This study is performed by conducting a survey analysis to
investigate students' attitudes and preferences towards learning
English at Kuwait University in non-English major ESL students. The
sample size will be roughly 21-22% of a total of 4950 college level
English Language Learners at Kuwait University where specific English
courses are part of the required University curriculum.
The results of this survey will thus enable us to review some
causes that may have hindered University English learning in the past,
and focus on students" perspectives about learning English.
One of the by--product of this study will be to illustrate students
academic preference within the Language process in which in return will
assist us as educators to promote learning motivation. Researchers, ESL
teachers and administrators need to consider the fact that they need to
have keys for knowing their students' attitudes and preferences
towards learning English for motivation purposes. This research, will
provide are some of the most significant keys available.
Though much research focusing on language teaching, learning
theories, teaching materials, teaching approaches.... etc, is being
conducted, regularly, much of it has been constrained by western
cultural assumption. Little research has been directed towards the topic
of how the local education / teaching environment has influenced
students' learning where the students are not English majors but
studying English as non-majors due to educational requirements and
This fact may at least lead to the conclusion that local English
learning obstacles remain unsolved for long periods of time. Plainly,
the obstacles to learning English as a second language at the university
level far exceeds the limits imposed by the students ability and
Methodologies established in the past do not often take the reality
of the importance of the learners willingness to study a language. There
must be some facts that require re-examination at a more fundamental
Understanding the many reasons why students avoid hard work is
important but understanding alone is insufficient to alter the
situation. Other steps must be taken. The expectancy to learn a language
and succeed depends on what individuals attribute their past and present
success or failure to, whether to stable factors such as ability, and /
or to less stable factors such as learning attitudes, learning
preferences, past experience, task difficulty.
Language teaching is most often illustrated and discussed from the
point of view of scholars or/and teachers. "However while learning
is the goal of teaching, it is not necessarily the mirror image of
teaching. Learners, too, bring to learning their own beliefs, goals and
attitudes, and decisions, which influence how they approach their
learning" (Richards, 1995, p52).
Generally speaking, people tend to have certain beliefs and
preference in their approaches to learning tasks. Various researches
suggests that most of us learn best when information is presented in the
way that matches our learning preferences.
In this paper we will examine some causes that may have hindered
the effects of English learning for university students in Kuwait, and
to a wider extent the Arabian Gulf, since the role of English in the
education systems across the Gulf area are highly similar. Through
survey data analysis, students' perspectives about English learning
and the fears of learning English that may have grown out of previous
experiences are documented.
This project has involved 787 ESL students who declared their
preferred certain language skills while learning English on the basis of
a questionnaire, which has so far raised many interesting issues. Two
main points of consideration have promoted the authors to start
investigating English learner's learning preferences.
First, it would be very beneficial and valuable to investigate the
students' preference and attitude in the language learning.
Second, the results of this study will help us as teachers and
educators to accommodate our teaching methodology skills and curriculum
accordingly to promote student motivation.
This paper will discuss and highlight the following issues:
1. What are the university students' preferences in learning a
2. How can this information be adapted in the classroom and have a
positively affect and change students' motivation.
Review of Related Literature
No research has been undertaken regarding the ESL university
students' learning attitudes in the process of learning in Kuwait.
Positive attitudes and accommodating students preferences in learning,
will by no doubt lead to more successful learning. Research suggests
that 'Positive Learning Attitudes' can lead to active
learning. Active learning, in return, which involves reading, writing,
discussions and engagement in solving problems, can have a positive
impact upon students' learning (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
Research suggests that active learning can have a positive impact
upon students learning. Students are more engaged in learning when they
are active and have some choice (regarding their learning preferences)
over the learning process and related interests (Adnderman and Midgley,
It is the authors' belief that a better understanding of
language learner's preferences and learning attitudes can have a
beneficial effect on the process of helping and assisting language
learner's in learning English as a foreign language.
Educators have long acknowledged the power of learners' voice
in improving teaching and learning (Fullan and Stiegel Bauer, S. 1991).
When such voice is recognized for its significant impact on L2 learners,
L2 teachers will have a better understanding to the learners unique
frame of learning preferences and attitudes while learning English.
Meeting these preferences can increase, the motivation to learn English.
In this concept, students will have higher performance in the second
language if they exhibit the desire to learn English.
Motivation has been identified as the learners' orientation
with regard to the goal and beliefs of learning a second language
(Crooks and Schmidt, 1991). It is thought that students who are most
successful when learning a second language are those who possess
motivation in learning. Students motivation strongly influences to their
desire to participate in the learning process.
