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Extroversion is not a benefit in a task-based language classroom

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There is common belief that the way we learn is influenced by our personality. Also, there is a contradiction between the predictions of psychologists and applied linguists in respect to the relationship between extraversion and learning as there is still a debate to know which personality type is in advantage. On one hand, psychologists maintain that extraversion is a disadvantage for learning since an extravert has less cortical arousal, has a limited long term memory, and is more easily inhibited. On the other hand, many applied linguists declare that extraversion is an advantage for learning L2 because the extraverts elicit more input and generate more outputs. To examine such controversies, a case study was designed to observe 7 extroverts and 7 introverts performing over various task based activities in an EFL language class in Iran. Primarily, an Eysenck's Personality Questionnaire-Revised in Persian Language was given to 140 students at pre-intermediate levels of an English Institute in Mashhad Iran to determine the dominant personality type among the students. Then, 14 students were randomly chosen so that their performances of task-based activities could be observed. The authors used a reliable checklist of Assessing Learners' Oral Proficiency (CALOP) for observing the students' performances of the three task types namely information-gap, reasoning-gap, and opinion-gap. The results revealed that extroversion was dominant (53. 6 %) in the population. More importantly, the introverts and extroverts showed no significant differences over their performances of the three task types.
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Extroversion is not a benefit in a task-based language classroom
Reza Gholami1, Reza Vaseghi1, Hamed Barjasteh2, Noreen Nordin1
1 Faculty of Educational Studies, Putra University, Malaysia (UPM)
2Islamic Azad University, Research and Science Campus; and Department of ELT, Islamic Azad University,
Ayatollah Amoli Branch, Amol, Iran
Abstract. There is common belief that the way we learn is influenced by our personality. Also, there is a
contradiction between the predictions of psychologists and applied linguists in respect to the relationship
between extraversion and learning as there is still a debate to know which personality type is in advantage.
On one hand, psychologists maintain that extraversion is a disadvantage for learning since an extravert has
less cortical arousal, has a limited long term memory, and is more easily inhibited. On the other hand, many
applied linguists declare that extraversion is an advantage for learning L2 because the extraverts elicit more
input and generate more outputs. To examine such controversies, a case study was designed to observe 7
extroverts and 7 introverts performing over various task based activities in an EFL language class in Iran.
Primarily, an Eysenck’s Personality Questionnaire-Revised in Persian Language was given to 140 students at
pre-intermediate levels of an English Institute in Mashhad Iran to determine the dominant personality type
among the students. Then, 14 students were randomly chosen so that their performances of task-based
activities could be observed. The authors used a reliable checklist of Assessing Learners’ Oral Proficiency
(CALOP) for observing the students’ performances of the three task types namely information-gap,
reasoning-gap, and opinion-gap. The results revealed that extroversion was dominant (53. 6 %) in the
population. More importantly, the introverts and extroverts showed no significant differences over their
performances of the three task types.
Keywords: Extroversion, introversion, TBLT, information-gap activity, reasoning-gap activity, opinion-
gap activity.
1. Introduction
It is believed that the difference existing in the performance of the learners in L2 courses is due to the
individual differences among language learners [1]. Also, there are always some classes with which the
teachers are not satisfied regarding the final performance of the students i.e. some individuals are more
successful than others in mastering the language [2]. Success or failure in learning L2 is determined by
particular personal factors [1]. The way we learn is definitely affected by our personality. Practitioners
assume that understanding of the personality type can help teachers explain why students approach tasks
differently [3] & [4]. Personality is one of the individual differences widely accepted to have an effect on
learning in general and second language acquisition (SLA) in particular [5]. This case study attempted to
investigate Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) as a recent version of a communicative methodology” [6]
and also focused on extroverts and introverts to find out whether their performances differ significantly in
TBLT activities; a teaching method which is currently popular among private English schools in Iran [7].
