Reported Belief Changes through Near Peer Role ModelingTim Murphey
Near peer role models (NPRMs) are people who might be "near" to us in several ways: age, ethnicity, gender, interests, past or present experiences, and also in proximity and in frequency of social contact. In two previous quasi-experimental studies, learners in a Japanese university English department were shown an 8-minute video of four exemplary, slightly older, Japanese in the same department who were expressing beliefs and attitudes thought to facilitate SLA. A pre- and post-questionnaire revealed positive changes in viewers' reported-beliefs. In the present study, we wished to see the impact of the same video-speakers on non-English majors in obligatory English courses in a different university. The results show that many of these students' reported-beliefs and behaviors also change positively after seeing the video and they seem to remain more motivated through post observations. Interestingly, the experiment also changed the teacher's beliefs that made her class more interactive and possibly intensified NPRMing.
Weiten, Lloyd, and Lashley (1991, p. 46) refer to Bandura's (l977a, l986) social learning theory to affirm that
[I]mitation is more likely when we see similarity between the model and ourselves. Thus, children imitate same-sex role models somewhat more than opposite sex models. [Also], we are more likely to copy a model if we see the model's behavior leading to positive outcomes. . . [Furthermore], models have a great impact on personality development. Children learn to be assertive, conscientious, self-sufficient, dependable, easy-going, and so forth by observing others behaving in these ways. Parents, teachers, relatives, siblings, and peers serve as models for young children.
Bandura (1997a) suggests "seeing or visualizing people similar to oneself perform successfully typically raises efficacy beliefs in observers that they themselves possess the capabilities to master comparable activities" (p. 87). This starts with the observation that "we are similar" and then the realization that what the "other" can do should be possible for me. The opposite can also happen as Bandura (1997b) remarks, "Given large perceived disparities in experiences, children are likely to view skills exemplified by an experienced model as beyond their reach and are thus disinclined to invest the effort needed to master them fully" (p. 234). In second language acquisition, this calls into question the "native speaker" model (see Cook, 1999). [-1-]
Schunk (1984) suggests that in school, students also acquire information about their own capabilities vicariously through knowledge of others. Brown and Inouye (1978) claim that similar others offer the best basis for comparison. For example, Cloward (1967) studied the effect of a U.S. tutorial program that employed tenth- and eleventh-grade students as tutors for fourth- and fifth-grader pupils whose reading achievement was below grade level. Results showed that pupils with tutors of the same gender and ethnicity were highest in achievement.
Brown and Inouye (1978) state that "observing a model of comparable ability achieve success would create success expectations in observers and thus enhance their task motivation" (p. 901). Note that this is not learners comparing themselves with their peers, but rather the learners observing their peers succeeding in the task which carries information that they themselves also have the potential abilities to do the same thing. The observing learners compare themselves with their potential future selves and become excited (motivated) about that potential. When receiving information about their own potential capabilities, learners learn that effort and success go together. Schunk (1983), for example, compared the effectiveness of proximal goals to social comparative information and found that information about successful peers intensifies the idea that their own proximal goals are attainable.
Obviously, we also learn from thinking, collaborating, and problem solving on our own as well. However, our contention is that much of the spark for our beliefs in our abilities to do things begins intermentally, between minds in an activity, and then becomes intramental as we step metaphorically into the place of the other (Vygotsky, 1962). After having internalized certain beliefs and attitudes they can help us further to learn on our own and from others.
Near peer role models (NPRMs, Murphey, 1995, l996a, 1998) are peers who are close to one's social, professional, and/or age level, and whom one may respect and admire. While growing up, many people experience watching some student or sibling just a few years older and modeling their behavior. It may be that they only respect a characteristic or an ability that the role model has, and not necessarily the whole person.
In the late 1990's, Murphey and his "Communication Psychology" seminar students at Nanzan University in Japan did a series of quasi-experimental studies involving NPRMs. Kushida (l995) interviewed four enthusiastic students, one at a time on video and then edited an 8-minute clip which cut quickly from one student to another as they commented on the following ideas:
Students watching the video heard near-peers respond to the subject of making mistakes in English with comments like, "I'm not used to using English. So I don't think it's a big deal. I don't care much" (Takeshi, see complete transcription in Appendix 1). This video has been shown to all first year students in the English department since 1995. A more in-depth replication study using the same video was later done (Murphey & Murakami, 1998) in which positive results were again attained. Pre- and post viewing questionnaires showed that students watching the tapes changed their reported-beliefs significantly (at the 0.1% level) through watching these Japanese students talking about taking risks and enjoying English.
Kichiji (l997) produced a similar NPRMing video of businesswomen who had started companies and then decided to continue their studies at the university. After viewing Kichiji's video, most students were more open to "alternative life tracks"; men were more open to women working and returning to school, and women felt relieved that they had more choices.
Mizutani (l997) taught students directly about NPRMs and then asked them to describe classmates they admired. She asked: "What specifically do these classmates do that you admire, what do they believe that allows them to do what they do, and if you were to do these things how would you go about it?" This process of specifying behavior to be modeled, imagining enabling beliefs and planning one's own first steps theoretically "models" the unconscious modeling process that people normally do and makes it richer. This experiment was carried out in Murphey's first year class, where he could qualitatively observe the reactions from students for a period of time afterwards. Students continued to mention classmates, friends, and family members as being NPRMs long after the experiment in their weekly action logs (Murphey, 1993) and their enthusiasm for learning seemed much greater than before. This awareness-raising seemed to the teacher to intensify student learning as students actively began modeling each other.
Yamashita (l998) read and analyzed 40 language learning histories by first-year students and 45 by third and fourth year students and found that the type of person who was most often mentioned as inspiring more desire to learn English was that of "university peers" (mentioned by over 50%). However, in junior high school and high school it was their junior high school teachers (mentioned by about 22%). This is probably because students interact little in English in junior high and high school, and thus have no opportunity to be inspired by a peer's ability in English. At university, students interact more and are inspired by each other's competence.
Ogisu (l998) made a video similar to Kushida's with much younger students: three first year junior high students speaking a little in English and then in Japanese about how they enjoyed English and had fun learning and didn't worry much about mistakes. She showed it to 76 first year junior high students in the same school and to 29 sixth grade students in an attached elementary school that the three interviewees had attended. Ogisu found similar results to Kushida's, except that the males' motivation in the groups decreased. In some follow-up research, she interviewed several boys who mentioned that the students on the video were good students because they are "girls" and that "teachers always praise girls." Thus, we discovered that same sex role models are indeed crucial. Kushida's earlier research failed to find this since there were three women and one man in her video and there were very few males in the responding group.
Cook (1999, p. 185) suggests that we should be "looking to descriptions of L2 users or L2 learners rather than descriptions of native speakers as a source of information," and establish "a positive image of L2 users rather than seeing them as failed native speakers." He argues, "the prominence of the native speaker in language teaching has obscured the distinctive nature of the successful L2 user and created an unattainable goal for L2 learners." We also believe the distinctive nature of the L2 user is a better model for second language learners. We wish to emphasize that this is so, in part, because they are proximal, easier to identify with, and they more easily scaffold learning within each other's zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1962). Both NNSs and NSs can be useful in the learning process in different ways and different times and this needs studying. [-3-]
Cooperative/collaborative learning in general (Johnson & Johnson, 1994; Kohn 1992) supports NPRMing since it encourages interaction among learners in which they can naturally model each other. Many teachers have also reported success with peer teaching and tutoring which overlap with NPRMing. For example, Knop (1975) introduced a type of peer involvement instruction in which second- or third-year students come to the first-year students' classes to give a dictation, to read listening comprehension passages, to ask a variety of questions, or to give pattern practices or an oral presentation. Knop states, "If someone near their age could speak French that well, they began to believe that, in a year or two, they could also make that much progress" (p. 102). A similar example is buddy-reading, or cross-age tutoring (Samway, Whang & Pippit,1995). In a buddy-reading program, the older students are paired with younger students and read books of their choice on a regular basis. Younger children can gradually learn not only how to read from their buddies, but also learn to believe in their potential to someday be like their older buddies.
