Strategies for the Regulation of Motivation

Motivational regulation has been researched from various perspectives. For instance, research on self-regulation from a volitional perspective has highlighted students’ efforts to increase their persistence or time on task (Corno, 1993, 2001; Kuhl, 1985). SRL models from social cognitive perspective have also considered motivation as an aspect that students actively self-regulate. Pintrich (2000) identified resource management or effort control as an important component of students’ SRL. Boekaerts (1995, 1997) described the active management of affective and motivational processes as an important aspect of SRL. Wolters (1998, 2003) also regarded regulation of motivation as an important aspect of SRL.

Based on these diverse perspectives, researchers have identified a variety of strategies that students might use to manage the processes that have an influence on their motivation. These strategies include attempts to regulate various motivational beliefs such as goal orientation, self-efficacy as well as task value beliefs and personal interest in the task (e.g., Pintrich, 2000; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Wolters, 1998, 2003). Students’ regulation of their affect, environment, and behavior to control motivational outcomes such as effort and persistence are also considered forms of motivational regulation (Boekaerts, 1995; Corno, 1989, 1993; Kuhl, 1984, 1985; Wolters, 1998, 2003).

Kuhl (1985, 1987) proposed some strategies to protect dynamic behavioral intentions from the perspective of volition. Within the volitional domain, strategies for handling various diversions to intended goals are identified under the category of “action controls.” Kuhl (1987) describes six action control strategies: selective attention, encoding control, emotion control, motivation control, environment control, and parsimony of information processing.

  • Selective attention is intentionally ignoring attractive alternatives or irrelevant aspects.
  • Encoding control refers to selectively encoding only those features of a stimulus related to the current intention.
  • • Emotion control is the active inhibition of emotional states that may undermine the enacting and protection of the intention, as well as the conscious generation of emotions that are conducive to the implementation of the intention.
  • • Motivation control is an active process of changing the hierarchy of tendency strengths when a more powerful alternative arises.
  • • Environment control focuses on manipulating the environment in a way that the resulting environmental pressure or control makes the abandoning of the intention more difficult, or by creating safeguards against undesirable environmental temptations.
  • • Parsimony of information processing essentially refers to a “let’s not think about it anymore but get down to doing it” strategy, particularly if further processing may reveal information that undermines the motivational power of the current intention. (Cited from Dornyei & Otto, 1998)

Corno and Kanfer (1993) set forth four major groupings of volitional control strategies: metacognitive control, environmental control, emotion control, and motivation control.

Wolters (1998) investigated the types of strategies college students use to deal with different motivational problems using an open-ended questionnaire. In the open-ended questionnaire, 115 college students were presented with three motivational problems in four common academic tasks and were asked to report what they would do if they wanted to get themselves to continue the task. The three motivational problems were: the material was irrelevant or seemed personally unimportant; the material or task was difficult; the material or task was boring or uninteresting. The four academic tasks were: attending a lecture, reading a textbook chapter, writing a paper, and studying for an exam. The study found that students used a variety of cognitive, volitional, and motivational strategies to regulate their level of effort. These strategies were coded into 14 categories: performance goals, extrinsic rewards, task value, interest, mastery goals, efficacy, cognitive processing, help seeking, environment, attention, effort, emotion, other motivational response, and other (students’ reponses that can not be placed in any catogery above). The 14 categories of strategies were reduced into four global categories characterized as: extrinsic regulation strategies, intrinsic regulation strategies, volitional strategies, and cognitive processing strategies. The study also found that students used different motivational regulation strategies to deal with different motivational problems.

Based on his study in 1998, Wolters (1999) identified five types of motivational regulation strategies through exploratory factor analysis. These motivational regulation strategies were: mastery self-talk, performance self-talk, interest enhancement, self-consequating, and environmental control.

  • • Mastery self-talk reflects students’ tendency to focus on or make salient their desire to learn or master task materials in order to increase their level of motivation.
  • • Performance self-talk reflects students’ reported use of subvocal statements or thoughts designed to increase their desire to complete the task by intensifying their focus on performance goals such as getting good grades.
  • • Interest enhancement refers to students’ tendency to make the task into a game, or more generally to make it more immediately relevant, enjoyable, or fun to complete.
  • • Self-consequating measures students’ use of self-provided extrinsic rewards for reinforcing their desire to finish academic tasks.
  • • Environmental control is the strategy students use to avoid or reduce distractions to ensure their completion of academic tasks.

McCann and Garcia (1999) designed the Academic Volitional Strategy Inventory (AVSI) to assess the regulation of emotion and motivation by college students during the goal-striving process. The AVSI captures strategic methods used by students to regulate their emotion and motivation if faced with distractions threatening ongoing goal activity. According to the AVSI, college students use three types of strategies to regulate their motivation and emotion: self-efficacy enhancement, stress-reducing actions, and negative-based incentives.

