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Title: Talk, silence and anxiety during one-to-one tutorials: A cross cultural comparative study of Japan and UK undergraduates' tolerance of silence
Authors: King, Jim
Aono, Atsuko
First Published: 30-Oct-2017
Publisher: Springer Verlag (Germany) for Seoul National University, Education Research Institute
Citation: Asia Pacific Education Review, 2017,
Abstract: This paper discusses the issue of tolerance of silence within university tutorials from a cross-cultural, comparative perspective. A mixed methods, quasi-experimental approach was employed to measure the length of silence which individual students from samples in Japan and the UK tolerated during a one-to-one staged encounter with their instructor. The comparison groups consisted of two first-year intact classes, one in Japan (n = 20) and one in the UK (n = 15), both of whom were studying for a Bachelor degree in English. During the tutorial encounter, the instructor refrained from speech from a set point in the meeting. Participants’ reactions to the period of silence which ensued were examined in detail using non-verbal coding and their length of silence tolerance was measured precisely. Contrary to the popular notion of the silent ‘East’ versus the garrulous ‘West’, the study’s quantitative findings revealed there was no significant difference in the length of silence students from both groups could tolerate during tutorials. Furthermore, self-reported feelings of discomfort during the silence were relatively high for both Japanese and UK participants, but length of silence was not found to be correlated with degree of discomfort. Qualitative data were collected from retrospective interviews examining what participants were thinking and feeling whilst the silent encounter was in progress. Testimony illustrating acute feelings of anxiety on the part of both UK and Japanese students was the primary theme to emerge in this phase of data collection. We propose the construct situational silence anxiety to describe such feelings of apprehension during situated encounters in which talk is expected but does not occur.
DOI Link: 10.1007/s12564-017-9503-8
ISSN: 1598-1037
eISSN: 1876-407X
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © the authors, 2017. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, School of Education

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