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Evaluating an Independent Learning Programme at Tertiary English Language Centre in Hong Kong

Implications for the Theory and Practice of Autonomy in Learning



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Evaluating an Independent Learning Programme at Tertiary English Language Centre in Hong Kong by Nalini Chavali
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This dissertation, "Evaluating an Independent Learning Programme at Tertiary English Language Centre in Hong Kong: Implications for the Theory and Practice of Autonomy in Learning" by Nalini, Chavali, was obtained from The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong) and is being sold pursuant to Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License. The content of this dissertation has not been altered in any way. We have altered the formatting in order to facilitate the ease of printing and reading of the dissertation. All rights not granted by the above license are retained by the author. Abstract: The literature on autonomy in language education has primarily focused on the development of a theoretical basis for the construct of autonomy and the implementation of educational initiatives aimed at fostering it. Research on the efficacy of autonomous learning has examined the more accessible aspects such as self-access learning and a range of factors that influence its development. Comparatively speaking, the evaluation of autonomous learning initiatives remains on the peripheral limits of research in the field. This study was aimed at addressing this perceived gap in the literature. In evaluating the autonomy-enhancing initiatives offered at the English Language Centre of a major university in Hong Kong, the study adopted a grounded theory approach to understand the social world of the Centre in which participants' behaviours and practices contribute to a particular culture of learning. The evaluation was informed by data from interviews, observations, questionnaires, and learner portfolios documenting tutors and learners' experience of autonomous learning. It was designed to gain an understanding of participants' perceptions of programme reality and of how the programme itself was situated towards achieving its goal of fostering learner autonomy. Evaluation outcomes have created a composite picture of the socially constructed nature of the construct of learner autonomy. The insights gained into the value systems that exist in this social setting have shown how, despite the lingering influence of beliefs ingrained in past experiences, individuals' perceptions have evolved with exposure to new learning environments. Learners have exploited the freedom extended within this social context to create personally relevant and meaningful learning experiences that have enabled them to examine existing understandings and progress towards developing new identities as proactive individuals. Tutors have functioned as reflective professionals and created their own spheres of influence to stimulate understanding of learning processes and position their learners favourably towards the self-management of learning. Constraints characteristic of innovation introduced in institutional contexts have resulted in tensions arising at the interface of beliefs and engagement for both tutors and learners. However, they have been able to conceptualise the freedom that autonomy pre-supposes in terms of negotiating situational constraints and working with the possibilities within their context and have progressed towards establishing some control over their practices. The study has substantiated the notion of autonomy as a socially embedded phenomenon. While psychological ideals such as motivation, willingness and ability influence its development, the social environment which is organised to extend a range of meaningful options that develop and support an individual's autonomy is also of significance, as it ensures that the exercise of autonomy has value in terms of what an individual needs to achieve in life. It thus highlights the importance of providing learning experiences that are personally relevant and meaningful, as they position the learner not only for autonomy in learning, but also towards the overarching concept of autonomy in life. Finally, the study also provides s
Release date NZ
January 26th, 2017
colour illustrations
Country of Publication
United States
Open Dissertation Press
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