Teacher autonomy in a context of Chinese tertiary education: case studies of EFL teachers

  • Nana Long

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis reports on a multiple case study of four EFL teachers’ long-term development of autonomy in a particular Chinese mainland university. Each teacher was selected as a holistic case because of their variations in dispositions, backgrounds, experiences, and trajectories of development. It addresses three major research questions: 1) How do the teachers control over the multiple aspects of their teacher work across time and contexts? 2) What are the major individual and contextual factors that facilitate and constrain the development of teacher autonomy? 3) How do teacher identities affect the development of teacher autonomy? The study adopted many narrative forms of data collection instruments, including (auto)biographies, interviews, casual conversations, questionnaire, complemented by classroom observations, staff meeting observations, and documents, in order to understand teacher autonomy from the lived experiences of the four teacher participants throughout their careers and lives. By examining the concept of teacher autonomy through the lens of teacher identity, this study analyzed how four teacher participants exercised different degrees of autonomy at different stages of their teaching, research, and administrative roles. It provides a holistic picture of zigzagging pathways towards teacher autonomy across the whole course of their careers. It then discussed how the teachers’ autonomy was facilitated and constrained by contextual and individual factors across time. Based on the findings, this study proposes a conceptual framework to illustrate the close relationship between teacher identity and teacher autonomy, and this relationship’s dynamic and unstable nature across time and contexts. It also suggests there is an urgent need for teacher autonomy scholarship to broaden its scope by moving beyond language teaching and learning to more crucial aspects of language teachers’ daily work and to explore the development of teacher autonomy in a long-term process.

Date of Award18 Oct 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSandy S C LI (Supervisor) & Jing HUANG (Supervisor)

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • English language
  • English teachers
  • Study and teaching (Higher)
  • Teaching
  • Freedom of

Cite this