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英国约克大学留学生教育学论文范文:Exploring

时间:2011-05-16 10:23:19 来源:www.ukthesis.org 作者:英国论文网 点击联系客服: 客服:Damien

Exploring Gender Differences in Attitudes to Learning English in Chinese Primary Schools

 

 

 

 

University of YorkDepartment of Educational Studies

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract
The following study explores gender differences in attitude to learning English in Chinese primary schools. The survey firstly examines whether gender differences affect英国论文网English learning in class in Chinese primary schools, secondly whether pupils’ motivation for learning English is connected with gender differences, thirdly whether there are differences in boys’ and girls’ achievement in English learning.
For research purposes, a questionnaire approach was adopted. The questionnaires were designed for pupils and English teachers respectively. A sample consisting of 20 boys and 20 girls in one class at Jianshe Primary School in Wenzhou was selected to answer the pupils’ questionnaires in Chinese and five English teachers were also selected to answer teachers’ questionnaires in English. The school also offered another list of the class’s anonymous students’ grades.
The main findings from the pupils’ questionnaires was that there were no huge differences between both boys and girls in enjoyment of speaking and listening parts in English learning. They all liked learning English in entertaining ways such as using English songs and movies. The second finding was that most boys thought the reading part of English learning was the least interesting and most difficult, whereas most girls thought listening was the least interesting and most difficult.. The third main finding was that girls spend more extra time on English learning outside school than boys including both formal lessons and voluntary practice. However, from the teachers’ questionnaires, the data showed that in the English teachers’ view, firstly there existed some differences in pupils’ tests scores. Secondly, girls are more accurate and http://www.ukthesis.org/dissertation_writing/Education/concentrated better than boys. There were no big differences between boys and girls in class performances and participation.
There were some significant results in that both boys and girls liked learning English in class and there were no significant differences in motivation for learning English. However, girls performed better in achievement tests than boys.

 

 

 

Contents
Title 1
Abstract 2
Contents 3
Tables 4
Abbreviation 5
Chapter One: Introduction 6
Chapter Two: Literature Review 9
2.1 Gender Difference and Language learning 10
2.2 Gender Difference and Second or Foreign language learning 11
2.3 English learning in Chinese Primary Schools 15#p#分页标题#e#
2.4 Motivations for learning English in China 16
Chapter Three: Methodology 17
3.1 Research questions 18
3.2 Research design 18
3.3 Questionnaire design 18
3.3.1 Question types 18
3.3.2 Research instruments 19
3.4 Respondents 20
3.5 Procedure 20
3.6 Data Analysis Procedure 21
Chapter Four: Presentation and Analysis of Results 22
4.1. Data analysis 22
4.2 Findings 27
4.2.1Class Performances 27
4.2.2 English learning motivation 28
4.2.3 English Achievement in English Tests Grades 30
Chapter Five: Discussion 32
5.1 Attitudes of Boys and Girls toward English learning 32

Chapter Six: Conclusions 38
Appendix 1: Questionnaires for pupils 41
Appendix 2: Questionnaires for English teachers 42
Appendix 3: Questionnaires for English teachers in Chinese 46
References 48
Tables
Table 1: Boys and girls’ English class performances and practices 22
Table 2: Motivations for learning English 23
Table 3: Boys and girls interests and likes in English learning 24
Table 4: The number of children and time spent outside school learning English 26
Table 5: Achievement of English tests grades 26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abbreviations

ESL: English as a Second Language
SILL: Strategy Inventory for Language Learning
GCSE: General Certificate of Secondary Education
TIMSS: Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study
NAEP: National Assessment of Educational Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chapter One: Introduction
In recent years English learning has become more popular in China. It is a fact that ‘prior to 2001 English was not a compulsory course in Chinese primary schools’ (Wong et al, 2002:99).
It is estimated that there were about ‘8 million primary school pupils studying English in 1998, and the number has been growing rapidly’ (Liu & Gong, 2001: 36, as citied in Wang). Therefore it is believed that the issues of English learning and primary education in China are significant, and that it has entered a new era with the introduction of primary English. One of the issues is gender differences and English learning in Chinese primary schools.
‘To differentiate gender from sex, Giddens (1989, as cited in Lai. 2007:83) defines the former as the psychological, social and cultural differences between males and females whereas the latter refers to the biological differences between men and women’

This suggests the difference between gender and sex, which indicating that the concept of gender, which involving in social and culture factors, seems to be more complicated than sex. Besides, in psychological and applied linguistics perspective ‘attitudes towards second language learning have been researched for many years’ (Skehan et al, as cited in Yoko,2002:1). As it can be seen, this area has been studied for years. Furthermore, large-scale studies suggest that gender differences in attitudes to second language learning have been hot issues and widely discussed in second language learning (Powell & Batter et a,l as cited in Yoko, 2002). Clearly, gender difference and second language learning is worthy studying as so many researchers have worked on it.#p#分页标题#e#
In primary education, some researchers hold the opinions that girls are more talented than boys in language learning. Firstly, for example, according to Measor and Sikes (1992) a general rule is that boys tend to be good at mathematical and scientific area of curriculum while girls tend to be good at language-based skills. This rule suggests that the advantages boys and girls have are different. English as the foreign language learnt in China for pupils is a ‘language-based skill’, therefore, it can be 英国论文网estimated that girls will do better in language including English learning. This rule can also be explained by the evidence that boys and girls respond to the curriculum differently because of gender differences, which could influence their attitudes to different subject areas and their levels of motivation and confidence (Measor and Sikes, 1992). Thus, it is believed that boys and girls are talented in different curriculum or subject areas due to the reason of gender difference. It seems that gender can affect the motivation and confidence in particular subjects, for example, girls tend to like a language-based skills curriculum more than boys.
Secondly, Chavez (2000, as cited in Skelton, 2006: 295 ) also argues that ‘boys are more anxious about learning foreign language than girls’. This argument gives support to the idea that girls have advantages in foreign language learning mentally. This ‘anxiety’ about language learning in boys may come from their lacking of or not having confidence. It may be one of the reasons that boys are disadvantaged in language learning. Chavez (2000, as cited in Skelton, 2006: 293 ) also suggests that ‘females tend to be engaged more substantively in learning the language than males’. This may be because women are more interested in language learning than men so they are more powerfully driven to language learning.
Thirdly, from the results of learning foreign langaue view , as Nikos (1990, as cited in Skelton, 2006: 295) argues that ‘Woman are more successful than men in foreign language learning’. His argument directly and clearly expresses his opinion that in foreign language learning, gender affects learning differences and means that women are more successful than men. A number of studies found that there were differences between boys and girls in learning strategies towards acquiring a foreign language. (Building, 1983; Oxford, 1988; Ehrman, 1989; Green and Oxford, et al, cited in Skelton, 2006: 295) Ehrman and Oxford (1989,as cited in Skelton, 2006 ) argue that females have more ability with language-learning strategies including eliciting information. By comparison, Bacon (1992, as cited in Skelton, 2006:295) argues that males are simply ‘getting the gist of what they hear’. Therefore, these large-scale studies show that differences exist between boys and girls in foreign language learning.
However, some researchers suggest that in some areas there are no differences between boys and girls in language learning. For example, as Brantmeier (2003) and Yonng and Oxford (1997) argue that there is no difference between boys and girls in choosing learning strategies used in reading in foreign language learning (Skelton, 2006: 295). As Horne (2004) argues in majority elementary school in the countries over the world, TIMMS study found that there were no huge gender differences in performance toward language learning .#p#分页标题#e#
Because of the disagreement by the researchers in this area, it makes sense to conduct research in China. Thus, whether gender differences affect English learning will be discussed here. Research will be carried out in Wenzhou, a local Chinese primary school. 20 boys and 20 girls in one class and five English teachers will be invited to participate. Pupils will answer pupils’ questionnaires in Chinese and teachers the teachers’ questionnaires in English. They will be required to complete two different questionnaires respectively. The school has also offered the grades record of the class for analysis.
The research presents an exploration of gender differences in attitudes to learning English in Chinese primary schools. It is intended to serve three purposes: firstly, it examines whether gender differences affect English learning in class in Chinese primary schools, secondly, whether pupils’ motivation for learning English is connected with gender differences, and thirdly, whether there are differences in boys’ and girls’ achievement in English learning.
The research will be divided into 7 chapters. Beginning with the abstract, which stated the main research question about exploring gender differences in attitudes to English learning in Chinese primary schools, the method used i.e. questionnaires and also showed some key findings. The first chapter is the introduction, which provides the background of the research and initial explorations in the area. The second chapter is a literature review that introduces the previous research. The third chapter describes the methodology and the fourth and fifth chapters are where the statistical results will be analysed and discussed. Finally, some conclusions are drawn concerning what these results may tell us about pupils’ attitudes to learning English in Chinese primary schools
. The research does have its weaknesses. Firstly, the statistical results are from one local primary school. It was not possible to survey every class or every school. But in spite of these shortcomings, it is hoped that the results are enough to contribute something to this area for future research.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chapter Two: Literature review
When education is related to gender, it is usually involved in the various kinds of beliefs, attitudes and motivations towards second language learning (Lai, 2007). This situation is noted by a number of researchers. Many researches argue that attitudes towards second language learning have been researched for many years in the domain of applied linguistics, predominantly from the psychological perspective(Skehan, 1989; Crookes & Schmidt, 1991; Dornyei, 1994; Oxford & Shearin, 1994; McGroarty, 1996,as cited in Lai, 2007. ). Second language learning research in the applied linguistics and psychological fields are interrelated. More specifically, as Lai (2007:82) goes on to argue, as far as gender and language attitudes are concerned, there are two significant findings which have been widely stated. The first is that females tend to be more disposed towards ‘prestigious language varieties and norms’ (e.g. Hoare, 2000; Labov, 1972; Milroy & Milroy, 1998; Trudgill, 1974); the second is that ‘females are more motivated to foreign language learning’than males (e.g. Powell & Batters, 1995; Sung & Padillar, 1998). These findings tend to support the idea that females are more talented at second language learning, because they are more motivated and more interested in the subject, either for social or biological reasons, or both.#p#分页标题#e#
The relationship of language learning and gender differences has become an important research area in English learning and gender education. In the meantime, gender differences in attitudes towards second language or foreign language learning have been repeatedly witnessed, ‘positioning gender as an important issue of investigation and discussion in second language acquisition’ (Powell & Batters, 1985; Loulidi, 1990; Bacon & Finnemann, 1992; Ellis, 1994; Clark & Trafford, 1995, 1996)' (Yoko, 2002, 181). Although a lot of research has been conducted in this area, few studies (e.g. Gass and Varonis, 1986; Marham, 1988; Pica, 1989) have satisfactorily addressed the question of whether English learning is influenced by learners’ gender differences. Attempts to unravel the relationship have not been successful so far. Because of the physiological and physical differences between males and females, gender affects the thought, behaviour and acquisition styles of boys and girls in English learning. (Learning about learning, 2007: 4) Because of the importance of gender differences, which influence the way children learn English, the area of gender and language learning is a hot topic. However, according to Wong(2002: 828) the ‘differences between boys and girls are narrowing’. Therefore, the debate on the gender and education continues.

