Examining Learner Autonomy in Foreign Language Learning and Instruction

Nadıran TANYELİ* and Sıtkıye KUTER
Eastern Mediterranean University


Problem Statement: In the field of 21st Century education, curriculum designers are increasingly focusing their attention on quality of learning and learner development in foreign language instruction. The movement towards learner-centred approach has led to an emphasis on the value of learner autonomy in promoting learner development. According to Cottorall (2000), although learner autonomy is a vital part of language learning, it is not sufficiently supported in language learning program designs.

Purpose of Study: The purpose of this case study is to examine freshman Law students’ perceptions as regards their autonomy in writing classes and their teachers’ perceptions of the writing skill area of the curriculum in promoting learner autonomy in the Foreign Language and English Preparatory School. The investigation of the existing situation in these classes provided a comprehensive analysis of the instructional processes in promoting autonomy in writing skills and shed light upon the themes to be reconsidered in the writing skill area of the curriculum.

Method: Two-hundred freshman Law students enrolled in English I course and six English language teachers teaching these students formed the study group of the research. As a research method, mixed-method approach was adopted and data were collected through a questionnaire and interview protocols. The validity of the questionnaire was ensured through expert opinion and pilot testing. The factor analysis for the questionnaire was done and the Cronbach’s Alpha reliability was measured as .92. The data gathered via interview protocols were subjected to content analysis through thematic coding. The credibility and objectivity of the qualitative data were sustained through method triangulation, expert opinions, and an inquiry auditor.

Findings: The findings exhibited that students tend to have positive attitudes towards language learning, yet they do not perceive themselves as autonomous learners in both learning and writing skill. As far as teachers’ perceptions are concerned, instructional environment, materials and strategies were found to be inhibiting students’ autonomy. What is more, students’ problems in language use and their dependence on teachers were reported to be impeding their autonomy in learning.

Conclusion and Recommendations: Although students reported having positive attitudes towards language learning, the data triangulated from students’ and teachers’ perspectives suggest parity in that students are not autonomous learners of English. In this regard, the writing skill area of the curriculum and the instructional processes were reported to embrace problems in promoting students’ autonomy in learning and writing. Further studies, through qualitative research methods should be conducted for the thorough examination of learner autonomy in language learning and the problems students face during this process through qualitative research methods.

Keywords: English language curriculum, writing skill, learner autonomy, autonomy in language learning.