“Task-based learning is a very good approach to getting people to interact conversationally, without being
limited to conversation classes [8]. Tasks are pieces of meaning-focused work which involve learners in
comprehending, manipulating, producing or interacting in the target language while their attention is
principally focused on meaning rather than form [8]. In this research, three task types were chosen as central
Corresponding Author’s e-mail: Gholami.phd@hotmail.com
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2011 International Conference on Languages, Literature and Linguistics
IPEDR vol.26 (2011) © (2011) IACSIT Press, Singapore
activities based on the Bangalore Project conducted by Prabhu in 1987 and are also proposed by Rod Ellis [9]
for teaching speaking. Based on cognitive activity, these tasks can be classified into three main categories
namely information-gap tasks, opinion-gap tasks and reasoning-gap tasks. An information-gap activity
involves the exchange of information among participants in order to complete a task. An opinion-gap activity
is identifying, and articulating a personal preference, feeling, or attitude in response to a given situation. And
a reasoning-gap activity requires students to derive some new information by referring it from information
they have been given [10]. Since the students get engaged in these activities, their personal traits may
influence the learning outcome significantly because these task based activities require the learners to rely on
their personal imagination and way of thinking and then their learning outcome is supposed to be affected by
personality factors either positively or negatively [10]. It is mostly supposed that introverts are reserved and
quiet and have a tendency to reclusiveness while extroverts are considered talkative. We might then
misunderstand these traits because of a tendency to stereotype extroversion [1] [11] & [12].
2. Problem Statement
There exists a contradiction between the predictions of psychologists and applied linguists in respect to
the relationship between extraversion and learning. There is still a debate to know which personality type is
in advantage [5] & [13]. Psychologists claim that extraversion is a disadvantage for learning since extraverts
have less cortical arousal, are more easily inhibited and have a limited long term memory. In contrast,
applied linguists predict that extraversion is an advantage for learning a second/foreign language on the
assumption that an extravert elicits more input and produces more output [14], [5], [13] & [15]. These
different arousal levels cause introverts and extroverts to have different behavioural and attitudinal
preferences and tendencies [1]. Dewaele and Furnham (1999) relate the apparent discrepancies to biological
arousal levels among extroverts and introverts. The authors argue that “extroverts are under-aroused and
introverts are over-aroused”. Considering the fact that individuals operate ideally within a moderate arousal
level, Dewaele and Furnham [16] argue that extroverts look for external stimulation to reach optimal arousal
levels, while introverts try to avoid such stimulations. In other words, introverts would evade such states
because they are prone to suffer from arousal levels that exceed their optimal tolerance. The hypothesis of
applied linguists on the superiority of extraverts centers around the positive impact of input as well as output
on language learning [16]. It seems that the biological aspect of extroversion and introversion is neglected
probably because we can see a clear contradiction or a conflict between the predictions of psychologists and
applied linguists on the effects of extroversion and introversion on general learning and SLA [5]. Such
beliefs that extraversion may help or hinder developing second/foreign language skills as [15] maintains may
be only half-truth, but they provide the stimulus for systematic investigations such as this current research.
Having been provided with such a stimulus in observing the learning behaviors of language learners in EFL
classes, on the one hand, and seeing the clear contradiction of ideas between applied linguists and
psychologists, on the other hand, the researchers decided to respond to this stimulus focusing only extrovert
and introvert learners through this case study because it would be helpful to see if introversion/extroversion
has any impact on a particular facet of EFL learning [14].
2.1. Research Questions
y What is the dominant personality trait among Iranian EFL learners?
y Are there any significant differences between the performances of the extrovert and introvert EFL
learners on information-gap, reasoning-gap, and opinion-gap activities?
3. Method
3.1. Participants
A total number of 140 subjects were randomly chosen from the pre-intermediate level of a private
English School in Mashhad, Iran. The subjects ranged in age from 17 to 19 and all had the same English
background knowledge. At this level, they could express themselves more meaningfully and take part in
conversations interactively and have an active role in information exchange. All these students took the
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Persian version EPQ-R so that the authors could identify what quantity of this sample were extroverts and
introverts.
3.2. Materials and Questionnaires
3.2.1. EPQ-R
Eysenck’s Personality Questionnaire-Revised (EPQ-R) in Persian Language was used in this study to
determine the students’ traits and in particular the extroversion and introversion. This questionnaire which is
suitable for people above 16 years old, had been widely used in Iran both educationally and psychologically
and had been validated frequently through previous studies and its reliability [1]. It was selected because it
had been standardized educationally and for which there was an established validity and reliability. In the
questionnaire the subjects were asked to reply yes or no to 57 questions which also contained a Lie Scale to
make sure a respondent does not answer questions in a manner that is simply socially correct. This scale is
able to detect attempts by participants to present themselves in a favorable light. A person scoring high on
the "Lie" scale will probably have invalid results. According to Eysenck and Eysenck [17] the lie scale
included in the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire permits lying to be diagnosed when a set of rarely
performed acts are endorsed by the respondent as being habitually done and when frequently performed non-
desirable acts are denied by the respondent.
