Date published:

Individual dimension of boredom in English classes

Mirosław Pawlak, Mariusz Kruk. Joanna Zawodniak (2023). Investigating individual trajectories in experiencing boredom in the language classroom: The case of 11 Polish students of English. Language Teaching Research, 26(4), 598–616.

Learning a second language, like any other activity human beings engage in, is accompanied by a range of positive and negative emotions. One such emotion that has only recently garnered the attention of second language acquisition researchers is boredom, which may not always be directly observable but may exert an extremely negative influence on the process of language learning and teaching.

The paper reports a study which investigated individual trajectories of boredom among 11 students majoring in English in a BA program at a Polish university. The data were collected during one practical English class that focused on different skills and subsystems and was taught by one of the authors. The following sources of data were used: (1) a demographic questionnaire (e.g. age, sex, self-assessment), (2) a scale developed for tapping into boredom in this context including 27 statements (e.g., “During English classes, I often think about unrelated things”), and (3) an in-class boredom questionnaire, where students indicated their levels of this negative emotion at five-minute intervals on a seven-point Likert scale, chose adjectives to describe the class on its completion (e.g., useful vs. useless) and wrote a short paragraph about the experience of boredom during that class,. The analysis of the data collected in these ways showed that general inclinations regarding boredom in L2 learning translate to some extent into the patterns of boredom actually manifested during a foreign language class. On the other hand, it demonstrated that group patterns may often be acutely different from the individual trajectories of boredom self-reported by students and that such trajectories are shaped by a myriad of individual and contextual factors which conspire to make learners more or less bored at different stages of a language class (e.g., tasks and activities, topics, learning styles, individual goals, proficiency). Some suggestions are also made as to how the negative emotion of boredom can be alleviated by, for example, introducing a degree of novelty or enabling students to take more control over tasks performed and topics discussed.