2.1 Gender Difference and Language learning

Researchers have asked questions about the relation between gender and language learning, listing a few differences in the area such as:
‘speech behaviours in evidence when men and women address in each other in speech events’ (Brower, et al, cited by Lewis, .Newman, Pica,&Berducci, 1990: 5). These differences are evidence to suggest that males and females differ in language learning.
Some years ago, Maccoby and Jacklin (1974, as cited in Wong, Lam & Ho 2002: 628 ) argued that ‘boys were better in mathematics and physical sciences while girls were better in reading and writing’. This finding was supported by later reviews (Hyde & Linn, 1986; Wilder & Powell, 1989; Cleary, 1992; Willingham & Cole, 1997) and studies (Willingham & Cole, 1997, Nowell & Hedges) by researchers (Wong, Lam &Ho 2002) showed that boys and girls had advantages in their so called ‘talented area’(pp628). More recently, Sunderland (2000, as cited in Gu, 2002:35) has argued that ‘girls are in general more successful in language learning than their boy counterparts’ .This suggest that girls’ advantages have been maintained and are stable over time. There have been similar findings with: in a Scottish government report (2007: 6) about boys’ learning disadvantages, researchers claimed that in early primary school boys have language and expression disadvantages in both areas specifically and therefore they are in need of extra help to written language and reading. In order to help boys express themselves and help them learning to enjoying reading, strategies are suggest to use to improve boys’ reading level.#p#分页标题#e#

This statement again suggests boys are weaker than girls when it comes to specific area of language learning, that girls are better than boys in reading and writing in language learning. Also this is the same result as that found by Maccoby and Jacklin(1974, as cited in Wong, Lam & Ho 2002,) and the other researchers mentioned above. Therefore, there seems to be widespread agreement that boys and girls have particular talents and that girls are tend to be more talented with languages than boys. Beginning at age 12, girls start to like language and the arts more than boys (Kahle & Lakes, 2003; Sadker & Sadker, 1994).This may be because boys have more negative attitudes towards language and language leaning than girls.
Overall, the findings suggest that there is a relationship between gender difference and language ability. As it was pointed out in Science Daily recently (Mar, 5, 2008) generally speaking, girls have superior language abilities compared to boys, which is agreed by some researches, however, still now nobody has offer the evidence in biological basis to boys and girls differences..
The reasons for this were explained in a later edition of Science Daily (Nov, 28, 2006) as being to do with the fact that different brain parts are used by males and females to process grammar, which indicated that gender difference influence the language acquisition using.
Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Haifa have shown both that areas of ‘brain associated with language work harder in girls than boys ’(Sciencedaily, 2009)during language tasks, and that ‘boys and girls rely on different parts of brain when performing these tasks’ (Northwestern University, 2008).
These findings suggest that because of the different brain areas engaged, boys and girls are processing language differently. However, as Lai (2007:84) reminds us, gender is a more complex issue than simple biological differences. Researchers argue that ‘Japanese females have a more positive attitude toward language learning’ 英国论文范文(Kobayshi, 2002; Rubrecht, 1997).Likewise Ellis (1994) also found reasons to explain why females would excel at language learning because females are expected more desirable than males in job employments connected to language ability, which may drive females have more positive attitudes to learn language. (Rubtrecht:1997:20). These studies show social factors also influence the performance of gender.

2.2 Gender Difference and Second or Foreign Language Learning

According to Boyle (1987) studies have discovered that girls are superior to their counterparts, boys, in ESL Proficiency generally (Gu, 2009:3). When talking about second language learning, it maybe connected to first language learning and it can be estimated that if someone is good at first language learning this may help them with second language learning because they may use similar language learning strategies and attitudes. From this view, it maybe estimated that girls have better learning strategies and attitudes than boys. In China, English as a second language or foreign language learning has been highly valued, as it has in some other countries which also focus on foreign language education. In early studies in the year of 1984 there was a questionnaire survey which indicated that ‘girls were slightly more positive in foreign language learning than boys in this respect’ (Stables and Wikeley, 1999: 29). The study suggests that girls’ attitudes to learning foreign language are better than boys’.#p#分页标题#e#
This survey was supported by a researchers (Zammit, 1993; Sung and Padillar ,1998; Wright, 1999 et al.) all over the world a few years later. The evidence is summarized by Lai (2007:87) as follows: ‘Continuous evidence has been found in recent research that further positive correlation between gender and attitudes to foreign languages’. As his argument points out, worldwide it is believed that girls have more positive attitudes to second or foreign language learning than boys.
For instance, Zammit (1993) indicates that in Australia and New Zealand, where a test was held in order to examine pupils’ attitudes toward foreign language learning, the finding was that ‘females had significantly more positive attitudes to foreign languages than males’ (cited in Lai, 2007:87). Likewise Wright (1999) investigated the factors which affect attitudes towards learning amongst GCSE French students in the UK, which also revealed the finding that ‘girls were distinctly more positive towards the foreign language ‘than boys (cited in Lai, 2007:87). Furthermore, in a study conducted in the USA, Sung and Padillar (1998) also found that ‘female students were more motivated to study Asian language as foreign language than their counterparts, males’ (Lai, 2007:87). This is a case in America to suggest the American females may have more positive attitudes toward learning foreign language than males because they are more motivated. As it can not deny the relation of motivation and attitudes.In Clark and Trafford’s (1996) study which suggest that the attitudes toward English learning of pupils’, including teachers’ comment that boys are considered to be avoid language work whereas girls were attempt to be ‘more conscientious and serious towards their learning.’ (Lai, 2007:87).This clearly supports that girls have more positive attitudes than boys toward learning language as it is shown their ‘more conscientious and serious’ attitudes compared to boys.

