Determinants of EFL
achievement among Arab
Ghazi Ghaith and Hassan Diab
American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to determine the degree of interrelatedness and the role of a
number of context-speciﬁc factors in the English language proﬁciency development of Arab
college-bound learners. These factors include: language class risk-taking, sociability, discomfort,
motivation, and attitude toward class.
Design/methodology/approach – The study employed a one-group pretest-posttest experimental
design. In total, 67 (n ¼ 67) male English as a foreign language college-bound learners participated in
the study. All participants took general English language proﬁciency pretests and posttests in order to
determine the effect size of improvement in their language proﬁciency after an intensive treatment of
200 contact hours. The calculated effect sizes of improvement were correlated with learners’ scores on
the factors under study as measured by a modiﬁed version of the Ely classroom climate measure. In
addition, Pearson product-moment correlation coefﬁcients were computed and a step-wise multiple
regression analysis was run in order to determine the degree of interrelatedness among the variables
under study and to determine their extent of their role in the effect size of the proﬁciency gains of the
Findings – The ﬁndings indicated that language class sociability is positively related to students’
motivation to learn and to a positive class attitude. Conversely, language class risk-taking was found
to be negatively related to class discomfort which in turn was negatively related to student motivation
to learn. The ﬁndings also indicated that none of the affective variables under study predicted the
effect size of the proﬁciency gains realized by learners.
Research limitations/implications – The ﬁndings of this study suggest that language acquisition
is a complex process determined by interaction among a number of learner-related and contextual
factors. Furthermore, the ﬁndings suggest that motivation for learning is related to learners’ affective
feelings and may impact their class participation. A limitation of the study is that it employed a
one-group experimental design and, as such, there was no control or comparison group.
Practical implications – Using humanistic/affective methods of teaching could decrease students’
feelings of class discomfort and increase their motivation and class sociability.
Originality/value – The study provides insights into the language acquisition process of Arab
college-bound learners based on empirical evidence.
Keywords English language, Students, Saudi Arabia
Paper type Research paper
Considerable numbers of high school graduates in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf
region remain largely unprepared to join English-medium universities and perform at
the levels they must in order to succeed in all-English curricula at the college level.
This lack of preparedness limits the access of these graduates to quality higher
learning and may hinder their academic achievement. Consequently, there are several
“foundation year” and intensive English programs that are associated with many
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Education, Business and Society:
Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues
Vol. 1 No. 4, 2008
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited