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

Document Type: Research Paper


University of Kashan


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.


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