All in all, the findings above support the idea that, worldwide, girls have more positive attitudes toward foreign language learning when compared to boys. The findings show different attitudes to foreign language learning between males and females in New Zealand, the UK and the USA, and similar findings were reported that females had more positive attitudes than males. Therefore, gender differences in attitudes to foreign language learning are a worldwide issue of concern to researchers around the globe. In the meantime, the studies also show the importance of studying these issues which are clearly worthy of studying because they have become such a hot issue in language learning around the world.
Moreover, ‘girls are more successful in virtually every aspect of language learning, and foreign language learning is increasingly seen by boys as a ‘‘girly’’ subject in many countries’ (Csize and Dornye, 2005:641). From this point of view, it is generally recognized that English is some kind of girl thing may be because it is an industry that is suitable for girls rather than boys. In terms of the gender differences in foreign language learning, the reason may be because of the learning strategies.#p#分页标题#e#
One likely explanation for why females have more positive attitudes than boys toward foreign language learning is that girls may have more learning strategies for language learning. In learning strategy, gender makes a difference. As Oxford and Green (1995:266) report: ‘Gender differences have appeared in SILL-based studies around the globe, with females usually reporting more strategy use than males’. This is supported by Gu (2009:4) who points out that in Goh and Kwah’s (1997) study in China, it was found that ‘female participants used all strategies more frequently than male students did’. Therefore, from this it can be argued that females use more language learning strategies than males, which must be helpful for females in language learning as knowing more approaches to solving the problems can help to create better attitudes. That is to say, the more methods to deal with language learning problems, the more inspiration language learners will have, which in turn helps them to develop better attitudes toward language learning. As Oxford and Green argue:
‘Effective L2 learners are aware of the strategies they use and why they use them ... Students who are less successful at language learning are likewise able to identify their own strategies’. (1995:262)

This suggests students may not be effective at learning languages because they do not have the proper learning strategies. Therefore, it is important for boys who are not surpassing girls in foreign language learning to place more value on language learning strategies. Furthermore, according to Oxford and Green (1995:66) males and females employ different approaches to second or foreign language learning and this could be related to their motivations and attitudes toward learning.
In Gu’s summary (2009:3) it is noted that there are gender differences in second language reading between boys and girls, that males tend to use global strategies and girls tend to use local strategies in the L2 text. (Young & Oxford, 1997; Zhang, 2000) This seems to suggest that boys tend to use more in-depth strategies than girls. From this point of view, it is believed that compared with girls, boys tend to have more a varied approach to learning.
Douglas (2007) suggests that girls tend to have more advanced spelling and grammar skills. It can be estimated that if girls are better in these area, they may also be better at writing when learning English because the more girls have the basic ability to remember vocabulary and write sentences with correct grammar, the better their writing ability will be. Due to the gender difference between boys and girls in language skills, pupils are influenced in English performance and language based subject. (DFES, 2007:6). This argument recognizes that gender differences exist in language learning which affect performance in English.
However, some years back, ‘according to national statistics, 20 years ago there was no great difference in attainment of boys and girls in exams’(learn about learn: 1). The TIMM study suggests that there were no significant gender differences (at age 9) in performance in most countries’ primary schools. (Mullis, Martin et al, 2000). Moreover, Australian national tests found ‘no gender differences favouring boys in the primary schools’ (Collins, Doig et al, cited by Horne, 2004). Obviously, these researchers (Mullis, Martin, et al, 2000, Collions, Doig et al, Horne, 2004) suggest that there is not enough sound evidence to confirm gender differences in attitudes to learning in primary school. The disagreement continues to be debated, fuelled by further research. According to one recent study ‘Standardized achievement tests show that females outscored males at spelling and writing in English tests’ (National Centre for Education Statistics, 2003, cited by Zembar, 2005). Meanwhile Ellis (1994) argues that females were more likely to be better at second language learning because they are ‘more sensitive to new forms and hence are more apt to incorporate them into their attempts at second language production’ (cited in Rubrecht, 1997:20). Due to females’ greater consciousness toward the kinds of features and structures in the new language, their learning is likely to be better than that of the males; therefore, females have advantages in second and foreign language learning.#p#分页标题#e#

 

 

2.3 English Learning in Chinese Primary Schools
In recent years, the importance of learning English in China has become increasingly significant and English language education now plays a crucial role with its introduction to primary education. It is widely agreed that children acquiring communication skills in English as second or foreign language is extremely important for their future and the country (Chen, 2002:610). Therefore, English learning in primary education is more valued than before, together with the issues of gender difference in attitudes to learning English in primary schooling. Some researchers (Hu, 2004; Wang and Ho, 2002; Sy, 1994) hold the opinion that there are gender differences and girls outperform boys in learning English. Hu’s (2004:16) study found clear differences in English ‘proficiency, classroom participation and language learning strategies’ between boys and girls in primary school. This finding was supported by Wong and Ho (2002:7) who discovered that a ‘greater proportion of girls achieved excellence in English’ in Chinese elementary school. Moreover, Sy (1994) argues that girls surpass boys in the use of Strategy Inventory for Language (SILL) for learning English in China (Oxford and Green, 1995:41). Wong (2002:833) also found that girls in China are overwhelmingly better in English as a foreign language than boys. Furthermore, according to Hedged and Nowell (1995) girls surpass boys in primary school in oral communication in verbal fluency and comprehension and meanwhile, girls are better than boys in reading. However, the gap between boys and girls in reading is narrowing. (Mead, 2006:6).Moreover, NAEP assessment claimed that fourth-grade boys did better than they had done in reading than before (Mead, 2006:4). This particularly points out the language learning of primary situation that girls surpass boys in the aspects of language learning such as oral communication and ability of comprehension. However, the fourth grade may become a turning point for boys to make progress in language learning as the differences between boys and girls in language skill tasks are narrowing or it can be estimated that boys may begin to realize the importance of learning because they have more serious attitudes to learning.
However, some researchers have found different results. For example, in China boys did better than girls in English class performances in academic English (Wong and Ho, 2002:7). Firstly, it can be estimated from this finding that boys may be more motivated to learn English and more enthusiasm for learning English. Secondly, the reason may be as Hatch (1976) documented that ‘attitudinal factors played a role in success of child second language acquisition’ (Krashen, 2002:40).

2.4 Motivations for Learning English
The relationship between second and foreign language learning and motivation is controversial as Sha (1999:280) found that the reason why motivation is important to language learning is the contrast ‘between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation’. It is believed that students’ intrinsic motivation can be as understood their inner thoughts about English learning, such as their level of interest in English, while their extrinsic motivation can be understood as outsider considerations driving them to learn English, such as job pressures, for example. According to Wen (1997) in ‘learners of Chinese as a foreign language, intrinsic as well as extrinsic-oriented motivations could lead to success’ (Chen, 2002:611). Furthermore, large scale studies (Feenstra, 1967; Lambert & Gardner, 1960, et al) have been conducted to demonstrate that pupils’ attitudes are related to second language achievement. (Gardner, 1968:142) From this point of view, it is believed that achievement is connected to motivation in second language learning.#p#分页标题#e#
Meanwhile, there is a relationship between gender, motivation and language attitudes. Csize and Dornye found ‘gender dominance in the different motivational clusters’. According to their research,
‘girls displayed superior language attitudes to boys across the board. All but one of the most motivated clusters were dominated by girls, and most of the least motivated clusters are dominated by boys’ Csize and Dornye (2005:641)

It is believed that firstly, girls and boys can be separated into two parts under the motivations as dominance, secondly, it is pointed that girls have more positive attitudes toward language learning than boys.
Earlier research argued that in China in general the motivation to learn English is primarily instrumental. (Oller et al, 1977; Lau, 1985; Teweles, 1995, cited by Sha, 1999) Findings of attitudes studies in China seemed to share similarities with Lukmani (1972) or Oller et al (1977). As Trend puts it (2007:193) ‘girls liked English more than boys did’.
Gardener (1995) developed the argument that understanding children’s specific motivations is a far more productive method for foreign language learning (Chen, 2002:611). This suggests the importance and function of motivation in foreign language learning is to help English learning. The studies were supported by Burstall (1978) who agreed that improving levels of attitudes and motivation in second language learning were more were more likely to lead to success than vice versa. (Lambert, et al, 1991:48)

 

Purpose of the Study
The present study attempts to add another set of data to the debate, in this case from Jianshe primary school in Wenzhou, China, in order to explore gender differences in attitudes toward learning English.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3: Methodology

3.1 Research questions
1) Whether gender differences affect English learning in class in Chinese primary schools.
2) Whether pupils’ motivations for learning English are connected with gender differences.
3) Whether there are differences in boys’ and girls’ achievement in English learning.
To find out the gender differences in attitudes toward learning English in Chinese primary school, data were collected from two sources:(1) pupils’ questionnaires and teachers’ questionnaires. (2) the feedback of pupils English test results. According to pupils questionnaires and teachers questionnaires, the question 1) and 2)above are focused on. According to the results of pupils’ English tests, 3)question can be found whether the achievement in English learning is different.
The research was carried out in one primary schools in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province of China. Firstly, I contacted the group leader of English teachers in the school. The primary school English teachers involved in the research were contacted in the school. They were all Chinese-speaking, with teaching English experience .#p#分页标题#e#


3.2 Reasons for using questionnaires
There are some advantages of using questionnaires as main way to carry out the research. The reasons are following:
The low cost of time; easy to get information from a lot of people very quickly; respondent can complete the questionnaire when it suits them; analysis of answers to closed questions is straightforward; lack of interviewer bias, etc. (Gillham , 2000:6)
Firstly, questionnaires are a useful method for investigating pupils' attitudes toward English learning because they allow pupils to give anonymous answers to the questions. Children and English teachers can respond to the questions with their own think. Some participants may feel uncomfortable about speaking in an interview. Therefore, the data from the questionnaires will be reliable so that the actual situation can be presented in the research. Secondly, questionnaires are simple to administer compared to the observation of classroom activities or conducting interviews, which is an advantage because of the limited time and other factors affecting the present research. Thirdly, questionnaires do not usually require participants to reply immediately, giving them time to think about their answers. Last but not least, questionnaires are a relatively easy approach to analyse.
However, the questionnaire also has limitations, for ‘the problem of data quality ‘as example.(Gillham, 2000: 9). I firstly contacted the leader of the English teachers and then ask him/her to administer and collect the questionnaire. In addition, the questionnaires were planed to be collected in one-week time after handing them out which means the teachers could fill in the questionnaire when the time was available for them. These measures to some extent have ensured the quality of data.


