An investigation of persistence in autonomous learning behaviors of English majors

Motivating students to become active learners who can pursue and address their learning needs despite the presence of various difficulties is a major goal in contemporary educational practice. Socio-economical dynamics in today‘s knowledge-based society requires people to continuously improve their skills in the course of their professional lives. Therefore, understanding what intentions and behaviors drive persistent and successful learners in various professions, and developing strategies for encouraging students to acquire such skills early in their education are of paramount importance. The concept of autonomous learning stemmed from debates about the development of lifelong learning skills and the development of independent thinkers both of which originated in the 1960s (Gardner&Millar,2003). According to Confessore&Park(2004) learner autonomy is the relative capacity to productively participate in learning experiences and is a syndrome that consists of four constructs. These are: (1) the desire to learn, (2) learner resourcefulness, (3) learner initiative, and (4) learner persistence. Persistence in autonomous learning is defined as the willingness of an individual to initiate and pursue systematic learning on his/her own to achieve a desired goal, despite the presence of difficulties, frustration and/or other competing goals (Derrick 2001; Confessore, 1992). The purpose of this study is to find out the level of persistence in autonomous learning behavior among first year students of English majors at a Turkish state university in Ankara. In this study, The Inventory of Learner Persistence (Derrick, 2001) developed to identify and quantify students‘ intent to persist in autonomous learning is used. This inventory focuses on specific behavioral attributes that can be assessed to have an idea about individual‘s intention to persist in learning. The inventory evaluates persistence in learning along three dimensions, namely volition, self-regulation and goal-directedness. The study also investigates if there are relationships among basic demographics and learners‘ self-perception of their current and future academic performance with their self-assessment of persistent learning behavior. The Learner Persistence Inventory (LPI) contains 52 self-assessment items that quantifies behaviors associated with persistence in autonomous learning. The LPI uses a response frequency scale that is numbered from 0 to 10. Participants were asked to rate a particular question 0 if they believe they never exhibit the behavior, and 10 if they believe they always exhibit that behavior described in that question. Participants in this study are 118 English majors studying at a Preparation Class at a state university in Ankara. 40% of the participants were majoring in English Language and Literature, 31% of them were studying English Language Teaching, 22% of them were majoring in American Culture and Language and 7% of them were English Translation and Interpretation majors. Majority (72%) of the participants were females. Average age of females and males were 18.4 and 18.6 respectively. 56% of the participants reported that they have taken extracurricular courses to pursue their learning needs and interests and majority of them rated their academic success as average to good and believes that they will be successful in their future career. The data analysis reported was conducted with statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) software. The mean values suggest that the participants rated their persistent autonomous learning behavior above average.The average score of volition (7.01) tend to be higher than self-regulation (6.20), goal-directedness (6.37) and overall persistence (6.53). Participants tended to score higher on volition as compared to other measures of persistent learning behavior. On the contrary to other samples where this inventory is administered (Derrick, 2001), in this study a gender difference in our sample of English majors is found.Females averaged higher than males in terms of self-regulation, and the independent t-test shows that this difference is statistically significant (t(115)=3.156, p<0.01). Thus, females tend to score higher on items that assess self-regulative behavior. A similar observation applies to the persistence variable, t(115)=2.975, p<0.01. Nevertheless, the t-test did not reveal a significant difference among males and females in terms of their scores for goal directed behavior (t(115) = .711, p>0.05). Since persistence, self regulation and goal directedness measures are normally distributed, independent samples t-test is used to test if the scores differ across genders. Since volition is not normally distributed, the Mann Whitney U test is used to non-parametrically test for differences across gender. There is a significant difference among males and females in terms of their volitional behavior (U = 832, z = -3.356, p<.001). Females tend to score higher in terms of volition as well. When 4 types of English majors were compared in terms of self regulation, goal directedness and persistence, English Language Literature majors tend to score higher on volition, self regulation and overall persistence as compared to other English majors. The ANOVA output indicates that there is a significant difference among 4 majors in terms of their persistence (F(3) = 2.898, p<0.05) and self-regulation (F(3) = 4.207, p<0.01) scores. Post-hoc comparisons are conducted to further investigate which majors significantly differ from each other in terms of persistence and self-regulation scores. No significant difference is found among four majors in terms of their goal directedness scores (F(3)=1.782, p>0.05), so no further pair-wise comparisons were performed. Tukey‘s HSD post-hoc comparisons indicate that ELL majors (M=6.68 , SD=1.22) significantly differ from ACL (M=5.86 , SD=1.20) and ELT majors (M=5.89 , SD=1.07) in terms of their self-regulation scores, p=.026 and p=.016 respectively. There is no significant difference between ELL majors and Translation and Interpretation majors.Tukey‘s HSD post-hoc comparisons for persistence scores indicate that only ELL majors (M=6.88, SD=0.92) and ELT majors (M=6.30, SD=0.92) significantly differ from each other, p=0.046. Kruskal-Wallis test did not find a significant difference among majors in terms of their volition scores. Participants who reported that they have taken courses outside school to pursue their interests and learning needs had significantly higher volition (U=994, z=-2.758, p<0.01) and overall persistence (t(106)=-2.205, p<0.05) scores compared to those who did not report such activity. Participants‘ level of optimism for their future tended to positively correlate with their persistent learning behavior scores (r=.351, p<0.01) Finally, participants‘ perception of their current academic success was weakly correlated with their persistence scores (r=0.170, p>0.05).
International Congress on Curriculum and Instruction, (05 - 08 Ekim 2011)


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Citation Formats
N. Çakır, “An investigation of persistence in autonomous learning behaviors of English majors,” Eskişehir, Türkiye, 2011, p. 365, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: