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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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3. Context and methodology 79


3. Context and methodology 3.1. Introduction In this chapter, I first provide a detailed account of the research con- text where the study was conducted (3.2). I then justify the option for an interpretative qualitative research approach (3.3), and discuss gen- eral issues concerning research access (3.4) and research credibility (3.5). Following the discussion of these broader issues, I describe and discuss the overall process of data collection and analysis which re- flects the “cyclical nature of the interpretative qualitative research en- terprise” (Davis 1995: 444) (3.6). 3.2. Research context This section provides information about the university (LU) and the Foreign Language School (FLS) where the students conducted their EFL and TEFL learning, the four-year BA TEFL programme, the staff and the students, based on information in the university website (not provided for confidential reason), the 2008 Prospectus, relevant doc- uments, and on my long-term participant observation and fieldnotes, and my insider knowledge. A key point I would like to highlight is the two conflicting, “pro-autonomy” and “pragmatic” discourses preva- lent in the institutional context. The description of the research context might also help explain why an interpretative qualitative research ap- proach discussed in Section 3.3 was appropriate for the current study. 80 3.2.1. LU and FLS As briefly mentioned in Chapter 1, LU where the current study was conducted is a non-prestigious, teacher-education university which is around 500 kilometres away from the provincial capital of an econom- ically advanced coastal province in mainland China4. LU has been growing fast...

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