3.3 Questionnaires design
3.3.1 Question types
In the present research, which employs written questionnaires, the questionnaires were designed using some of the aspects above such as multiple- choice. For example, one question asked: ‘which is the most interesting part for you when you learning English in School?’ The choices were then listed as: ‘listening, speaking, reading, writing’. Similarly, questions were asked about the most difficult, least interesting and easiest among the four aspects: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
According to the design of the multiple choices, it is expected that analysis of the data will show the favourite or least favourite part of English language learning for the pupils, as well as whether pupils’ interest influences their performance and behaviour in class and achievement in English language learning.

3.3.2 Research instruments

The questionnaire was designed specifically for the purpose of conducting the surveys. The study developed two kinds of questionnaires, pupils’ questionnaires and teachers' questionnaires, designed to explore gender differences in attitudes to learning English in a Chinese primary school .The questionnaires consists of statements that have been adopted and modified from previously administered questionnaires.#p#分页标题#e#
In the pupils’ questionnaires, which consisted of 13 items, it was also asked about various aspects of the children’s language learning environment. In order to ensure that the questions were based on appropriate psychometric properties (Hungary, as cited in Do¨rnyei and Csize´r, 2005) the items were adopted from established motivation questionnaires. Questions were administered to measure boys’ and girls’ motivations to learn English. Dörnyei (2001,as cited in Chen, 2002:615) points out ‘the importance, and difficulty, of designing motivation surveys that have psychometric properties aligned with the population under study’. The pupils’ questionnaires were designed to find the differences in motivation for learning English between the same number of boys and girls.
Some of the motivations for learning English identified by researchers include, for example, firstly, ‘overseas travel and understanding foreign media in the form of movies, music, books, and magazines’ (Clément et al, 1994 as cited in Chen, 2002:615),). Secondly, questions concerning requirements were mostly modelled directly on Warden and Lin’s (2000, as cited in Chen, 2002:615 ) items and included passing entrance exams and passing job exams, both of which are similar to passing standardized language exams (Dörnye, 1990, as cited in Chen, 2002:615). Thirdly, as Chen (2002:615)argued that ‘Passing a required and an elective class deals directly with school requirements’.
Therefore, the present research used some motivations mentioned by previous some researchers for reference. For instance, one question in the pupils' questionnaires asked about the reasons why pupils were learning English such as understanding movies, understanding songs, just to pass the exam, further education and so on.
In the teachers’ questionnaires, questions were administered to measure what the differences between boys and girls in English learning are from the English teachers’ point of view. The teachers’ questionnaires consisted of five sections: class performance; listening; speaking, reading; writing. These were used to analyse whether there exist any differences between boys and girls in class performance and previous pupils’ class answers.

3.4 Respondents
20 boys and 20 girls in one class of Grade Four (aged 9-11) and 5 English teachers in the same grade in Jianshe Primary School in China participated in the questionnaire survey on gender differences and English learning. The respondents average age was 11 because .the researcher believed that ‘the main differences between boys and girls are already established by age 11’ (Measure and Sikes, 1992:53). Therefore, the age factor may affect gender differences in learning English.


3.5 Procedure
Before administering the questionnaire to the teachers and pupils, the piloting has been done by 2 teachers and several minor modifications has been made towards the questionnaire. For example, ‘Do you have any suggestion, why?’ The questionnaires and feedback were scanned and finally sent to me through email. #p#分页标题#e#
The research was held one week before the school summer vacation in China. Permission to conduct the study was obtained from the head teacher of the school. Furthermore to ensure pupils’ private information was kept safe, they were not requested to give their names. Therefore, the research follows the ethic principle. With the schools’ permission, the pupils’ questionnaires were the first to be conducted. Before the start of the questionnaires, teachers introduced the aim of and reason for the research, explaining the importance of the research in order to make children take the research seriously. Pupils’ questionnaires were then taken to the class and administered by the teachers using roughly 30 minutes of class time. Returned questionnaires were then collected from the teachers immediately after their classes were over. After implicating the pupils’ questionnaires in the class, five English teachers were selected to answer English teachers’ questionnaires in an office without discussion. Finally, one English teacher who taught the research class in English provided the English test grades of the class without the pupils’ names but numbers. All data were collected during the last week before the summer vacation in China.

3.6 Data Analysis Procedure
As Kojic-Sabo and Lightbown (1999) have argued clusters in L2 research show that,
‘if every participant in a sample could be characterized by a unique pattern, each one would form a separate cluster, and there would be as many clusters as students’(Do¨rnyei and Csize´r, 2005:13)

Obviously, for the present research, it is impossible to analyse each child’s result from the data because the grades offered were anonymous and could not be checked with the pupils’ individual performances and grades. However, generally the pupil sample can be divided into two clusters, boys and girls, to exploring their differences in learning English, which was exactly what the research aimed to do.
In the research, the data analyse procedure mainly focus on the number of boys and girls to the responds toward the questions. By comparing the number of the question item results, the research try to find who has the largest number in the specific question so that to analysis the characters of boys and girls in attitudes toward English learning. The research focuses on the class performance, motivations, and grades to explore boys’ and girls’ attitude toward English learning. For example, in motivation part, one of the questions is about the most interesting for pupils to learn English. After getting the data, comparing the number of boys’ and girls’ answers, it is easy to find the results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four: Presentation and Analysis of Results

4.1. Data analysis

Table 1: Boys and girls’ English class performances and practices#p#分页标题#e#

Concentration Participation Accuracy
Gender Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls
Class performances 2 3 5 0 2 3
Listening 3 2 5 0 3 2
Speaking 4 2 4 3 2 3
Reading 0 3 1 2 2 3
Writing 1 3 2 3 2 3
Total 10 15 17 8 11 14
Girls total 33
Boys total 38

Table1 shows 38 votes of better class performances for boys compared to 33 votes for girls from the 5 English teachers in the teachers’ questionnaires. Clearly, it can be seen that boys did better in class performance than girls generally speaking. However, girls did better in particular aspects of class performance such as concentration and accuracy, but boys received more votes on participation compared with girls by 17 to 8 so that boys scored higher in total than girls.

In reading and writing, girls were better than boys on concentration, participation and accuracy with more votes in every item. According to Zhang (2000) in China, although girls do not have in-depth advantages on reading strategies when compared to boys, they were found to be more proficient in overall scores (cited in Gu, 2009:4). This argument supports the result that girls have advantages in reading. Meanwhile, the present research also provides possible factors to explain this in that concentration, participation and accuracy are three factors considered to affect the reading results.
In class performance and listening, boys did overwhelmingly better for all five English teachers, who each agreed that boys participated more in class performance and listening tasks in class.