The advantages of peer-modeling are also discussed by Watson (1993). He discovered that his 11-year old son was a helpful assistant and peer tutor in his English class of 9- or 10-year old students at a Chinese elementary school. The Chinese students felt more comfortable imitating his son. He concludes that children imitate peers instead of adults or teachers when they are immersed in a new language.
Murphey (1998a) highlights five structures that teachers can use to promote NPRMing effectively in the classroom: newsletters of students comments, language learning histories, inviting older students in the classroom, inviting NNS substitute-teachers who speak mostly the target language, and videoing conversations for self evaluation (Murphey & Kenny, 1998; Murphey & Woo, 1998b) in which peer conversations are videoed and viewed weekly as homework by students. Murphey found much support for these structures in the students' weekly reflections in their action logs, end of term feedback, and from classroom observations.
The hypothesis that is supported by the above studies and techniques is that near peer role models are psychologically more attractive to learners than NSs in that their "excellence" seems more possible and easy to replicate because they are in each others' zones of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1962; Murphey, 1996c).
Kushida (1995) showed it was possible to change students' reported-beliefs through videoed NPRMs. Murphey and Murakami (1998) used the same video two years later (when most of Kushida's interviewees had graduated) with equal success. In the present study, we wanted to see if the same video of Japanese English-majors (whose expressed beliefs apparently impressed similar students) would also impress non-majors in a medium level university (whose motivation was probably not as high and who probably had more negative past experiences with English).[-4-]
Seven weeks into their first semester of 1998, 115 first-year university students were shown the 8-minute video produced by Kushida (1995). In the video, four people were interviewed. One of them was a second-year junior college student. The other three were four-year university students, one each from the second-year to the fourth-year. The only male student was the fourth-year student.
The participants were told simply that they were watching "some university students" talk about English learning. Participants were not told what the interviewees majors were, nor their school for fear that they would have reason not to identify with the interviewees.
Participants were given a questionnaire (Appendix B) that consisted of four parts. Section A asked about the previous success of their English learning and their level of confidence in improving their English ability on a five point Likert Scale. In the second part of Section A, NPRMs were explained. Section B had four statements, along with instructions asking for their level of agreement or disagreement about the four positions:
Section C asked the participants to write what they thought of the interviewees and with which opinions they were impressed.
The participants were first asked to answer Section A (past learning and confidence), then Section B (four agreement statements) by circling their answers. After they finished, the teacher read the paragraph about NPRMs (taken from Mizutani (1997)) to make sure that they understood the concept. Some of the explanation was in Japanese. They were allowed to read along with the text while they listened.
Next, the teacher told the participants that they would see college students who were studying English in Japan. Then participants watched the video. In the video-interview, the four expressed their opinions about the items in Section B, described above.
After watching the video, participants were asked again to rate the belief number 2 of Section A ("I am confident to improve my English form now on.") and the four beliefs of Section B, but this time they were told to put an "X" by their answers so the answers could be distinguished from the previous answers, which were circled. Finally, they were asked to write their opinions and impressions in Section C.
Participants were 115 first-year university students, all between 18 and 20 years of age, 60% male and 40% female. All of them were non-English majors taking required English courses. Their majors were information and policy studies. The second author, Arao, taught the students in two different groups of listening/speaking classes five times a week for 45-minutes and one 90-minute session. They also had a reading/grammar class that also met five times a week for 45-minutes and one 90-minute class. All of their teachers were NNSs except for one who taught one 45-minute session. All teachers generally used English only in their classes, although there were times when some words or phrases were translated.[-5-]
Table 1 indicates the average scores of their agreement and disagreement before and after viewing the video for section A and B of the questionnaire. The students and their answers were sorted by their responses to the very first belief in section A "I have been successful at learning English." The responses to the remaining five beliefs are listed as A2 and B1 through B4. As can be seen, each group's average score increased after the viewing, except those who reported high scores initially.
