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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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6. Learner perspectives on the university learning environment 215


6. Learner perspectives on the university learning environment 6.1. Introduction One of the overall purposes of the current study is to explore the pos- sibilities for and constraints on EFL (and TEFL) learner autonomy in the Chinese university EFL context from insider (especially learner) perspectives. Chapter 5 has presented learner perspectives on teacher- student role relationships to examine their possible impact on learner agency and autonomy. This chapter takes a further look at the imme- diate learning-teaching context to examine how learner autonomy might be afforded or constrained through the presentation and analysis of mainly students’ views and attitudes towards contextual factors which might mostly concern their learning and lives in university. In addition, while Chapter 5 has generated insights into the issue of learner readiness for autonomy, the present chapter may provide a chance to explore a concerned issue of teacher and institutional readi- ness for autonomy in the Chinese university EFL context. The chapter addresses the following broad question: What do students say about the university learning environment? The issue of constraints on autonomy and possibilities for the development of autonomy within constraints has been explored in my earlier study (Huang 2006b), drawing on a small part of the data col- lected for the current research, using as a particular case the BAGP writing project for the research participants (the 2002-cohort students). The present chapter takes a broader look at major contextual factors affecting students’ learning in the immediate context. Based on the data, these factors included teachers...

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