A Master of Arts thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Erica Lee Payne entitled, “Qualitatively Examining Self-Regulation and Affect of First-Year Writing Students”, submitted in May 2021. Thesis advisor is Dr. Tammy Gregersen and thesis co-advisor is Dr. Rachel Buck. Soft copy is available (Thesis, Completion Certificate, Approval Signatures, and AUS Archives Consent Form).
Many first-year university students find it challenging to navigate a new environment while also managing limited time, additional responsibilities, and an increasingly rigorous course load. Current research seeks effective approaches for supporting these transitioning students. This qualitative Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) study adds to the conversation by examining a sample of first-year university students taking an introductory English academic writing course at an American-style university in the UAE. In the study, participants received training on a strategy involving a time-management tool known as the “Pomodoro Technique,” which was implemented with a pre-commitment device, in which students designated a plan for using the strategy over the course of four weeks as they completed their mid-term assignment for a writing course. Using the corpus of interview data gathered via focus groups and open-ended survey questions, this study explored the impact of the combination of this strategy and intervention on first year writing students’ self-regulatory abilities to monitor and control their learning, as well as their affective disposition toward tasks in their writing course. Mixed results were revealed as participants acknowledged both positive and negative responses to the strategy combination—grouped into affective and self-regulatory domains. Although respondents reported that their efficiency, time management, and focus had improved, they also described that the inherent interruptions and the irrelevance of the strategy to their ultimate grade achievement were seen as weaknesses. On an affective level, most respondents claimed to feel higher motivation, eustress that positively propelled their progress, and increased confidence in completing each task. However, a few felt somewhat frustrated by having to stop at regular intervals when they sensed they were progressing well. The study provided an easily reproducible training and intervention strategy that can be taught to first-year students, but implications suggested that its usability is limited and may need to be differentiated based on the learning styles of students and the disciplines for which the strategies are implemented.