Effects of a Concept Mapping-based Flipped Learning Approach on EFL Students’ Learning Performance

Effects of a Concept Mapping-based Flipped Learning Approach on EFL Students’ Learning Performance, Critical Thinking Awareness and Speaking Anxiety in an English-Speaking Course
The present study explored the impact of concept mapping-based flipped learning as a listening-speaking strategy on learning achievement, EFL learners’ critical thinking awareness, and EFL speaking anxiety. The study utilized a pre-test/post-test control and experimental group design. Seventy-two EFL learners were assigned to experimental (n=37) and control (n=35) groups. The results of the pre-test indicated that the participants of the two groups were homogenous concerning their proficiency level, critical thinking awareness, and EFL speaking anxiety. The experimental group was instructed to construct concept maps after each listening task, and formulated their answers to the required speaking tasks from their concept maps. The results of the post-test indicated that concept mapping has a positive and significant influence on learning performance and learners’ critical thinking awareness, and decreased their speaking anxiety. Moreover, the relationships between concept mapping, learning performance, and critical thinking are statistically correlated. The result also revealed a significant negative relationship between speaking anxiety and the other variables.

Keywords Flipped Classroom, Concept Map, Critical thinking, EFL speaking Anxiety
IntroductionEnglish is a global and prevalent language because it is the most widespread language in terms of the world’s population speaking English as a native, second, or foreign language (ESL or EFL). Among the four language skills (i.e., listening, reading, writing, and speaking), English speaking could be the most challenging skill to master for mainstream EFL learners (Zhang, 2009). Yaikhong and Usaha (2012) indicated that most EFL learners tend to have high anxiety when learning English speaking.
In traditional instruction, EFL students usually learn new vocabulary and grammatical patterns through memorizing rather than speaking practice. Rababah (2002) described that emphasizing rote learning of vocabulary, grammar, and sentence patterns instead of speaking practice could result in insufficient development of speaking skills. Several researchers have reported that notable foreign language anxiety was encountered by many learners in response to some aspects of foreign language learning (Gardner & MacIntyre, 1991; Horwitz, 2001). In fact, it is often considered that speaking is the most anxiety-provoking language skill in foreign language learning contexts (Tsiplakides & Keramida, 2009). Sila (2010) investigated foreign language anxiety and found that it occurs as levels of proficiency increase, and anxiety emerges in the productive skills. Reducing learners’ speaking anxiety is an important matter since it is a common problem in the teaching of EFL.
In addition to EFL speaking anxiety, previously scholars have put efforts into helping EFL learners practice their oral skills. From this process they found that the greatest difficulty is that the learners lack practice time (Woodrow, 2006). Most EFL/ESL teachers face obstacles such as limited class time (Gandara et al., 2005). In traditional classes, some students are reluctant to speak up or to ask questions since the teacher typically maximizes instructional time and minimizes practice time for students (Wang, 2014). Instructional approaches have not always kept up with the shifting challenges faced by EFL learners. EFL is still often taught as a conventional classroom subject (Chen Hsieh, Wu, ; Marek, 2017), with traditional lectures leading to deficient EFL speaking development.

