EFL learners’ motivational beliefs and their use of learning strategies

Authors

1 University of Tehran, Iran

2 Faculty Member, Columbia College,Fairfax, Virginia, USA

Abstract

The  present  study  attempted  to  examine  the  relationship  between  English  as  a  Foreign
Language  (EFL)  learners’ motivational beliefs and their use of learning strategies. The three
components  of  motivation,  i.e.  expectancy  component,  value  component  and  affective
component,  were  examined  in  relation  to  metacognitive,  cognitive  and  effort  management
strategies.  Two hundred and fifty seven EFL learners representing different proficiency levels
completed the Persian version of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ),
which consisted of motivation scale and learning strategies scale. The analysis of the effect of
proficiency level on motivational beliefs showed a significant effect of proficiency level on test
anxiety and extrinsic goal orientation, suggesting that less proficient learners were significantly
more anxious and more extrinsically oriented compared to advanced learners of English. It was
also  found  that  self-efficacy,  control  of  learning  beliefs,  intrinsic  goal  orientation  and  task
value could account for 70% of variations in self-regulated learning (SRL) strategies. Based on
the  findings  of  this  study,  several  suggestions  are  made  to  aid  instructors  in  creating  a  non-product-oriented  approach  to  learning,  which  promotes  foreign  language  learners’  learning
outcomes. 

Keywords

Main Subjects


Introduction
The  link  between  cognition  and
motivation has been the focus of interest
among  motivation  theorists.  In  fact,  this
link constitutes the subject of motivation
theorists’  research  on  regulation  of
behavior  to  attain  goals.  As  Eccles  and
Wigfield  (2002)  maintain,  “Broadly
these theorists focus on two issues: how
motivation  gets  translated  into  regulated
behavior,  and  how  motivation  and
cognition are linked” (p. 124). The first
issue,  i.e.  self-regulated  behavior,  is
characterized  as  being  metacognitively,
motivationally,  and  behaviorally  active
in  one’s  own  learning  processes
(Zimmerman,  1989).  As  Zimmerman
maintains,  “To  qualify  specifically  as
self-regulated  in  my  account,  students’
learning  must  involve  the  use  of
specified  strategies  to  achieve  academic
goals  on  the  basis  of  self-efficacy
perceptions”  (1989,  p.  329).  The  three
important  elements  in  Zimmerman’s
definition  are  self-regulated  learning
strategies,  self-efficacy  perceptions  of
performance  skill,  and  commitment  to
academic  goals.  The  second  issue

 
discussed  by  motivation  theorists  is  the
link  between  cognition  and  motivation
or  the  way  they  interact  to  affect  self-regulated learning. Investigating the link
between  cognition  and  motivation,
Pintrich,  Marx,  and  Boyle  (1993)
postulated that in addition to influencing
one  another,  cognitive  and  motivational
constructs  are  influenced  by  context.
Additionally, cognitive and motivational
constructs  influence  learners’
engagement  in  the  learning  process,
which  will  consequently  affect  their
achievement  outcomes  (Eccles  &
Wigfield, 2002).   
 
In  order  to  conceptualize  student
motivation,  Pintrich  and  De  Groot
(1990) adopt an expectancy value model
of  motivation,  in  which  the  components
of motivation and self-regulated learning
are  linked.  As  Pintrich  and  De  Groot
state,
 
There  are  three  components  of
motivation  that  may  be  linked  to  the
three  different  components  of  self-regulated  learning  [i.e.  metacognitive,
cognitive  and  effort  management
strategies]:  (a)  an  expectancy
component,  which  includes  students’
beliefs  about  their  ability  to  perform  a
task,  (b)  a  value  component,  which
includes students' goals and beliefs about
the  importance  and  interest  of  the  task,
and  (c)  an  affective  component,  which
includes students’ emotional reactions to
the task (1990, p. 33).
 
In Pintrich and De  Groot’s study (1990)
the  expectancy  and  the  value
components of motivation correlate with
frequent use of metacognitive, cognitive,
and  effort  management  strategies.  The
relationship  of  the  affective  component
to  the  components  of  self-regulated
learning  was  not  found  to  be  as
straightforward  as  the  other  two
components.  
 
Since  the  current  research  aimed  to
examine  the  relationship  between  the
components  of  motivation  and  self-regulation  using,  in  the  following
paragraphs  the  relationships  between
motivation  and  self-regulated  learning
will be discussed.  
 
