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TASK: Assessment Component 1: Critical Review


Write a critical review (1,800 words) of a journal article about a piece of classroom language research. Your review should evaluate the theoretical basis of the study reported and the methodology, relating both to the context of classroom language research.

This assignment is designed to test your skills in critical reading and writing. You will find that the development of these skills will help you when writing the literature review section of your dissertation.

This assessment accounts for 30% of the total marks available for the module and aims to assess achievement of learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 (see Module Handbook for learning outcomes).

Choose of the articles below

  1. Mann, S. 2011. A critical review of qualitative interviews in applied linguistics. Applied Linguistics 32 (1): 6-24.


  1. Baynham, M. 2011. Stance, positioning, and alignment in narratives of professional experience. Language in Society 40 (1): 63-74.


  1. Trang, T., Baldauf, R. and Moni, K. 2013. Foreign language anxiety: understanding its status and insiders’ awareness and attitudes. TESOL Quarterly 47 (2): 216-243.


  1. Appleby, R. 2013. Desire in translation: White masculinity and TESOL. TESOL Quarterly 47 (1): 122-147.



Foreign language anxiety (FLA) has been found to exist in different cultures within nations. The feeling of apprehension, uneasiness or nervousness associated with this phenomenon (foreign language anxiety), is observed amongst non-native speakers in their process of using or learning a foreign language. Pichette (2009) points out that this feeling is associated with the receptive language skills of listening and reading or productive skills that entails writing or speaking when learning any second language. In an attempt to provide a better understanding of the concept of foreign language anxiety Trang, Baldauf & Moni (2013) looked at the awareness and attitude of students and teachers to FLA focusing on those learning and offering teaching services at Hue University Vietnam. Taking a sample size of 8 teachers and 419 students who majored in other subjects other than English, these scholars investigated the extent to which the aforementioned group was aware of the being of FLA and their perceptions towards it. Through the use of questionnaires, interviews, and student autobiographies, these authors obtained that two-thirds of the students were aware of the existence of FLA and at some point suffered from FLA yet their teachers failed to point out its importance in the process of teaching. The study findings also indicated that it is important that teachers take into account the impact of FLA in foreign language learning to improve the learning process of foreign students. As much as the authors may have attained the level of awareness of FLA, some aspects of the theoretical framework and methodology used are not satisfactory making the credibility and validity of the findings questionable. This paper presents a critical analysis of the article focusing mainly on the theories underlying the study, methodologies used and the validity of the data obtained.

Article Critique

Important to note is that Trang, Baldauf & Moni (2013) have done a commended work in investigating the level of awareness of foreign language anxiety amongst the teachers and the students. This paper has not just filled the gap left by most researchers who discussed the impact of FLA in the learning process, but also finished up the work of others such as Horwitz (2000) who just focused on the attitude of students towards FLA without necessarily focusing on the level of existence of the same. The introductory part of the article is well presented with the provision of the relevant meaning to a keyword (foreign language) and a representation on the works that were done by other previous writers to point out the gaps that have been left out in literature that the study seeks to fill. According to Phillips & Stawarski (2008) any relevant study ought to be clearly introduced and put into context to make the readers aware of the importance of the study at the initial steps of reading. In addition, justification of the issue to be addressed is vital in improving the relevance of the study to the targeted audience (Pichette, 2009). The paper therefore provides a clear statement of the problem (lack of awareness on FLA) and its justification making the introductory part of the article satisfactory to any reader.