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Flipped learning has been recognized as an effective teaching mode for reversing the role of practice in private time with lectures in class time (Chen Hsieh et al., 2017; Lin ; Hwang, 2018; Wanner ; Palmer, 2015). In flipped learning, learners obtain knowledge and learning materials in an individual space (i.e., the time they learn on their own), whereas they practice in a group space (i.e., the time they learn together with peers or the instructor).
Scholars have further pointed out that not only increasing practice time for formulating and articulation, but also organizing oral content for conceptualization is essential for EFL speaking production (Chiu, 2015). For example, Levelt (1993) and Wang (2014) emphasized the importance of three attributes, conceptualization, formulation, and articulation, in oral production. Therefore, it could be of great help to EFL learners if a knowledge origination toolorganizational tool can be integrated into flipped English classes.
A concept map is a well-recognized knowledge organizational tool origination tool which represents concepts as nodes, and relationships between concepts as links in a graph elements, like frames, shapes graph (Liu, Chen, ; Chang, 2010; Moreira ; Moreira, 2011; Yang, 2015). In the past decades, concept mapping has been widely adopted by educators and has been proven to be effective in various courses (Liu et al., 2010; Yang, 2015). Therefore, in this study, a concept mapping-based flipped learning approach is proposed to enhance EFL learners’ listening/speaking competencies and critical thinking awareness as well as reducing their English-speaking anxiety. Moreover, an experiment was carried out in EFL oral-aural classes at a university in northern Taiwan to investigate the following research questions:
Can the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach contribute to the significant development of EFL learners’ listening comprehension achievement and their speaking performance in comparison with the conventional flipped learning approach?
Can the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach contribute to the significant development of their critical thinking awareness with the conventional flipped learning approach?
Can the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach help students reduce their speaking anxiety in comparison with the conventional flipped learning approach?
Can the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach facilitate the construction of concept maps?
What are the relationships between the concept map scores and the scores for students’ speaking performance, critical thinking awareness, and speaking anxiety?
Literature review
Flipped Learning in EFL
Flipped learning refers to the teaching mode that reverses the traditional paradigm; that is, students learn the lectures given by the teacher via instructional videos before the class, and hence the teacher has more time in the class to help students deal with their learning problems or engage in more practice, peer interactions, or higher order thinking tasks (Boucher, Robertson, Wainner, & Sanders, 2013; Chen, Hsieh et al., 2017; Hung, 2015; Lin & Hwang, 2018; Wanner & Palmer, 2015; Wu, Hsieh, & Yang, 2017). As for the flipped videos, the instructor can either create them him/herself using any kind of lecture capture tool (Schroeder, McGivney-Burelle, & Xue, 2015), or use ready-made educational videos from websites such as Kahn Academy, TED, or YouTube EDU (Hung, 2018). When learners watch the videos in their own private time, they can pause, rewind, or replay them as many times as they wish. This implies that they learn at their own pace and learn with repeated exposure to the same material to strengthen and deepen their understanding until they acquire the knowledge. In that case, they can be well prepared for dealing with the learning tasks in the class (Chen Hsieh et al., 2017). In addition, as learners have more practice time in the flipped class, they have better opportunities to deal with advanced learning tasks (Boucher et al., 2013).
Flipped learning has been adopted in the field of EFL instruction for various purposes, such as English for vocational education courses (Chuang, Weng, & Chen, 2018) and EFL oral training courses (Lin & Hwang, 2018; Wu et al., 2017). These studies found that flipped EFL learning has good potential for helping learners increase their learning achievements and improve their language performance, and can inspire them to be more active and diverse in their learning. Wu and her colleagues’ study (2017) indicated that the flipped classroom provides more class time for various activities including verbal interaction and language practice. Their findings specified the value of flipped classrooms in terms of improving students’ oral ability, and their results indicated that the students were satisfied with the flipped learning. Nevertheless, little research has been devoted to students’ anxiety and critical thinking in flipped learning. Therefore, in this current research, a concept mapping-based flipped classroom was adopted to attempt to decrease speaking anxiety and improve students’ critical thinking.

Concept Mapping
A concept map is a graphical diagram that can be used to help learners organize and form ideas (Novak, 1990). Concept-mapping is a practical strategy for teachers to use with learners to help them recall, review, communicate, and problem solve, assisting them in learning more effectively and improving the way that they record their information as they keep it in an organized manner hold it in a format (Novak, 2002). It is also found that the strategy of concept mapping is not only to support learners to develop, but also to organize their ideas. Because it can foster learners’ confidence and build up their background knowledge, it will facilitate their speaking (Folse, Folse, ; Lockwood, 2010; Moreira ; Moreira, 2011). For example, Martin (1994) adopted concept mapping as a course organization instrument and revealed that learners preferred to use it in an authentic context. In addition, Moreira and Moreira (2011) used concept mapping in a foreign language class as an instrument for context comprehension of course books. Their findings indicated that concept mapping can effectively lead to meaningful learning. The construction process encouraged learners’ cognitive processes and critical thinking. It can be concluded that concept mapping can aid in enforcing learners’ idea development and organization, and build up their confidence in their knowledge of the topic to enhance their speaking. In addition, concept mapping can lead students to become critical EFL learners.
This study intends to provide a better understanding of concept mapping-based flipped learning in an EFL speaking training course. Therefore, this study is an attempt to investigate the effect of concept mapping-based flipped learning to enhance EFL learners’ speaking ability, minimize their foreign language speaking anxiety, and improve their critical thinking in an EFL speaking course.

