Self-directed Learning in Preparatory-year University Students: Comparing Successful and Less-successful English Language Learners

  •  Fatimah Alghamdi    


There is consensus among those involved in teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in the Saudi educational context that students’ achievement in language learning is below expectations. Much research has been directed towards finding the reasons for low achievement amongst learners. However, very few studies have looked at parameters of learners’ agency and learners’ responsibility in the learning process. This study examines learners’ efforts at self-directed learning, measured with reference to a set of behavioral and metacognitive constructs. The primary objective is to diagnose efficiency problems in EFL learning and compare successful learners to those who fail to progress from one academic language level to the next. A secondary objective in this study is to find out if the General Aptitude Test (GAT) score is a predictor of success in language learning.

The findings reveal significant differences between successful learners and less-successful learners in aggregate self-directedness scores. However, while the analysis of the component constructs shows statistically significant differences between successful and less-successful learners in the self-management and study time measures, differences in the self-monitoring and motivation measures were non-significant. The lack of significant differences between some of the measures is attributed to the relative baseline similarity of the two groups. Moreover, the GAT measure yielded a counter-intuitive result; namely that less-successful learners had higher GAT scores than the successful ones, though the difference wasn’t statistically significant. The study concludes with implications for further research; for example, calling for a larger scale investigation of self-directedness, as well as other meta-cognitive strategies, and the possible relationship of these to GAT scores. Academic coaching of self-directedness and self-regulation strategies for college students is recommended.

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