Many theorists and researches have found the significance of
recognizing the construct of motivation not as a single entity but as a
multifactorial one. Oxford and Shearin (1994), have analyzed several
motivational theories on models and six factors that impact motivation
in learning language:
* Attitudes (i.e. sentiments towards the target language).
* Beliefs about self (i.e. expectations about one's attitudes
to succeed, self-efficiency, and anxiety).
* Goals (perceived clarity and relevance of learning goals as
reasons for learning).
* Involvement (i.e. extent to which the learner actively and
consciously participates in the learning process).
* Environmental support (i.e. extent of teacher and peer support).
* Personnel attributes (i.e. aptitude, and language learning
This highlights the importance of our research for both the
teachers and the L2 learners in which specific questions were chosen and
developed since awareness of how students' attitudes, preferences
and beliefs about learning can develop what facilitates learning for its
own sake and can assist educators in reducing student apathy, and can
reduce anxiety. In addition, realizing these factors can help to promote
student motivation and students' will become more active
participants in learning process.
Methodology and Statistical Analysis
Before proceeding to present and analyze the data gathered by the
survey it is necessary to give an account of the process by which the
survey itself was designed. The object of this survey was to
1. Some causes that may have influenced the effect of English
learning for students at Kuwait University
2. Perspectives about English learning among non-English majors in
Kuwait. The study was conducted by questionnaire method which has proved
to be a "useful way(s) of gathering information about affective
dimensions of teaching and learning such as beliefs, attitudes,
motivation and preferences, and enable teachers to collect a large
amount of information." (Richards, 1995)
The questionnaire used in the study was in English. The
Questionnaire consisted of
1. General information was concerned with gathering information on
2. Twenty-Three closed ended questions.
3. Two open-ended questions.
The survey was piloted in non-English major students' at the
faculty of Engineering in the first academic year 2005/2006. It was
piloted in early December, 2006. It was then distributed to different
faculties with English language units to teach English for non-English
major students. The survey was distributed to students on their last
teaching class of the first academic year 2005/2006. The questionnaire
was completed in class and collected immediately. The survey's
first/ section was concerned with gathering general information on the
students' college as well as their academic background.
The second section, consisted of general informative questions in
which participants were asked to answer with "yes",
"no" or "I don't know", and examined students
awareness regarding the importance of learning English and their
perspectives about English learning. In addition, this section focused
on causes that may have influenced students English learning. The third
section examined specific learning preferences, where they were asked to
answer with (1) strongly agree (2) slightly agree (3) I don't know
(4) disagree (5) strongly disagree.
This paper focuses on the results from the second and third section
of the survey.
Participants were selected randomly from non-English major students
from different faculties in Kuwait University. However, the Faculty of
Medicine and Allied Health were excluded from the study due to their
different nature, educational system and acceptance requirements.
Students from the following faculties were included in the survey:
A total of 1000 questionnaires were distributed in which the actual
number of students registered in English (Non English Major) was 4950
for the first academic year of 2005/2006. (The Language Center The
survey was distributed to English learning students from different
majors of faculties mentioned above at the University of Kuwait. All
participants had studied English formally for 8 years in junior and
senior high school or / 12 years in elementary, junior and senior high
schools. All participants had taken English admission exam prior to
their acceptance at the university. Their ages ranged from 16 to 23 and
in rare cases to 30 years old.
By January 2006 the last questionnaires had been collected. In
total, 787 replies were received out of the 1000, which were
distributed, a favorably 78.7% response.
The first section developed for this survey gives us the
preliminary basic information regarding the 787 students who
participated in this study. These students were from different faculties
and from various years of their graduation process.
There were several students who did not answer the entire question
in the survey. However, the following table (2) shows the break up of
the students according to their year in college.
This section consisted of 12 questions formed to investigate the
students awareness of the importance of learning English and their
attitudes towards learning this language. We aimed also to find the
dependencies of various factors that contribute to the effort made by
the students to learn English.
Statistical analysis showed that 97.05% of the students
irrespective of their gender agreed that it is very important to learn
English. They also realize the importance of the English language for
professional advancement. 51% of the sample agreed that they feel
comfortable studying English.
Among the other students, a significant correlation is shown with
(r = 0.289, p.value 0.000) with a chi square (14.25 p-value <0.05)
that showed students had a negative experience from English teachers at
high school which resulted negatively and effected their attitudes
towards learning the languages. Detailed analysis also showed that among
the female students the negative attitude towards learning has a
significant relation with the high school teachers who taught them
English and caused them to hate the language. (p-value < 0.05).