Research design
To verify the impact of the concept mapping-based flipped learning on the students’ learning outcomes and learning performance, quantitative and qualitative instruments of data collection have been used in the present empirical research to examine the participants’ outcome of this study model.

Moodle as platform
In this study, Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) was adopted as the platform since several researchers have reported that it is the most used platform in higher education and is a broadly used open source Learning Management System (Sergis, Vlachopoulos, Sampson, & Pelliccione, 2017). Most importantly, Moodle offers the affordances essential for the instructional design of this study. One of the most significant strengths of using Moodle in flipped learning is that it provides access to lecture documents, homework, discussion, and examinations from the Internet, keeping students in a learningn environment. Moodle is a content management system which renovates is accessible in many countries and is adopted globally.

An English Oral-aural Drills course book with a strong focus on workplace skills–Project Success 3–has been officially assigned for the students of this level by the language center. To equip the objective disposition of this oral training course, Keynote Upper-Intermediate level TED Talks were assigned as supplemental course materials, providing a starting point for students to cultivate their authentic listening, critical thinking, and speaking skills in order to promote a deeper understanding of the world and give students the courage and means to express themselves in English. In addition, TED is a high-quality, trustworthy, well-known nonprofit organization, which is committed to the cause of making authentic materials obtainable to learners. It has a natural interaction, one as a content-provider and the other as a learning management system (Broadaway, 2012). Thus, TED Talks can be excellent materials in a flipped classroom because they are associated with authentic language input and clear communicative aims of each lesson through communication, collaboration, and creative thinking. As shown in Figure 1, eight videos were posted in discussion onto the Moodle forums. Five videos are in Project Success 3, and three are from Ted talks at the Keynote Upper Intermediate level. It was compulsory to watch five of the eight videos for these students before class, but they were only required to write and post two out of three reflections in the discussion.

Figure 1 Moodle as a platform and the course videos for flipped learning
Concept Mapping-based Flipped Learning using Bloom’s Taxonomy
The participants watched the assigned course videos on Moodle to gain their first exposure to new material in their individual space before class. When they arrived in class, they should have already watched the videos. The instruction in the classroom was an interactive discussion between the instructor and students or students and students over meaning interpretation and content clarification. Worksheets for members of the control group were used as one of the learning materials, while concept maps for the experimental group were adopted as a guide to help learners form higher level critical thinking ideas based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Accordingly, they were given a chance to develop higher- order thinking skills (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. In-class learning activities using a concept map to develop higher level critical thinking based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Data were based on 72 first-year college students who enrolled in a compulsory English Oral-aural Drills course in the Fall Semester of the 2017-2018 academic year. The class met once a week, for 2 hours each week, and 18 weeks in total. All freshmen at this university were required to take the TOEIC (the Test of English for International Communications) examination administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). The TOEIC tests are designed to measure daily English skills used in the global environment; nevertheless, the language center at this university adopted it as a placement test. The participants’ scores of the two classes were from 405 to 600, so they were ranked as the elementary proficiency plus level based on their TOEIC scores. At this proficiency level, learners can “initiate and maintain predictable face-to-face conversations and satisfy limited social demands” (Qu, Cid, Chan, & Huo, 2017). At this university, it is compulsory for students to spend roughly 4 hours each week completing the self-learning materials at this level for the purpose of improving their listening and speaking skills in order to receive 10% of the course credits.

All participants were instructed using the same class teaching activities and materials, and were distributed pre-tests, post-tests, and questionnaires. In the experimental group, the class activities and teacher-student interaction were as follows: PowerPoint-based lectures on the main idea of the Ted talks, question asking, group discussion, and individual oral reports. The experimental group filled in a concept map worksheet applying the concepts in examples or analyzing reasons for them. The control group also completed an in-class worksheet about the main ideas, giving the Ted talks as examples. In the control group, participants went through the class worksheets, while the experimental group students worked on instructing constructing of a concept map concerning the video they watched. The in-class-based collaborative learning activities included discussion, group presentations, and individual oral reports, for which the participants needed to apply and create what they had learned in meaningful and authentic settings (as shown in Figure 3).

