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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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4. Learner experiences and agendas: outlining pathways towards autonomy 123


4. Learner experiences and agendas: outlining pathways towards autonomy 4.1. Introduction This chapter provides a background for the students in the study and a whole picture of their experiences, concerns and difficulties in EFL and TEFL learning, and outlines important issues and themes for fur- ther exploration in subsequent chapters. The central purpose of the chapter is to explore students’ pathways towards autonomy in the two interrelated processes of EFL learning and TEFL learning throughout the four-year BA TEFL programme in a teacher-education university. These objectives are conceptualized as the following research ques- tions: 1) What are the major concerns and difficulties that students have experienced at the various stages throughout the four-year BA TEFL programme? 2) How do they come to terms with the concerns and difficulties? For example, how do they establish their personal agendas and what initiatives do they take at the various stages in response to the concerns and difficulties? This chapter draws on various data sources especially EFL and TEFL learning autobiographies by the 2002-cohort students, EFL learning accounts by the 2003-cohort students, and interviews with students of the 2002, 2003 and 2005 cohorts. Interviews and informal conversa- tions with teachers, and observation notes are also used as supplemen- tary data. My knowledge of the context as a previous teacher before I started the study also contributes to my understanding of relevant phe- nomena and issues. In the following sections, dominant themes of students’ experi- ences, concerns and difficulties in EFL (and also TEFL) learning...

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