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Title: ABU (being able but unwilling to respond) – a new TESOL term and its relationship with modesty and fear of being viewed as show-off
Author(s): Qiao, Ce
Supervisor(s): Moran, Edward
Mackie, Lorele
Issue Date: 5-Jun-2024
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This study endeavours to establish if a classroom behaviour, which the writer will term "Able but unwilling” (ABU), is a factor in learner reticence. It is proposed that ABU is similar to, but stands separately from, Willingness to Communicate (WTC). Traditionally, WTC-related studies focusing particularly on East Asian learners have reported factors such as insufficient target language proficiency and insufficient academic knowledge that led to low-level WTC. However, although the writer is Chinese, this does not fit his experience of learning in UK higher education and neither did it fit that of his East Asian classmates. For example, he and his classmates had sufficient language proficiency and academic knowledge, but they were still unwilling to respond to teachers’ questions. Why, in the absence of the factors cited, would learners still be reticent? In addition, published literature views L1 and L2 WTC separately. However, the current reality of classrooms such as those in EMI higher education where both native and non-native speakers, who may already speak several languages, study together, is that these students are still reticent to communicate. To identify if ABU is a factor in this reticence, the researcher proposed 5 research questions (RQs) related to ABU employing a mixed methods approach to collect data from a sample of 50 European, British and American (Uba) and 55 East Asian (EA) participants. These RQs compare possible tendencies to be ABU between EA and Leuba students and empirically explore whether modesty and fear of being seen as showing-off (FSF) influence EA and Eubank students’ ABU. Lastly, they investigate how modesty and showing-off are conceived of by EuBA and EA participants. This study differs from previous WTC studies in that it sheds light on reticent behaviours in a range of six online and face-to-face class contexts. It was found that ABU exists in both EA and EuBA groups to different degrees in the six contexts, while EA students have stronger ABU tendencies across all scenarios compared to EuBA students. Modesty and FSF also have variable degrees of influence on EA and EuBA respondents' ABU across all scenarios while EuBA and EA students appear to have different conceptions of modest and show-off classroom behaviours. Based on these findings, the researcher proposes implications for both research and pedagogy in the contexts investigated.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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