Figure 3. An example of a concept map for the experimental group and in-class worksheet for the control group.

Experiment process data collection
InstrumentsFour types of data were collected in this study: listening comprehension tests, speaking tests, and the survey questionnaire of the students’ critical thinking and speaking anxiety and Closeness Index Concept-Mapping for Scoring. Figure 4 illustrates the experimental procedure of this study, which was conducted over a period of 18 weeks in the fall of 2017. An experimental group and a control group participated. To examine the participants’ listening proficiency, they completed pre- and post-listening comprehension tests. The test questions were tailored to the assessments of the course material Project Success 4 according to the TOEIC. TOEIC-like listening pre-tests (?=0.74) and post-tests (?=0.82) were assessed with 25 multiple-choice questions, giving a total score of 100. The pre- and post-tests were designed made as quizzes with scores included in the students’ final grade to increase higher instrumental motivation that is characterized by the desire to obtain concrete from the study of a second language (Tsai, 2013). The pre-tests intended to evaluate the participants’ listening proficiency before the experiment, while the post-tests aimed to examine their listening comprehension achievements after this flipped learning experiment.

Figure 4. Diagram of the experiment design
To test the participants’ speaking ability, in answer to research question one, the participants took the pre- and post-speaking tests that included three sets of questions to measure aspects of participants’ speaking performance. The test lasted approximately 5 to 8 minutes for each participant. They were given specific directions including the time allowed for speaking. It was to participants’ advantage to speak as much as they could during the time allowed. They were required to answer each question according to the directions. Each set of three questions was based on one of the lessons participants had watched before class, learned, and discussed in class. The directions appeared on the computer screen. The introduction and three questions then appeared on the screen. Two raters with more than 15 years of teaching experience contributed to the scores of each participant. Both raters were teaching an English Oral-aural Drills course at this university. The IELTS Assessment Criteria: IELTS speaking band descriptors (Nakatsuhara, 2011) were used to rate the participants’ oral proficiency including (1) fluency and coherence, (2) lexical resource, (3) grammatical range and accuracy, and (4) pronunciation (see Appendix I). The pre-speaking inter-rater reliability, measured with Krippendorff’s alpha at 0.82 and post-speaking alpha at 0.85 suggested good reliability (Hayes ; Krippendorff, 2007; Wu et al., 2017).

The questionnaires used in this research are provided in the Appendix. The critical thinking awareness measure was modified from Chai, Deng, Tsai, Koh, and Tsai (2015). The 5-point rating scale was adopted (5 = “strongly agree” and 1 = “strongly disagree”) to evaluate the students’ views on critical thinking awareness. The Cronbach’s ? value of this scale was .77.
The EFL Speaking Anxiety measure was adopted from the ESL speaking anxiety questionnaire proposed by Woodrow (2006). It consisted of 12 items with a 5-point Likert rating scheme. The Cronbach’s ? value of the questionnaire was .90.

Closeness Index Concept-Mapping for Scoring
In this study, the class works were the concept maps constructed on a piece of paper. The concept map product variables, derived from students’ construction of the concept maps were considered as quantitative (total proportion accuracy score and individual proportion accuracy score). The closeness index (Goldsmith, Johnson, ; Acton, 1991) was utilized to calculate the similarity between a learner’s and an expert’s concept maps. In other words, the closeness index was calculated by taking into account the set of concepts in the student’s and the expert’s maps. The approach focuses on the concepts and links between concepts that are similar in the two maps, but disregarding the labels of the links (Chang, Yao-Ting, Rey-Bin, ; Shui-Cheng, 2005). The total closeness index of the two maps is the mean closeness index over all nodes in those maps.

The collected data were computed with the SPSS 21.0 software. Quantitative data were analyzed with descriptive statistics including means and standard deviations. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was employed to compare differences between groups.
RQ1: Can the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach contribute to the significant development of EFL learners’ listening comprehension and their speaking performance in comparison with the conventional flipped learning approach?
In this experiment, there were 37 participants in the experimental group and 35 in the control group. After the lessons, analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to analyze the difference between the listening tests of the two groups using the pre-test scores as the covariate, the post-test scores as dependent variables, and the flipped learning approaches as an independent variable. The test of homogeneity shows that the regression slopes of the two groups’ listening tests are homogeneous with F = 0.21, and p ;0.05, implying the suitability of the data analysis for using ANCOVA.

