Volitional control in the present study includes environmental control and emotional control. Students may make efforts to concentrate attention and to reduce distractions in their environment to make their study undisturbed.
To make themselves concentrate on studying, students may also try to regulate their emotion by doing other things first or going outside to adjust their mood.
With regard to environmental control, both high and low achievers said that they usually studied in the library or in the classroom where the atmosphere of learning was good. They seldom studied in the dormitory because they were easily disturbed by other students. Therefore, there were no obvious differences between high and low English achievers in finding the quiet place to study. However, when there were more attractive things in the environment, the high English achievers could still focus on the tasks, but the low achievers lacked the willpower to resist the temptations in the environment to make themselves concentrate on the work. Subject 5 wrote in his diary:
Today is Sunday. There were too many temptations distracting me from my study. I would rather go to play than continue working on the tasks. Therefore,
I did not complete the learning tasks for today.
We can see that Subject 5 did not try to make himself concentrate on learning when distractions appeared in his learning. Different from low achievers, one of the high achievers wrote in her diary:
Today is Sunday, but I couldn’t enjoy the weekend, for the examination is coming. I told myself that I would have a good time during the winter holiday if I studied hard then. This is my proximal goal to make efforts for. (Subject 1)
There were also differences between high and low achievers in emotional regulation. High English achievers tried to regulate their emotion to make themselves work on the tasks when they were in bad mood. Subject 3 stated that “ When I was in bad mood, I did not feel like studying. Sometimes I forced myself to study" Subject 2, in comparison, tried to regulate her emotion before working on the tasks. In the interview, she stated: “ When I was in bad mood, my study would be affected. Under this kind of situation, I went out to have a walk. After I calmed down, I devoted myself to study again" In her diary, she described this kind of situation as follows:
The task for today was to do one unit of reading comprehensions, two passages oferror corrections, one cloze test, and to memorize some new words for CET6. However, I felt bored today and could not concentrate on study. I continuously
said to myself to concentrate on the work, but it did not work a lot. Therefore, I made myself think about something that could prompt me to make extra effort. (Subject 2)
In comparison, only one of the low English achievers mentioned that he would force himself to study when he was in bad mood. The other two low achievers did not mention any strategy of regulating emotion. Subject 5, one of the low achievers, wrote in his diary:
The task for today was to do one test for CET4, to do some listening tests, and to memorize some new words, but I only finished part of them. This afternoon I went to take the fitness test. After the fitness test, I was in no mood for continuing my English tasks. Therefore, I went to the cinema. The reason why I was in no mood for continuing study was the influence of the environment. It was difficult to shift from one psychological condition to another.
We can see that subject 5 did not try to regulate his psychological condition when he was in no mood for continuing study. What he did was to let things take their own course.