Perceptions of Malaysian ESL low achievers about English language learning

Date of Completion

January 1999


Education, Language and Literature|Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Language, General|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




This qualitative investigation examined the perceptions of the low-achieving English as a Second Language (ESL) students of their language learning at the National University of Malaysia. It investigated the views that these students hold of their ESL learning experiences as related to attitude/motivation, sociocultural influences, formal instruction, language education policy, and their own individual characteristics. This study further assessed the patterns of interactions of the above factors and the associations to the students' low achievement. ^ A naturalistic case study approach was used during this investigation. In-depth interviews, observations, document review, and other supplementary techniques were utilized to gather the data. The data were analyzed using Strauss and Corbin's (1990) coding paradigm: open coding, axial coding, and selective coding. ^ In this investigation, the major finding was that the element of ineffective instructional practices had an influence on the students' ESL low achievement and academic achievement. This main factor emerged frequently in the data and was related to other factors that the students addressed. The factors affecting the students' achievement are summarized as follows: (1) attitude/motivation (a) lack of positive attitude, (b) minimal effort, (c) instrumental motivation; (2) sociocultural factors (a) negative peers' reaction and behavior, (b) lecturers' practices, (c) community's influence; (3) individual characteristics (a) personality traits (i.e. introverted, non-risktaker, low self-esteem), (b) language aptitude, (c) high anxiety, (d) insufficient and inappropriate strategies; (4) formal instruction (a) ineffective instructional practices, (b) unfavorable classroom, (c) unsuitable lesson time, (d) large class size; and (5) language education policy (a) unclear policy, (b) unjustifiable policy, (c) ineffective policy. ^