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Learner and Teacher Autonomy in Higher Education: Perspectives from Modern Language Teaching

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Edited By Manuel Jiménez Raya, José Javier Martos Ramos and Maria Giovanna Tassinari

This volume seeks to foster the development of teacher and learner autonomy in language learning in higher education. It pools the insights and experiences of a group of international researchers who present their reflections and research on different aspects of autonomy and related issues. Although autonomy is acknowledged as one of the main goals of education, in higher education the need for accountability and standardisation of learning outcomes may constitute external limitations to its development. In order to overcome teaching traditions and mainstream academic culture, teachers may need to reorient themselves and face the challenge of a substantial change involving their own and their learners’ beliefs, their practice and their role in the institution.

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Understanding Language Learners’ Teacher Dependence in China (Jian (Tracy) Tao & Xuesong (Andy) Gao)

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Jian (Tracy) Tao

(The University of Hong Kong)

Xuesong (Andy) Gao

(The University of Hong Kong)

Understanding Language Learners’ Teacher Dependence in China

1.    Introduction

There has been a deeply entrenched belief among language educators that Asian students, particularly Chinese students, are passive, obedient and reticent learners who rarely challenge teachers because of their cultural upbringing (Cortazzi & Jin, 1996; Hu, 2002; Wen & Clement, 2003). For this reason, researchers wonder whether learner autonomy is an appropriate pedagogical goal for language educators since many Asian students appear to be highly dependent on teachers, including those regarded as coming from Confucian Heritage Cultural (‘CHC’) contexts which include China, Korea and Japan. However, such stereotypical perceptions of teacher-dependent Asian learners have not fully considered the fact that Confucian ideas have been interpreted in different ways historically and not all of them stress individual reverence for authority (Yao, 2000). In fact, large-scale comparative surveys have revealed that there are actually fewer differences between Asian and European students than between individuals within a country (Littlewood, 2000, 2001). They also fail to understand that language learners’ classroom behaviour is both context-dependent and culturally shaped (Gieve & Clark, 2005; Shi, 2008). Since significant sociocultural changes have been taking place in many CHC contexts, it is necessary for language educators to re-evaluate their stereotypical perceptions of language learners’ teacher dependence so that they can better assist students in autonomous language learning....

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