Autonomy in the transition from learner to teacher: A longitudinal multiple-case study

  • HUANG, Jing (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Originating in Europe in the 1970s, foreign/second language learner autonomy has become influential as an educational goal in many parts of the world, including “Confucian-heritage” (Biggs & Watkins, 1996) societies such as Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In recent years, it has been well recognized that the development of language learner autonomy depends largely on language teacher autonomy. Therefore, the development of teacher autonomy in pre-service and in-service teachers has become a relevant and urgent issue if we aspire to support and nurture autonomy in language learners. It is against this social-educational background that the current study is proposed.

After 30 years of research and practice, there is now a fair degree of consensus on what learner autonomy means in language education. However, since the notion of teacher autonomy has only come to the fore over the last decade, there is much less consensus on its meaning and its development processes. In a historical sense, the idea of teacher autonomy was introduced into language education by researchers who were primarily interested in the promotion of learner autonomy (Benson & Huang, 2008; Little, 1995; Smith, 2000). Therefore, what has been discussed so far in the literature is primarily about the interrelationship between language teachers’ autonomy and their students' autonomy (autonomy of different individuals). There has been, to date, very little published empirical research on the complex interaction between autonomy in language learning and autonomy in language teaching, for the same individual, over a prolonged period of time.

This research seeks to examine the nature and kinds of transition from learner to teacher autonomy that might be expected in the development of the same individual moving from a language learner context to a language teacher context. Following an interpretative-qualitative research tradition and foregrounding insider perspectives, the study investigates and compares, in depth, the learning-teaching experiences of English learners-teachers, spanning their pre-service teacher education and their first year in school teaching, in the Mainland Chinese socio-institutional contexts. The research will contribute new knowledge to the long-term development of language learner and teacher autonomy and will generate insights into pre-service and in-service language teacher education. It will also project a direction for research on autonomy: A shift away from snapshot studies of classroom and out-of-class learning towards investigations of the development of autonomy over long periods of time and in the context of the lives of institutions and the individuals who pass through them.
Effective start/end date1/01/1531/12/17

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education


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