[TABLE 3 OMITTED]
However, such negative attitude was not found within male students
who participated in this study.
In addition, the female students response also showed a dependency
of rejection of the language and a negative attitude towards learning it
has significant relation to the fact that they:
a) Find English at the University different of that at High School,
b) They don't use English in their major course which obliges
them to prefer to be silent in English Courses Conversation.
Again some specific learning preferences were studied. The
difficulty in listening, reading, speaking and writing in English was
We can observe from the figure that most of them disagree to the
statement in the questionnaire that they are having difficulty in
listening, reading, speaking and writing in English. But those who
slightly agree to the fact are equally high. The significance value
(<0.05) showed that that they get worried when they make mistakes and
find it difficult to listen, read, speak and write in English in class.
Among the four activities, the percent of students facing difficulty in
reading is 44% and speaking is 39% while 34%of them are facing problem
in listening and writing
All the activities are inter-correlated significantly as shown in
Certain questions were included to find the most preferred way of
teaching the language. An attempt is made to see how the students
respond to the focus on grammar, use of multi media, computers,
discussions, recording the lectures, improving vocabulary and reading
newspapers. The following table (5) shows the students preferred means
in learning. They are illustrated below in accordance to their
importance from the students point of view.
As can be seen from the table (6) the majority of the students
preferred to learn by having discussion with their teachers and to learn
by the use of computers and multimedia. Further we will attempt to find
whether this depends on the college in which they are studying.
From the table (7) it is clear that only the techniques of using
computers, multi media and discussions depends on the college. Other
options are accepted irrespective of the college.
Regarding correlation with these techniques:
The interest of the students to compete with the classmates and
participate in the discussions (survey question Nb.21) was compared with
whether this was related to fact that the student was on the honor list.
The chi square analysis gave a (p value >0.05) which showed that
there is no relation between them.
Among the questions which were framed to find how the students want
to be trained by their teachers, almost 68 % of the students responded
to this questions and the results are summarized below (Table 8). For
all the questions the most prominent answer was that they agree to those
Apart from these analyses, further studies on some of the factors
in the questionnaire which can be of interest are the correlation
a) English course level * not to study English in university The
chi square test showed that there no relation between the level of
course in which the student is studying with the non acceptance of
English at the university. (p value >O.05)
b) Honor student * Very important to learn English Again the test
showed a high p-value indicating that they have no relation.
c) I never use English in major course * like major teachers to
teach in English
The p value < 0.05 with Chi square value = 24.59 indicates that
never using English in the major courses is related to the fact that
students would prefer teachers to teach in English. However, the low
negative correlation coefficient (-0.058) showed that this relation is
not so significant.
The fact that teachers don't use English in other major
courses showed a significant relation with the negative attitude towards
English language and even they prefer to be silent in the discussions.
The significance value showed that students get worried when they make
mistakes and find it difficult to listen, read, speak and write in
English in class.
Conclusion and Summary
In this study we investigated students' English learning
attitudes and perspectives about English learning and how, if, this is
affected by their past English learning process. We aimed to examine
their preferences while learning for the purpose of promoting learning
motivation' while trying to meet such preferences. What this
investigating has found is the following:
1) The majority of the samples do realize the importance of
2) There is a relationship between the negative past high school
English learning with the negative attitude of female students towards
3) Most participants slightly agreed that they found difficulty in
four English skills (Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing).
4) Students preferred learning mainly through discussions,
multimedia and computers. They also preferred that language teachers
would train them more in English fluency.
Accommodating students' learning preferences will by no doubt
lead to students learning motivation which is an important variable for
a success in Second Language Learning.
"High motivated students retain information and are less
likely to need remedial courses". (Dev, 1997)
To achieve such motivation this study has clearly revealed the fact
that the majority of our students learning style is visual learning.
They prefer visual displays in the process of learning. They tend to
think in pictures and need creative vivid mental images to retain
Active Learning--Wikipedia, the Free encyclopedia, (2005) pp.l-7
Anderman, L.H., and Midgley, C. (1998):Motivation and Middle School
Students (Eric digest) Champaign, I.L: Eric Clearing home, (Eric
Document Reproduction Service No. E.D 421281)
Crooks, G and Schmidt R.W ( 1991 )Motivation: Reopening the
research agenda, language learning 41(4), 469-512.
Dev, P.C. (1997): Intrinsic Motivation and Academic Achievement.
