Learner autonomy in the UAE context : an investigation of students’ beliefs and conceptions of autonomy in learning English language

Al Ghazali, F 2011, Learner autonomy in the UAE context : an investigation of students’ beliefs and conceptions of autonomy in learning English language , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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This study investigates the beliefs of United Arab Emirates (UAE) secondary school students about autonomy in learning English. Given the extreme language diversity in the UAE, it is imperative that Emirati citizens excel in English due to its position as the lingua franca of the business and social segments. In second language learning, autonomy is presented as a promising learning construct associated with effective learning (Little, 1999). It is also seen as a multi-faceted theme with psychological and philosophical ramifications, which does not exist in one form or degree (Benson and Lor, 1999). This variation makes it impossible to have one version of autonomy that can be applicable in all contexts. It is accordingly necessary to investigate students' beliefs about autonomy in their context to understand how they interpret it, the factors that influence practising it, and the possibilities of promoting it from the standpoint of students themselves. Two instruments were used in this study. Focus Group Interviews (FGIs) provided a research instrument to identify students' representations of autonomy and these were used to devise questionnaire items for subsequent wider use. A Likert-type questionnaire was then applied to investigate the attitudes of a large sample of respondents (523 students) regarding the ideas originating from participants' contributions in the FGIs. Based on the thematic analysis of data in the FGIs and factor and descriptive analyses of students' responses to the questionnaire items, it was found that the sociocultural context, economic features, and curricular system all have great impact on students' understanding of autonomy in their context. The analysis also showed that the form of autonomy exhibited by students is influenced by their linguistic needs and learning agenda. Course-oriented autonomy and proficiency-related autonomy are two forms students practise simultaneously in pursuit of learning objectives. The data also showed that the UAE students did not interpret autonomy as synonymous with total detachment or solitude; they believe teachers have facilitating roles in enhancing their autonomy. The discussion of results showed how the concepts of particularity, practicality, and possibility (Kumaravadivelu, 2001) are represented in the UAE setting. The thesis argues that enhancing autonomy requires improving the learning context to allow more opportunities for students to express the autonomy they already have.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Etherington, S (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Humanities, Languages & Social Sciences
Depositing User: Institutional Repository
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2021 12:58
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 11:23
URI: https://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/61338

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