 

Table 2 Motivations for learning English

I learn English because Boys Girls
I am personally interested
in English(movies, songs) 18 18
It is an international
Language (study abroad) 17 18
It is a tool to acquire
knowledge(further education) 8 6
It is important for my
future career( better jobs ) 17 16
Other reasons 2 1

Table 2 shows different motivations for learning English. Some researchers (Ho, 1991; Saracaloğlu, 2002) have argued that motivation is related to attitudes in English learning. In this part of the study no significant differences in English learning motivation were found. For the entertainment motivation, both boys and girls have the same score of 18. For study and future career, there only is a one or two vote difference. As for the further education motivation, 8 boys and 6 girls voted for this, which is also not a huge difference. For the career option, the number is 17 boys and 16 girls, which is more or less the same. Clearly, there is no significant difference in motivation between boys and girls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 3 Boys’ and girls’ interests and likes in English learning

GENDER
Most interesting Least interesting Most difficult Easiest
BOYS/GIRLS BOYS/GIRLS BOYS/GIRLS BOYS/GIRLS
Listening 18 12#p#分页标题#e#
4 12 5 15 17 13
Reading 1 14 20 9 18 6 0 8
Speaking 17 10 3 3 4 5 10 18
Writing 2 16 18 8 19 10 1 8

Table 3 shows the interests and likes in English learning for boys and girls according to the four aspects: listening, reading, speaking and writing, providing the choice item of most interesting, least interesting, most difficult and easiest. Knowing the children’s favourite or least favourite section in English learning can be helpful when teaching English because teachers can use proper strategies to teach, which in turn also helps children learn English.
As it can be seen, reading and writing were least interesting for boys learning English with most boys answering in this way in the multiple answers with 20 choices of boys’ for reading and 18 choices of boys’ for writing . Boys’ lack of interest in writing may lead to their falling behind girls in writing. As Mead (2006:6) suggests ‘girls also outperform boys in writing at all grade levels’. This may because of boys’ disinterest in writing, which was one of the factors to reducing the willingness to learn writing, which also makes them less motivated to English learning.
Interestingly, 17 boys agreed that speaking was the most interesting part of learning English. In addition, no boys agreed reading is the easiest part of learning English. Compared to boys, 16 girls answered writing was the most interesting part of English learning and 14 girls answered that reading was the most interesting, which suggests that girls considered reading and writing more interesting than boys did. In speaking, both boys and girls with had 3 choices for considering that speaking was the least interesting part of English learning, which may suggests most children find speaking not less interesting.
However, the research does not agree the previous research of
‘Chambers (1993,as cited in Stables and Wikeleyt, 1999:28 ), who found listening to be the least popular aspect of language learning, Clark and Trafford (1995, as cited in Stables and Wikeleyt, 1999:28 ) found no such clear trend, with pattern of relative enjoyment within the subject emerging apparently dependent on an interrelationship of gender and ability’
In the present research, reading was considered to be the least interesting aspect of language with a total of 29 responses, which was the highest number column, indicating that it is the least interesting aspect of English learning for pupils. The result is not in line with Chamber’s argument that listening is the least popular.
Barton’s early survey discovered that ‘speaking was the most popular core skill with boys, while writing was most enjoyed by the girls’. Other researchers concur that boys find oral activities the most enjoyable component of the language lesson. (Batters, 1986; Aplin, 1991; Graham and Rees, 1995) It is, of course, reasonable to argue that it is boys’ inferior listening and reading skills which make oral activities so desirable.’ (Barton, 1997:4)#p#分页标题#e#
Compared with Barton’s citation, it can be seen that the most popular aspect of language learning was speaking for boys and girls with a total of 30 votes, the highest number in that column.
As it can be seen the present research shows that both boys and girls considered reading the least interesting part of learning English, accounting for 29 votes in total, higher than the other items. In particular, it is worth noting that 20 boys considered reading the least interesting. The result is similar to that of previous researchers. According to some researchers, they argued that ‘males usually find reading less interesting and important’ (Wigfield & Eccles, 1994, cited in Wolters and Pintrich, 1998:42). Obviously, although reading is not considered a popular aspect of language learning for boys and girls, it can be seen that when compared to girls, boys were less willing to reading aspect in English learning.
With listening, 18 boys and 12 girls found it the most interesting, with the similar number of pupils, 17 boys and 13 girls considering it the easiest part of English learning. However, it is obvious that 6 more boys thought listening most interesting and 4 more boys than girls thought listening easiest. The result may explain Gu’s argument that ‘males outperformed females in listening vocabulary’ (2009:3). Since boys did better in listening vocabulary, which is the first step, it is more helpful for their listening sentences and the paragraphs. Therefore, it can be estimated that boys may outperform girls in listening tasks.

 

Table 4 The number of children and time spent outside school learning English
Gender Number Time(in a week total)
Boys 5 9
Girls 12 18

Table 4 shows firstly more girls (12) than boys (5) spend time on learning English outside school, secondly more hours are spent learning by girls, 18 hours a week compared with 9 hours a week for boys, which means girls spend twice as many hours learning English outside school as boys. The present finding supports the claim that females have more positive attitudes toward English learning at school and outside school (Kobayshi, 2002, Rbrecht).

Table 5 Achievement of English tests grades
Gender A A- B B- C
Boys 3 3 8 5 1
Girls 9 6 2 3 0

Table 5 shows that the number of A grades for girls is three times as many as that for boys. For A- grades, the number for girls is twice as many as boys. However, for B grades, the number for boys is twice as many as girls. Similarly, for B- or C grades, girls also did better, which means more boys than girls at the low grade level. All in all, more girls were getting higher grades in English tests than boys while more boys got lower grades than girls, which can be summed up as girls did better in English tests than boys. To sum up, the total number of A grades were 15 for girls and 6 for boys. The total B grades were 12 for boys and 5 for girls. There was only one boy ranked C grade.#p#分页标题#e#

4.2 Findings
4.2.1 Class Performances

The first question of the study concerned the relationship between gender and English class performances. The results were generally as expected. At age 11, the median age of pupils, studying English in Grade Four of Jianshe primary school in Wenzhou, boys did better than girls in English class performance (see Table 1). Since these votes were from the 5 English teachers who taught the pupils English, the better performances of the boys in English classes could be interpreted as better attitudes toward English learning. However, from Table 1, it can seen that girls did better than boys in concentration and accuracy in learning English and boys were not as good as girls in any areas except participation. Therefore, the data will be divided into boys and girls. By comparing this, the results will be demonstrated.
Table 1 indicates that even though boys did better in class performance in general, they did not gain the highest votes from the English teachers on every specific item listed to evaluate class performance. For example, as it can be seen in the table below, boys were considered to be overwhelmingly better in participation when compared with girls.
However, a greater proportion of girls scored higher in the items of accuracy and concentration in class, but boys received far more participation votes than girls. As a result, girls lost in the performance comparison. But this finding apparently disagrees with Wen and Johnson (1997, as cited in Gu, 2009: 4), who discovered that in learning language ‘female participants are superior to males in terms of strategy use’ This argument conflicts with the present finding partly because both Wen and Johnson (1997) premised their argument on ‘strategy use ’to argue females out perform in participation, in the meantime, ‘strategy’ was specifically explained to be the participation. Gu (2009:4) goes on to argue his research shows that
‘Female participants outperformed male participants on both vocabulary size and general English proficiency and the studied supported by evidence from China confirming yet again the female dominance in language learning’.
In particular he points out the class performance situation in English learning classes in the Chinese education system. Firstly, in terms of vocabulary size, girls have more vocabulary than boys, which may suggest that girls are more hard-working when it comes to learning a foreign language or second language.
However, Pintrich & Groot (1990:36) summarise that 'Boys and girls did not differ on any of the classroom performance, to be specific, in gender differences in self-efficacy boys rated themselves more efficacious than did girls and they felt less test anxious than did girls’. The results were firstly not in line with Gu (2009) nor the present study, which found no gender differences between girls and boys in class participation. Secondly, it specifically explained that boys had class performance more efficiently and less test anxious than girls. This seems to show boys’ advantage in class performance when compared with girls although the results showed that there was no difference between the two genders in class participation literally. A similar finding was also reported by Wigfield and his colleagues, who also found that that ‘there are few gender differences in actual classroom performance or achievement’ (Wolters and Pintricn, 1998:42). His argument went on to support the arguments which disputed gender differences in class performance.#p#分页标题#e#
In listening and speaking, the present findings as Table 1 shows are that boys performed better than girls. However, in reading and writing, the result was different and girls performed superior to boys. The findings disagree with those of Stables and Wikeleyt (1999:30) that a number of children dislike ‘both reading aloud and oral work in English which involves presenting to the class ’. The argument suggests that a lot of children do not like performance in public perhaps because of the influence of psychology. When children ‘present to classes’ they may feel anxious and shy about performing in class and they may fear ‘losing face’ if they cannot present well nor give the correct answer. In this case they will not welcome ‘reading aloud’ or ‘oral work’ areas in which it easy to make mistakes for them. It is likely that children feel much pressure when they ‘read aloud’ or do ‘oral work’ in class.

