Learner Autonomy in KSA EFL Classes

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Transcript of Learner Autonomy in KSA EFL Classes

A Case Study of Preparatory Year Students at Tabuk University
By
A Case Study of Preparatory Year Students at Tabuk University
By
the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
in
Dr. Abdulgadir Mohammed Ali Adam Dr. Ahmed Gasm Asseed Ahmed
17th July, 2016
A Case Study of Preparatory Year Students at Tabuk University
By
Dr. Ahmed Gasm Assed Ahmed Co-supervisor
Date of Examination: 17/7/2016
A Case Study of Preparatory Year Students at Tabuk University
By
Prof. Abdul Majeed Atteyib Umer External Examiner
Dr. El Mubarak El Siddig Saeed Internal Examiner
Date of Examination: 17/7 /2016
i
DEDICATION
To the soul of my father and to my mother.
To my sons Mohammed, Wael, Hatim,
Husam and Mohanned. To my wife and my
daughter.
ii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I am greatly indebted to my supervisor Dr. Abdulgadir Mohammed Ali for his
guidance, encouragement and his valuable help during this study, without his support this
research might never have been completed.
I am particularly thankful to Dr. Ahmed Gasm Asseed, my Co-supervisor for his
guidance during this study and invaluable support. Dr. Ahmed Khider Ahmed Othman
deserves particular acknowledgment for his generous support, his instrumental role in the
process of the submission of the proposal, and his patience that has been an encouraging
force that kept me moving forward. A special thanks goes to Dr. Srinivasa Rao one of my
colleagues, who spent time proofreading this study and offered me useful constructive
suggestions. I must thank my brother Dr. Mohammed Abdalla Nour for his continuous
encouragement and support all through this thesis work.
I would like to thank Dr. Abulrahman Al Fahadi for his immediate acceptance to
my request to execute the questionnaire and conduct classroom observations at the PYEP
of Tabuk University. Particular regards should go to Dr. Yasser Bilal for his continuous
assistance and quick responses to my queries. I am deeply indebted to my brother Badawi
Abdalla Nour for his help at times of printing, photocopying and carrying the documents to
the statistical experts. I must offer my great appreciation to my family who missed a lot of
their private time that I must reserve for them.
Finally, many thanks are due to all the colleagues for their active participation in
piloting and answering the questionnaire. And I am grateful to my students who
immediately agreed to respond to the questionnaire and supported in developing this work
to fruition.
iii
Learner Autonomy in KSA EFL Classes: A Case Study of Preparatory Year Students at Tabuk University Ali Abdalla Nour Mohammed Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics (July, 2016) Department of Foreign Languages Faculty of Education- Hasahisa University of Gezira
ABSTRACT
The present study aims at investigating autonomous learning activities of the
Preparatory Year English Program (PYEP) students at University of Tabuk (UT) in the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). It explores the students’ perceptions of their own roles
and of their teachers’, and how the students’ autonomous learning activities are perceived
by their teachers. The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods. The data was
collected through two questionnaires and videos of classroom observation. The sample of
the study from which subjects were drawn can be divided into two categories; students
from PYP (80 students) and teachers who were teaching the students (50 teachers). The
data obtained was analyzed by using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). The
findings showed that most of the students at UT in PYEP are not autonomous English
language learners to take responsibility of their learning English properly. The study also
found out that learners do not recognize their own and their teachers’ responsibility in
learning English. The results also showed that students do not perform the outside
classroom activities well. Concerning their proficiency level, the findings revealed that
students are not motivated language learners. The study is concluded with a set of
recommendations including: authorities should implement learners’ autonomy in PYEP at
UT education and teachers should be trained on how to foster learner autonomy. It is also
important to develop and train students on how to be intrinsically motivated English
language learners. However, the students should depend largely on themselves rather than
on their teachers. The researcher recommends that further research should be conducted to
address the weakness of students’ English at the level of pre-university education. The
researcher also recommends a further study on how culture influences the way students
socially perceive learning English.
iv
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5 1.4 Questions of Study
5 1.5 Significance of the Study
5 1.6 Limitation of the study
5 1.7 Method of the Research
6 1.8 Samples of the Study
6 1.9 Tools of Data Collection
6 1.10 Definition of Terms and List of Abbreviations
Chapter Two: Literature Review 8 2.0 Introduction
8 2.1 Etymology of Autonomy
9 2.2 Definitions of Learner Autonomy
14 2.3 What does the teacher do?
15 2.4 Is learner autonomy important?