Table 1. ANCOVA of the post-test for the Listening ScoresGroup N Mean SD Adjusted mean F ?2
Experimental group 37 74.65 10.01 74.09 9.31** 0.60
Control group 35 68.09 8.33 68.59 Note. ** p ; .01
Table 1 shows the ANCOVA results, which indicate that the post-performance ratings of the two groups are significantly different with F = 9.31 (p ; 0. 01). That is, the students in the experimental group had significantly better listening (adjusted mean = 74.09) than those in the control group (adjusted mean = 68.59), implying that the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach was helpful to the students in terms of improving their listening comprehension and developing active listening skills.

To ascertain whether the levels proficiency of the participants in the two groups were homogeneous before the treatment, the data collected from the oral proficiency pre-test were first analyzed. The test of homogeneity shows that the regression slopes of the two groups’ tests are homogeneous with F = 0.26 and p >0.05, implying the suitability of the data analysis for using ANCOVA.

Table 2. ANCOVA of the post-test for the Speaking Scores
Group N Mean SD Adjusted mean F ?2
Experimental group 37 8.22 1.16 8.23 28.85*** 0.295
Control group 35 7.02 1.32 7.01 Note. *** p < .001
To compare the effects of concept mapping-based flipped learning after the treatment, ANCOVA was performed. As shown in Table 2, a statistical significance was found on the oral proficiency post-test between the two groups (F = 28.849, p < .0001). This means that the use of concept mapping-based flipped learning affected the participants’ oral proficiency. To be more specific, participants who engaged in concept mapping-based flipped learning significantly outperformed those who engaged in traditional flipped learning. The experimental group (adjusted mean = 8.23, SD=1.16) performed better than the control group (adjusted mean =7.01, SD=1.32, p ; .001).

RQ2. Can the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach contribute to the significant development of their critical thinking awareness with the conventional flipped learning approach?
A one-way ANCOVA was utilized to measure the students’ awareness of critical thinking using their individual pre-questionnaire scores as a covariate, flipped learning approaches as an independent variable, and the post-questionnaire score as a dependent variable. No significant difference was found in the pre-test scores of the two groups regarding critical thinking awareness (F= 0.005, p=0.05), meaning that the critical thinking awareness could be considered as equivalent before the learning activities.
Table 3. The ANCOVA result for the EFL Critical Thinking
Group N Mean SD Adjusted mean F ?2
Experimental group 37 3.98 0.61 3.98 7.42** 0.097
Control group 35 3.63 0.49 3.63 Note. ** p<.01
Examination of the effectiveness of the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach in terms of critical thinking awareness (F= 7.42, p= 0.01) via the ANCOVA method showed (in Table 3) that there were significant differences between the experimental group (Adjusted mean=3.98) and the control group (Adjusted mean=3.63, p<.01).

RQ3. Can the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach help students reduce their speaking anxiety in comparison with the conventional flipped learning approach?
This study also examined the effectiveness of the concept mapping-based flipped learning in terms of the learners’ speaking anxiety. Therefore, one-way ANCOVA was used to compare the English anxiety of the students in the two groups. The assumption of homogeneity of regression was not violated (F = 0.36, p ; 0.05), showing a common regression coefficient for one-way ANCOVA.

Table 4. The ANCOVA result for EFL speaking anxiety
Group N Mean SD Adjusted mean F ?2
Experimental group 37 2.45 0.58 2.45 30.23** 0.305
Control group 35 3.07 0.47 3.07 Note. ** p;.01
The result of the one-way ANCOVA (in Table 4) showed a significant difference between the two groups (F= 0.21, p ; 0.05). The adjusted means of the values were 2.49 for the experimental group and 3.06 for the control group.

RQ4. Can the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach facilitate the construction of concept maps?
Students’ concept maps were scored using the closeness index and were adopted used to provide as one of the data set. We employed t-test analysis to examine the change in the students’ pre-maps and post-maps exclusively.
Table 5. Paired-samples t test of the pre- and post-maps of the Closeness index
Group N Mean SD t d
Pre-map 37 60.12 18.68 -8.09*** 0.704
Post-map 73.41 19.05 Note. *** p ; .001
The concept maps constructed by the participants were calculated based on the closeness index (Chang et al., 2005) with a total score of 100. According to the results in Table 5, data analysis demonstrated a group mean score of 60.38 on the pre-map and 73.41on the post-map for a difference of 13.03. The data indicated a statistically significant difference between the pre- and post-maps. This result implies that the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach was adequate for the students in terms of the end product in the construction of a concept map to enhance their learning performance.

