A Study on Reticence in College EFL Classrooms: The Role of Diffusion of Responsibility

  •  Yun Zhou    
  •  Yijin Chen    


The absence of students’ willingness for classroom participation is known to lead to a lose-lose situation where teaching schedules are disrupted, teachers lose enthusiasm, and students hardly learn anything. The problem is plaguing Chinese college EFL teachers as much as it did decades ago. Large quantities of studies have tackled the problem; however, little research has considered how students’ psychology might link to classroom reticence. One psychological factor accountable for inaction when in the presence of a group of people is diffusion of responsibility. Thus, this study explores whether diffusion of responsibility plays a part in college EFL classroom reticence and whether there are any associations between diffusion of responsibility and gender, or English proficiency, or question type, or class size. Data from a questionnaire, interviews, and classroom observations showed that diffusion of responsibility was indeed a cause for class reticence. Further, Spearman correlation analyses found that no correlation existed between diffusion of responsibility and gender, or English proficiency. Paired-samples t-tests showed class size did have an impact on diffusion of responsibility while question type did not make a difference. Several suggestions on containing diffusion of responsibility and building rapport were put forward. The results should assist EFL teachers to work out possible solutions to the problem of class reticence.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.