies can focus on further exploration of these characteristics as possible markers and indicators of CA among young learners.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Bailey, Lucy
Wong, Tze Peng
Subramaniam, Ganakumaran
Keywords: communication apprehension; communication fear; young learner; primary school
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Faculties/Schools: University of Nottingham, Malaysia > Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Education
Item ID: 73400
Depositing User: Rajeindram, Priyadharishiny
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2023 04:40
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2023 04:40

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View