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Relations between Motivational-Regulation Strategies and English Achievement

Motivational regulation, as an important aspect of SRL (e.g., Boekaerts, 1997; Wolters, 2003), may have an impact on academic learning achievement (Wolters, 2003). Past research, however, has provided relatively less evidence about the impact of motivational regulation on academic achievement. Zimmerman and Martinez-Pons (1986) found that, among tenth grade students, high achievers tended to report both self-consequating and environmental-structuring strategies more frequently than low achievers. However, these two regulatory strategies were not as useful in discriminating between high and low achievers as some of the other cognitive self-regulation strategies. Zimmerman and Martinez-Pons (1990) also found mixed results concerning the relation between students’ ability level and students’ use of self-consequating and environmental-structuring strategies. In this study, students from a gifted school reported these two strategies more frequently than students from a non-gifted high school. However, results showed no differences in the frequency with which fifth and tenth grade students reported using these strategies. Among college students, Wolters (1998) found that regulation strategies related to extrinsic forms of motivation predicted students’ course grades but the motivational-regulation strategies related to intrinsic forms of motivation did not. Wolters (1999) found only performance self-talk was significantly related to half-year grades (GPA) and only performance self-talk was a significant individual predictor of students’ GPA. McCann (1999) found that the use of volitional control strategies (motivation and emotion-control strategies) had no significant relationship to the final course grade and could not significantly predict the course grade. Therefore, the evidence linking motivational regulation to academic achievement was insufficient, and there is the necessity to conduct more research to examine the impact of motivational regulation on academic achievement. Furthermore, the present study has found that Chinese college students employ a variety of strategies to regulate their motivation in English learning. What should be further studied is whether these motivational-regulation strategies have an impact on students’ English-learning achievement. Such a study, on the one hand, sheds insight into the importance of motivational regulation for FL learning and, on the other hand, provides more evidence for the link between motivational regulation and academic achievement. Therefore, the relations between motivational-regulation strategies identified in the present study and English achievement were examined.

Students’ English achievement was measured by asking students to report on their scores of CET4 in the questionnaire, which was the best available English proficiency measure at the time of the study. The CET4 is a national standardized English proficiency test designed and administered by the National College English Testing Committee on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of Education, with a view to (a) promoting the implementation of the National College English Teaching Syllabus, and (b) measuring objectively and accurately the real English ability of college students in China (Yang, 2000). The CET4 started in 1987 and is administered twice a year across China. When the subjects in the present study took the test in June 2006 it had five major components: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, vocabulary and grammatical structure, cloze tests, and writing. The CET4’s high validity has been demonstrated (Yang, 2000). The original score of CET4 is 100, but the report of CET4 scores adopted new system of standard score from June 2005. The total score reported for CET4 is 710 with the mean of 500 and standard deviation of 70.

Results

To explore the relations between motivational-regulation strategies identified in the present study and English achievement (CET4 score), Pearson correlations were performed. Table 5.4 shows the results of Pearson correlations between the motivational regulation strategies and English achievement. These bivariate analyses indicated that seven of the eight motivational regulation strategies were significantly and positively (p < .01) related to English achievement with the exception of negative-based incentive. The relation between negative-based incentive and English achievement was not significant but also positive. The results indicated that students who used motivational-regulation strategies more frequently tended to get higher grades than students who used motivational-regulation strategies less frequently. Among the eight motivational-regulation strategies, task- value enhancement was most strongly related to English achievement and performance self-talk was also strongly related to English achievement.

Table 5.4 Pearson correlations between motivational regulation strategies and English achievement

Interest

enhancement

Performance

self-talk

Mastery

self-talk

Self-reward

CET4

score

Pearson

correlation

Sig.

.121(**)

.004

Negative-

based

incentive

.188(**)

.000

Task-value

enhancement

.182(**)

.000

Volitional

control

.159(**)

.000

Self-efficacy

enhancement

CET4

score

Pearson

correlation

Sig.

.029

.502

.206(**)

.000

.120(**)

.005

.143(**)

.001

Note: **Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed)

The regression analyses were also carried out to investigate the relations between motivational regulation strategies and English achievement. To run the multiple regression analyses, the eight motivational regulation strategies were used to predict the English achievement, that is, the CET4 score. Therefore, the R2 results from multiple analyses provide information regarding the amount of variance explained by the eight motivational-regulation strategies as a group, whereas the individual standardized regression coefficients indicate the variance explained by the individual motivational-regulation strategies after accounting for the other motivational-regulation strategies in the equation. The results of regression analyses are given in Table 5.5.

The results of regression analyses indicated, as a group, motivational- regulation strategies accounted for a significant portion of the variance in English achievement (Д8544) = 6.546, p = .000). The amount of variance in English achievement accounted for by the eight motivational regulation strategies was 8.8 % (R2 = .088). Separately, negative-based incentive was the strongest individual predictor for English achievement (fi = -.204, p = .000), but a negative predictor. Hence, students who more frequently reported sustaining their effort and persistence in English learning tasks by thinking about the consequences of doing poorly in English learning tended to get lower grades than students who reported using this strategy less frequently. Task-value enhancement (fi = .182, p = .001) was the second strongest predictor for English achievement. Next to task-value enhancement was performance self-talk (fi = .158, p = .005) and then

Table 5.5 Results of multiple regression analyses predicting English achievement using motivational-regulation strategies

Predictor

Beta

T

Sig.

