Factors Affecting Senior High School Students' Willingness to Communicate in English in the EFL Classroom
CANDRA H.A, Ervin
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Willingness to communicate (WTC) in English is crucial for English students in the process of learning the language. It was reported that students’ WTC in English greatly affects their achievement in that target language (Ningsih et al., 2018). Further, MacIntyre et al. (1998) stated that the objective of foreign language learning should be to encourage the students to have a higher degree of WTC in the target language, and to make them get more involved in the authentic L2 use. Nevertheless, in EFL classrooms, there are some students who voluntarily speak up while some others are reluctant to speak, when they are given the opportunity to use the L2 (Riasati and Rahimi, 2018). Regarding this, MacIntyre (2007) stated that there are various factors that encourage or discourage someone to use the L2 in communication. Hence, English teachers definitely need to understand these factors that affect the students’ WTC in English in the classroom, so that they can establish a learning environment that promotes the students’ degree of WTC in English. Regarding the concept of WTC in L2, a theory was proposed by MacIntyre et al. (1998). It hypothesizes that one’s WTC in L2 is affected by both individual and situational factors. Some later researchers (e.g. Riasati and Rahimi, 2018; Tuyen et al., 2019; Azwar et al., 2021) proved the theory through their research findings that individual factors such as self-confidence, self-perceived communication competence, and fear to make mistakes influence students’ WTC in English. Moreover, situational factors such as task types, the topic of discussion, and interlocutors also affect the students’ WTC in English. Therefore, the present study used the theory and the findings of the related previous studies as references. Though there have been some studies addressing a similar topic, those previous studies mostly focused on university students. University students and senior high school students have different emotional characteristics due to their age differences. Senior high school students, who are adolescents, commonly experience more of a lack of self-esteem compared to older students/adults (Wild & Schwartz, 2012). This lack of self-esteem may lead senior high school students to low self-confidence and shyness, which may hinder them to communicate in English. Hence, the way adolescent students see English communication can be different from how older students see it. Therefore, the present study tried to address factors affecting senior high school students’ WTC in English. Further, the form of communication which became the focus of investigation in the present study was spoken communication, in classroom interactions. The present study employed a descriptive quantitative research design. It involved 57 sample students of a state senior high school in Sumenep Regency, who were selected through simple random sampling. Regarding the research instrument, the present study adapted a validated questionnaire which was developed by Riasati & Rahimi (2018). The adapted questionnaire was a six-point Likert-type questionnaire that consisted of 25 items dealing with individual and situational factors affecting students’ WTC in English in the classroom context. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data of the distributed questionnaire. The result showed that the individual factors affecting the students’ WTC in class included L2 self-confidence, L2 self-perceived communication competence, L2 anxiety, and fear of making mistakes. The majority of the students were indicated to have low self-confidence, negative self-perception on their communication competence, and high anxiety which cause them to be unwilling to speak English in class. These are depicted through the finding which showed that the students were unwilling to ask questions in English in class (69.9%), to present opinions in English in class (68.4%), to talk than listen in an English conversation (57.9%), to use English for classroom social interaction (63.2%), and to give a speech in English in front of the class (70.1%). Besides, the students were also indicated to experience a high level of fear to make mistakes. This is depicted through the finding which revealed that the majority of the students were willing to answer in English if they are sure that their answer is correct (77.2%), and that some students were unwilling to speak English if they know that their speaking will be graded (23.1%). Meanwhile, the situational factors which were identified to affect the students’ WTC in English included task types, topic of discussion, interlocutors’ gender and position, and seating locations. These are depicted through the finding which revealed that the students were identified to be more willing to speak English in pairs (59.7%), or in small groups (61.4%) and large groups (40.4%) rather than speaking individually (40.3%), be more willing to speak English to a classmate with the same gender (61.4%) rather than to the opposite one (42.1%), be more willing to discuss something in English with their teacher (49.1%) than with their friends (36.8%), and be more willing to speak English when they sit in the back rows (38.9%) than when they sit in the front rows (35.2%). Besides, the students were also identified to be more willing to speak English if the topic is familiar (57.9%) and interesting (65.0%). The findings of the present study support the initial theory by MacIntyre et al. (1998). The theory basically hypothesized that someone’s WTC in a target language is not merely affected by individual factors, but also situational factors. The findings are also in line with some previous studies which revealed similar results that both factors coming from the English students and the factors that exist in the classroom affect their degree of WTC in English during the language learning session (e.g. Riasati & Rahimi, 2018; Tuyen et al., 2019; Azwar et al., 2021). As an implication, English teachers need to focus on both the students’ feelings and the learning environment that they design to promote the students’ degree of WTC in English. The English teachers should not only encourage the students’ self-confidence in speaking English or convince them that making mistakes is part of learning, but also should be careful in deciding the type of task given, topic to be discussed, and even the seating arrangements for their students, since all of these affect the students’ WTC in English in class.