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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Prof Jens Beckmann

Zhang, J., Beckmann, N. & Beckmann, J.F. (2019). One situation doesn’t fit all: Variability and stability of state willingness to communicate in a Chinese College English classroom. Language Teaching Research

Author(s) from Durham


Willingness to communicate (WTC) used to be studied as a relatively stable, trait-like
predisposition; however, recently attention has shifted to the more dynamic, state-like
components of WTC. This research investigates variability and stability in state WTC,
particularly focusing on within-person variability, which may lead to stable between-person
differences, and situational antecedents that can either promote or hinder state WTC in L2
classrooms. To investigate whether, how and why state WTC varies over time, this study used
a high-density repeated measurement design and a group of Chinese university students to
describe fluctuations in state WTC in English classrooms over one semester. Data related to
state WTC and selected situational antecedents were collected through a self-report
questionnaire and statistically analysed. It was found that state WTC varied systematically
within the person across the semester, and this variability was systematically related to changes
in the psychological properties of the learning situations (e.g. teacher and peer support, taskinterest,
and task-importance). It was also found that within-person variability in state WTC
predicted language learning performance, e.g. students whose state WTC increased as a
function of perceived task interest tended to achieve higher grades at the end of the semester.
This study calls for more attention to be directed at within-person variability in state WTC, and
provides novel insights into how relationships between state WTC and its situational
antecedents may be investigated within individuals. This work is of interest to researchers and
practitioners who aim to enhance L2 learners’ state WTC and language learning performance
by systematically shaping their situated learning experience.