Language learners' emotion-regulation strategies
Jakub Bielak and Anna Mystkowska-Wiertelak
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
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Despite the sustained interest of education and language learning researchers in learner emotions (e.g., Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014, 2016; Gkonou, Daubney, & Dewaele, 2017; Pekrun, 2014; Zeidner, 1998) and learner self-regulation (e.g., Boekaerts, Pintrich, & Zeidner, 2000; Griffiths, 2013; Oxford, 2011, 2017; Winne & Hadwin, 2008; Zimmerman, 1990, 2008; Zimmerman & Schunk, 2011), the regulation of emotions for successful learning has been underresearched, with just a handful of studies in existence (e.g., Gkonou, 2015; Oxford, 2017; Webster & Hadwin, 2015; Wolters, 2003). An innovative scenario-based research tool called Managing Your Emotions for Language Learning (MYE) developed by Gkonou and Oxford (2016) may help fill this research gap, particularly in the area of language learning. It taps into different affective (emotion-regulation) strategies related to both positive and negative emotions which language learners employ in various L2 learning situations. It is based on the so-called vignette methodology (Collet & Childs, 2011; Hughes, 1998), in which participants respond to a series of scenarios (vignettes) by listing the emotions and emotion-regulation strategies they would employ or have employed in these situations. An international validation effort concerning MYE is currently under way (Gkonou & Oxford, 2017; Kantaridou & Psaltou-Joycey, 2017; Bielak & Mystkowska-Wiertelak, 2017). Bielak and Mystkowska-Wiertelak (2017) attempted to apply and validate this tool in the context of Polish tertiary-level education. This rendered a wealth of data concerning the emotions learners experience and the emotion regulation strategies they use to boost positive and deal with negative L2-related emotions. In the present paper we discuss some of the same kind of data obtained from an extended sample of 120 participants, which, to gain deeper insight into L2 leaner emotions and strategies, we have complemented by data from semi-structured interviews with selected student participants (n = 15) and their teachers (n = 10). In the interviews we delved into the emotions experienced and emotion-regulation strategies employed by the participants both in class and in self-study. The theoretical model used for analyzing the affective strategies for language learning is Gross’ (1998, 2015) process model of emotion regulation, as proposed by Oxford (2017). The results suggest that the strategies used should be classified further beyond Gross’ and Oxford’s categories of situation selection/modification, attention deployment, cognitive reappraisal, response modification and meaning making strategies, as done by Webster & Hadwin (2015). We also attempt to relate the strategies used to learner emotions and investigate their student-perceived effectiveness. The results reveal among other things relatively broad strategic repertoires of language learners in the area of emotion regulation, with some strategies, however, being used much more often (e.g., cognitive reappraisal to the effect that language errors are perceived as “normal”) than others (e.g., response modification in the form of emotional suppression); and participants’ high level of confidence in the effectiveness of their strategies. We discuss the pedagogical implications of the results, and the challenges and prospects of research in this area having to do with the difficulty of collecting high quality data relating to the highly sensitive learner emotions and related strategies.
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