Relationships between motivation and
self-regulated learning
In  Pintrich’s  (1999)  articulation  of  the
link  between  self-regulated  learning
(SRL) and motivation, SRL is defined as
a  process  where  learners  actively
participate  in  setting  goals,  monitoring
and  regulating  their  cognition,
motivation, and learning. Models of SRL
can  be  generally  conceptualized  as  a
matrix  of  interactive  cells  where
regulatory mechanisms work across four
areas:  cognition,  motivation/affect,
behavior,  and  context.  There  are  also
four  phases  that  cut  across  these  four
areas or domains: forethought, planning,
and  activation,  monitoring,  control,
reaction  and  reflection.  To  put  it  in
simple  terms,  a  self-regulating  learner
engages  in  regulatory  phases  of
forethought,  planning,  activation,
monitoring,  control,  reaction  and
reflection  in  areas  of  cognition,
motivation/affect, behavior, and context.
Pintrich  (2004)  notes  that  although
individuals go through the four phases in
a generally “time-ordered sequence”, we
cannot  strongly  assume  that  phases
represent  a  strict  hierarchical  or  linear
structure  (p.  389).    Table  1  provides  a
description  of  the  phases  and  areas  that
constitute  self-regulated  learning  (see
Appendix).  The  following  paragraphs
will  present  a  short  description  of  the
 
four  phases  of  cognition,
motivation/affect,  behavior,  and  context
regulation in SRL.  
 
Phase 1: Regulation of cognition
The  first  phase  of  regulating  cognition
involves  forethought  and  planning
activities  and  strategies  such  as  “setting
specific  target  or  cognitive  goals  for
learning,  activating  prior  knowledge
about  the  material  to  be  studied,  as  well
as  activating  any  metacognitive
knowledge  students  might  have  about
the task or themselves” (Pintrich, 2004,
p.  392).  In  other  words,  goals,  prior
content  knowledge,  and  metacognitive
knowledge  are  cognitions  that  can  be
self-regulated  during  the  forethought,
planning,  and  activation  phase  (Schunk,
2005).  
 
In  the  cognition  activation  phase,  the
learners  engage  in  activating  prior
knowledge  in  an  unconscious  manner;
Schunk  (2005),  nevertheless,  believes
that  a  self-regulated  learner  activates
knowledge  in  a  “planful  way  through
prompting and self-questioning” (p. 86).
Metacognitive  knowledge  can  also  be
activated  either  automatically  or  in  a
more  planful  and  deliberate  manner.
Metacognitive  knowledge  is  comprised
of  knowledge  about  the  cognitive  tasks
or  “declarative  knowledge  (e.g.,  of
learning  strategies  such  as  rehearsal  and
note  taking)”,  cognitive  strategies  or
“procedural  knowledge  (how  to
implement  these  strategies),  and
conditional  knowledge  (when  and  why
to  use  different  strategies)”  (Schunk,
2005, p. 86).   
 
Monitoring  cognition  is  another
important  phase  of  cognition  regulation,
which  ensures  steady  progress  towards
the  set  goals  in  addition  to  adaptations
and  adjustments  made  in  the  process  of
learning and comprehension. Monitoring
cognition,  thus,  involves  metacognitive
awareness followed by cognition control
through  engaging  learners  in  the
selection  and  adaptation  of  cognitive
strategies  for  learning  and  thinking.
Through  making  judgments  about  the
status  of  progress  towards  the  pre-defined  goals,  control  of  cognition
contributes  to  the  readjustment  and
modifying  of  task-specific  goals  and
strategies.  Cognitive  judgments,
therefore,  ensue  as  a  result  of  cognitive
monitoring  and  control  providing
information  about  the  “discrepancy
between  a  goal  and  current  progress
toward  that  goal”  (Pintrich,  2004,  p.
392).  
 
Phase 2: Regulation of motivation
Motivation is assumed to be a key factor
in  determining  learning  achievement
(Dörnyei,  Csizér  &  Nemeth,  2006).  In
fact,  motivation  can  be  assumed  to  be  a
distinguishing  feature  setting  SRL  apart
from  other  models  of  learning.  In  the
following paragraphs a definition of how
motivation  is  operationalized  in  relation
to  learning  will  be  followed  by  a
description of how motivation regulation
works in SRL models.
 
