Scholarly article on topic 'Uncertainty and Linguistic Intervention Programme'

Uncertainty and Linguistic Intervention Programme Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Eva Stranovská, Daša Munková

Abstract The aim of this study is to investigate the dynamics and stability of the personal variable – Uncertainty – in the process of foreign language learning through a linguistic intervention programme (LIP). It is focussed on investigating the influence of LIP on uncertainty in foreign-language utterance. We observe three degrees of uncertainty: normal uncertainty (N1), increased uncertainty (N2) and pathological uncertainty (N3). The LIP represents a method of active social learning, autonomous learning and also a set of strategies and specific methods of foreign language learning, i.e. decision making methods, identification methods, relaxation, co-operation and communication techniques. The focus of these techniques is to support, simplify and ease communication in a foreign language, and also to repress the uncertainty in an individual's performance. The LIP is based on the natural acquisition of a foreign language. The research was carried out at the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, in which 396 university students participated and in which the Certainty-Uncertainty Scale (Kováč, 1969) was used. The results showed noteworthy findings in the direction of dynamics or the stability of uncertainty and also in the direction of supporting or stopping of uncertainty in the process of foreign language learning.

Academic research paper on topic "Uncertainty and Linguistic Intervention Programme"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 171 (2015) 1410 - 1415

ICEEPSY 2014

Uncertainty and linguistic intervention programme

Eva Stranovskâa*, Dasa Munkovâb

aConstantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Stefânikova 67, Nitra 949 74, Slovakia bConstantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Stefânikova 67, Nitra 949 74, Slovakia

Abstract

The aim of this study is to investigate the dynamics and stability of the personal variable - Uncertainty - in the process of foreign language learning through a linguistic intervention programme (LIP). It is focussed on investigating the influence of LIP on uncertainty in foreign-language utterance. We observe three degrees of uncertainty: normal uncertainty (N1), increased uncertainty (N2) and pathological uncertainty (N3). The LIP represents a method of active social learning, autonomous learning and also a set of strategies and specific methods of foreign language learning, i.e. decision making methods, identification methods, relaxation, co-operation and communication techniques. The focus of these techniques is to support, simplify and ease communication in a foreign language, and also to repress the uncertainty in an individuals performance. The LIP is based on the natural acquisition of a foreign language. The research was carried out at the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, in which 396 university students participated and in which the Certainty-Uncertainty Scale (Kovac, 1969) was used. The results showed noteworthy findings in the direction of dynamics or the stability of uncertainty and also in the direction of supporting or stopping of uncertainty in the process of foreign language learning.

© 2015TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of ICEEPSY 2014. Keywords: Linguistic intervention programme; uncertainty; foreign language learning

1. Introduction

In the process of foreign language learning, an individual processes an abstract structure of a foreign language. He/she is getting to know the culture of the target language, creating a relationship with language and culture, trying

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +421-37-6408-376. E-mail address: estranovska@ukf.sk

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of ICEEPSY 2014. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.01.261

to analyse, deduce and subsequently to synthesise a target language. Based on these experiences he/she gradually obtains the identity of a foreign language and its culture - to what extent the foreign language is uncertain, unknown or strange for an individual; on the other hand, to what extent the foreign language is close to an individual, whereby the variable - uncertainty - plays an essential role.

From the point of view of psychology, research works have been focused on the investigation of uncertainty as a personality attribute and its relation to causal uncertainty, the need for structure, the ability to achieve cognitive structure, stress management in professional lives, etc. (Kovac, 1969; Bar-Tal, 1994, Bar-Tal et al., 1999, 2002; Sarmany-Schuller, 1999, 2001; Kovac, 2007; Gurnakova et al., 2013 and others). In the field of applied linguistics, research works focusing on uncertainty in the process of foreign language learning have shifted to an investigation of the tolerance of ambiguity and on its connection to foreign language utterance (Ehrman & Oxford, 1995; Brown, 2000; Chapelle & Robertsona, 1986; Liu, 2012; Stranovska at al., 2013 and others). Although the relationship between a tolerance of ambiguity and success in foreign language is examined, studies focusing on the extent to which uncertainty as an attribute (subjective living) affects the process of foreign language learning, are absent, i.e. what are the dynamics and stability of uncertainty in the process of foreign language learning or how the uncertainty can be affected.

