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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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9. Contributions, recommendations and conclusions 333


9. Contributions, recommendations and conclusions 9.1. Introduction As pointed out in Chapter 1, this study is one of the first investigations into the long-term development of autonomy among students in a par- ticular social and institutional context. In exploring this long-term de- velopment issue, it has explicitly linked the idea of autonomy to the notions of agency and identity and has given primary attention to learner perspectives on relevant educational issues. With reference to these and other related points, the present chapter highlights the con- tributions and limitations of the study, suggests directions for further research, and provides recommendations for the promotion of auton- omy in foreign language education. 9.2. Contributions 9.2.1. An explanatory framework for the long-term development of autonomy Taking a long-term development view of autonomy, the current study was able to demonstrate (1) how the often-ignored “little events, ordi- nary things” (Oxford 2001: 86) affected students’ learning at different learning stages (these “little events, ordinary things” included students’ target language difficulty, their expectation of teacher care and guid- ance in their personal lives in addition to learning, external examina- tions, and “normal” routine teaching administration); (2) how the de- velopment of their autonomy was related to configurations of their formal, curriculum-based and informal, extracurricular learning expe- 334 riences and their own interpretations of their learning experiences; and, (3) how the context (especially the institutional culture and discourses) shaped their self-identity construction, and guided their establishment of personally relevant agendas and their exercise of personal agency selectively to...

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