Date of Award

1-1-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Richard Berlach

Second Advisor

Dr Geoff Lummis

Abstract

Learner autonomy has received increased attention: in the recent language teaching and learning literature. Although Holec (1981) proposed a somewhat categorical definition of learner autonomy, this concept can be viewed in various ways depending on factors such as context and culture. One may posit, for example, that learner autonomy is based on Western values and as such, is not as easily accessible in the Asian context. With such variables in mind, the purpose of this study is to gain a greater understanding of Japanese students' beliefs regarding foreign language learning in a particular context. This is undertaken by utilising multi-modal investigation procedures, consisting of three studies. Little's learner autonomy theory is utilised throughout this study to provide the theoretical framework. The current research is divided into three interrelated studies. Study One attempt to identify high achievers' beliefs about effective foreign language learning strategies, teacher/learner roles, classroom expectations, self-motivation strategies, and their concept of the self as a learner. In Study One, Little's definition of learner autonomy is considered as the basic concept and used to examine whether or not the collected data in this research supports his theory. Study Two attempts to discover Japanese students’ beliefs and expectations about foreign language learning in a particular context, namely, learning English in Japan. Study Three reports the students’ views on inside/outside classroom environment their journal writings. The researcher takes the position, based on Little's theory, that learner autonomy means both awareness of self-direction and the need for collaboration. In addition, she believes that autonomous learning is not just a matter of offering freedom of time and space, but that internal flexibility should be given some consideration in the development of learner autonomy. Based on Study One, learner autonomy is defined as learners' internal attitude for self-motivation, which leads to effective language learning. Positive self•beliefs and metacognitive awareness con be considered as keys in promoting learner autonomy. Study Two results confirmed high achievers' higher self•efficacy beliefs as compared with average students. The high achievers tended to have more confidence in their ability to learn a language successfully and showed a greater understanding for and use of metacognitive knowledge and strategies. In Study Three, low•middle English level students' beliefs were extracted from their journals and presented in detail. These showed that confidence•building and metacognitive awareness for self•reflection affected their motivation for autonomous learning. Results suggest that teachers should not impose restrictions on their students' potential based on their external judgement of the students' capabilities. Therefore, instead of training learners to satisfy teacher expectations, or simply giving students unbounded freedom to make decisions, learner development that promotes autonomy should be more concerned with the nature of both students’ and teachers’ learning as a path towards self growth.

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