RQ5. What are the relationships between the concept map scores and the scores for students’ speaking performance, critical thinking awareness, and speaking anxiety?
The correlation was conducted between the scores of concept mapping, listening, speaking, critical thinking, and speaking anxiety. According to the results, there was a significant correlation between the scores of concept mapping and speaking, critical thinking, and speaking anxiety. The highest significant relationship is between the scores of concept mapping and speaking (.830**). The result also shows a significant negative correlation between speaking anxiety and the other variables.
Table 6. The correlations of the experimental group
Concept Mapping Listening Speaking Critical Thinking Speaking Anxiety
Concept Mapping 1 Listening .757** 1 Speaking .830** .611** 1 Critical Thinking .569** .574** .706** 1 Speaking Anxiety -.565** -.418** -.607** -.421** 1
** p< .0 1The highest negative correlation is between speaking and speaking anxiety (-.607**). In speaking examinations, students tend to be more anxious than they are in listening tests. Also speaking is regarded as an active and output action that requires a linguistic background knowledge as well as communicative and social abilities. This difference is indicative of the students’ increase in conceptual and critical thinking.

Discussion and conclusions
According to the results, the research questions of this study can be answered. The significance of this approach is twofold. First, it helps learners improve EFL proficiency through the listening input in a private time and speaking output of in-class discussion in a group space from flipped learning. Second, this approach helps learners enhance their critical thinking ability through representing an idea graphically to visualize knowledge from concept mapping.
Research questions 1 and 2 refer to the impacts of the concept mapping-based flipped learning on the students’ learning performance of English listening, speaking, and critical thinking. It was shown that the learning results of the students’ learning performance and critical thinking awareness with the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach were significantly better than those of the students learning with the conventional flipped learning instruction. This implies that the proposed concept mapping-based flipped learning approach benefited the students’ learning performance. In this flipped learning, the learners watch the videos in their own time and react to the content in the group time. In this case, it generates involvement on the part of learners that goes beyond the usual non-participatory class task. Learners also need to give their personalized responses using the concept map they constructed. This builds the potential for follow-up speaking tasks. The key words, main phrases, and the relation between these in the concept map helps learners precede the listening for speaking schema-building tasks. Such an effective strategy for listening and speaking is incorporated into the materials. Learners are given opportunities to organize their listening text by discussing with their peers using a concept map in which learners compare their responses with their peers. The purpose of this task is to simulate the interactive nature of listening and speaking and to involve learners individually in the content of the language materials through activities.
Furthermore, the analysis results of the critical thinking awareness also increaseshow the experimental group with a concept map (M=3.98) higher than the control group without a concept map (M=3.63) . Such a discovery conforms to the studies of Daley, Shaw, Balistrieri, Glasenapp, and Piacentine (1999), Hwang, Wu, and Ke (2011), and Schwendimann and Linn (2016) in that when learners construct a concept map, they need to convey and organize their ideas in order to achieve meaningful learning, apply critical-thinking abilities, illustrate complex conceptual relationships, and facilitate knowledge integration processes. Since critical thinking involves thinking rationally and thoughtfully, students with critical thinking ability are able to articulate their own ideas better, illustrate and describe the interrelationships among the ideas better, and generate higher levels of thinking (Wang, 2014). There appears to be a positive connection between critical thinking and foreign language learning, in particular.
Question 4 refers to the concept mapping-based flipped learning approach which can minimize learners’ speaking anxiety. It has also been established that speaking anxiety is worsened by learners’ feeling of low proficiency or lack of confidence in general linguistic knowledge (Bailey & Nunan, 2005). Foreign language anxiety (FLA) is a particularly complicated way of apprehension, feelings, and behaviors related to learning a foreign language (Woodrow, 2006). Language learning arises from the distinctiveness of the process, so EFL learners are more likely to experience a sense of anxiety because of their incapability over what they need to say in the FL. As soon as each speaking task was properly anticipated expectant and organized, this preparation became an effective strategy to reduce anxiety, and thus to maximize speaking confidence (Boonkit, 2010). Rafada and Madini (2017) indicated that their participants’ coping strategies for speaking anxiety were associated with language improvement. The adoption of the flipped learning provides more class time for various activities including verbal interaction with a concept map and language practice.
Questions 4 and 5 refer to the construction of the concept maps and the relationships between the concept map scores and the scores for students’ speaking performance, critical thinking awareness, and speaking anxiety. The results show that learners’ language performance and critical thinking are positively correlated. When learners are speaking in EFL, three factors influence their speaking competency: cognitive, linguistic, and affective factors (Wang, 2014). It is important to note that cognitive factors involve speaking processes, such as conceptualization, formulation, and articulation (Levelt, 1993). This is relevant because conceptualization deals with what knowledge can be selected to grasp the meaning. Furthermore, formulation requires the learner to facilitate word knowledge integration in a suitable syntactic structure, while articulation needs learners to produce the language with their articulatory organs. Second, linguistic features refer to the accuracy of language forms, and the learner’s fluency (Saunders, O’Brien, Genesee, Lindholm-Leary, ; Christian, 2006), for example phonetics refers to the sounds of a language, syntax to the sentence patterns of the language, and semantics to the meaning of the language (Bygate, 2005). The third, affective factors, such as anxiety and self-restriction, can influence learners’ oral proficiency (Oxford, 2016). Rafada and Madini (2017) also found that their participants’ coping strategies for speaking anxiety were connected with language performance. The above explanation suggests that, according to the high scores in the concept map data, it can be inferred that learners are better at facilitating knowledge integration processes and illustrating complex conceptual relationships, as in learners’ speaking competence in conceptualization and formulation, and learners’ speaking competence in conceptualization and formulation (see Figure 8).