Motivation  has  been  operationalized
differently.  For  instance,  in
Zimmerman’s  model  motivational
beliefs  included  concepts  such  as  self-efficacy,  outcome  expectations,  and
goal-orientation  (2000).  Pintrich  and  De
Groot  (1990)  conceptualized  motivation
by  adopting  a  general  expectancy-value
motivation  model,  which  is  similar  to
Eccles  and  Wigfield’s  (2002)  model.  In
a  cognitive-motivational  process  model
based  on  different  conceptions  of
motivation (Pintrich, 2000; Zimmerman,

 
1989;  Eccles  and  Wigfield,  2002),
Vollmeyer  and  Rheinberg  (2006)
discussed  a  motivation  model
comprising  initial  factors  of  motivation,
possible  mediators  of  initial  motivation
and  learning  outcomes.  The  motivation
model  used  in  the  current  study  is
adapted  from  Pintrich,  Smith,  Garcia,
and  McKeachie’s  (1991,  1993)
comprehensive  model  that  was  inspired
by  Eccles,  Adler,  Futterman,  Goff,
Kaczala,  Meece,  and  Midgley’s  (1983)
expectancy-value  framework.  In  this
model,  motivation  in  educational
settings  consists  of  the  three  main
components  of  value,  expectancies,  and
affect, which are further broken down to
task value, achievement goal orientation,
control  beliefs,  self-efficacy  beliefs,
expectancy for success, test anxiety, and
self-esteem.
 
In  the  first  phase  of  motivation
regulation,  learners  plan  and  activate
such  motivational  and  affective  beliefs
as goal orientation or purposes for doing
the  task,  self-efficacy,  perceptions  of
task  difficulty,  task  value  beliefs  or  the
beliefs about the importance, utility, and
relevance  of  the  task,  and  personal
interest in the task (Pintrich, 2004). Self-regulating  learners  actively  monitor
motivation  in  order  to  maintain  self-efficacy  and  interest  by  proceeding  to
the  next  phase,  i.e.  motivational  beliefs
control  through  “positive  self-talk”
(Schunk,  2005,  p.  87).  Another  control
strategy  employed  to  maintain
motivation is the prospect of an extrinsic
reward  for  the  successful  completion  of
the  task  or  an  intrinsic  attempt  on  the
part of the learners to “maintain a more
mastery-oriented  focus  on  learning”
(Pintrich,  2004,  p.  396).  Along  with
positive self-talk  as a control strategy to
regulate  motivation,  Pintrich  refers  to
strategies  such  as  “invoking  negative
affects  such  as  shame  or  guilt”,
“defensive  pessimism,  and  “self-handicapping” (p. 396).  
 
Phase 3: Regulation of behavior
Behavior  is  another  area  to  regulate  in
self-regulated  learning.  Behavior
regulation includes activities that involve
time  and  effort  planning  along  with
plans  for  observing  behavior  overtly.  
Time  and  effort  management  activities
or  resources  management  activities  also
characterize  behavior  regulation  in  the
second phase or the behavior-monitoring
phase.  The  third  phase  of  behavior
regulation  involves  behavior  control
through  “persisting,  expending  effort,
and seeking help when needed” (Schunk,
2005,  p.  87).  In  summary,  behavior
regulation  involves  time  and  effort
planning,  awareness  and  monitoring  of
effort,  time  use,  need  for  help,
increase/decrease  effort,  and  choice
behavior.  
 
Phase 4: Regulation of context
Regulation of context in SRL is different
from the traditional “volitional control”
where  attempts  are  made  “to control or
structure  the  environment  in  ways  that
facilitate  goals  and  task  completion”
(Pintrich,  2004,  p.  399).  Self-regulating
learners,  nevertheless,  attempt  to  create
contexts  conducive  to  learning.  In  the
first  phase,  therefore,  learners  form
perceptions  of  the  task  and  the  learning
context  that  they  will  experience.
Learners  then  proceed  to  monitor  the
task  and  context  conditions  followed  by
adapting  or  negotiating  the  task  to
accommodate  the  contextual  factors.  In
an  attempt  to  control  the  context,
learners  might  as  well  adapt  the  context
to  accommodate  the  demands  of  the
task. Examples of context regulation are
 
learners’  attempts  at  peer  learning  and
utilizing  available  resources  to  benefit
from  the  learning  experience.  Finally,
the  last  phase  to  engage  in  is  reaction
and  reflection,  where  learners  “assess
their  performances,  and  these
assessments  form  the  basis  for  other
efforts  to  regulate  motivation,  behavior,
and context” (Schunk 2005, p. 87).
 
Motivated  Strategies  for  Learning
Questionnaire (MSLQ)
In order to test the  complex interplay of
motivational,  skill,  and  performance
factors,  Pintrich  (1989)  and  Pintrich  et
al.  (1991,  1993)  suggested  a  model  that
combined  motivation  and  study  skills  to
predict students’ performance in college
to  examine  the  “nomological  network
determining college students’ behaviors”
(Robbins, Lauver, Le, Davis, & Langley
2004,  p.  276).    As  a  result,  Motivated
Strategies  for  Learning  Questionnaire
(MSLQ)  was  developed  for  assessing
students’  motivation  and  learning
strategies.  This  tool  was  based  on  a
simple  social  cognitive  and  information
processing  perspective,  according  to
which motivation and learning strategies
are  not  stable  and  unchanging
characteristics  of  learners;  rather,
motivation  is  assumed  to  be  “dynamic
and  contextually  bound”  and  “learning
strategies  can  be  learned  and  brought
under  the  control”  by  the  learner
(Duncan  &  McKeachie,  2005,  p.  117).
Pintrich  (2004)  believed  that  whereas
“the  surface  and  deep  approaches  to
learning  fuse  motivation  and  strategies
for  learning  into  generic  learning  styles,
MSLQ  conceptualizes  and  assesses  the
five  cognitive  strategies  separately  from
any motivational components” (p. 393)  
Founded  on  a  social-cognitive
theoretical  framework,  MSLQ  assumes
that “motivation and learning  strategies
are  not  traits  of  the  learner,  but  rather
that  motivation  is  dynamic  and
contextually  bound  and  that  learning
strategies  can  be  learned  and  brought
under  the  control  of  the  student”
(Duncan & McKeachie, 2005). Based on
this  view  motivation  and  learning
strategies  vary  depending  on  the  course
and tasks being done.  
 
MSLQ  consists  of  motivation  and
learning  strategies  scales,  which  are
further  broken  down  into  several
subscales.  The  details  are  presented  in
the procedure section.  
 
Previous studies  
Previous studies on SRL and motivation
can  be  divided  into  two  groups:    those
which  have  examined  the  relationship
between  cognitive  and  motivational
factors  in  non-linguistic  educational
fields  and  those  which  have  focused  on
examining  this  relationship  in
second/foreign language learning.  
 
Studies  that  have  investigated  the
relationship  between  cognitive  and
motivational factors (Pajares & Graham,
1999;  Pintrich  &  De  Groot,  1990;
Schunk,  1984,  1995,  Zusho  &  Pintrich,
2003)  have  been  mainly  concerned  with
examining  the  link  between  expectancy
and  value  components  of  motivation
with  self-regulated  learning  components
including  cognitive,  metacognitive,  and
effort  management  strategies.  Their
findings  indicated  that  learners  with
higher levels of self efficacy and mastery
goals,  “learning,  and  challenge,  in
addition  to  beliefs  that  the  task  is
interesting and important, will engage in
more  metacognitive  activity,  more
cognitive  strategy  use,  and  more
effective  effort  management”  (Pintrich
&  De  Groot,  1990,  p.  34).  Moreover,
 
research  has  consistently  found  that  a)
self-regulating  learners  outperform  non-self-regulating learners due to the use of
SRL  strategies  and  having  adaptive
motivational  beliefs  (Artino,  2008)  b)
learners  who  motivationally,
metacognitively,  and  behaviorally
participate actively in their own learning
are  more  likely  to  achieve  well  (Schunk
& Zimmerman, 2008).
The  second  group  of  studies  has
examined SRL and motivation in foreign
language  learning  (Bown,  2006;  Bown,
2009;  Hirata,  2010;  Kormos  &  Csizér,
2014;  Wang,  Quach,  &  Rolston,  2009;
Zahidi,  2012).  A  summary  of  these
studies is presented in Table 2.

The  most  relevant  study  to  examine  the
predictive  relationship  between
motivational  factors  and  SRL  strategies
was  conducted  by  Hirata  (2010).
Hirata’s  study  focused  on  a  particular
task, i.e. the learning of Kanji, which are
adopted  logographic  Chinese  characters
used in modern Japanese writing system.
Hirata  reported  a  number  of  significant
relationships  suggesting  the
interdependence  of  motivational  factors
and  learning  strategies.  The  present
study, similarly, attempted to investigate
the  predictive  relationship  between
motivation  and  learning  strategies
employed  by  EFL  learners  in  a  context
where  English  is  taught  as  a  foreign
language  in  classroom  setting.
Identifying  the  specific  motivational
beliefs  that  contribute  to  the  use  of
learning  strategies  in  such  a  context  can
help  educators  promote  learners’
motivation  and  train  them  how  to  foster
effective motivational beliefs. Therefore,
the objectives of the present study are as
follows:
 
1.  Are  EFL  learners’  motivational
factors  different  across
proficiency levels?
2.  To what extent are EFL learners’
motivational beliefs predictive of
their learning strategies use?
 