What does their relationship imply for classroom teachers? Remedial and
Special Education, 18 (1), 12-19
Fullam MG and Steigel bauer, S (1991) The New Meaning of
Educational Change. New York:Teachers College Press.
Kleinginna, P., Jk: and Kleinginna, A, ( 1981 a):A Categorized List
of Motivation definitions and suggestions for a Consensual Definition.
Motivation and Emotion, 5,263-291
Oxford, R. and Shearin, J. (1994). Language learning motivation:
Expanding the theoretical framework, Modern Language Journal, 78, 12-28.
Richards, Jack C. (1995):Reflective Teaching in Second Language
Classrooms: Cambridge University Press, p.10
The language Center Statistical Report for the Academic Year
2005-2006, the Language Center--Kuwait.
http://www.net.org/focus/refrences (Internet Resources added 12/2005)
DR. SUAD AHMED AL-BUSTAN
English Language Unit College of Engineering and Petroleum Language
Center) / Kuwait University
DR. LAMEES AL-BUSTAN
Department of English College of Arts / Kuwait University
It is noticeable that the Sharia and
the College of social science is not
showing any correlation with the latest
techniques (Computers and
1. Administrative Sciences
5. Social Sciences
7. Women's College
Statistical Report, 2005)
Table 2: Number of students in each college responded for the survey
Arts Adm. Education Engineering Science
Freshman 5.61% 1.31% 9.92% 22.09% 5.43%
Sophomore 6.36% 0.18% 2.62% 1.31% 8.23%
Junior 2.24% -- 2.81% 3.18% 0.75%
Senior 4-5 0.37% 0.37% 4.86% 1.31% 1.31%
Sharia Social for Total
Freshman -- 0.75% 18.35% 63.48%
Sophomore 0.18% -- 0.37% 19.28%
Junior -- -- -- 8.98%
Senior 4-5 -- -- -- 8.26%
Grand Total 100%
Table 4: * indicates that the correlation is significant
In class, I find
difficulty in [right arrow] Listening Reading Speaking Writing
Listening 1.000 .575* .530* .502*
Reading 1.000 .540* .533*
Speaking 1.000 .559*
Table 5: Preferred Methods of Learning
I like to In class, In class, I In class, I
learn all I like to like to always use
English learn learn English
vocabulary English English during
and terms by films by using discussions
in my major and videos the computer with my
of 537 (68%) 574 (73%) 575 (73%) 576 (73%)
students 250 213 212 211
Most Strongly Strongly Strongly Slightly
repeated agree agree agree agree
answer (49%) (42%) (39%) (38%)
I like to I like the I often
learn English record English
English by course to lectures of my
reading focus on major and
English grammar listen to them
newspapers many times
of 529% (67%) 567 (72%) 538 (68%)
students 258 220 249
Most Slightly Slightly Disagree
repeated agree agree (25%)
answer (32%) (30%)
Table 6: * indicates that the correlation is significant
Focus on and with my
grammar Videos Computer teachers
Coefficient 0.046 -.106 * -.106 * -.140 *
lectures Vocabulary Newspapers
Coefficient .038 .001 .070
Table 7: * indicates that the correlation is significant
Focus on and with my
grammar Videos Computer teachers
Arts .024 .109 * .127 * .094 *
Admn. Sc -.060 -.026 -.072 .028
Education -.058 .038 -.002 .145 *
Engineering -.011 -.058 .007 -.107 *
Science .056 .021 -.002 -.130 *
Sharia -.053 -.044 -.046 -.049
Social Sc. -.009 .006 -.016 -.051
College of women .027 -.078 -.085 * .019
lectures Vocabulary Newspapers
Arts -.045 -.021 -.069
Admn. Sc -.086 * -.090 * .030
Education -.069 .115 * .001
Engineering .136 * -.065 -.020
Science .033 -.030 .001
Sharia -.013 -.042 -.006
Social Sc. -.040 .039 -.029
College of women -.044 .035 .074
Training attention Training in Talk
in to correct about
English spelling logical ms
fluency mistakes writing interests
Number 521 (66%) 537 (68%) 526 (67%) 523 (67%)
Number 266 250 261 264
Most Strongly Strongly Strongly Strongly
repeated agree agree agree agree
answer (56%) (52%) (52%) (51%)
English is important
Get sounds and for my Training in
feedback sentences studies summarizing
Number 528 (67%) 532 (68%)) 534 (68%) 537 (68%)
Number 259 255 253 250
Most Strongly Strongly Strongly Strongly
repeated agree agree agree agree
answer (45%) (44%) (42%) (52%)