4.2.2 English learning motivation

The second question of the study concerned the relationship between gender and motivation for learning English. There is no significant difference in motivations between boys and girls when it comes to learning English (Table 2). However, according to Wolters and Pintrich (1998:30) summary of large-scale research, there were stable gender differences between boys and girls on English courses. Firstly, the argument recognized that the gender differences existed. Secondly, the argument suggests the gender differences have slightly changed over time.
Previous studies (Eccles et al., 1989) predicted that gender affected motivation as females would report higher efficacy beliefs in English. Moreover, based on the work of Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons (1990) ‘girls have higher levels of self-regulation than males’ (Wolters and Pintricn, 1998:230). This indicates that motivation is an important factor in English learning.
‘Clark and Trafford found boys less willing to acknowledge the importance of learning a foreign language than girls, echoing earlier work by Powell and Batters (1985), and noted that the most able saw the most point in learning languages’. (as cited in Stables and Wikeleyt, 1999:28)

This may explain why some girls outperform boys in English learning; girls, it seems, are more willing to acknowledge the importance of learning English as a foreign language than boys. When girls acknowledge the importance of learning English, which has become the international language in China as one of the communication tools or bases for future development, at least, English has become a main course in school influencing entry to top middle schools or top universities, girls have sufficient motivations to learn English. Since learning English is so beneficial, both boys and girls will take English seriously; however, girls are more willing to acknowledge its importance perhaps because in China, traditionally, jobs such as English teacher, English translator and other jobs connected to speaking English are considered more suitable for girls than boys. Clearly, future job concepts affect the motivation to learn English in Chinese children, no matter whether they get this information from their families or society, their motivations are influence to some extent.#p#分页标题#e#
‘As research and experience have shown, children to other languages at primary level, motivated students can learn basic skills in other languages very quickly’(Stables and Wikeleyt, 1999:30). Firstly, the primary level is a significant period for children and a good time to start learning new things, including English. This may explain why English is valued in primary education in China. Secondly, it is pointed out that ‘motivated’ students can learn English quickly because the motivation drives them to focus on English learning directly.
As ‘Chambers (1994) points out, one of the causes of a lack of motivation is that ‘some pupils find difficulty in seeing the point in learning other languages’ (as cited in Seda Saracaloğlu, 2002:38). The pupils who cannot see the point in learning a foreign language may be lacking strategic approaches to learning. If pupils are given or devise an appropriate strategy, they will be able to see the point in learning, gaining confidence and the motivation to learn. It can be estimated that once pupils feel frustrated with learning English, they will lose confidence and hence interest in learning. It is believed that some achievement in English learning will encourage pupils because once they feel frustrated with learning English, they easily fall prey to negative emotions or attitudes and some pupils may give up on learning English altogether. Therefore, motivation is connected with attitudes in English learning, and certain relationship in boys and girls’ attitudes toward English learning exists. Similarly, motivations are also related to children’s achievement levels. According to Gardner and Lambert motivation is ‘essential or meaningful to foreign language achievement’ (cited in Ho, 1991:171)
One of the results in the present research in line with previous findings is that the speaking aspect of English learning is favoured by boys. In the present study, girls also liked speaking. It is believed that oral work in language learning is popular with pupils learning English. This may be because primary pupils are just beginning to learn English; therefore, at this level the text books and materials provide simple and basic language for them to learn, which follow the rule of study, from easy to difficult, step by step.

4.2.3 Achievement in English tests

The third research question concerned the relationship between gender and achievement. As Gu (2009:10) points out, males and females may differ in terms of language learning results. The present research shows that girls achieve higher grades in English tests than boys. This is in line with Wolters and Pintricn (1998:230) who found that ‘females received higher average grades than males in all three subject areas in the elementary school’. English is one of the most important classroom subjects in China and it is therefore not surprising that girls get higher grades in English tests in elementary school.
Gu (2009:11) developed the argument of Green and Oxford in 1995, which not only suggested that boys and girls had differences in learning strategies but also that boys and girls had different learning achievements. This argument acknowledges that differences exist between boys and girls in English learning achievement, which may be because of their different attitudes to English learning. #p#分页标题#e#
However, according to Karaş (1997, as cited in Saracaloğlu,2002:48) ‘there is only a weak relationship between achievement and attitudes ’. This may be partly true because, first of all, although it is acknowledged that the relation between achievement and attitudes toward English learning is weak, it is realized that the relationship exists. Gardner found that 'there was no correlation between achievement and attitudes’ (Saracaloğlu,2002:48) but Saracaloğlu (2002:39) argued that ‘a relationship between attitudes and achievement has been shown to exist’. This finding contradicts with the findings of Erdim’s (2001, as cited in Saracaloğlu,2002:46) study that ‘there is no relation between students attitudes and knowing second foreign language’. The argument seems not to be an overall view to the correlation because as Greenwell (1995:449) argued that: ‘Motivations and attitudes are deeply related to the affective and social side of an individual’s life’ . He cites some researchers’s findings (Brown and MacDougall, 1973; Chastain, Alvord and Glass, Prawer, 1974) in his study about Chinese students that ‘a significant correlation exits between self-concept and achievement. With a student’s good attitude toward himself his grades improved. Conversely, as grades improved attitude of self improved’.
From this view, it is known that on the one hand, positive attitudes toward English learning will drive pupils to study hard, as a result, pupils will achieve more, meanwhile, achieving may also improve pupils’ confidence, inspiring them and making them interested in learning to maintain their grades, which creates positive attitudes in pupils http://www.ukthesis.org/dissertation_writing/Education/gradually. On the other hand , when pupils are frustrated in tests they may lose confidence and some may have negative emotions harmful to their self-esteem, which may lead to negative attitudes toward English learning. Therefore, it is believed that attitude has some kind of correlation with achievement. Furthermore, as the results of this study show, girls outperformed boys in tests, which might be because they had more positive attitudes than boys toward English learning.

 

 

 

 

 


Chapter 5: Discussion
5.1 Attitudes of boys and girls toward English learning

The results provide a base for the specification and elaboration of the theoretical linkages between gender differences in children’s motivation and their class performances and achievements in English. The first finding is that boys outperformed girls in class. The second finding relates to motivation for learning English and gender differences, which suggests that there were no significant differences between boys and girls in motivation for English learning. The third finding relates to the differences in achievement between boys and girls in English learning.#p#分页标题#e#
The findings coincide with results from previous research over the world, that girls have more positive attitudes when compared to boys. However, it is not absolutely certain that girls are more talented when it comes to learning in English in China. Even though girls have higher achievement levels in English tests, it cannot be clearly stated that girls are superior in English class performance and motivation for learning English.
Two possible reasons could be offered for the better performances of the boys in the English class. First of all, psychologically speaking, girls are more sensitive than boys. For boys, they may have fewer problems with shyness in class than girls as they are much braver and more willing to make mistakes than girls. On the contrary, girls are much shyer in class, which may be because they have higher self-esteem than boys. Girls may think that if they cannot offer the correct answer, they would rather keep silent because they are afraid of making mistakes in class. Due to girls’ sensitivity to the reaction of the rest of the class and their teachers, they choose to be quiet. This suggests that girls did not perform better because of their shyness, that they would rather keep silent than take the risk giving the wrong answer in front of class. This idea is supported by Dunn and Cowen’s (1993,as cited in Bubrecht,1997:16) finding that ‘the males are usually the outspoken ones while the females are shy, demure’ .
Secondly, in Chinese culture, it is good manners for females to be quiet. Although, this idea is gradually changing, it is still influential. Conversely, in all-boys schools ‘boys are more ready to continue with languages than in mixed-sex schools, suggesting that social reasons play a role’ (Lai, 2007:88). It is believed that in all-boys schools, boys may realize the expectation is different from that in mixed schools. Therefore, they may be less influenced by social expectations. Traditionally, in China, boys are considered to be active, talkative and shameless while girls are considered to be quiet and conservative. Boys tend to be participants while girls tend to be audiences in traditional culture. Furthermore, Wolters and Pintrich (1998) indicated lower levels of anxiety about learning English in females than males. It can be assumed that girls participated less in class because they were anxious. As most girls are known to be shy when it comes to public participation because of their fear of failing, in this case, girls chose not to show enthusiasm for participate in class even if they felt a desire to. Compared to girls, boys care less about making mistakes in public as they are already considered as ‘naughty’.
The motivational components were linked in important ways to pupils’ class performances (Pintrich & Groot, 1990). Wolters and Pintrich (1998:29) point out that the results and levels of children’s participation in class can have an important affect on their motivation. This argument reveals the relationship between motivation and class participation. However, the relationship suggested is not in line with the present research, which found no significant differences in motivation for English learning between boys and girls, but differences in class participation and performances. #p#分页标题#e#
‘L2 learners can be very anxious (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991) and if this happens, L2 learners regress in their needs, motivation, and performance in the classroom’(Hu, 1997: 56) In China, motivations for learning English are closely connected to attitudes towards English learning. It is known that English as a main course has become one of the significant factors deciding students are enrolled by top schools, top universities and employed in even decent jobs. The English test grades account for a large proportion of the total scores. Therefore, the intense competition for places in top schools, top universities and decent jobs drives pupils to learn English for a better future.
Regarding vocabulary learning via reading, some researchers (Boyle, 1987, Oxford, Lavine, Hollaway, Felkins, and Saleh, 1996; Young and Oxford (1997; Gu, 2009) have pointed out that girls are more willing than boys to employ varied strategies for learn vocabulary. This suggests that girls are probably more interested in vocabulary learning than boys, from which it may estimated that girls have larger vocabularies than boys. Once girls have greater vocabulary or superior vocabulary-learning strategies, this can be helpful for their speaking, listening and writing, and in particular, their reading because if they come across some strange word in the text, they have the vocabulary to guess and get the gist of the main idea.
In the present research, an open-ended question was given to pupils to clarify why they thought listening, speaking, reading or writing was the least interesting or most difficult aspect of second language learning. The answer of most boys was that vocabulary is one of the main obstacles they have to overcome when learning English. Boys acknowledged in the present research that they were not studying as hard as girls. It is believed that there is no shortcut for mastering vocabulary and, since boys did not spend as much time learning as girls, as the present research shows that girls spent more time inside and outside school learning than boys, girls would find it easier to learn English vocabulary than boys.
That teachers need to be ‘aware of the gender difference in language learning strategies is by now well-documented’ (Green & Oxford, 1995; Oxford, 1993; Oxford & Nyikos, 1989) While female students as a group are shown to outperform their male counterparts and that they also employ strategies that are more related to success, there is no reason why an individual male student should believe that he is helpless. Furthermore, some male students should be reminded that memorising words alone will not solve their problems, and that a more active approach to both vocabulary learning in specific and EFL learning in general should help them improve their English.’ (Gu, 2009:12). Therefore, vocabulary learning strategies are obviously beneficial for English learning. According to Oxford and Green (1995:299) the Republic of China showed significant gender differences on the SILL. In that study, females significantly surpassed males in their use of cognitive, compensation, meta-cognitive and social strategies.#p#分页标题#e#

