A Study on the Relationship between Learner Autonomy and Academic Grades



Akira Nakamura, Chiba University of Commerce;
Yoichiro Sagara, Chiba University of Commerce


Objective

The present study investigates the relationship between learner autonomy and English language proficiency of Japanese students from one university. Specifically, the following one objective was addressed: How does the level of autonomy influence the relationship between English proficiency, cognitive strategy use, and self- efficacy?



METHOD

Participants
The participants were 454 freshman aged between 18 and 20 years (363 male and 89 female), whose majors are commerce, economics, or management in a private university.



Measures
The questionnaire was composed of three scales: self-efficacy, cognitive strategy use, and learner autonomy. Question items of self-efficacy and cognitive strategy use were from Motivation Strategies for Learning Questionnaire [MSLQ] which was originally made by Pintrich and De Groot (1990) and Mori (2004) translated it into Japanese. We used some items out of Morifs translation. As for learner autonomy, we used some of the revised version of Sakai et al. (2008). English proficiency was measured by Mochizuki Test, which is frequently used in Japan to measure studentsf vocabulary size.



RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


Analysis of each scale

The scale of cognitive strategy use seemed to contain some aspects. Therefore, in order to analyze the construction of this scale, factor analysis with the promax rotation was applied. Three factors were extracted with reference to scree plot in addition to Kaiserefs criteria (eigenvalue > 1 ).
 

The three items loading on Factor 1 seem to involve the usage of the knowledge the students already had, hence this factor was labeled gapplication of the knowledgeh. Factor 2 consisted of five items which reflected repeated practice, and this factor was named grehearsalh. Factor 3 revealed an underlying theme of metacognitive strategies, so this factor was labeled gmetacognitive strategy.h Subscale scores were computed for each of the three factors by summing the items in the scale. Internal consistencies of each scale were assessed by Cronbachfs coefficient alpha. The obtained coefficients were satisfactory, so the reliabilities of these scales were confirmed.


Relationship between self-efficacy, cognitive strategy use, learner autonomy, and English proficiency
Self-efficacy correlated positively with cognitive strategy use, and learner autonomy. On the other hand, the correlations between English proficiency and the other scales were weak ( r(454)= -.054
` .181 ). These results indicated that use of cognitive strategy was related with high self-efficacy, but not with English proficiency.


Comparison between High autonomy group and Low autonomy group
For the purpose of making categories, the subjects were ranked into five categories according to their degree of learner autonomy. Each group consisted of almost the same number of subjects. The relationships among the English proficiency, cognitive strategy use, and self-efficacy were analyzed in the highest level of learner autonomy ( AH – group, Autonomy score >=31, n = 70, Table 2) and the lowest ( AL – group, learner autonomy score <= 21 , n = 111, Table 1), respectively. In both groups, self-efficacy was not correlated with English proficiency significantly. As for cognitive strategy use, application of the knowledge did not correlate with English proficiency and self-efficacy. Rehearsal was correlated with self-efficacy, though not with English proficiency. These results suggested that frequent use of rehearsal strategy was related with high self-efficacy, however it did not always lead to good English performance. The difference between the AL – group and the AH – group was observed in the results of metacognitive strategy. In both groups, metacognitive strategy was positively correlated with self-efficacy. On the other hand, metacognitive strategy was positively correlated with the English proficiency in the AH – group, though not in the AL – group. This means that the students with low learner autonomy: the use of metacognitive strategy does not always link with high performance, the students with high autonomy: the use of metacognitive strategy lead to good English performance.


Many Japanese students try to repeat and do rehearsal when they study English subjects. However, the obtained results suggest that the rehearsal strategy has a strong relationship with self-efficacy, but does not contribute to studentsf performance. Similar phenomena are seen as to metacognitive strategy, but only in group with low learner autonomy. When students with high learner autonomy make efforts in using metacognitive strategy, they succeed. In conclusion, students with poor performance in English as a foreign language should improve learner autonomy as well as acquire metacognitive strategies.



Table 1. Relationships among self-efficacy, cognitive strategy use and the English performance in AL – group


Self - efficacy

Application

Rehearsal

Metacognitive

English performance

.13

.09

-.06

.15

Self – efficacy

 

.18

.28**

.51***

*p<.05@ **p<.01@ ***p<.001

 

 

Table 2. Relationships among self-efficacy, cognitive strategy use and the English performance in AH – group


Self - efficacy

Application

Rehearsal

Metacognitive

English performance

.13

.09

-.01

.26*

Self – efficacy

 

.16

.37**

.59***

*p<.05@ **p<.01@ ***p<.001

 
 

REFERENCES

 

Mori, Y. (2004) gRelationship between Self-Efficacy and Learning Strategies of English in College Students.h Japan Society for Educational Technology, 28, 45-48.

 

Pintrich, P.,R., & De Groot, E.V. (1990) gMotivational and Self-Regulated Learning Components of Classroom Academic Performance.h Journal of Education Psychology, 82(1), 33-40.

 

Sakai, S., Chu, M., Takagi, A., & Lee, S. (2008) gTeachersf Roles in Developing Learner Autonomy in the East Asian Region.h THE JOURNAL OF ASIA TEFL, 5(1), 93-117.