Measuring language learner autonomy in tertiary-level learners of English
Dixon, David (Researcher in Applied linguistics)
The thesis aims to explore the viability of using a quantitative instrument to measure language learner autonomy and investigate whether such an instrument has a function in supporting teachers and learners in the development of learner autonomy. The research developed into a critical reflexive approach which probed the theoretical and design issues surrounding the development of a quantitative autonomy-measurement instrument by actually attempting to produce such an instrument. This approach means that I could experience and examine first-hand the theoretical and practical issues which the quantified measurement of autonomy\ud would involve. The main conclusions of this research were, firstly, that the aim of measuring learner autonomy needs to be recast in the light of the research which indicated that it is necessary to understand autonomy as a quality which has only an abstract existence if it is not instantiated in a context. This means that the aim of producing an instrument which measures an abstract universal learner autonomy cannot be achieved. However, such an instrument can be used to monitor learners in autonomyrelevant\ud areas and can serve a useful purpose in scaffolding the learners in their environment in order to facilitate the dialogue which enables a teacher to support the learners better in the development and maintenance of their autonomous learning. Secondly, teacher estimates of their learners' autonomy can be complemented and\ud assisted by using the data provided by the quantitative instrument developed in this research. Another outcome was that the translation of instruments in second language teaching research is an issue which needs to be given more serious consideration and should be carried out in a more principled way than it is currently.
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