‘Women are generally expected to succeed in language learning, and for non-English majors in China, failure in English for female students may well be more face-threatening than for male students. The fact that female participants spent more extracurricular time on English learning provides support to this explanation’ (Gu, 2009:11).

This may explain why females do better in English in China because of the social expectations, which also affect children’s consciousness, encouraging girls to be successful female English learners as examples. This explanation can be supported by Ellis (1994) who found that previous research provided reasons to explain why females excel at language learning: ‘higher employment expectations derived from foreign language study account for more positive attitudes toward language learning for females than males’ (Rubtrcht: 20).And as several researchers ((Kaballa & Crowley, 1985; Weinburgh, 1998, cited in Saracaloğlu, 2002:39) have pointed out, attitudes toward foreign language learning affects behaviour.
Garrott’s study (1992:238) outlined in order the four English skills Chinese students felt most and least comfortable with, these being: reading, speaking, listening and writing. His explanation for the order of the list was that, in China, the most popular approach of teaching and learning English is to ask students to recite the textbooks and memorize them, which is ‘standard operating procedure for Chinese students of all ages’. Thus, Garrott considered that students may feel confident and comfortable in their experiences by years. This may be partly true; however, the present research suggests a different order for the four skills, which would be listed as follows: listening and speaking (the same rank), writing and reading.
The main likely explanations for this can be stated as, firstly, in primary school, pupils begin to learn English by reciting from textbooks . They may not be prepared for reciting, as before primary school they are in pre-primary school where there are games and songs instead of a huge study load. Therefore, it is a little difficult for them to change immediately. That is to say, pupils are not used to reciting. Secondly, since pupils are not used to learning and reciting English texts while teachers ask pupils to reciting as homework. Pupils may feel pressured and this might cause a negative reaction. This kind of negative mindset may lead to them forming negative attitudes toward English learning. Thirdly, as primary pupils, they will probably not have a large vocabulary and when they come across strange words these may become obstacles in their reading. They will feel frustrated and might lose confidence and feel less comfortable reading. Last but not least, although Wong (2002:100) argues that 'there are no differences between boys and girls in vocabulary knowledge' it can be estimated that girls may have a larger vocabulary than boys because the present research shows that girls spend more time outside school learning English. They are therefore more likely to meet new vocabulary and have more chances to practice familiar vocabulary. It is believed that having a bigger vocabulary can also be helpful in the reading process. From this point, it can be estimated that slight differences may exist between boys and girls in terms of vocabularies.#p#分页标题#e#
The present research tends to suggest that girls have more positive attitudes than boys by comparing the results of the answers to the three questions. Firstly, boys’ attitudes toward English learning in China can be understood as being influenced by the fact that boys are active and more willing to perform in class than girls, however, in specific aspects of class performances, boys just did better in participation in class while girls did better in concentration and accuracy. This may be because, as was explained above, girls are supposed to be quiet and careful in the way they deal with things and so may not answer questions actively unless they are sure that they are right, while boys are more willing to offer their first thought to the class without too much consideration. In this case, it is no wonder that teachers suggest girls are more accurate than boys in the teachers’ questionnaires. Secondly, it is likely that boys are seen as more willing to participate because they are able to directly respond in class and their willingness is probably more to do with them being less shy than the girls. Last but not least, girls did better in concentration in English learning in class, which is also related in boys and girls’ nature in that the quieter girls find it easier to focus in class than the talkative boys. To sum up, in the present research because boys’ votes are a litter higher than girls for class performance, it is believed that boys did better in English class performances. Meanwhile, in teachers’ view, boys may be a little more pro-active in their attitudes towards participation while girls have better attitudes in tersm of concentration and accuracy.
English learning motivations are intimately connected with attitudes, as some researchers (Saracaloğlu, 2002; Greenwell, 2009) have argued. The present research finds that there is no significant difference between boys and girls in English learning motivation. One likely explanation is that because this research focuses on the 9-11 year old children beginning to learn English in school, the children had not really realised the benefits of learning English although their families and wider society emphasises the importance of English learning in China. Thus, neither boys nor girl felt the same pressures as adults, or realized how competitive learning English in China is, so that the differences in their motivations are not huge. Therefore, children’s motivations for English learning slightly affect their attitudes toward English learning.
Furthermore, some researchers (Karas, 1997; Saracaloğlu, 2002; Gu, 2009) have argued the relationship between attitudes and English achievement. The present research shows some findings in line with their previous finding, mainly that girls outperformed boys in English tests. There are three possible reasons to explain this situation. To begin with, the present research shows that girls spent more time inside and outside school learning English than boys. Obviously, harder working girls are likely to gain more than boys in terms of English knowledge and experiences to bring to the English tests. Secondly, girls are considered to be more careful and more concentrated, which also helps them to deal with the tests. Thirdly, some teachers’ answers to the questionnaires suggested that boys are less willing to do English homework, which always is transcription of vocabulary, sentences and texts books and reciting text books. In China, reciting and transcription is often the homework for pupils learning English. Because of this, boys may feel bored and are probably not as patient as girls when it comes to doing the homework, so that boys may not get ideal grades in the test. Meanwhile, English tests in primary schools in China mainly focus on vocabulary, spelling, making sentences and basic skills derived from textbooks. Because girls take the homework more seriously than boys and spend more time reading the textbooks, they will outperform the boys in English tests.#p#分页标题#e#

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6: Conclusion
英国论文网It has been widely discussed in academic debates whether gender differences exist in attitudes to language learning. It is believed that sex is a learning factor that may explain cognitive and strategic differences between male and female students learning second languages. Many researchers have concluded that ‘females had higher value beliefs for English’ (Eccles, 1983, 1984; Eccles, Wigfield, Flanagan, Miller, Reuman & Yee, 1989; Wigfield, Eccles, MacIver, Reuman & Midgley, 1991; Wigfield &Eccles, 1994; cited in Wolters and Pintrich, 1998). Their studies suggest that females have positive attitudes toward English learning. To explain boys’ indifference towards learning foreign languages, Dale (1974) points out that foreign languages are seen as girls’ subjects by boys. Similarly, Sunderland (2000) puts forward the same argument, reiterating that boys see foreign languages as girlish subjects and that learning them is an ‘unmanly’ activity. Loulidi (1990) also found that many more girls than boys choose to continue with languages when they have the choice. On the other side of the debate, some researchers suggest that there are no gender differences in attitudes to language learning (Mullis, Martin et al, 2000; Collins, Doig et al). They suggest that there are no differences between boys and girls in attitudes toward English learning.
In order to explore gender differences in attitudes to English learning in Chinese primary school, this research examined firstly whether gender makes a difference in English class performances, secondly whether there are gender differences in English learning motivation, thirdly if there are any differences between boys and girls in English achievement. Therefore, the most effective and easy to implement approach was to explore the issue using questionnaires. Two kinds of questionnaires were designed. One was for Chinese Jianshe Primary school pupils and the other for their English teachers. Multiple choice questions provided more information to consider the specific motivations for English learning. Open ended questions provided more possibility for pupils to reveal gender differences in their motivations for learning English.
A questionnaire survey was conducted and the aim of this questionnaire-based study of a Chinese primary school was to explore gender differences in attitudes to English learning in three specific areas: gender and class performance, gender and motivation, as well as gender and achievement. The research also attempts to account for one of the findings, female students’ superior grades in English tests. The research focuses on the attitudes of primary school children, to examine the attitudes of primary school children aged 9-11 towards English as a foreign or second language. According to Pierson et al (1980), Pennington and Yue (1994) administered a questionnaire survey to examine students’ attitudes towards English. Hyland (1997) reported similar questionnaire study. Lung (1997) is the only one found to have paid some attention to gender, carrying out a language attitude study in 1994. (Lai, 2007:92)#p#分页标题#e#
The results of this study lead to three central conclusions. The first conclusion is that boys did a little better than girls in class performance. Secondly, there is no significant gender difference in English learning motivation. Thirdly, gender accounts for the difference in pupils’ English test achievement, with girls outperforming boys. The findings focus on the class performance, motivation and achievement because they are all related to the expression of pupils’ attitudes toward English learning. As it is discussed by some researchers (Karas, 1997; Saracaloğlu, 2002; Gu, 2009, et al) attitudes are in correlation to class performance, motivation and achievement respectively. As Haitema (2002) and Saracaloğlu (2000) argue students’ attitudes correlate with foreign language achievement. Non-intelligence factors affect English learning through gender differences, which are demonstrated in some aspects such as motivation, willingness and concentration.
In discussing factors affecting attitudes towards foreign languages and culture, Byram et al (1991: 166) affirm that ‘Gender is one of the variables most frequently associated with the variance in attitudinal scores.’(Cited in Lai, 2007:86) Therefore, this research focuses on motivation, class performance and achievement, which are considered to be the factors influencing attitudes towards English learning.
In China, most studies have focused on global analysis of respondents’ attitudes towards the major languages and few have devoted attention to the attitudes of the two genders. It is therefore expected that the present research will contribute further discussion of pupils' attitudes towards learning English in China as a foreign or second language.

