University of Leicester
2022AlahmadiSPhD.pdf (3.85 MB)

Behind The Veil Of Silence: An Exploratory Invistigation Into The Silence Of Female Saudi Arabian Learners Of English

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posted on 2022-10-06, 09:23 authored by Shaza T. Al-Ahmadi

This mixed-methods study investigates the unexplored issue of silence in Saudi female university foreign language (EFL) classroom. Inspired by personal experiences and informed by the complexity approaches to study learner silence, I adopt an approximate replication of King’s (2013b) methodology to perform an extensive investigation of the phenomenon of learner silence in the Saudi female higher education context. To this end, a multi-site study using structured observation methodology was employed to investigate the classroom behaviour of over 500 language learners across three Saudi female universities. To effectively measure the extent of macro-level silence in these research settings, a modified version of the classroom oral participation scheme (King, 2013a,b) was developed. A total of 45 hours of data were collected using a minute-by-minute systematic sampling strategy that uncovered some startling results. Specifically, I found that over 90 % of the total observed lessons time was characterised by the learners’ silence, and an extreme lack of students’ voluntarily participation in the EFL classroom at only less than quarter of a one percent of the total lessons time. This striking quantitative evidence is further corroborated by qualitative results. My analysis of over 100,000-word of transcribed data collected in two types of qualitative interviews provided valuable insights into students’ experiences about remaining silent in their L2 educational context. Specifically, to uncover the process of learners’ thinking and to understand their feelings during silence episodes, I conducted a series of 10 stimulated recall interviews employing an event-specific focus on classroom silence. The final phase of the data collection focused on individual analysis of learners’ perspectives and fundamental beliefs about classroom silence drawing on 14 semi-structured interviews. Applying Complex Dynamic Systems Theory (CDST) as an analytical framework, the investigation moves away from the reductionist approach of generating single cause-effect explanation of the phenomenon of Saudi female EFL learners’ silence. The study uncovered multiple interconnected factors rooted in the Saudi sociocultural and educational contexts. The results highlight the multi-dimensional nature of the seemingly simple act of not speaking and emphasize the need to view Saudi female silence as a potential veil that should be examined from the perspective of the interplay between both individual psychological factors and the environmental influences of the institutional and higher societal levels.



Jim King

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Education

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD