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“We Participate, Silently”: Explicating Thai University Students’ Perceptions of Their Classroom Participation and Communication

Ji Hye Jaime Chung
Published: 28 February 2021

Abstract: This study explores Thai university students’ perceptions of their reluctance in verbal classroom participation especially in situations where English is used as the medium for instruction. It is generally perceived that non-native learners particularly from high context cultures such as Thailand have the tendency to remain silent during discussion sessions or when they are asked to participate in activities related to expressing their opinions. By investigating this phenomenon through focus group meetings with Thai university students, this study reveals reasons that cause students to be hesitant speakers in class through the eyes of students themselves. The results confirm that though students agree to the common perception of Asian students being quiet learners, they did not agree that they were passive learners; they emphasized the fact that they used ‘silence’ as a tool to quietly yet attentively participate. The study also highlights that students’ silence can be seen as a way to harmonize with the environment and situation which is the cultural norm in the Thai context.
Keywords: silence / Classroom / Thai university students / perceptions / learners

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