For this reason we developed a linguistic intervention programme for students of teaching study programmes as well as for students of non-teaching study programmes who study foreign languages (linguistic teachers, linguists, translators and interpreters) or who have enrolled on foreign language course as an obligatory course in their major study programmes (in the natural sciences, education and arts). There are many intervention programmes but none are actually linguistic intervention programmes on teaching in a foreign language. Intervention programmes have been very popular since the 1950's and made great progress (Hermochova, 1989; Koznar, 1992; Popelkova, 2003; Labath eta al., 2009 and others), but none of them are linguistic, i.e. focusing on the development and modification of foreign language competence of future teachers and non-teachers (university graduated people) and also focusing on the optimization and modification of teaching competence and strategies of learning and teaching.

Through the research we verify the impact of the linguistic intervention programme on uncertainty, and its impact on dynamics and stability in the process of foreign language learning.

2. The "uncertainty" variable and the linguistic intervention programme

Uncertainty is connected with new and unknown situations. It requires a move away from habitual stereotypes and a step outside the standard routine. Success in the process of foreign language learning depends on the extent to which an individual can cope with uncertainty or can accept ambiguity in a foreign language, and also to what extent uncertainty limits the processing and production of an individual's foreign-language utterance.

Kovac (1969) considers perception-differential tasks (e.g. hidden figures) as uncertainty resources, and human identity as one of the most important sources of uncertainty occurrence. Results of many experiments focusing on sensory, perception and cognitive uncertainty confirmed that uncertainty can result from a lack of information, but on the other hand it is part of personality attributes. Expressing varying degrees of uncertainty - normal, increased and pathological uncertainty - depends on the complexity of a cognitive situation. Sarmany-Schuller (1999, 2001 and other) resumed Kovac's work (1969, 1985) and investigated uncertainty phenomena in relation to causal uncertainty and to cognitive structure in terms of masculinity and femininity. In 2006 and 2007 Kovac continued his research of uncertainty and in 2007 he defined uncertainty as psychological uncertainty instead of subjective uncertainty. He used several variants of uncertainty to determine uncertainty. According to him uncertainty is:

1. A psychological state which occurs when there is a lack of information in the mental reflection of oneself and one's surroundings, e.g. Did I lock the door? A storm is coming.

2. A mental process in which the probability of a defined result is not properly known, e.g. a quiz answer or a result in a sports match.

3. An individual personality characterised by mental uncertainty which can be expressed by weak confidence in oneself, doubting one's intentions and optimal decision making, self-consciousness in social environments, bigger or smaller doubts primarily about one's own future.

The "uncertainty" variable represents a positive factor, to a certain extent, because it controls not only an individual's personality but also his/her utterances, in our case foreign-language utterances i.e. receiving, processing

and production of foreign-language information. It acts as a facilitator of a high certainty (a low degree of uncertainty) which is expressed also negatively as a high degree of uncertainty. A high or low degree of uncertainty eliminates communication skill as well authenticity in the utterances. John at al. (2000) see the elimination of uncertainty in the intervention.

