Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor's Name

Patricia M. Barbetta

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Aixa Perez-Prado

Third Advisor's Name

Kyle Bennett

Fourth Advisor's Name

Thomas Reio

Fifth Advisor's Name

Marc Weinstein


Virtual environment, MUVE, English language learning, speaking anxiety

Date of Defense



The population of English Language Learners (ELLs) globally has been increasing substantially every year. In the United States alone, adult ELLs are the fastest growing portion of learners in adult education programs (Yang, 2005). There is a significant need to improve the teaching of English to ELLs in the United States and other English-speaking dominant countries. However, for many ELLs, speaking, especially to Native English Speakers (NESs), causes considerable language anxiety, which in turn plays a vital role in hindering their language development and academic progress (Pichette, 2009; Woodrow, 2006).

Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT), such as simulation activities, has long been viewed as an effective approach for second-language development. The current advances in technology and rapid emergence of Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) have provided an opportunity for educators to consider conducting simulations online for ELLs to practice speaking English to NESs. Yet to date, empirical research on the effects of MUVEs on ELLs’ language development and speaking is limited (Garcia-Ruiz, Edwards, & Aquino-Santos, 2007).

This study used a true experimental treatment control group repeated measures design to compare the perceived speaking anxiety levels (as measured by an anxiety scale administered per simulation activity) of 11 ELLs (5 in the control group, 6 in the experimental group) when speaking to Native English Speakers (NESs) during 10 simulation activities. Simulations in the control group were done face-to-face, while those in the experimental group were done in the MUVE of Second Life.

The results of the repeated measures ANOVA revealed after the Huynh-Feldt epsilon correction, demonstrated for both groups a significant decrease in anxiety levels over time from the first simulation to the tenth and final simulation. When comparing the two groups, the results revealed a statistically significant difference, with the experimental group demonstrating a greater anxiety reduction. These results suggests that language instructors should consider including face-to-face and MUVE simulations with ELLs paired with NESs as part of their language instruction. Future investigations should investigate the use of other multi-user virtual environments and/or measure other dimensions of the ELL/NES interactions.





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