Fostering learner autonomy within constraints: Negotiation and mediation in an atmosphere of collegiality

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Abstract

In any given learning context, there are constraints on the development of learner autonomy. However, this does not mean that developing autonomy is not feasible. In this paper, I firstly describe student passivity in Bachelor of Arts Graduation Paper (BAGP) writing in a four-year BA Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program in a Chinese teachers’ university. I then present how student autonomy can be fostered within the given constraints, drawing on my own experience in supervising 15 students doing their BAGPs. I argue that possibilities for developing autonomy within these constraints depend largely on teachers’ willingness and capacity to live through a continuous process of mediation, negotiation, dialogue and personal interpretation concerning the teaching–learning content, process and environment. However, the process of negotiation and mediation for engaging autonomy should be pursued in an atmosphere of collegiality. Data used in this study were collected from interviews with students (supervisees) and teachers (supervisors) and are used in conjunction with field notes I kept over the six months during which students conducted their BAGPs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-57
Number of pages20
JournalProspect: An Australian Journal of TESOL
Volume21
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006

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