Intervention represents an action by an individual or/and a procedure or technique which leads to the interruption, modification, transformation or establishment of a running process. For example, adjustment (optimisation, support and reinforcement), change (modification) or fixation of the way in which an individual learns a foreign language, how he/she is identified with it, how he/she self-evaluates in the process of foreign language learning, what kind of strategies he/she uses, etc. The intervention is realised through intervention programmes. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, there are many intervention programmes but none of them are linguistic. The linguistic intervention programme (LIP) is focused on the optimization of variables such as "language competence, language and intercultural sensibility, tolerance of ambiguity in a foreign language (an ability to achieve cognitive structure or a need for structure), self-esteem, certainty in foreign-language utterance and strategies in the process of foreign language learning". Optimization is expressed as reinforcement and as an increase of individuals in the reflected variables within the linguistic intervention programme. Moreover, the LIP is an eclectic interconnection of various theoretical approaches, techniques and strategies in the process of foreign language learning and teaching (project learning, student-oriented teaching, activities teaching, autonomous learning, interactive teaching, cooperative learning, etc.). The aim of the linguistic intervention programme for learners is to understand/comprehend language utterances and culture authenticity in language utterances or natural communication in a foreign language. Our effort is to support natural communication in a foreign language, to change the style of foreign language acquisition by future foreign language teachers through the integration of cognitive, emotional and social aspects implemented into foreign language education. The linguistic intervention programme was developed for this reason.

The LIP works with methods of active social learning (ASL) and autonomous learning (AL). The LIP emphasises active participation by an individual, his/her insight into situations and practising new behaviour, feelings, perception and evaluation.

3. Method

3.1. Participants

The research - an investigation of dynamics and stability of uncertainty - was carried out at the Constantine the Philosopher University and 396 students of various study programmes (natural sciences, arts and education) studying foreign language (FL) primary or secondary (FL as an obligatory course- English/German for specific academic purposes) participated in. The measurements were made before and after programme LIP implementation and also one year after completing programme LIP. The participants were divided into two experimental groups-ES1, students studying natural sciences and ES2 students studying arts and education.

3.2. Measure

Uncertainty-Certainty Scale. We investigated participants' uncertainty before and after completing the linguistic intervention programme by the means of the Uncertainty-Certainty scale (Kovac, 1969). It consists of 54 statements where a respondent has to choose between two alternatives of situation assessment. A respondent's choice is measured on the 5-point scale of the Uncertainty-Certainty. We aimed at the following degrees of uncertainty: normal uncertainty (N1), increased uncertainty (N2) and pathological uncertainty (N3).

3.3. Procedure

The Linguistic Intervention Programme was carried out as follow: LIP design, Creation of control and experimental groups, Experiment phases: pre-measuring, post-measuring and one year after completing LIP, 4. Statistical data processing, analysis and conclusions. The structure of the programme LIP is following: 0.

Introduction of the programme and discussions on expectations, pre-measurements. 1. Self-perception, foreign language and identity. 2. Self-perception, self-esteem, foreign language and identity. 3. Self-perception, self-esteem, foreign language and identity. 4. Non-verbal communication, intercultural communication. 5. Non-verbal communication, intercultural communication. 6. Verbal communication, intercultural communication, speech acts. 7. Verbal communication, intercultural communication, speech acts. 8. Problem-solving situations, speech acts. 9. Problem-solving situations, speech acts, academic language. 10. Problem-solving situations, speech acts, academic language. 11. Feedback, post-measurements.

3.4. Results

35 >0.001

30 p=O.OOi p-0.210

15 p=0.1S8 p=o:-»i

10 1 p-0 .505 |

5 H p—0.049 Jp-0 000 1 p=0.620

nl n2 n3 nl n2 n3 nl n2 n3

ESI ES II KS

■ 1. moronic ■ 2. mcronio

Fig. 1. Statistically significant differences in variable uncertainty between the first and second measurement.

In the category - N1 (normal uncertainty) - we find statistically significant differences between the first and second measurement (p=0.005, p=0.000) in direction to a lower score of the examined variable in both experimental groups.

In the category - N3 (pathological uncertainty) - we find a statistically significant difference between the first and second measurement (p=0.049) in ES1 group i.e. students of natural sciences.