Method
Participants
A  non-random  purposive  sampling
technique  was  employed  to  gather  data.
280  Persian  EFL  learners  at  one  of  the
branches of Iran Language Institute (ILI)
located  in  north  eastern  Tehran
participated  in  this  study.  Further
screening  eliminated  those  participants
who had not filled out the questionnaires
completely.  Upon  the  completion  of  the
screening  procedure,  257  participants’
questionnaires  were  analyzed.  The
participants  were  classified  into  four
groups  based  on  the  proficiency  levels
into which they had already been placed
in the institute.
 
Procedure  
One  self-report  questionnaire,  namely
Motivated  Strategies  for  Learning
Questionnaire  (MSLQ),  was  utilized  to
obtain  information  about  the  learners’
motivational  beliefs  and  self-regulated
learning  strategies  employed  while
learning  English.  Utilization  of  the  self-report  instrument  warranted  translation
from  English  to  Persian,  as  the  target
population’s  native  language  was
Persian.  
 
Three  independent  forward  translations
of  the  original  questionnaires  were
produced  by  three  professional
translators.  Then  a  reconciled  version
was  developed  on  the  basis  of  the  three
forward translations and the translators’
written  and  oral  reports.  Later,  in  the
process  of  comparison  of  the  backward
translation  and  the  original,  the
discrepancies  were  analyzed;  this
resulted  in  changes  in  the  reconciled
translation  in  the  target  language  and
subsequent  production  of  a  Persian
version.   
 
The MSLQ includes 81 self-report items
designed  to  assess  college  students’
motivational orientation  and their use of
different  learning  strategies.  Two  scales
constitute  the  instrument:  motivation
scale  and  learning  strategies  scale.  The
motivational  scale  is  further  broken
down  into  extrinsic  goal  orientation,
intrinsic  goal  orientation,  task  value,
control  of  learning  beliefs,  self-efficacy
for  learning  and  performance,  and  test
anxiety.    The  learning  strategies  scale,
which  is  based  on  a  general  cognitive
model  of  learning  and  information
processing,  has  three  subscales:
cognitive,  metacognitive,  and  resource
management.  
 
Results  
The  Cronbach’s  alpha  reliability  index
for  the  MSLQ  was  .84,  which  is
considered  as  a  strong  estimate  of
internal consistency.  
 
The results of the descriptive statistics of
the  participants’  motivational  beliefs
across  proficiency  levels  indicated  that
the highest mean score was on task value
(6.07)  in  the  pre-intermediate  level  of
proficiency  and  the  lowest  mean  score
was on test anxiety in the advanced level
of proficiency (4.22).
 
A  one-way  between-subjects  ANOVA
was  conducted  to  compare  motivational
beliefs  across  proficiency  levels.  The
results  indicated  that  there  was  a
significant effect of proficiency level on
extrinsic  goal  orientation  at  the  p
level  [F  (3,  253)  =4.360,  p  =  .005],  and
test  anxiety  at  the  p
four  proficiency  levels  [F  (3,  247)
=3.584, P = .014].
 
In  order  to  find  out  to  what  extent  EFL
learners’  motivational  beliefs  are
predictive  of  their  learning  strategies
use, a regression analysis was conducted
with  motivational  beliefs  as  predictor
variables  and  learning  strategies  as
criterion  variables.  Based  on  the  results
displayed  in  Table  3,  it  could  be
concluded  that  the  components  of
motivational  belief  could  predict  49.3
percent  of  total  LLS  (R  =  .702,  R2  =
.493).  After  excluding  the  non-significant  predictors  on  the  second  and
third  steps,  the  remaining  significant
variables  –  self-efficacy,  control  of
learning,  intrinsic  and  task  value
predicted 49.1 percent of total LLS (R =
.701, R2 = .491).

In  order  to  find  out  which  motivational
components  predict  self-regulated
learning  strategies,  an  ANOVA  test  was
used. The results in Table 4 (F (4, 252) =
60.70, P < .05, ω
2
  =  .48)  indicated  that
self-efficacy,  control  of  learning  beliefs,
intrinsic  goal  orientation,  and  task  value
significantly  predicted  learning
strategies.  Therefore,  these  were  entered
into  the  multiple  regression  models  as
predictor variables.

