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“My resistance disappeared”: Japanese university learners’ feedback to a student-centered English discussion course

Matthew Y. Schaefer , Samuel Reid EMAIL logo and Anna Bordilovskaya

Abstract

Students leaving the Japanese secondary education system have typically spent hundreds of hours studying English grammatical structures and memorizing vocabulary lists but relatively little time putting that knowledge to communicative use. This lack of language practice can result in feelings of anxiety when faced with compulsory university courses that focus on speaking skills, such as participating in discussions and debates. This study examines first year Japanese student responses to an end-of-semester survey for a course employing a student-centered approach to developing academic Discussion Skills. The authors analyze students’ comments from an open-ended item on the questionnaire asking for feedback regarding any aspect of the course. The results show that many students reported a journey from initial resistance towards speaking English to feelings of confidence and enjoyment. The features of the course that students identified as lowering this resistance included: the enjoyment that came about through pair and group work with classmates; the cognitive discourse functions that provided scaffolding for taking part in discussion; and the consistent and coherent lesson structure that lowered the cognitive load to allow for more focus on communicating and co-constructing ideas. While this study focuses on the Japanese context, it contributes to knowledge across any language center seeking to help students transition to courses with a greater emphasis on spoken communication.


Corresponding author: Samuel Reid, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan, E-mail:

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Received: 2021-05-12
Accepted: 2021-11-29
Published Online: 2022-06-09
Published in Print: 2022-05-25

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