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Autonomy, Agency and Identity in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching


Jing Huang

This book offers readers a basic grounding in autonomy and related concepts of agency and identity in foreign language education. The ethnographic study explores how autonomy develops within the long-term process of EFL and TEFL learning in a Chinese social and institutional context. Through examining the general characteristics and patterns within the long-term development of autonomy among the students, the enquiry puts under close scrutiny a number of fundamental issues in autonomy research and practice, such as reactive autonomy in relation to proactive autonomy, personal autonomy in relation to learner autonomy, other-control in relation to self-control in the «multi-control model» of autonomy, and also issues of autonomy in the transition from foreign language learning to foreign language teaching. The study presents the more «describable» concepts of identity and agency to investigate the development of autonomy in foreign language learning and teaching and explores their complex interrelationships. The book finally highlights major contributions and limitations of the investigation, and provides implications and suggestions for theory, pedagogy and research.


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2. Literature Review 27


2. Literature Review 2.1. Introduction Chapter 1 has identified the issue of long-term development of auton- omy among students in a social and institutional context as the major research gap for the present study. Although we know little about how students develop their autonomy in foreign language education in the long term (e.g., over the four academic years in university in the study), a discussion of the literature about what autonomy is and how it develops “as usual” should provide a useful background and a broad framework for the presentation and discussion of the overall findings in relation to the long-term development phenomenon in the following chapters. This is particularly important when the study adopted a “grounded theory” approach (Glaser/Strauss 1967; Strauss/Corbin 1998) to ensure maximum flexibility in conceptualizing research prob- lems and to analyze the data to allow dominant themes to emerge nat- urally (Chapter 3). This, however, entails an in-depth definition of the broad concept of autonomy and its related concepts. Therefore, in this chapter, I first define and discuss the broad theoretical concepts of autonomy, agency and identity in second/foreign language education (2.2-2.4). I then explore the possible relationship among these three concepts of autonomy, agency and identity (2.5), and highlight the rationale for integrating the notions of agency and identity into the theory of autonomy to gain a better understanding of autonomy (2.6). I conclude the chapter by briefly linking the chapter to the overall concerns of the book (2.7). 28 2.2. Autonomy in second/foreign language...

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