Table  5  displays  the  regression
coefficients,  significance  values  of  the
contribution  of  the  predictors  and
collinearity  indices.  The  variables  with
non-significant  contributions  to  the
regression  model  (P  >  .05)  were
excluded  on  each  step.  The  tolerance
values  higher  than  .10  and  VIF  indices
lower  than  10  indicate  that  the
assumption  of  lack  of  multicollinearity
was met.
 
Discussion  
The  first  objective  of  the  present  study
was to examine the relationship between
proficiency  levels  and  motivational
beliefs. Proficiency levels were found to
have a significant effect on two scales of
the  motivational  beliefs,  namely
extrinsic  goal  orientation  and  test
anxiety.

Goals  represent  specific  purposes  for
which  learners  engage  in  a  task.  As
findings  showed,  less  proficient  EFL
learners  were  more  extrinsically
motivated.  According  to  Vansteenkiste,
Lens,  and  Deci  (2006)  various  types  of
extrinsic motivation can be distinguished
based  on  differences  in  the  “degree  of
autonomy  or  self-determination,
depending on the extent to which people
have been successful in internalizing the
initially  external  regulation  of  the
behavior”  (p.  21).    The  results  of  this
study  showed  that  the  more  proficient

the  learners  were,  the  less  extrinsically
motivated  they  became.  These  results
may  be  interpreted  in  the  light  of  the
developmental  stages  of  self-determination  where  motivation  is
principally  controlled  by  external
contingencies  such  as  praise  or  threats;
i.e., when a learner is at the initial stages
of  learning  a  foreign  language,  the
prospect  of  external  rewards  or
punishment  might  be  the  most  powerful
force regulating motivation. As learners’
language proficiency grows, so will their
ability  in  the  process  of  internalization,
which represents “a second instantiation
(in  addition  to  intrinsic  motivation)  of
the  growth-oriented  endowment  of
human  beings,  and  the  process  can
function  more  or  less  successfully”
(Vansteenkiste  et  al.,  2006,  p.  21).  
Teachers  are,  therefore,  encouraged  to
use  more  extrinsic  rewards  for  lower
proficiency  learners,  which  will  aid  in
paving the learners’ path to internalizing
the  initially  external  regulation  of
learning.  
 
The  findings  also  indicated  that  test
anxiety,  an  affective  component  of
motivational  beliefs,  was  affected  by
language  proficiency  level.  More
proficient  EFL  learners  tended  to  be
significantly  less  anxious  than  less
proficient  language  learners.  These
results  are  in  line  with  the  findings  of  a
few  previous  studies  that  have
demonstrated  a  relationship  between
language  proficiency  level  and  test
anxiety  (Aida,  1994;  Allen  &  Herron,
2003;  Dewaele  &  Ip,  2013;  Dewaele  &
MacIntyre,  2014;  Hembree,  1988;  Liu,
2006;  Thompson  &  Lee,  2014).  For
instance, examining   the conditions that
give  rise  to  differential  test  anxiety
levels, Hembree (1988) concluded, “The
higher  the  student’s  ability  level,  the
lower the test anxiety” (p. 73). Similarly,
Aida (1994) found that experience has a
significant role in level of anxiety; more
experienced  learners  were  significantly
less anxious. Also, Liu (2006) found that
language  learners  in  lower  levels  of
proficiency were more anxious than their
more proficient counterparts.  
 
Horwitz,  Horwitz,  and  Cope  (1986)
associated  language  anxiety  with
performance anxiety, which is composed
of  “communication  apprehension;  test
anxiety; and fear of negative evaluation”
(p.  127).  Since  the  focus  of  this
discussion  is  not  on  communication
apprehension  or  fear  of  negative
evaluation,  only  test  anxiety  will  be
discussed.  Test  anxiety  stems  from  fear
of  failure,  which  is  the  result  of  putting
unrealistic  demands  on  oneself.  Horwitz
et  al.  suggest  that  teachers  can  alleviate
the  learners’  anxiety  by  being  more
supportive  and  understanding  of
learners’  feelings  of  “isolation  and
helplessness” so as to enhance their self-esteem  and  language  confidence.  In
order to foster the learners’ self-esteem
and  confidence,  one  must  first  identify
the  sources  of  anxiety.  Young  (1991)
identified  six  potential  sources  of
language  anxiety  originating  from  three
sources: the learners, the teacher, and the
instructional  setting.  These  six  sources
include  “1)  personal  and  interpersonal
anxieties;  2)  learner  beliefs  about
language  learning;  3)  instructor  beliefs
about  language  teaching;  4)  instructor-learner  interactions;  5)  classroom
procedures; and 6) language testing” (p.
427).  Making  learners  aware  of  the
sources  of  anxiety  would  most  likely
help  alleviate  their  anxiety.  Also,
teachers  and  learners  should  be  aware
that  proficiency  and  experience  in
foreign  language  learning  bring  about
 
