Academic journal article English Language Teaching

The Effect of Concept Mapping on L2 Writing Performance: Examining Possible Effects of Trait-Level Writing Anxiety

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

The Effect of Concept Mapping on L2 Writing Performance: Examining Possible Effects of Trait-Level Writing Anxiety

Article excerpt


Research on anxiety in a foreign language-learning context is well-documented; however, few studies have directly focused on anxiety occurring within writing contexts despite the fact that writing anxiety is known to affect students' learning. The present study examined the effectiveness of concept mapping considering students' writing anxiety. Participants completed writing anxiety scales and were randomly assigned to three groups before completing a writing task: concept mapping, idea listing, or an unrelated task. Results indicated that, especially for students with low trait-level writing anxiety, concept mapping positively influenced the quality of writing content. Teaching implications will be discussed in the light of the results of this study.

Keywords: concept mapping, planning, writing anxiety

1. Introduction

Research on foreign language learning anxiety has been conducted since the 1980s with a focus mainly on anxiety accompanying speaking. In fact, little research has been done on the anxiety entailed in the learning of other skills including writing. Results of previous studies indicate that university students have difficulties with writing (Dalsky & Tajino, 2007; Lee & Tajino, 2008), and it can be presumed that students who have difficulties with writing may also have anxiety with writing. Most research on anxiety has found that anxiety negatively influences writing performance (Horwitz et al., 1986) and considering this relationship, it is important to focus on the ways that enable students with high anxiety to produce compositions with high quality to encourage students to improve their writing performance. This study focuses on concept mapping as a possible way to help such highly anxious students by examining the effectiveness of this technique with Japanese university students. Through examining the effectiveness of the concept mapping technique, the present study could suggest ways teachers may improve the writing of students with high anxiety.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Foreign Language Anxiety

Generally, anxiety can be defined by an uncomfortable emotional state or cognition with subjective feelings of tension, apprehension, and worry, with activation or arousal of the automatic nervous system (Spielberger, 1972). According to Spielberger (1966), anxiety can be divided into two categories: trait anxiety and state anxiety. Trait anxiety refers to a relatively stable personality trait, whereas state anxiety refers to a temporary condition experienced at a particular moment. However, in foreign language classroom settings, another type of anxiety called situation-specific anxiety needs to be taken into consideration (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991). This type of anxiety appears in a situation that requires the use of L2 that the individuals cannot use freely (Horwitz et al., 1986). Cheng et al. (1999) argue that the scale developed by Horwitz et al. (1986) focused too much on the anxiety entailed with speaking the language, and anxiety that appears when learning other skills should be defined more precisely and measured with other scales. Among them, writing anxiety is the fear or apprehension an individual may feel about the act of composing written materials (Daly, 1991). It can be defined as a type of situation-specific anxiety, because it occurs in language learning contexts. Students with writing anxiety are likely to be unwilling to write and avoid situations where writing is perceived as required and even tend to select jobs that do not to require them to write (Daly & Miller, 1975a; Daly, 1978).

2.2 The Effects of Planning on Writing

There is limited research that has explored ways to help students with high anxiety produce good compositions. One of the few studies, conducted by Sugita (2003) measured the level of university students' writing anxiety before and after one month of learning process writing. The results of the questionnaires in this study suggested that teaching how to plan is an effective method to improve their writing. …

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