The Effects of Stereotype Threat on Foreign Language Performance through the Mediating Roles of Self-Efficacy and Anxiety


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: Gender stereotyping of academic domains has long been a subject of debate in the field of education. Researchers believe that gender stereotyping of academic domains is an issue because how an academic subject is perceived by females and males can influence their achievement-related perceptions including their self-efficacy and anxiety. In alignment with this argument, several studies have found that males and females tend to favour and be more confident in the academic subjects which are believed to be more appropriate for their gender.
Aims: Although vital to academic achievement, a substantial body of research focusing on the impact of gender stereotyping of academic subjects is mainly concerned with females and their underachievement in certain subjects such as maths and science. Conversely, there is little attention to males and their performance in academic fields which are mostly associated with females. This thesis, therefore, aimed to explore the concept of gender stereotyping in respect of males and their performance in foreign language learning which, in some language learning environments, is believed to be a female domain. The research investigated the extent to which any existing gender stereotypes were linked to foreign language learners’ performance via the mediating roles of language self-efficacy and anxiety.
Sample: Overall, 1140 Turkish adult learners (509 females, 631 males) studying English as a foreign language at university level and 17 English as a foreign language teachers (7 males, 10 females) were recruited across three studies as well as a preceding pilot study.
Method: A mixed methods approach incorporating self-report questionnaires, interviews and experimental methods was adopted in this research. Study 1 employed a questionnaire design which examined whether there was a link between language learners’ gender stereotyped beliefs about foreign language learning and their self-efficacy, anxiety, and performance. Study 2 took an interview approach with language teachers and learners and explored the extent to which language teachers, as an agent of socialisation, played a role in sustaining or legitimising any existing gender stereotyped beliefs. Finally, Study 3 experimentally investigated the impact of stereotype
threat pertaining to learning another language upon male language learners’ performance via their self-efficacy and anxiety.
Results: The results in Study 1 and 2 confirmed that Turkish learners of English as a foreign language held the belief that females were better at foreign language learning in a number of ways (e.g., hard work, perseverance) compared to males. Study 2 also revealed that these beliefs were formed prior to university and by families and the society rather than foreign language teachers. Although prevalent, the belief that females were better language learners was not found to be linked to males’ performance through their self-efficacy and anxiety in Study 1. Study 3 demonstrated that male learners in experimental conditions performed worse in English listening test than the control group suggesting that the phenomenon of stereotype threat might be true for males in foreign language learning environments. However, consistent with Study 1, the effects of gender stereotypes were not found to be transmitted through reception self-efficacy or anxiety.
Conclusion: The empirical research presented in this thesis is among few studies examining the phenomenon of gender stereotyping of academic subjects in terms of males and their foreign language performance. The outcomes of this study contribute to the field of second language studies as it enabled a deeper understanding of the impact of gender stereotyped beliefs on language learners’ self-efficacy, anxiety and performance.
Date of Award3 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorBETHAN GARRETT (Director of Studies), LINDA KAYE (Supervisor) & DAVID PUTWAIN (Supervisor)


  • Foreign language learning
  • gender stereotypes
  • self-efficacy
  • anxiety
  • stereotype threat
  • language performance

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