Table 1. The mean ratings of positive beliefs before and after watching the video
Five groups sorted according to their answers to "I have been successful in learning English." Group 1 = strongly disagree, Group 2 = disagree, Group 3 neither agree nor disagree, Group 4 = agree, and Group 5 = strongly agree.
|A2:I am confident to improve English||B1: Making mistakes in English is O.K.||B2:It's good to have goals in learning English||B3:Speaking English is fun||B4: Japanese can become good speakers of English|
|Group 1 (19)||2.7||2.9*||4.0||4.3*||4.3||4.6**||2.9||3.2*||3.4||3.5|
|Group 2 (30)||3.1||3.3*||3.9||4.3**||4.3||4.4*||3.2||3.6**||3.7||4*|
|Group 3 (53)||3.3||3.5**||4.2||4.4 *||4.6||4.6||3.3||3.6**||3.7||4.1**|
|Group 4 (11)||3.1||3.5||3.8||4.5**||4.7||4.8||3.2||3.5||4.1||4.3|
|Group 5 (2)||4||4||4.5||4.5||4.5||5||4.5||4.5||5||5|
|* significant changes at p < 0.05 , ** significant changes at p < 0.01|
A T-test showed that the full group did not change their reported-beliefs significantly. However, looking at the changes of the individual groups, the belief changes were shown to be significant nine out of ten times in the groups that had at least 30 participants, Groups 2 and 3. The other groups most likely had too few participants to achieve significance on some items.
Students who perceived that their own learning had been successful generally had higher averages for each statement before and after videoing. It shows that past learning experiences influence the strength of their supportive beliefs (Bandura, 1977a). However, even participants who disagreed that they had been successful in the past reported stronger supporting beliefs in all areas after watching the video.[-6-]
While the averages in Table 1 increase (except Group 5), there were individual students whose ratings decreased afterwards, as shown in Table 2:
Table 2 The number of students whose answers decreased after the video.
|A2: Confidence||B1: Mistakes||B2: Goals||B3: S.Fun||B4:Jap. can|
Only a few scores decreased, except in the last category, in which all of the scores that decreased had been 5 or 4 ("strongly agree" or "moderately agree") before the video and decreased by one point. We also see that most of these scores were low on the "past success" scale. We might postulate that they had inappropriately high expectations that were tempered by the interviewees' insistence that mistakes were acceptable, that they didn't want to be perfect, and that they just wanted to communicate well. If this postulation is correct, we see it as positive rather than negative.
Students also wrote comments about the video in Section C that asked, "What did you think of the people in the video?" About 95% of the comments were positive, although often only with a few words such as "great!!" or "It's cool" or "I want to be like them." Only about 5% were neutral or doubtful. A few expressed a difference of opinion: "Someone said that grammar is not important for conversation. But we need a basic grammar to have a conversation, I think." A few others showed that even these "near peers" may have been too enthusiastically intimidating, "I don't think I can have as many interests as them. They are so interested in English."
Their comments generally positively expressed their surprise and envy at the video-speakers' fluency and enthusiasm. The participants often went from "they" descriptions of the video speakers abilities and beliefs to "I" statements of desire to be like them or behave like them. For example, one student said, "I think they are great. I really envy them. English is something I should enjoy leaning. I didn't like English, but I should find a way to enjoy." Another student shows modeling desire more explicitly in saying, "I was surprised to see the college students speaking fluent English. It's cool. I want to be like them." Such comments reinforce the claim that the participants understood the video, admired the video-speakers, wished to emulate them, and identified with them.Part C also asked, "Which opinions were impressive for you?" The participants cited the speakers' unique statements, which again confirmed their comprehension and respect, such as: "It's O.K to make mistakes. English is not my language." "I don't want to 'study' English." "To have interest is important." "I want to have fun." "We should imitate anyone who speaks English." "My junior high school teacher was very nice, so I wanted to study English." "I don't want to 'study' English at the desk." "I went to the movie-theater with a tape recorder."[-7-]
Arao continued to teach these participants for the rest of the school year. We include below an email message sent to her co-author concerning her post video observations.