Pintrich (1999a) developed taxonomy of volitional control (control of motivation and emotion) constructs based on the work of such research?ers as Bembenutty (1999), Lopez (1999), McCann and Garcia (1999) and Wolters (1999) and grouped these constructs into four general categories: motivational, emotional, behavioral, and environmental control. Motivational control includes strategies designed to monitor, control, and regulate various aspects of one’s own motivation, including self-efficacy, attributions, goals, rewards, values, and interest. Specifically, the strategies of motivational control include self-efficacy control, attributional control, interest enhancement, utility/importance enhancement, rewards provision, mastery goal self-induction, and performance goal self-induction. Emotional and mood control involves strategies to monitor, regulate, and control both positive and negative emotions and mood, generally attempting to increase positive affect and decrease negative affect. Control of behavior involves strategies to monitor, regulate and control actual behavior including choice, effort, persistence, and help seeking. Control of environment involves strategies to monitor, regulate, and control various aspects of the environment, including control of tasks and materials, control of general environment, and control of others.

Wolters (2003) emphasized regulation of motivation as an important aspect of SRL and described several strategies for regulating motivation. These strategies are self-consequating, goal-oriented self-talk, interest enhancement, environmental structuring, self-handicapping, attribution control, efficacy management, and emotion regulation. Based on the previous work on motivational regulation, Wolters, Pintrich, and Karabenich (2003) summarized seven strategies for the regulation of academic motivation: mastery self-talk, relevance enhancement, situational interest enhancement, performance/relative ability self-talk, performance/extrin- sic self-talk, self-consequating, and environmental structuring.

Cherng (2002) explored the motivational regulation strategies that Taiwan college students used and the interaction between academic task, motivational problems, and motivational regulation strategies. The instrument used in this study was an open-ended questionnaire similar to that used in the study of Wolters (1998). Results showed that students used a variety of motivational, cognitive, metacognitive, and action control strategies in learning contexts. Among these strategies, motivational regulation strategies consisted of extrinsic regulation (e.g., self-reward, getting good grades) and intrinsic regulation (e.g., mastery, task value, interest). Action control strategies mainly contained attention control, emotion control, willpower, and environment control. The results were similar to those of Wolters (1998).

Qu and Wang (2005) revised the scale on motivational regulation developed by Wolters (1999) according to the characteristics of Chinese middle school students. The original scale developed by Wolters (1999) contains 35 items, but the revised scale consists of 28 items. The 28 items represent five factors of motivational regulation strategies: mastery selftalk, performance self-talk, interest enhancement, self-consequating, and environmental structuring.

Li, Xue, and Han (2006) investigated the strategies Chinese college students used to regulate their motivation. Like Wolters (1998) and Cherng (2002) they used an open-ended questionnaire. The results showed that Chinese college students used a variety of strategies to regulate their motivation: performance goals related strategies, mastery-goals related strategies, extrinsic reward, task value enhancement, interest enhancement, self-efficacy enhancement, cognitive strategies, help seeking, environmental control, attention, willpower, emotion control and others. These strategies fall into four general categories: extrinsic regulation, intrinsic regulation, information processing, and volition. The results were similar to those of Wolters (1998) and Cherng (2002).

Wolters and Benzon (2013) further developed and assessed the instrument to investigate the regulation of motivation strategies. They identified six motivational regulation strategies using exploratory factor analysis: regulation of value, regulation of performance goals, self-consequating, environmental structuring, regulation of situational interest and regulation of mastery goals. Compared with the existing results, this study divided “interest enhancement” into two strategies, that is, regulation of value and regulation of situational interest.

We can see that students use a variety of strategies to manage the processes that have an influence on their motivation. The strategies identified in previous studies include attempts to regulate various motivational beliefs and personal interest in the task as well as students’ management of their affect, environment, and behavior. Although previous studies have investigated the strategies students use to regulate their motivation, there are also problems pertaining to motivational regulation. For example, there is a lack of consistent terminology and taxonomy for motivational regulation strategies (Pintrich, 1999a). Researchers use different terms to refer to similar aspects of motivational regulation. For instance, in the final three-factor model of AVSI, McCann and Garcia (1999) proposed three general strategies of self-efficacy enhancement, stress-reducing actions, and negative-based incentives. Wolters (1999), in contrast, had a more micro-level perspective on motivational control and outlined five factors as important components of motivational control, including mastery self-talk, performance self-talk, interest enhancement, self-consequating, and environmental control. Some factors in the scale of Wolters (1999) overlap with those in the AVSI used by McCann and Garcia (1999). For instance, the stress-reducing actions scale in the AVSI includes the use of various rewards to control stress, and the scale on the use of self- consequating strategies in Wolters (1999) also includes items related to the use of rewards. Accordingly, at least part of both of these scales concerns the use of rewards to control motivation or behavior, but given their different labels and the inclusion of different aspects of the use of rewards or stress-reducing actions, there is an inconsistent terminology for similar constructs.

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