Learner autonomy: English language teachers’ beliefs and practices

Simon Borg, Saleh Al-Busaidi

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Abstract

Learner autonomy has been a key theme in the field of foreign language learning for over 30 years. Only limited space in the extensive literature available, though, has been awarded to the study of what learner autonomy means to teachers and this project addressed this gap. The beliefs and reported practices regarding learner autonomy of 61 teachers of English at a large university language centre in Oman were studied via questionnaires and interviews. The findings highlighted a range of ways in which teachers conceptualized learner autonomy, though it was commonly seen in terms of strategies for independent and individual learning. The study also shed light on both teachers’ positive theoretical dispositions to learner autonomy as well as their less optimistic views about the feasibility of promoting it in practice. Teachers’ views on the factors that hinder the development of learner autonomy were also explored and most salient among these were what the teachers saw as adverse learner attributes such as a lack of motivation and limited experience of independent learning. Institutional factors such as a fixed curriculum were also seen to limit learner autonomy. In addition to this empirical work, this project involved professional development workshops on learner autonomy for the participating teachers; these workshops were informed by the empirical phase of the project and we believe that this model of linking research and in-service teacher education can be effective in supporting institutional development in relation to a wide range of issues in foreign language learning.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherBritish Acupuncture Council
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-86355-686-9
ISBN (Print)978-0-86355-686-9
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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