 

 


Word count: 12,100

 

 

Appendix 1 Questionnaires for English teachers

Section 1: class performance

1. In your classes, who concentrates more on learning English?
A. girls concentrate more on learning English than boys
B. boys concentrate more on learning English than girls
C. both boys and girls concentrate on English lessons
D. neither boys nor girls concentrate on English lessons

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

2. In your classes, who participates more in learning English?
A. girls participate more in learning English than boys
B. boys participate more in learning English than girls
C. both boys and girls participate in English lessons
D. neither boys nor girls participate in English lessons

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________


3. In your classes, who is more accurate?
A. girls are more accurate than boys
B. boys are more accurate than girls
C. both boys and girls are accurate
D. neither boys nor girls are accurate

Do you have any suggestions why?#p#分页标题#e#
_______________________________________________________

 


Section 2: listening

1. In your classes, do you notice any differences between boys and girls in listening comprehension?
A. boys perform better than girls
B. girls perform better than boys
C. no clear difference
D. other___________________

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 

 


2. In your classes, who do you notice concentrates more on listening tasks?
A. boys are more concentrated
B. girls are more concentrated
C. no clear difference
D.____________________

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 

3. In your classes, who is more accurate in listening tasks?
A. girls are more accurate than boys
B. boys are more accurate than girls
C. both boys and girls are accurate
D. neither boys nor girls are accurate


Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 

 

Section 3: reading

1. In your classes, do you notice any differences between boys and girls in reading?
A. boys perform better than girls
B. girls perform better than boys
C. no clear difference
D. other___________________

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________


2. In your classes, who do you notice concentrates more on reading?
A. boys concentrate more on reading
B. girls concentrate more on reading
C. no clear difference
D.____________________

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 

3. In your classes, who is more accurate in reading?
A. girls are more accurate than boys
B. boys are more accurate than girls
C. both boys and girls are accurate
D. neither boys nor girls are accurate


Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 

 

 


Section 4: writing

1. In your classes, do you notice any differences between boys and girls in writing?
A. boys perform better than girls
B. girls perform r better than boys
C. no clear difference
D. other___________________

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

2. In your classes, who do you notice concentrates more on writing?
A. boys concentrate more on writing
B. girls concentrate more on writing
C. no clear difference
D.____________________

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 #p#分页标题#e#

3. In your classes, who is more accurate in writing?
A. girls are more accurate than boys
B. boys are more accurate than girls
C. both boys and girls are accurate
D. neither boys nor girls are accurate

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

Section 5: speaking

1. In your classes, do you notice any differences between boys and girls in speaking?
A. boys perform better than girls
B. girls perform better than boys
C. no clear difference
D. other___________________

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 


2. In your classes, who do you notice concentrate more on speaking?
A. boys concentrate more on speaking
B. girls concentrate more on speaking
C. no clear difference
D.____________________

Do you have any suggestions why?
_______________________________________________________

 

3. In your classes, who is more accurate in speaking?
A. girls are more accurate than boys
B. boys are more accurate than girls
C. both boys and girls are accurate
D. neither boys nor girls are accurate

Do you have any suggestions why?

_______________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 


Appendix 2. Questionnaires for pupils

1. Age________

2. Male□ Female□ (tick your gender please)

3. How much do you like English in general?

A. not at all B. a little C. some D. a lot E. very much

Why?
______________________________________________

4. How much do you enjoy learning English in school?

A. not at all B. a little C. some D. a lot E. very much

Why?
__________________________________________________

5. Which is the most interesting part for you when learning English in school?
(you can tick as many as you think)

A. listening B. speaking C. reading D. writing E. other_________

Why?
__________________________________________________

6. Which is the least interesting part for you when learning English in school?
(you can tick as many as you think)

A. listening B. speaking C. reading D. writing E. other__________

Why?
__________________________________________________


7. Which is the most difficult part for you in learning English in school?
(you can tick as many as you think)

A. listening B. speaking C. reading D. writing E. other___________

Why?
__________________________________________________

 

 


8. Which is the easiest part for you in learning English in school?
(you can tick as many as you think)

A. listening B. speaking C. reading D. writing E. other___________#p#分页标题#e#
Why?
__________________________________________________


9. What types of activities do you like most in English lessons?
(put ☺☺☺ if you like it a lot
put ☺☺ if you like quite a lot
put ☺ if you like a little
put ∆ if you do not like it)

games___________________________
silent reading_____________________
repetition_________________________
drama____________________________
others_____________________________

10. Do you have English lessons outside school?

A. yes, go to Question11
B. no, go to Question12

11. If yes, how many hours do you spend on learning English outside school in a week?
A. 1-2 B.3-4 C. 5-6 D. 7-8 E. more than 8


12. Do you think learning English at school is important? Why?
A. yes. Reasons_____________________________________________
B. no. Reasons_____________________________________________
C. other______________________________________________________

13. What would you like to learn English for outside school?
(you can tick as many as you think)

A. understanding movies B. understanding songs C. further education

D. study abroad E. other___________

 

 

 

 

 


Appendix 3. Questionnaires for pupils in Chinese

给小学生的问卷调查

1.年龄————

2.男性□ 女性□ (请打钩)

3.总的来说,你有多喜欢英语呢?

A.一点都不喜欢 B. 只有一点 C 一些 D很多 E 非常多
为什么?
——————————————————————————

4.你有多喜欢在学校学英语呢?
A一点都不喜欢 B. 只有一点 C 一些 D很多 E 非常多

5.哪个是你在学校学习英语觉得最有意思的部分?(你可以想打钩几个就几个)
A 听 B说 C 读 D写 E其他————
为什么______________________________________________________________________

6.哪个是你在学校学习英语觉得最没意思的部分?(你可以想打钩几个就几个)
A 听 B说 C 读 D写 E其他————
为什么______________________________________________________________________

7.哪个是你在学校学习英语觉得最难懂的部分?(你可以想打钩几个就几个)
A 听 B说 C 读 D写 E其他————
为什么______________________________________________________________________

8.哪个是你在学校学习英语觉得最简单的部分?(你可以想打钩几个就几个)A 听 B说 C 读 D写 E其他————
为什么______________________________________________________________________ #p#分页标题#e#
9.你最喜欢英语课上的哪种活动?
(如果非常喜欢的请画上☺☺☺
如果一般喜欢的请画上☺☺
如果只喜欢一点请画上☺
如果不喜欢请画上 )
游戏——————————————————
默读——————————————————
重复跟读————————————————
戏剧——————————————————
其他——————————————————
10.你有课外的英语学习吗?
A 有的话请到 问题11
B没有的话请到问题 12

11.如果你有课外学习英语,那么一周花多少时间学习英语呢?
A 1到2小时 B 3到4小时 C 5到6小时 D 7到8小时 E多于8小时

12 你认为在学校学习英语重要吗?为什么?
A 是的 理由是______________________________________________
B 不是 理由是______________________________________________
C 其他_____________________________________________________

13. 什么使你喜欢课外喜欢学习英语吗?(你可以想打钩几个就几个)
A 为了理解英语电影 B为了明白英语歌曲 C 为了更深造的学习
D 为了国外留学的准备 E 其他————————————

 


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