3.2.2. Checklist of Assessing Learners’ Oral Proficiency (CALOP):
CALOP was used to assess each subject’s performance of three task types during class setting within 6
weeks. The following criteria were included: task fulfillment, fluency & comprehensibility, grammatical
accuracy, appropriateness, and vocabulary selection. Each criterion had a score range from 1 to 4, and a total
score of 20 was given to the students [1]. To establish the validity, the checklist was referred to panels of
experts. Through a pilot study, this checklist was used to measure its internal consistency with Chronbach’s
alpha and item total correlations. The components had an overall internal consistency of 0.87 [1] & [7].
3.3. Procedure
At first, 140 male and female students who had enrolled in the mentioned English Language School were
given the EPQ-R. These students had been randomly chosen and were in different classes. Then 14 students
were observed for scoring their performances of three task based activities through different sessions and
using CALOP. A score between 0 and 20 was given to each student for each activity separately. Finally all
the data (raw scores) were transferred to the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) software, Version
16.0 (student Version) for data analysis and testing the research questions. To decrease the observer’s effect,
students were not informed their performances were under observation. Hence, it is believed that students
were not significantly affected due to the presence of an observer.
4. Results and findings
Research question 1: After the data was transferred to SPSS, demographic data displayed in Table 1
were obtained. It was revealed that 65 students were introverts and 75 were extroverts out of 140
participants. The percentage of the independent variable namely extroversion/introversion was also
computed indicating that 53.6% of the population was formed by extroverts and other 46.4% of the
population were introverts. Based on the results that in general, the major numbers of the students available
in the population of this study were extroverts (more than Introverts). Also, both male and female students
reported to be more extroverted 52.5 % and 54.4% respectively.
Table 1: Percentage of Extroversion/Introversion in Main Population
Percentage of the Extroverts 53.6 %
Percentage of the Introverts 46.4 %
Total 100 %
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Research question 2: The second research question determined whether there was difference in the
performances of extrovert and introvert students on task-based activities including the information-gap,
opinion-gap and reasoning-gap activities. To respond this research question, 14 students already known as
extroverts and introverts were observed through different sessions during a period of one term (five weeks),
and the students received a score (between 1 and 20) for performing each task based activity by the
researcher. Tables 2 and 3 demonstrate the means, standard deviations, and variances obtained for the scores
of extroverts and introverts respectively on various task types.
Table 2: Descriptive Statistics for Extroverts (N: 7)
Mean Std. Deviation Variance
Information Gap 16.42 1.76 3.11
Reasoning Gap 16.85 1.13 1.28
Opinion Gap 14.21 2.22 4.94
Table 3: Descriptive Statistics for Introverts (N: 7)
Mean Std. Deviation Variance
Information Gap 16.28 1.49 2.23
Reasoning Gap 16.89 1.27 1.62
Opinion Gap 14.07 1.03 1.07
For both extroverts and introverts, lower scores were obtained for opinion-gap activities compared to
other two task types. This confirms to some extent the results of the Bangalore Project because in there, such
activity received less attention after the students proved to be less able to participate and interact successfully
over open-ended tasks [10]. At this stage, for testing the research questions and to see whether these means
differ significantly, t-tests were conducted as the data were normally distributed for three task-based
activities. Table 4 displays the results of the Independent Samples t-Test for the introverted and extroverted
groups. To be statistically different at the .05 level, the t value would need to be greater than 2.00. The
Levene statistic tests the hypothesis of equality of variance of the dependent variable grades. A significance
value of .87 indicates a lack of significant variance between the grades of this group over information-gap
activities indicating that that there is no statistical difference in the performance of Information Gap Scores
between Introvert and Extrovert groups. Similarly, for the second task based activity namely reasoning gap
activity, there is no statistical difference in the performance between Introvert and Extrovert groups as the p-
value of 0.95. Finally, there was no statistical difference between performances of extrovert and introvert
students over opinion gap activities because the p-value was 0.88.
