Recommendations for Future Research
The present research opens several avenues for further study. First of all, more work is needed to investigate and enumerate the types of motivational-regulation strategies that FL learners might employ. The present study has identified eight types of motivational-regulation strategies Chinese EFL college students used. However, it is not exhaustive in that it may not cover every possible way in which students regulate their motivation. In addition, the method used to identify the strategies that Chinese EFL college students used is mainly a questionnaire, including the open-ended questionnaire used in the preliminary study to obtain the first-hand information and the Likert scale in the formal study. According to Wolters (2003), students’ regulation of motivation could be examined experimentally, with oral interviews, with open-ended questionnaires with Likert scaled items, and through observation. Therefore, future research could use other methods or an array of methodologies to explore the motivational-regulation strategies that students use.
Second, further research can utilize more complex statistical methods to explore the relations of motivational regulation to other components of SRL and academic achievement. The present study has examined the relations of motivational regulation with motivational beliefs of English- learning goal orientations and English self-efficacy, language-learning strategies, and English achievement and found informative results. However, it is essentially a correlation study. This means that the results obtained in this study could not reveal the causal relations or interactions among the variables. For example, according to action control theory, volition plays a mediating role between the intention to learn (motivation) and goal- directed behavior (the use of learning strategies). Motivational regulation aims at maintaining students’ intentions to learn. Does the regulation of motivation play a mediating role in cognitive engagement by enhancing the effects of the motivational variables on learning strategy use? How do these SRL components affect achievement as a system? Do these variables affect achievement directly or indirectly? Future research could use more complicated methods, such as structural equation modeling, to explore the causal relations and interactions between the SRL components and achievement. Recently, there has been research investigating the indirect effect of motivational regulation strategies on academic achievement mediated by effort and intelligence. However, more research is still needed to reveal the interactions of motivational regulation and different variables.
Third, future research can broaden and deepen the present study. For example, apart from academic goal orientations and self-efficacy, there are other motivational factors in EFL learning that could be related to motivational regulation, for instance, task value and expectancy of success. The language-learning strategies examined in the present study only included metacognitive strategies and cognitive strategies. Therefore, the future research could also include more language-learning strategies, for example, compensation strategies and social strategies.
Fourth, the same study can be carried out with more subjects with the same background as the subjects in the present study or with different subjects such as middle school students or English-major college students.
The present study is merely the first attempt to explore the motivational regulation of Chinese EFL learners, including exploration of the types of motivational regulation strategies that Chinese EFL college students use and the impact of motivational regulation on EFL learning processes and achievement. Though the eight sample universities from six provinces and municipalities could represent the universities of different levels and the sample of students under study was reasonably large, the representativeness of the subjects was limited to a certain degree. First, the sample size, though not small, was not large enough to guarantee the widest generalization of the findings in the present study. Second, the range of universities was not wide enough. The eight universities in this study cannot be said to represent all types of universities. More universities from different provinces and municipalities should be included in the study to make the findings of the study more convincing and generalizable. Therefore, the same study carried out with a greater number of similar subjects or different subjects could be used to validate or confirm the findings of the present study. The results could also be used to delineate the whole picture of motivational regulation as well as its relations to other components of SRL and EFL learning achievement among Chinese EFL learners.
Fifth, future research could explore how FL learners match their use of motivational-regulation strategies to particular contexts or motivational problems. Past research in the field of educational psychology has found that contextual factors influence students’ use of motivational-regulation strategies (Cherng, 2002; Li et al., 2006; Wolters, 1998). Therefore, future research could examine the interactions between academic tasks, motivational problems, and motivational-regulation strategies, that is, whether students’ use of motivational-regulation strategies changes according to different motivational problems and situations. Further research could also explore the relative effectiveness of motivational-regulation strategies in response to different motivational problems in different situations because a particular motivational-regulation strategy is not presumed to be appropriate under all situations, nor in response to all motivational problems. Additional research that documents these contextual influences would help to clarify the conditions under which strategies to regulate motivation most facilitate students’ performance.
Finally, future research can examine the development of students’ ability to regulate their motivation. As pointed out by Wolters (2003): what is the connection between earlier and later regulation of motivation activities? How and when do students develop the range of motivational regulation strategies? Such research can use subjects of different school stages, for example, junior middle school students, senior high school students and college students. Research could also be longitudinal, for example, middle school students (i.e., from Junior 1 to Junior 3 or from Senior 1 to Senior 3) or with college students (i.e., from Grade 1 to Grade 4). A study of this type could identify the developmental progress of the regulation of motivation.