more  knowledge  about  the  instructional
setting,  the  teachers,  and  the  learners
beliefs. As a result of familiarity with the
learning  environment,  modifications  of
beliefs  about  language  learning  and
perceptions  of  self  and  test  anxiety  may
decrease.  Moreover,  language  educators
might be able to reduce learners’ anxiety
in lower proficiency levels by providing
them  with  ample  information  about  the
learning setting and procedures.
 
Another  major  finding  of  the  present
study  was  that  self-efficacy  was  one  of
the  best  predictors  of  self-regulated
learning  (SRL)  strategies.  These  results
are  in  line  with  the  findings  of  Kim,
Wang,  Ahn,  and  Bong’s  study  (2015)
that  found  statistically  significant
differences  between  efficacy  beliefs  use
of  SRL  strategies.  Self-efficacy  beliefs
are  regarded  as  providing  “the
foundation  for  human  motivation,
wellbeing  and  personal
accomplishment” (Hefferon & Boniwell,
2011,  p.  104).  The  relationship  between
self-efficacy  and  SRL  strategies  can  be
explained  with  respect  to  the  “triadic
view  of  self-regulated  learning”
(Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1990, p.
51).  In  this  view,  self-efficacy  is
regarded as a “thermostat that regulates
strategic  efforts  to  acquire  knowledge
and  skill  through  a  cybernetic  feedback
loop”  (Zimmerman,  1989,  p.  330).
Zimmerman  regards  self-efficacy  as  a
major  element  in  self-regulated  learning
and maintains that it can affect learners’
“behavioral  performance”  and  “their
manipulation  and  choice  of  learning
environment”  (1989,  p.  331).  The
relationship  between  increase  in  self-efficacy  and  increased  use  of  learning
strategies  has  been  found  by  several
researchers  (Diseth,  2011;  Magogwe  &
Oliver,  2007).  Additionally  self-efficacy
has an impact on academic performance
(Yusuf,  2011)  and  language  outcomes
(Liem,  Lau,  &  Nie,  2008;  Magogwe  &
Oliver,  2007).  The  current  study  also
found  a  relationship  between  estimates
of  performance  success  and  SRL
strategies,  suggesting  that  educators
should  employ  procedures  and
techniques  to  enhance  learners’
perceptions of self-efficacy because they
mediate  the  relationship  between  self-regulated  learning  strategies  and
achievement outcomes.  
 
As  an  expectancy  component  of
motivation,  control  of  learning  beliefs
was found to be another best predictor of
self-regulated  learning  strategies.
Control  of  learning  beliefs  refers  to
learners’  “beliefs  that  their  efforts  to
learn  will  result  in  positive  outcomes”
(Pintrich  et  al.,  1991,  p.  12).  Control
beliefs  concern  the  degree  to  which  the
learners  believe  that  the  outcome  is
contingent  upon  their  own  efforts.
Regarding  oneself  as  having  authority
and  control  over  performance  outcomes
brings  about  strategic  behavior  to
achieve  desired  goals.  In  fact,  Bjork,
Dunlosky,  and  Kornell  (2013)  note  that
in  order  to  effectively  manage  the
learning  process,  learners  need  to
overcome  “certain  intuitions,  knowing
what activities are and are not productive
for learning” (p. 435). The importance of
these  beliefs  or  “intuitions”  is  due  to
their  effect  on  encoding  and
understanding  information  that  support
retention and transfer.  
 
As  a  value  component  of  motivation,
intrinsic goal orientation was found to be
another one of the best predictors of self-regulated  learning  (SRL)  strategies.
Intrinsic  goal  orientation  is  motivation
stemmed  from  internal  reasons  such  as
 
interest in task or learning, curiosity, and
desire  to  master  content.  Research  has
shown  that  compared  to  extrinsic  goal
framing,  intrinsic  goal  framing  leads  to
both  short-term  and  long-term
persistence,  higher  autonomous
motivation,  and  better  test  performance
(Vansteenkiste  et  al.  2006).
Additionally,  Vansteenkiste,  Simons,
Lens,  Sheldon,  and  Deci  (2004)  pointed
out  the  causal  relationship  between
intrinsic  goal  orientation  and  deeper
learning  and  persistence,  which  are
regarded  as  measures  of  autonomous
learning.  Therefore,  in  a  self-regulating
learner intrinsic goal orientation leads to
better  performance  results  through  the
use of strategies.  
 
