The theory of planned behavior and chinese esl students’ in-class participation

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Chinese demand for American-style education is on the rise as many Chinese students seek opportunities to gain a true global education in China. However, importing US education style in China is challenging. American education emphasizes the importance of students’ in-class participation; however, Chinese students’ reluctance to communicate in class is notoriously strong. To explain such reluctance, scholars have focused their attention on constructs such as “willingness to communicate” and “communication anxiety” (Ellis, 2012). In our study we proposed a different approach to understand Chinese ESL students’ in-class participation, by using the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB; Fishbein & Ajzen, 2010). TPB applies to any human behavior under volitional control and has been successfully applied in several fields, such as health psychology, sports, and marketing. Our theoretical TPB-based model was tested by administering a questionnaire to 133 Chinese university students enrolled in a Sino-American university located in South-East China. Data were analyzed using partial least squares (PLS) path modeling method (Hair, Hult, Ringle, & Sarstedt, 2014). Overall, our findings provided some initial support to our proposed model. The model accounted 39% of explained variance in intention to participate in class. The stronger predictors for students’ participation were attitudes toward participation and self-efficacy. Gender also appeared to play a role: Female students reported statistically stronger intentions to participate in class. In our future research we plan to further test our model and expand it by considering the contribution of additional constructs, such as face-saving and communication anxiety.

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Journal of Language Teaching and Research

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