A mixed-method study of the impact of high-immersion virtual reality on Foreign Language Speaking Anxiety

Ding, Miaomiao (2023) A mixed-method study of the impact of high-immersion virtual reality on Foreign Language Speaking Anxiety. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Previous research shows that anxiety about speaking foreign languages is common among foreign language learners. Foreign Language Speaking Anxiety (FLSA) has been studied extensively, but insights into approaches to alleviate it remain limited. Some studies found that immersion in the target-language speaking environment may help to alleviate FLSA, but not every foreign language learner can visit a foreign country or live there for an extended period because of the cost in money and time. High-immersion Virtual Reality (HiVR) appears to offer an alternative to this. Wearing a head-mounted display allows a first-person perspective in a virtual environment while using HiVR. In addition, HiVR provides direct interaction with the environment through gloves or controllers. These features of HiVR technology seem to contribute to a great sense of presence in the virtual environment, which means users may feel as though they are in the real world, and to a high degree of agency in the control of the learning process.

The investigation of HiVR in foreign language learning has increased in the last five years, primarily due to decreased cost and technological development of HiVR. However, most studies are on the effects of HiVR on acquiring linguistic knowledge, such as words and expressions, and the impact of HiVR on FLSA remains underexplored. In the field of psychology, HiVR is often used to treat psychological disorders, such as social anxiety disorders, fear of flying and fear of spiders. Therefore, in my study, it was assumed that HiVR may be used to help foreign language learners cope with FLSA.

Through a mixed-method experimental design, my study quantitatively examines the change in FLSA levels among four groups of Chinese English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners (140 students in total, 35 students in each group) before and after an intervention. A nine-session intervention was conducted for each group at a Chinese university, and the learning sessions were designed with a different combination of two learning environments (HiVR or classroom) and two learning approaches (situated learning or teacher-centred learning). The FLSA levels were measured from two perspectives: general FLSA via a Likert scale and specific FLSA via a self-rating of anxiety levels during a two-way role-play speaking test. The statistical results indicated that students’ general FLSA did not change after the intervention in each group, but FLSA levels in the role-play speaking tests decreased significantly in each group. According to students’ responses in the open-ended questionnaires, the main reason for the decrease in FLSA levels in the speaking tests appears to be the fact that they were given more practice in role-play tasks during the intervention rather than the use of HiVR per se.

According to the quantitative results, neither HiVR nor situated learning resulted in statistically significant decreases in FLSA levels compared to traditional classroom or teacher-centred learning. Even so, the qualitative results showed that most participants felt positive about HiVR and its potential to alleviate FLSA. The positive perceptions of using HiVR to cope with FLSA included that HiVR provided an authentic and low-anxiety environment, increased learning engagement, and offered more language practice opportunities. Similar opinions were noted regarding the advantages of HiVR in oral English learning, although some disadvantages related to hardware and learning efficiency were reported. According to the qualitative analysis in my study, task repetition and pleasant experiences played significant roles in alleviating FLSA among Chinese EFL learners. When using HiVR to address FLSA, it is worth considering the learning approaches underlying the learning design in HiVR as well as the use of the main learning affordances of HiVR (such as presence and agency) to enhance positive emotions and engagement in the learning process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > L Education (General)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Boeren, Professor Ellen, Rodolico, Dr. Gabriella and Haghi, Dr. Ide
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-84029
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2024 12:29
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2024 16:11
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84029
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/84029

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