Interest enhancement

-.027

-.547

.585

Performance self-talk

.158

2.810

.005

Mastery self-talk

.075

1.269

.205

Self-reward

.098

2.037

.042

Negative-based incentive

-.204

-3.768

.000

Task-value enhancement

.182

3.419

.001

Volitional control

.005

.095

.925

Self-efficacy enhancement

.000

-.004

.997

Dependent Variable: CET4 Score

self-reward = .098, p = .042). Therefore, students who more frequently highlighted their desire to get good grades or doing better than others, provided themselves with external rewards, or emphasized the value and importance of English as ways of sustaining or increasing their motivation tended to get higher grades than students who used these strategies less frequently. The other four motivational-regulation strategies, that is, interest enhancement, mastery self-talk, self-efficacy enhancement, and volitional control, were not significant individual predictors of English achievement.

In general, among the motivational-regulation strategies related to intrinsic motivations, only task-value enhancement could significantly predict students’ English achievement. In contrast, all the three motivational- regulation strategies related to extrinsic motivations (i.e., performance self-talk, self-reward, negative-based incentive) were significant predictors for English achievement. Volitional control strategy could not predict students’ English achievement.

Discussion

The findings discussed above have provided preliminary evidence that students who regulate their motivation achieve better grades in English learning than students who fail to self-regulate their motivation. First, seven of the eight motivational regulation strategies were significantly related to CET4 score, and all the relations between motivational-regulation strategies and CET4 score were positive. Further, the motivational-regulation strategies, as a group, explained a significant portion of the variance in students’ CET4 score. Hence, students who used motivational-regulation strategies more frequently tended to obtain better grades in English learning. The relations between motivational-regulation strategies and academic achievement (i.e., ECT4 score) found in the present study are stronger than those in previous studies. For instance, Wolters (1999) found that motivational-regulation strategies were not strongly related to course grade, specifically, among the five motivational-regulation strategies assessed, only performance self-talk was significantly related to students’ course grade. Although the five motivational-regulation strategies, as a group, explained a significant portion of the variance in students’ course grades, only performance self-talk could significantly predict the course grade. McCann (1999) did not find significant relationship between the use of volitional strategies (motivation and emotion-regulation strategies) as exemplified by items on the AVSI and students’ final course grade. The findings of multiple regression analyses in the study of McCann (1999) also indicated that course grade was not significantly predicted by volitional action. The discrepancy in the findings about the relations of motivational-regulation strategies with academic achievement may lie in the domain-specific characteristics of SRL. The present research is specific to the field of EFL learning. Learning a FL is different from learning other subjects. Learning a FL is often an effort-demanding task and more often than not a long-term process. During such a long-term process, students’ learning motivation is more subject to fluctuation and a lack of motivation is a frequent problem experienced by FL learners. Therefore, motivational regulation may play a relatively more important role in FL learning.

The results also indicate that some motivational-regulation strategies are more effective than others in promoting language learning. Among the eight motivational-regulation strategies, the strongest predictor of English achievement was negative-based incentive, the second strongest task-value enhancement, then performance self-talk, and the weakest self-reward. The other four types of motivational-regulation strategies, that is, interest enhancement, mastery self-talk, volitional control and self-efficacy enhancement, were not significant predictors of English achievement.

The finding that performance self-talk was a significant predictor of English achievement fits with earlier research on goal orientations showing that students with a greater performance-goal orientation report greater use of low-level strategies but that they sometimes receive higher grades than students who do not focus on performance goals (Anderman & Maehr, 1994). Self-reward also accounted for a significant portion of the variance in English achievement. This result is also consistent with the findings of prior studies about the motivational regulation strategy of self-reward. Past research, for instance, demonstrated that high achieving or gifted students use this type of strategy more frequently than other students (Purdie & Hattie, 1996; Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986, 1990). Negative-based incentive was not significantly related to academic achievement (i.e., CET4 score), but a significant negative predictor of English achievement. Hence, students who tried to sustain or increase their motivation by thinking about the negative consequences of doing poorly in English learning tended to get lower grades. There has been no research that specifically examined the role of negative-based incentive. Therefore, more research is needed to examine the influence of this type of strategy on academic learning. In general, all the strategies based on extrinsic forms of motivation (i.e., performance self-talk, negative-based incentive, and self-reward) could significantly predict English achievement. These findings conflict with the results that among the three strategies based on extrinsic motivations, only self-reward could predict the use of language-learning strategies. However, these findings are consistent with the results of Wolters (1998), which found that extrinsic regulation strategies were not related significantly to students’ use of the cognitive strategies examined but could predict students’ course grade.

However, among the four strategies based on intrinsic forms of motivation, only task-value enhancement could predict English achievement. The finding about task-value enhancement is consistent with those of the research on task value indicating that task value is positively related to academic achievement (Berndt & Miller, 1990; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996). Furthermore, task-value enhancement was found to be the second strongest predictor for English achievement in the present study. This result may be related to the importance of English for Chinese college students. The results that mastery self-talk, interest enhancement and self-efficacy could not predict English achievement are consistent with the findings of Wolters (1998) who found that students’ use of intrinsic regulation strategies was not a significant predictor of course grade. The present study has found that motivational-regulation strategies related to intrinsic motivations could predict the use of language-learning strategies. These results suggest that motivational-regulation strategies based on intrinsic forms of motivation may influence students’ achievement indirectly through students’ language learning strategy use.

Another type of motivational regulation strategy, that is, volitional control, was significantly correlated with English achievement but did not account for a significant portion of the variance in English achievement after accounting for the other motivational-regulation strategies. This result is compatible with the findings in the present study that volitional control could not predict language-learning strategies and is also consistent with the finding of Wolters (1999) that environmental control was not a significant predictor for course grade. The result does not indicate that volitional control is ineffective in goal-striving efforts, but instead suggests a need to further examine the specific role of volitional control in goal-striving situations.

 
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