Tracking foreign language teacher emotional reactions to student silence: An autoethnographic case study in Japan

(1) * Jonathan shachter Mail (Kyushu Sangyo University, Japan)
*corresponding author


While much has been researched regarding English language learner (ELL) perspectives on silence and pedagogical implications, the longitudinal negative effects of ELL silence on foreign language (FL) teachers is an under researched area of study. When considering that (a) Japanese FL classrooms are known to have high levels of silence as compared to the West, (b) FL teachers generally have a negative bias towards student silence, and (c) the fact that FL teacher attrition rates worldwide are reported to be increasing; this is a surprising gap in the field. Using dynamic systems theory, Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological systems theory, Barnlund's (1970) transactional model of communication, and Spilt et al.'s (2011) student-behavior mental representation model as a framework to investigate FL teacher emotional reactions to silence, the researcher conducted an autoethnographic event-based sampling study over a university term in Japan (98 days). In accordance to event-based sampling methodology, the researcher documented "in-the-moment" or "near-the-moment" incidences when emotional reactions to silence occurred. The main findings of this study are as follows: (1) Japanese ELLs are uncomfortable receiving direct FL teacher assistance around their peers, (2) negative reactions to Japanese ELL silence are linked to the establishment or disruption of classroom patterns, and (3) stress pertaining to teacher-teacher silence emerged after teacher-student stress stabilized mid-term. Regarding the third theme, suppressive surface acting and the need for social support were found to contribute to FL teacher stress.


foreign language teacher; Japan; silence; emotion; emotional labour; ecological systems; dynamic systems; autoethnography; event-based sampling



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