In order to illustrate group attitudes to studying English and the sense of agency, the following calculations were done using Microsoft Excel:
High and low scoring subscales
The high and low scoring subscales are
shown in the tables below. The highest scoring subscales, desire
and need are from part one of the questionnaire. The only subscales
with a mean of 3 or above in part two of the questionnaire are result
of effort, effort, metacognitive awareness and internal
locus: responsibility. The two markedly lower subscales for parts one
and two of the questionnaire are challenge and perceived ability
High scoring subscales
The area which students rated the highest was desire. The mean score for the whole group for this subscale was 3.93.
A high proportion of respondents stated that they wanted to be successful in English but they were not required to give a reason for this on the questionnaire. Looking at the data collected from the oral interview, the following reasons were given:
To be able to deal with other people (1 respondent)
To be as good as / better than friends in another college (1 respondent)
In most cases, however, the interviewees could offer no particular reason for the statement.
Need, importance was also identified as being a chief motivating factor for the subjects with a mean of 3.92.
A high proportion of respondents claimed that English was extremely important for them and that the need was great. They were not required to give reasons for this on the questionnaire. The five students interviewed gave the following reasons for their need for English:
Result of effort – learned helplessness
Another high scoring area in part 2 of the questionnaire was result of effort with a mean of 3.32. Students appeared to believe that there was a correlation between hard work and results in a language.
Students interviewed were asked “Would you be better at English if you tried harder?” Four of the students answered yes. The fifth answered no and was identified as having learned helplessness.
Another high scoring subscale on part 2 of the questionnaire was for effort with a mean of 3.05.
It is interesting to note again at this
stage that out of the two groups, just under half were failing the course
and receiving low test and project grades. The questionnaire revealed that
participants claimed that working hard would ensure success in English
(result of effort subscale). The students claimed on the questionnaire
that they were working hard in English. I asked the five interviewees
whether they were working hard in English and got the following responses:
These results appear to contradict the data collected with the questionnaires possibly because the respondents did not want to admit on paper that they do not always try their hardest.
Internal locus: responsibility
The subscale of internal locus: responsibility had a mean of 3.01.
I asked the students during the interviews
“whose fault is it when you do badly?” and received the following responses:
These statements appear to back up the data collected with the questionnaires. Students appeared to attribute failure to internal factors - lack of effort or ability. Only one of the interviewees implied that it was not her fault and externalized the fault – being due to the exams being too difficult or the questions too confusing. This student scored a mean of 3 for this subscale on the questionnaire. She also scored highly on the perceived ability subscale – a mean of 3.75.
This subscale produced a mean of 3.03.
Respondents claimed to know the reason for success or failure. The questionnaire did not elicit the reasons for this but the interviews probed a little more. When asked “Before you get a test back, do you know what the results will be?” and “When you get things wrong, do you know why?”, the following responses were given:
I know what the problem is – grammar and spelling
I know what the problem is usually – I write the corrects answers first time then change my mind
I find sometimes I don’t know why I get things wrong.
I don’t read all the question carefully because I am afraid of the time
I know what the problem is because the teacher marks it
*the names have been changed
reason for doing badly. Ahlam seemed to know her area of weakness but Nada is in the habit of relying on a teacher to identify the mistakes. After some thought, however, she acknowledges that if she focuses, she can see what is wrong on her own.
Low scoring subscales
The lowest scoring subscales were challenge, optimal arousal and perceived ability, self-efficacy.
Challenge, optimal arousal
A low mean of 2.97 was calculated from the questionnaire data for Challenge, optimal arousal.
To illustrate this further, here are some of the responses to the question “Do you think English is too easy or too difficult? Are the lessons challenging enough?”:
It’s not difficult.
One other possible contributing factor to the low scores received is the common belief among the students in this context that difficult/challenging = bad, and easy = good. Their experience with evaluating the optimal conditions for learning may not be sufficiently developed to see the value of a challenging exercise. Alternatively, not all students experience challenge as prerequisite for learning, but rather as an obstacle which encourages them to give up.
Perceived ability, self efficacy
The subscale which produced the lowest mean out of the entire study was perceived ability, self efficacy with a mean of 2.69.
The students claimed that they were not good at English. Just under half were aware that they were likely to fail in the approaching finals, and this low score could be a reflection of that. When asked “are you good at English”, the following statements were collected:
I’m not bad
A t-test was conducted to identify significant differences between the sub-scales. The results are shown in figure 3.
There was a significant difference in the
means of the subscales between the two groups in 7 out of 18 cases. In
6 cases section 3, the less able students, scored higher. The table below
shows the differences.
The means calculated for section 3 are significantly higher than those for section 4 in 6 subscales at a level of significance of <0.05. These were: parents, group, effort, awareness of strategies, internal locus: responsibility and metacognitive strategies.
There was one subscale which scored significantly higher with section 4. This was intrinsic motivation.