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Using Fitbits to physiologically measure Japanese English language learner speaking anxiety - a proof of concept

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posted on 2022-10-21, 02:22 authored by Jonathan Shachter

Language learning (LL) anxiety is a research area of increasing interest in the field of second language acquisition mainly due to its debilitating effects on speaking performance. Classified as a state or situational specific anxiety, automatic-emotional or cognitive worry responses related to LL anxiety can appear habitually or momentarily. LL anxiety has primarily been assessed using students’ self-reported levels of anxiety using a variety of questionnaires. However, researchers in the broader field of psychology often collect physiological responses (e.g., heart rate) in addition to self-reports. To date, tracking a language learner's heart rate (HR) changes and correlating these changes with a self-report measure in a classroom context, has been impractical both due to the cost and obtrusive nature of laboratory equipment. For this reason, an original research tool (The Fitbit Data Collection System (FDCS)) was designed and created to unobtrusively track student HR changes via Fitbit™ "smart watches". The aim of this proof-of-concept data collection was to test the efficacy of the FDCS as a tool to examine the relationship between momentary state-assessments related to LL anxiety and HR response. Participants in this study were undergraduate Japanese language students (5 males and 5 females, mean age = 19.7 years, SD = .95) at a private university in Japan. Over a period of three sessions, students wore Fitbit smart watches and performed a class-observed dialog while seated at their desks. Students were also asked how they were feeling at three intervals within each session: class start, preperformance, and post-performance. The main finding of this study is that the self-reported feelings of distress and embarrassment had a significant relationship with HR response. The FDCS was also found to be an effective tool to collect HR responses in a classroom. Tracking HR response in a classroom may further understanding of how individuals may be feeling during the course of a lesson, lecture, or performance.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Literature review -- 3. The study -- 4. Results -- 5. General discussion -- 6. Reasons why Japanese LLs may feel distress and embarrassment -- 7. Limitations and future directions -- 8. Conclusion -- References -- Appendices


Empirical thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Research, Macquarie University, 2021.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, 2021

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Maria Kangas

Additional Supervisor 1

Naomi Sweller


Copyright: Jonathan Shachter Copyright disclaimer:




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