Iranian EFL Learners’ Autonomous Behavior in Out-of-class Contexts: A Call for Understanding Learners’ Personalized Approaches to Learning

Document Type: Research Paper

Authors

University of Kashan

Abstract

The salient, and often ignored, role that out-of-class learning plays in second/foreign language (L2) learners’ development is overshadowed by classroom research. The main aim of this study is to problematize the role of out-of-class learning in the specific English-as-Foreign-Language (EFL) context of Iran by examination of the ways in which four learners attempted to revamp their English language ability on their own in out-of-class settings. In so doing, we draw on the concepts of agency and autonomy in the field of L2 research to understand and explain learners’ self-directed practices for language learning within situations outside the classroom. Data were collected through in-depth interviews in which the students were asked to describe their personal approaches to English learning, use and practice in any situations beyond the classroom, most possibly hidden from their teachers. Three rounds of semi-structured interviews were carried out with the learners on an individual basis during May 2012. Thematic analysis of the interviews suggests that despite the dearth of naturalistic learning opportunities in our context, Iranian EFL learners take a variety of individual and collective initiatives to create authentic opportunities of language learning, use and practice for themselves in out-of-class contexts such as on-campus and outside the university. Based on the findings, it can be argued that in order to foster learners’ more active role in their learning, greater attention should be paid to their personally-conducted, autonomous English learning activities outside the classroom.

Keywords


Abednia, A. (2012). Teachers’ professional identity: Contributions of a critical EFL teacher education course in Iran. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28(5), 706-717.

Ahearn, L. M. (2001). Language and agency. Annual Review of Anthropology, 30, 109-137.

Ahmadi, A. & Eslami, M. (2011). Iranian bilingual schools and language institutes: Examining English language learners’ proficiency. RALS, 2(2), 74-99.

Alavinia, P. & Siyadat, M. (2013). A comparative study of English textbooks used in Iranian institutes. International Journal of Asian Social Science, 3(1), 150-170.

Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. Harlow: Longman.

Benson, P. (2011). Teaching and researching autonomy (second edition).London: Pearson.

Benson, P. & Gao, X. (2008). Individual variation and language learning strategies. In Hurd, S. & Lewis, T. (Eds.). Language learning strategies in independent settings. (pp. 25-40). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Benson, P. & Reinders, H. (Eds.). (2011). Language learning and teaching beyond the classroom: An introduction to the field. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Benson, P. & Voller, P. (Eds.). (1997). Autonomy and independence in language learning. Harlow: Longman.

Bialystok, E. (1994). Analysis and control in the development of second language proficiency. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 16, 157-168.

Boud, D. (Ed.). (1988). Developing student autonomy in learning. New York: Kogan Page.

Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006).Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Chang, L.Y.H. (2007). The influences of group processes on learners’ autonomous beliefs and behaviours. System, 35(3), 322-337.

Chick, A. (2011). Learner autonomy development through digital gameplay. Digital Culture & Education, (3)1, 30-45.

Cortina-Pérez, B. & Solano-Tenorio, L. (2013). The effect of using out-of-class contexts on EFL learners: An action research. Calidoscópio, 11(2), 167-177.

Cotterall, S. (1995). Readiness for autonomy: Investigating learner beliefs. System, 23(2), 195-206.

Cotterall, S. (2008).Autonomy and good language learners. In Griffiths, C. (Ed.). Lessons from good language learners. (pp. 110-120). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dam, L. (1995). Learner autonomy 3: From theory to classroom practice. Dublin: Authentik.

Dickinson, L. (1992). Learner autonomy 2: Learner training for language learning. Dublin: Authentik.

Domoney, L. & Harris, S. (1993). Justified and ancient: Pop music in EFL classrooms. ELT Journal47(3), 234-241.

Dörnyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics: Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methodologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, M., Leaver, B. & Oxford, R. (2003).A brief overview of individual differences in second language learning. System, 31(4), 313–330.

Farhady, H. & Hedayati, H. (2009).Language assessment policy in Iran. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 29, 132-141.

Flowerdew, J. & Miller, L. (2008). Social structure and individual agency in second language learning: Evidence from three life histories. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 5(4), 201-224.

Freeman, M. (1999). The language learning activities of students of EFL and French at two universities. Language Learning Journal, 19(1), 80-88.

Gao, X. (2009). English corner as an out-of-class learning activity. English Language Teaching Journal, 63(1), 60-67.

Gao, X., Cheng, H. & Kelly, P. (2008). Supplementing an uncertain investment? Chinese alliances for English language learning. Journal of Asia Pacific Communication, 18(1), 9-29.

Ghorbani, N., Bing, M. N., Watson, P.J., Davison, H. K. & LeBreton, D. L. (2003). Individualist and collectivist values: Evidence of compatibility in Iran and the United States. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 431-447.

Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy in foreign language learning (first published 1979, Strasbourg: Council of Europe). Oxford: Pergamon.

Huang, J. & Benson, P. (2013). Autonomy, agency and identity in foreign and second language education. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 36(1), 7-28.