Figure 8. The relationships between concept mapping, speaking competence, and critical thinking
Based on the results and discussion of this study, we provide the following conclusions and recommendations for practice.

This study demonstrated that concept mapping-based flipped learning as a learning strategy can significantly improve students’ learning performance and critical-thinking awareness, and can minimize speaking anxiety ability in an EFL setting.

The concept maps served as an approach to help students draw complex conceptual relationships and as an outcome measurement. Fahim and Bolghari (2014) reported that there is a significant positive correlation between critical thinking and learners’ style. It would be worth the effort to explore the relationship between learners’ cognitive styles.

Research in the field of language anxiety attempts to demonstrate that by providing interesting activities and utilizing new strategies, EFL students will be encouraged to communicate using the target language, and therefore improve their speaking abilities.

In future research, it would be worth exploring ways to reduce EFL anxiety by using technology such as AR or VR.
This study can be a preliminary step in examining the relationship between critical thinking and speaking anxiety. This relationship has not been studied in much depth in language education, and so can be explored further.
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Appendix 1. The scoring rubric of the English speaking test
Score Fluency and Coherence Lexical Resource Lexical Resource Pronunciation
10 speaks fluently with only rare repetition or self-correction;
speaks coherently with fully appropriate cohesive features;
develops topics fully and appropriately uses vocabulary with full flexibility and precision in all topics
uses idiomatic language naturally and accurately
uses a full range of structures naturally and appropriately
produces consistently accurate structures apart from ‘slips’ characteristic of native speaker speech uses a full range of pronunciation features
with precision and subtlety
sustains flexible use of features throughout
is effortless to understand
9 speaks fluently with only occasional repetition or self- correction; hesitation is usually content-related and only rarely to search for language
develops topics coherently and appropriately uses a wide vocabulary resource readily and flexibly to convey precise meaning
uses less common and idiomatic vocabulary skillfully, with occasional inaccuracies
paraphrases effectively as required uses a wide range of structures flexibly
produces a majority of error-free sentences with only very occasional inappropriacies or basic/non-systematic errors uses a wide range of pronunciation features
sustains flexible use of features, with only occasional lapses
is easy to understand throughout; L1 accent has minimal effect on intelligibility
8 speaks at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence
may demonstrate language-related hesitation at times, or some repetition and/or self-correction
uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility uses vocabulary resource flexibly to discuss a variety of topics
shows some awareness of style and collocation, with some inappropriate choices
paraphrases effectively uses a range of complex structures with some flexibility
frequently produces error-free sentences, though some grammatical mistakes persist uses some pronunciation features
sustains some flexible use of features, with only some lapses
is easy to understand throughout; L1 accent has some effect on intelligibility
7 is willing to speak at length, though may lose coherence at times due to occasional repetition, self-correction or hesitation
uses a range of connectives and discourse markers but not always appropriately has a wide enough vocabulary to discuss topics at length and to make meaning clear in spite of inappropriate use
generally paraphrases successfully uses a mix of simple and complex structures, but with limited flexibility
may make frequent mistakes with complex structures, though these rarely cause comprehension problems can generally be understood throughout, though mispronunciation of individual words or sounds reduces clarity at times
6 usually maintains flow of speech but uses repetition, self-correction and/or slow speech to keep going
may over-use certain connectives and discourse markers