Table 4: Independent Sample t-test for All Task Type Scores
5. Conclusions
y The dominant personality type among the EFL learners selected for this study was extroversion
(53.6 %).
y There was no significant difference between the performances of extrovert and introvert students
over the information-gap activities.
140
y Similarly, no difference was observed on the performances of extroverts and introverts over
reasoning-gap activities.
y Finally, extroverts and introverts performed similarly on the opinion-gap activities. Moreover, both
groups obtained low scores over the opinion-gap activities.
6. Implications
y Since TBLT is increasingly applied in Iran, knowing that there is no difference between extroverts
and introverts’ performance in TBLT classes helps teachers find the solution in other sources apart
from personality trait in case of any problems regarding the learners’ performances in the classrooms.
y The impact of this research on L2 teachers and researchers has been to heighten their sensitivity to
possible ways in which the personality traits of the learners might influence their L2 access and
exposure and their linguistic performance of classroom tasks.
y It seems that extroverts and introverts are not homogenous populations who uniformly achieve or fail.
Not all extroverts are achieving and not all introverts are underachieving and the debate needs to be
cognizant of this.
y The obtained conclusions of this research must remain preliminary, to be confirmed, altered, or
discarded in the light of further empirical investigation, because only a limited amount of serious
research has been done to trace the origin(s) of personality and its effect on task based learning in
Iran.
y Nevertheless, the main pedagogical conclusion is that the ESL/EFL teacher in TBLT classroom
should be confident that extroversion and introversion are not determinants in the performances of
their students. So, they can appraise their students’ performances free of any prejudgment regarding
their personality traits.
7. References
[1] Gholami, R., (2011). Psychological Traits and Task-Based Learning of EFL Learners: Performances of Extroverts
& Introverts. Lambert Academic Publishing: USA.
[2] Spolsky, B. (1989). Conditions for Second Language Learning, Introduction to a General Theory. Oxford: Oxford
University Press
[3] Ehrman, M. E., & Oxford, R. (1990). Adult language learning styles and strategies in an intensive training setting.
Modern Language Journal, 74 (3), 311-27.
[4] Wilz, B. (2000). Relationship between personality type and Grade Point Average of technical college students.
Unpublished MA thesis, University of Wisconsin-Stout.
[5] Kiany, G. (1997). English Proficiency & Academic Achievement in Relation to Extraversion-Introversion: A
Preliminary Study. Retrieved january 2010, from:www.essex.ac.uk:http://www.essex.ac.uk/linguistics/
publications/egspll/volume_1/pdf/REZAIKIANY.pdf
[6] Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S. (2003). Approaches and methods in language teaching: A description and
analysis. 2nd Ed., Cambridge University Press.
[7] Gholami, R., (2011). Gender Differences in Task-Based Performance of EFL Students. Paper in the Proceedings of
2011 IEEE Colloquium on Humanities, Science and Engineering (CHUSER 2011).
[8] Nunan, D. (1989). Designing tasks for the communicative classroom. Cambridge University Press.
[9] Ellis, R. (2003). Task-Based Language Learning and Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[10] Prabhu, N. S. (1987). Second Language Pedagogy. Oxford University Press.
[11] Eysenck, H. J. (1947). Dimensions of personality. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
[12] Eysenck, H. J. (1968). Know your own personality. Harmondsworth, Penguin.
[13] Kiany, G. R. (1998). English proficiency and academic achievement in relation to extraversion: a preliminary study.
International Journal of Applied Linguistics , 8 (1), 113 - 130.
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[14] Razmjoo & Shaban, 2008,On The Relationship Between Introversion/Extroversion and Grammaticality Judgment
among the Iranian EFL Learners, The Iranian EFL Journal, October 2008 Vol. 2
[15] Stern, H. (1983). Fundamental Concepts in Language Teaching. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
[16] Dewaele, J.-M., & Furnham, A. (1999). Extraversion: The unloved variable in applied linguistic research.
Language Learning, 49, 509–544.
[17] Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1976). Psychoticism as a dimension of personality. London: Hodder and
Stoughton
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