Task  value,  which  is  another  value
component  of  motivation,  was  the  last
best  predictor  of  self-regulated  learning
strategies.  Task  value  refers  to  the
learners’  evaluation  of  how  important,
interesting  and  useful  the  task  is.
Pintrich et al. (1991) postulated that high
task value leads to higher involvement in
learning.  Moreover,  according  to
Pintrich  and  De  Groot  (1990),  research
suggests  that  task  value,  along  with
goals of mastery, learning and challenge,
which  are  associated  with  extrinsic  goal
orientation,  is  conducive  to  “more
metacognitive  activity,  more  cognitive
strategy  use,  and  more  effective  effort
management” (p. 34).  
 
In  sum,  expectancy  and  value
components of motivation were found to
be  good  predictors  of  self-regulated
learning strategies.  
 
Conclusion and implications
The primary purpose of the present study
was to examine the relationship between
EFL  learners’  motivational  beliefs  and
their  use  of  learning  strategies.  The
findings  showed  that  test  anxiety  and
extrinsic  goal  orientation  were
significantly higher in lower proficiency
learners.  Since  motivational  beliefs  and
learning  strategies  are  affected  by  a
complex  interplay  of  factors,  a  single
prescription  cannot  be  given  for  all
learning  situations.  However,  based  on
the  findings,  it  is  suggested  that
language  teachers  should  be  more
sensitive to less proficient EFL learners’
test  anxiety  by  avoiding  a  product-oriented  approach  to  learning  and
teaching  specific  strategies  and
techniques  to  help  learners  overcome
anxiety.  Furthermore,  teachers  are
advised  to  give  equal  weight  to
attendance, classroom activity level, and
progress  made  throughout  the  semester.
This might help reduce the stakes of the
test  and  hence  learners’  test  anxiety.
Language  teachers  are  also  advised  to
incorporate more extrinsic contingencies
in  the  learning  process  when  dealing
with learners of lower proficiency levels
in  order  to  sustain  and  enhance  their
persistence and effort.  
 
The  second  major  finding  was  that  self-regulated  learning  strategies  could  be
explained  by  the  expectancy  and  value
components  of  motivation,  i.e.  self-efficacy,  intrinsic  goal  orientation,  task
value,  and  control  of  learning  beliefs.
Hence, teachers are suggested to provide
an environment that will not threaten the
learners’ self-efficacy beliefs as this will
lead  to  their  disengagement  and  apathy.
The  learning  environment  should  not  be
so  competitive  as  to  pose  a  negative
influence  on  learners’  self-esteem.  In
competitive  environments,  learners
usually  set  unrealistic  goals  to  be
achieved and if they are not able to attain
those  goals  in  the  long  run  their  self-
 
esteem  will  be  negatively  impacted.
Therefore,  teachers  are  suggested  to
create  a  non-competitive  classroom
environment  in  which  the  difficulty  of
the  learning  tasks  is  adjusted  in  an
adaptive  manner,  allowing  the  learning
pace  to  be  determined  by  the  learners’
ability  to  understand  and  apply  new
information.  In  such  contexts  learning
materials  are  selected  in  proportion  to
learners’ objectives so as to maintain and
foster  their  task  value  and  engagement.
If  the  learners  deem  that  the  material  is
pragmatically  applicable  to  their
immediate  or  future  circumstances,  they
will  take  a  more  active  part  in  the
learning process.  
 
Finally,  it  is  suggested  that  future
research on motivational beliefs  and use
of learning strategies be pursued with an
experimental  design  to  examine  the  role
of  teachers’  practice  on  learners’
motivational  beliefs  and  their  use  of
learning  strategies.  Future  research  can
also  examine  the  role  of  individual
differences  such  as
extroversion/introversion  on
motivational  beliefs  and  learning
strategies.  Furthermore,  researchers  can
use  qualitative  methods  such  as
interviews  with  language  learners  and
observation of learning in the classroom
context  to  obtain  rich  information  on
factors that might be involved in shaping
motivational  beliefs  at  different
proficiency levels. 

 

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