Hyland, F. (2004).Learning autonomously: Contextualizing out-of-class English language learning. Language Awareness, 13(3), 180-202.

Inaba, M. (2013). What is the role of language classes in autonomous learning?: The implications from Japanese language learners’ L2 activities outside the classroom. Proceedings of ECLL, UK, Brighton, 18-21 July, 2013.

Kalaja, P., Alanen, R., Palviainen, Å. & Dufva, H. (2011). Milk cartons and English roommates: Context and agency in L2 learning. In Benson, P. and Reinders, H. (Eds.). Beyond the Language Classroom (pp.47-58). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Li, X. & Brand, M. (2009). Effectiveness of music on vocabulary acquisition, language usage and meaning for mainland Chinese ESL learners. Contributions to Music Education, 36(1), 73-84.

Little, D. (1991). Learner autonomy 1: Definitions, issues and problems. Dublin: Authentik.

Little, D. (1997). Language awareness and the autonomous language learner. Language Awareness, 6(2/3), 93-104.

Littlewood, W.T. (1999). Defining and developing autonomy in East Asian contexts. Applied Linguistics, 20(1), 71-94.

Macaro, E. (1997). Target language, collaborative learning and autonomy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Macaro, E. (2008). The shifting dimensions of language learner autonomy. In Lamb, T. and Reinders, H. (Eds.). Learner and teacher autonomy: Concepts, realities, and responses (pp. 43-62) Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Marefat, F. & Barbari, F. (2009).The relationship between out-of-class language learning strategy use and reading comprehension ability. PortaLinguarum, 12, 91-106.

Marsick, V.J. & Watkins, K. (1990). Informal and incidental learning in the workplace. London and New York: Routledge.

Maxwell, J.A. (1992). Understanding and validity in qualitative research. Harvard Educational Review, 62, 279-299.

Menezes, V. (2011).Affordances for language learning beyond the classroom. In Benson, P. and Reinders, H. (Eds.). Beyond the language classroom (pp. 59-71). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Murray, G. (2004). Two stories of self-directed language learning. Proceedings of Independent Learning conference, Australia, Melbourne, 13-14 September, 2003.

Murray, G. (2008). Pop culture and language learning: Learners’ stories informing EFL. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 2(1), 2-17.

Murray, G. & Kojima, M. (2007). Out-of-class learning: One learner’s story. In Benson, P. (Ed.). Learner autonomy 8: Teacher and learner perspectives (pp. 25-40). Dublin: Authentik.

Nunan, D. (1995). Closing the gap between learning and instruction. TESOL Quarterly, 29(1),133-158.

Oxford, R.L. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.

Palfreyman, D. (2006). Social context and resources for language learning. System, 34(3), 352-370.

Palfreyman, D. & Smith, R. C. (Eds.). (2003). Learner autonomy across cultures: Language education perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Papi, M. (2010). The L2 motivational self system, L2 anxiety and motivated behavior: A structural equation modeling approach. System, 38, 467-479.

Pickard, N. (1996). Out-of-class language learning strategies. English Language Teaching Journal, 50(2), 150-159.

Pearson, N. (2004). The idiosyncrasies of out-of-class language learning: A study of mainland Chinese students studying English at tertiary level in New Zealand. Proceedings of the CILA, Australia, Melbourne, 13-14 September, 2003.

Polkinghorne, D.E. (2005). Language and meaning: Data collection in qualitative research. Journal of counseling psychology, 52(2), 137-145.

Reinders, H. (2010). Towards a classroom pedagogy for learner autonomy: A framework of independent language learning skills. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35(5), 40-55.

Roohani, A. & Rabiei, S. (2013). Exploring language learning strategy use: The role of multiple intelligences, L2 proficiency and gender. JTLS, 5(3), 41-64.

Ryan, S. M. (1997). Preparing learners for independence: Resources beyond the classroom. In Benson, P. &Voller, P. (Eds.). Autonomy and independence in language learning (pp. 215-224). London: Longman.

Shedivy, S. L. (2004). Factors that lead some students to continue the study of foreign language past the usual two years in high school. System, 32(1), 103-119.

Spratt, M., Humphreys, G. & Chan, V. (2002). Autonomy and motivation: Which comes first? Language Teaching Research, 6(3), 245-256.

Strauss, A.L. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Sage: London.

Toohey, K. & Norton, B. (2003).Learner autonomy as agency in sociocultural settings. In Palfreyman, D. & Smith, R.C. (Eds.). Learner autonomy across cultures (pp. 58-72). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ushioda, E. (2011). Why autonomy? Insights from motivation theory and research. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 221-232.

Van Lier, L. (2008). Agency in the classroom. In Lantlof, J.P. and Poehner, M.E. (Eds.). Sociocultural theory and the teaching of second languages (pp. 163-186). London: Equinox.

Wenden, A. (1998). Metacognitive knowledge and language learning. Applied Linguistics, 19(4), 515-537.