We verified the LIP effect on the participants' uncertainty by the first and second measurement in a control group where the LIP was not implemented. We found statistically insignificant differences between the first and second measurement in all degrees of uncertainty.

Fig. 2. Statistically significant differences in the variable uncertainty between the first and third measurement and between the second and third

measurement

We also investigate the dynamics and the stability of uncertainty one year after completing the LIP. In the categories N2 and N3 in group ES2 (students of education) we did not find statistical significances by comparing the

second and third measurement (after one year). Paradoxically a statistically significant increase of pathological uncertainty occurred by comparing a final measurement with a measurement after one year.

We found out a statistically significant lower score of students of natural sciences in the categories N2 and N3 by comparing the first and third measurement (after one year). Between the second and third measurement (after one year) was not shown a statistically significant difference in the variable uncertainty. It demonstrates the confirmation and continuance of the final effect in the direction of a lower uncertainty among students of natural sciences.

4. Discussion and conclusion

The aim of this study was to contribute towards psycholinguistic research on the investigation of the dynamics and stability of uncertainty in the process of foreign language learning. We verified the impact of the programme LIP on the dynamics of the uncertainty using the first, second and third (after one year) measurement in the experimental and control groups.

We discovered that students, after completing the LIP, expressed themselves more self-confidently in foreign-language utterances. They expressed their thoughts and feelings in the foreign language more naturally. They reduced feelings of inferiority and worried less about communication in a foreign language.

Kohoutek (1999) claims, that many people cannot easily handle complex interpersonal situations because of their shyness, coyness and inability to assert their legitimate demands. Smith (1969) considers human personality as one of the most important sources of uncertainty.

In this case, uncertainty occurs not only in a particular stimulated situation but it is also a certain result based on an individual's previous experiences (Sarmany, 1999). Sarmany-Schuller (1999) in line with Kovac (1985) deduces that in uncertain situations the individual using his/her knowledge cannot change this uncertain state to the norm. In this direction we consider the effect of the intervention of the linguistic intervention programme as a positive indicator. It is shown that intervention affects the dynamics of uncertainty positively (i.e. it decreases).

We tried to verify the stability of received lower uncertainty in ambivalent social situations using the third measurement (after one year). In the categories - increased and pathological uncertainty - we did not find statistically significant differences between the first and third measurement by students of the education which predicate the tendency to come back to values at the beginning of the LIP, i.e. about the instability of students of education. Paradoxically a statistically significant increase in pathological uncertainty between the third and second measurement occurred, i.e. a negative influence of other variables on students of education during one year after completing the LIP. It turns out that these antecedent variables have a negative impact on the increase on uncertainty of students of education.

In comparison to students of natural sciences we recorded shifts of stability in the variables- increased and pathological uncertainty (statistically significant differences between the first and third measurement in N2 and N3). We asked whether other variables besides the LIP had any influence on the shift stability in time during the year. It is necessary to take into account the developmental aspects of aging, which we tried to verify by comparing the final output (2nd measurement) with the output after one year (3rd measurement). We did not find statistically significant differences which tell us about the instability through completion of the LIP. The question arises how do students of natural sciences and students of education process uncertain situations (or the uncertainty as a subjective perception). In this context we see our future research direction.

In conclusion we state that a statistically significant decrease of normal uncertainty in both groups, a decrease of pathological uncertainty in group of students of natural sciences and a shift in stability in group of students of natural sciences can be considered as positive indicators. It seems that the linguistic intervention programme affects the dynamics of uncertainty, tending towards a lower uncertainty in foreign-language utterance. We agree with Huber (2003) and Müller-Christ & Weßling (2007) who consider intervention necessary in the field of uncertainty or in the tolerance of ambiguity. From this perspective we perceive the LIP effect as a positive indicator in the process of foreign language learning and also as an effective method to support language competence and tolerance of ambiguity in a variety of decision making processes or in solving social situations in a foreign language.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency under the contract No. APVV-0451-

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