Theoretical frameworks consist of existing theories and concepts used in various studies to provide a better understanding of the phenomena being studied. It is evident that most studies would use theories to explain and extend the current knowledge on the assumptions of the phenomena. Trang, Baldauf & Moni (2013) in their study have failed to adopt any theory that is relevant to the study of foreign language anxiety. Instead of basing their study on theories such as Horwitz, Horwitz and Cope’s Theory that views FLA as anxiety specific to foreign language learning and not just general classroom anxiety, these scholars have emphasized on general review of the literature to obtain relevant information on the topic (Tran, 2012). The effect is that their findings have not clearly differentiated between FLA and classroom anxiety leaving the reader to make certain assumptions that jeopardize the credibility of the study. In addition, the reader cannot be effectively connected to the existing knowledge since the study just offers a simple description of the phenomena without necessarily looking at the generalized aspect of FLA within the literature (Tran, 2012). As Rodriguez & Abreu (2003) puts it, the use of theories in any study allows the researchers to explain vividly the meaning, challenges, and nature of phenomena without necessarily focusing on the generalized issues that were provided by the previous researchers. They further say that any study that is not based on any theoretical framework is likely to offer general information on the phenomena in question without focusing on the specifics. Therefore, these scholars ought to have based their study on a theory to provide specific information on FLA to posit a better knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Data triangulation is one of the aspects of methodology that has been effectively adopted in the study. The researchers made use of three types of data collection methods, (questionnaires, interviews, and biographies) to ensure that any information not captured in one of the methods is accomplished by the other. According to Hennink, Hutter & Bailey (2011) data triangulation is one of the most effective means of ensuring validity of any data obtained in a study. In addition, Baker (2006) also points out that apart from adopting more than a single method, it is important that the variability of a data is assured to act as a representation of the entire population. This study to some extent has accomplished this by involving 419 students taking different majors within the university. However, the failure of the study to incorporate participants from different universities makes the variability of the data questionable. It is not likely that information from a single university would act as a general representation of the views and ideas of all the students within the region. Moreover, the use of 8 teachers is not an effective representation of their ideas since some qualitative aspect is involved in the research requiring a bigger number of teachers to be comparable to the number of students involved in the study. As much as there may be drawbacks on geographical variability due to the involvement of a single university, the students’ wide diversity is catered for in terms of their major, place of origin and learning experience to improve the generalization of the findings to a wider population. In addition, the broad diversity of the teachers is enhanced through the involvement of individuals with different ages, levels of qualifications and teaching experience in a foreign language. Regardless of accomplishing diversity in terms of the participants involved, this study has not attained any form of geographical diversification making its findings limited to a small location, this ought to have been considered to improve the diversity in terms of participants and the location involved.

The quality and reliability of any data in a study depends on the data collection instruments, procedures and data analysis method used. Baker (2006) points out that unless standardized instruments and procedures are used in any investigative process, the quality and reliability of the findings is not guaranteed regardless of the effectiveness of the analysis process. Trang, Baldauf & Moni (2013) have made use of questionnaires that contained standardized measurement scales of anxiety, attitude and belief. It is evident from the findings that these scales accurately measured the parameters mentioned without any biases due to the semantic differential techniques used in their development. The semi-structured interview attained the quality levels required through the use of open-ended questions and strict observation of the interview protocol designed for the study. It is important to note that the procedures of conducting either the interviews or distributing questionnaires were also effectively accomplished through random distribution of the questionnaires and indiscriminative selection of the participants involved in the activity. The data analysis process through the use of SPSS and NVivo software ensured clearly filtration of the data collected to obtain quality data. Hardy & Bryman (2004) support the use of the aforementioned analysis tools stating their importance and accuracy in analyzing any combination of qualitative and quantitative data. The researchers should however have incorporated the aspect of using experts in content analysis to analyze the texts in the interview data. According to Phillips & Stawarski (2008) content analysis is a critical process that requires certain level of expertise to ensure consistency in the meaning drawn from the interview results. Unless the information taken as final findings to the study are consistent and  direct interpretation of what was presented by the interviewees then the credibility  of such findings are questionable (Levine, 2003). These researchers have therefore failed to attain quality findings from their content analysis, however, their integration and interconnections of the data obtained from different sources still provide a room for any discrepancies that was avoided in the analysis process to be eliminated. This is a final step in the analysis process that guarantees the quality of both the interview and the questionnaire findings.

The results and discussion of the paper are provided in line with the research questions set by the researchers. The findings provide comprehensive answers to the research questions eliminating any form of ambiguity. In addition, the integration of the findings obtained from different research methods is another confirmation of the inclusiveness of the findings. As much as the discussion part provided a better meaning and understanding to the findings gathered, the authors ought to have linked it with the studies of other researchers to obtain any form of consistencies. As Pichette (2009) puts it these comparison of findings with the previous work done by other scholars is one of the means of ensuring and improving validity of one’s own results, it is, therefore, important that they are included in any discussion.

To conclude the paper, these authors have not just stated their findings but also presented the implications and recommendations to the targeted audience. Moreover, Pichette (2009) posits that it is necessary to provide the limitations of the study to allow for future research and further development of a study. Trang, Baldauf & Moni (2013) have indicated that their research did not cover a wider geographical area hence presents opportunities to other scholars to continue with the same topic in different location. This is effective in eliminating any assumptions and ensuring that readers only used the findings under the context in which it’s presented improving further the quality of the study.

As much as the paper has certain drawbacks in terms of the methodologies, instruments used and data analysis process, it is evident that the study has accomplished most of the requirements and quality standards required in any research. The use of a good representation of participants and incorporation of more than one data collection methods is one of the ways that the authors have assured quality of their findings. In addition, the use of acceptable and standardized data analysis tools further improves the quality of the findings. It can therefore be deduced that this paper is to some extent of good quality and can therefore be used by other scholars to draw valid conclusion and to inform the public, however, a little efficiency ought to be incorporated in the data analysis and discussion part during its review for its qualifications as an excellent paper in the foreign language anxiety bracket.