Research has shown that about one third of the students in a given classroom are silent, as defined as those students taking fewer than half the class average number of turns. Further, more of these silent students tend to be female than male, an imbalance that has been strongly linked to the phenomenon of male conversational dominance, expressed through: taking more and longer turns; interruption, especially of female students; calling out; topic control; and even the ignoring and insulting of others' contributions. The causes of male conversational dominance and the tendency towards female silence have been theoretically linked to socialization factors, as supported by evidence of female deference to male speakers, male interruption of female students, and a gender imbalance in teacher attention. This socialization may negatively affect female students' willingness to communicate, and therefore their SLA. The identification of techniques to equalize participation is therefore of great importance to the EFL field. The purpose of the present study was to determine: first, if there were silent students in the Egyptian EFL college classroom; second, if there was a gender imbalance in this silence; and third, if the techniques of preparation and structure related to changes in student participation in the public speaking contexts of whole class discussion and team debate. The study took an exploratory and qualitative approach, using a convenience sample of five intact Egyptian EFL college classrooms, totaling 51 students. The techniques of preparation and structure were used as interventions. Video recordings of class sessions together with student and teacher questionnaires were used to collect data. Qualitative analysis of the data show that 35% of the students were silent before interventions, and 14% were dominant. More female students were silent than male, which may be attributable to a chilly classroom climate. Further, male students took more turns than female students, which was not perceived by the teachers. Participation was more equal in the sessions using interventions, implying that silence need not be viewed as a fixed trait. Students differed by gender on which techniques they found most helpful, suggesting that male students may need to be treated differently than female students, and that the combined use of several techniques to equalize classroom participation may be more effective than the use of just one.

Degree Name

MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2010

First Advisor

Wachob, Phyllis

Second Advisor

Williams, Robert



Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers -- Egypt.


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item