International students in higher education

Dongyao Tan (Purdue University College of Education, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)
Mike Yough (Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA)
Cong Wang (Purdue University College of Education, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Publication date: 8 October 2018



The purpose of this paper is to investigate international students’ willingness to communicate (WTC) in US university classrooms, focusing on the role of classroom environment. International students in higher education have great economic and academic impacts, studying their WTC in classrooms facilitates their learning and speaking of English and helps them better participate in class activities and acclimatize to schooling in their adopted cultures.


Survey data were collected from 50 Chinese undergraduate students who took English as a second language (ESL) class at a large Midwestern university. Four students participated in follow-up interviews.


Results revealed that in ESL classrooms, confidence and motivation had a direct impact on WTC, classroom environment had an indirect effect on WTC through the mediation of motivation and confidence. Qualitative analysis also showed that classroom environment greatly impacted WTC in both ESL and general classrooms, and teacher factors were most important.

Practical implications

These results have direct pedagogical implications for teachers serving international students in higher education.


This study facilitates the understanding of the previously under-studied influence of classroom environments on WTC, which has direct pedagogical implications. WTC research focuses predominantly on language learning classrooms, this study initiates an extended exploration of WTC in language learning as well as general classrooms.



Tan, D., Yough, M. and Wang, C. (2018), "International students in higher education", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 430-442.

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