Before I did the experiment, I could not see any passion in their attitudes. On the first day of the course, I had them introduce themselves in English in a small group first and then to the whole class. But everybody tried to speak as briefly as possible. So I believed that they were not interested in English at all. Therefore, I was surprised to see their comments and answers in the experiment. Most of them showed that they were envious of the people in the video and wanted to be like them. So I realized that they were just hiding their passions and wished to improve their English deep down. This was a big pleasant discovery for me and I was motivated to teach further.
Though the class was a listening/speaking class, I had almost given up having them speak English before the video and gave them mainly listening practice. After the video I started giving them a lot more activities to speak. Some male students still seemed unwilling to make a group, but once they started, they were into it. Most students, but especially the women, seemed to be enjoying speaking in a group more than listening practice.
Once the most annoying male student told me that he liked these speaking activities. I felt so happy to hear that. Once the teacher in another class asked me how I could have them speak English in class, because she heard from students in my class that they were speaking English freely in my class, and it was fun. I thought that my activities were still close to pattern work adjusting to their levels, but they seemed to feel that they were speaking freely in English. I realized that those activities were successful in that way.
First of all, the experiment and the feedback from the students changed me, my way of looking at the students, more than anything and that influenced my way of teaching and the students more. (personal correspondence)
This email message shows that research involving the gathering of student views can also change teacher perceptions and teacher behaviors. This is a part of what Murphey and Woo (1998a) call "emic pedagogy," the emerging of information and tools that lead one to adjust and adapt teaching as we go along. Arao later estimated that before showing the video she spent about 5% or less of class time on speaking activities. After her classes saw the video, she gradually increased the student-speaking time to about 30% of the total class time because students seemed so engaged in speaking and liked it so much.
There has not been much research on how teachers might go about trying to help students cultivate useful beliefs for language learning (Barcelos, 2000; Murphey, 1996b). NPRMing is one way that teachers might cultivate helpful beliefs and at the same time discover important details about their students, as Arao did. Obtaining information about students' beliefs and strategies is a first step. Then finding ways of letting other students know about their peers' highly successful strategies and beliefs is crucial to spread the excellence. While there are lists of strategies and beliefs in the literature, some of which were used in this study, we suggest that these are more performative when they emerge from students themselves (Murphey & Woo 1998a). Teachers have many options: telling stories about effective learners, making newsletters of student comments (Kindt & Murphey, 2000), increasing student-student interaction, sharing language learning histories (Murphey, 1999), and videoing students' conversations (Murphey, 2001). [-8-]
To carry this work forward, more research is needed to understand how NPRMing works differently with different groups and contexts, the many ways of presenting NPRMs to learners, and what beliefs and capabilities are most susceptible to change through NPRMing. There also needs to be more research on how teachers, NS and NNS, can become NPRMs for their students (Murphey & Sasaki, 1998).
We have postulated that the similarity, in terms of age, ethnicity, interests, and sex enhances the intensity of identification. How to invite students to identify more closely with models at a variety of "distances" also needs exploration. In our study, we saw that models from different university environments could be effectively used.
This similarity and admiration of difference within the same models is apparently what allows an observer to open up to the creation of new identities. According to Lave and Wenger (1996):
As an aspect of social practice, learning involves the whole person; it implies not only a relation to specific activities, but a relation to social communities--it implies becoming . . . a kind of person. . . . The person is defined by as well as defines these relations. To ignore this aspect of learning is to overlook the fact that learning involves the construction of identities (p. 146-147).
We contend that the students in this study and their teacher were "defined by as well as defin[ing]" their new relations to language learning and each other. They were constructing their identities, as all individuals and groups do by the activities they engage in (see also Pennycook, 2001, and his discussion of performativity). However, perhaps unlike most groups whose constructions are left more to chance (based on people who "just happen" to be around them), these students were shown some specific NPRMs who may have given them a certain direction and impetus.
The increase in strength of the reported-beliefs in Part A and B of the questionnaire and the comments in part C indicate that students identified with the speakers on the video, and entertained the idea that they too could become English speakers. Post-experiment observations by Arao corroborated that their stronger beliefs and resultant motivation seemed lasting. At the same time, Arao reformed her beliefs about the students; these new beliefs and behaviors may have further intensified the students' investment in learning. A delayed questionnaire concerning these beliefs given at a later point could have supported these claims and should be considered by future researchers. [-9-]
What is it that one learns by observing peers? We suspect that one learns that certain successes are possible. Learners also find that they can be happy with small successes--they don't have to be frustrated believing that they have to be like native speakers. These learnings give them permission to try certain behaviors with hopeful expectations. The weak interpretation of these results contends that through showing NPRMs students increase their motivation by identifying certain behaviors, beliefs, and strategies as possible for themselves. The strong interpretation says that NPRMing allows students to identify with the models, become inspired, and themselves become more effective learners. Both interpretations point teachers away from the traditional perfection of and over-reliance on the "ideal native speaker" and toward models more appropriate to students' zones of proximal development (Cook, 1999).
However, students also need to experience success. Bandura (1977a) highlights "performance accomplishment" in addition to "vicarious experience" as a major source of efficacy: "Performance accomplishments provide the most dependable source of efficacy expectations because they are based on one's own personal experiences. Success raises mastery expectations" (p. 81). While NPRMing provides students with ideas about appropriate tasks and steps for success, teachers also need to be aware of their ability to structure activities so that students experience success regularly. NPRMing is not a panacea, but presents students with powerful "identificatory moments" of possibility.
 US tenth and eleventh grade comprises 15-17 year olds, and fourth and fifth grades comprises 9-11 year olds.
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Thanks to Yukari Kushida who interviewed the four students in this video and then edited the tape so that their answers were grouped around certain questions in the fall of l995. Names are psydonyms.(* indicate cuts to another person on the screen before the next line.)
Students: Keiko, Takeshi, Chika, Yuko(Interviewer) - I'm sitting with Keiko.
Please mark the answers for each sentence: 1= strongly disagree 2 = moderately disagree 3 = neither agree nor disagree 4 = moderately agree 5 = strongly agree
|I have been successful in learning English.||1 2 3 4 5|
|I am confident to improve my English form now on.||1 2 3 4 5|
Psychologists tell us that students who succeed a lot, usually have very strong role models to guide them. Role modes are people who they respect and want to be like. When the role models already resemble the person in many ways, they create even more desire. In other words, the best role models are people who are peers ( about the same age and status ) and who are doing things that you want to. You want to be like them, not completely, but in some characteristics. For example, maybe another student speaks up quickly and you want to try and do the same. You admire this student's ability to do this and for this they are a role model, but perhaps not for other things.
Please circle the answers for each sentence : 1 = strongly disagree 2 = moderately disagree 3 = neither agree nor disagree 4 = moderately agree 5 = strongly agree
|Making mistakes in English is O.K.||1 2 3 4 5|
|It's good to have goals in learning English.||1 2 3 4 5|
|Speaking English is fun.||1 2 3 4 5|
|Japanese can become good speakers of English.||1 2 3 4 5|
Please give comments after watching the video. What did you think of the people in the video? Which opinions were impressive for you? [more space provided]
After watching the video, please answer Section A and Section B again. This time, please mark the answers with an X. If you want to mark the same points, mark on top of the previous answers.
Tim Murphey taught at Nanzan University, Japan, for 11 years before moving to Yuan Ze University in Taiwan in 2001. He is currently the editor for the TESOL Professional Development in Language Education series and has books published with OUP, Longman, MacMillan LanguageHouse, and Peter Lang. He presently is exploring practical applications of Vygotskian socio-cultural theory in language teaching.
Hiroko Arao received her MA from Nanzan University and is presently working on her PhD in Graduate School of International Development of Nagoya University. Her field is English education in Japan; her special interest is affective factors in learning English.
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