produces simple speech fluently, but more complex communication causes fluency problems manages to talk about familiar and unfamiliar topics but uses vocabulary with limited flexibility
attempts to paraphrase but with mixed success produces basic sentence forms with reasonable accuracy
uses a limited range of more complex structures, but these usually contain errors and may cause some comprehension problems uses a limited range of pronunciation features
attempts to control features but lapses are frequent
mispronunciations are frequent and cause some difficulty for the listener
5 cannot respond without noticeable pauses and may speak slowly, with frequent repetition and self-correction
links basic sentences but with repetitious use of simple connectives and some breakdowns and incoherence is able to talk about familiar topics but can only convey basic meaning on unfamiliar topics and makes frequent errors in word choice
rarely attempts paraphrasing produces basic sentence forms and some correct simple sentences but subordinate structures are rare
errors are frequent and may lead to misunderstanding uses few pronunciation features
attempts to control features but lapses are often
mispronunciations are frequent and cause some difficulty for the listener
4 speaks with long pauses
has limited ability to link simple sentences uses simple vocabulary to convey personal information attempts basic sentence forms but with limited success. mispronunciations are frequent and cause some difficulty for the listener
3 gives only simple responses and is frequently unable to convey basic messages has insufficient vocabulary for less familiar topics makes numerous errors except in memorized expressions mispronunciations are constant and cause some difficulty for the listener
2 pauses lengthily before most words
little communication possible only produces isolated words cannot produce basic sentence forms speech is often unintelligible
1 no communication possible
no ratable language memorized utterances cannot produce sentence forms speech is unintelligible
Appendix. 2 Questionnaires
This survey is to understand your overall critical thinking awareness and English speaking anxiety in class and out of class in the course. There is no right or wrong answer. Please circle the answer which best reflects your overall thoughts about each statement. Your answers are anonymous and confidential. Thank you in advance for your time.

Critical thinking (CriT)
Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree
1 2 3 4 5
CriT1 In this class, I think about other possible ways of understanding what I am learning. 1 2 3 4 5
CriT2 In this class, I consider different opinions to see which one makes more sense. 1 2 3 4 5
CriT3 In this class, I provide reasons and evidence for my opinions. 1 2 3 4 5
CriT4 In this class, I produce ideas that are likely to be useful. 1 2 3 4 5
CriT5 I am able to analyze new ideas about what I am learning. 1 2 3 4 5
CriT6 In this class, I research for further information about what I am learning. 1 2 3 4 5
Speaking anxiety (Anxi)
Specify how anxious you feel when you speak English in the following situations.

Not at all Slightly Moderately Very Extremely
1 2 3 4 5
Anx1 The teacher asks me a question in English in class. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx2 Speaking informally to my English teacher out of class. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx3 Taking part in a group discussion in class. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx4 Taking part in a role-play or dialogue in front of my class. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx5 Giving an oral presentation to the rest of the class. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx6 When asked to contribute to a formal discussion in class. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx7 Taking an oral test in English in class. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx8 Taking part in a conversation out of class with more than one native speaker of English. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx9 Starting a conversation out of class with a native speaker of English. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx10 Talking to a foreign stranger in English. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx11 Presenting my own study out of class. 1 2 3 4 5
Anx12 Taking a speaking test in English out of class. 1 2 3 4 5