18 2.5 Learner-centeredness and Learner Autonomy
19 2.6 Fostering Autonomy
28 2.8 Autonomous Learning and Motivation
31 2.9 New Technologies and New Literacy Practices in Language Learning
vi
40 2.12 Learner Autonomy and Vocabulary Learning
44 2.13 Previous Studies
56 3.1 Population of the Study
56 3.2 Samples of the Study
56 3.3 Tools of Data Collection
60 3.4 Reliability and Validity of the Students’ Questionnaire
61 3.5 Procedures for Data Collection
61 3.6 Piloting
62 4.0 Introduction
87 4.2 Testing the Hypotheses for Students’ Questionnaire
88 4.3 Data Analysis and Discussion of the Teachers Questionnaire
89 4.4 Testing Hypotheses for Teachers’ Questionnaire
93 4.5 Data Analysis and Discussion of the Classrooms Observation
96 4.6 Conclusion
97 5.0 Introduction
97 5.1 Findings
98 5.2 Recommendations
99 5.4 Conclusion
12
Table (3.1) The distribution of Socio-demographic Characteristics of the Study Participants 57
Table (4.1.1) Trying to write down every new word or structure that I heard 62
Table (4.1.2) Trying to take part in the activities where and when I can speak English. 64
Table (4.1.3) Trying to find learning aids that match my level to better learn English. 65
Table (4.1.4) Planning English learning process 66
Table (4.1.5) Using free time in learning English 67
Table (4.1.6) Taking notes during lessons 68
Table (4.1.7) Reading extra materials in advance 69
Table (4.1.8) Using the internet and a computer to study and improve English language 70
Table (4.1.9) Responsibility for enabling students to understand English 71
Table (4.1.10) Teachers’ classroom management 72
Table (4.1.11) Transmitting knowledge to students 73
Table (4.1.12) Teachers explain everything to students 74
Table (4.1.13) Students’ feedback 75
Table (4.1.14) Highlighting the items that don’t understand in the classroom 76
Table (4.1.15) Doing speaking activities in pairs and groups 77
Table (4.1.16) Finding out answer to problems wherever possible 78
Table (4.1.17) Rewarding when making progress in learning 79
Table (4.1.18) Participation is valuable for chosen career 80
Table (4.1.19) sometimes doing homework to please teacher 81
Table (4.1.20) Participation in the classroom for the enjoyment of the activity 82
Table (4.1.21) Attending seminars, training courses and conferences for improving
English 83
Table (4.1.22) Using audio-visual materials to improve speaking abilities 84
Table (4.1.23) Going to library for English books 85
Table (4.1.24) Talking to people outside the classroom in English 86
viii
Table (4.2.1) Provides general descriptive information at the item level 88
Table (4.2.2) Hypothesis one components 89
Table (4.2.3) Hypothesis two components 90
Table (4.2.4) Hypothesis three components 91
Table (4.5) Hypothesis four components 92
ix
LIST OF Figures
Figures Page Fig (3.1) Respondents’ distribution due to variable of Experience
58
Fig (3.2) Respondents’ distribution due to variable of Graduation degree 59
Fig (3.3) Respondents’ distribution due to variable of Nationality 59
Fig (4.1.1) Trying to write down every new word or structure that I heard 63
Fig (4.1.2) Trying to take part in the activities where and when I can speak English. 64
Fig (4.1.3) Trying to find learning aids that match my level to better learn English. 65
Fig (4.1.4) Planning English learning process 66
Fig (4.1.5) Using free time in learning English 67
Fig (4.1.6) Taking notes during lessons 68
Fig (4.1.7) Reading extra materials in advance 69
Fig (4.1.8) Using the internet and a computer to study and improve English language 70
Fig (4.1.9) Responsibility for enabling students to understand English 71
Fig (4.1.10) Teachers’ classroom management 72
Fig (4.1.11) Transmitting knowledge to students 73
Fig (4.1.12) Teachers explain everything to students 74
Fig (4.1.13) Students’ feedback 75
Fig (4.1.14) Highlighting the items that don’t understand in the classroom 76
Fig (4.1.15) Doing speaking activities in pairs and groups 77
Fig (4.1.16) Finding out answer to problems wherever possible 78
Fig (4.1.17) Rewarding when making progress in learning 79
Fig (4.1.18) Participation is valuable for chosen career 80
Fig (4.1.19) sometimes doing homework to please teacher 81
Fig (4.1.20) Participation in the classroom for the enjoyment of the activity 82
Fig (4.1.21) Attending seminars, training courses and conferences for improving
English 83
Table (4.1.22) Using audio-visual materials to improve speaking abilities 84
Table (4.1.23) Going to library for English books 85
x
Fig (4.1.24) Talking to people outside the classroom in English 86
1
1.0 Background
Over the last forty years and as a consequence of the transformational views in the
field of English Language Teaching, a great emphasis has been put on the role of learners
in language learning. That is, language teachers started to put students at the center of
classroom activities, respecting their roles, needs, strategies and styles in contributing to
learning. This resulted in the emergence of the notion of learner-centered teaching that
views language learning as a collaborative process between teachers and learners rather
than a set of rules teachers transfer to learners in what is called teacher-centered teaching.
According to Tudor (1993) learner-centeredness is not a method, nor may it be decreased
to a set of rules. However, it is an approach, which views students to have more active and
participatory roles in the teaching-learning process than in traditional methods.
Additionally, this method requires different classroom activities, the structures of which
are decided by students themselves. This leads to more learner involvement and
motivation. There is also a parallel change in the teacher’s role in the classroom. In this
trend, the teacher is less likely to dominate classroom events as in traditional classrooms
methodology where the most prevailing teaching-learning mode was teacher-centered
teaching and the teacher in this situation is the man of the show who is in tight control of
all learners' behaviors. Learners' roles, however, are rather ignored and teachers are
considered the only source of knowledge.
Autonomous learning can be taken as the ability to think, understand and learn
habitually by oneself. Many people think that autonomous learning is a desirable
development of the students in higher education. Autonomous learning is considered to be
a habit that is to be acquired. However, the acquisition of such a habit needs some training
in case of a majority of learners in spite of the fact that it’s an automatic process in some
learners. Many studies report that autonomy in learning at the HE (Higher Education)
level is crucial in developing important attributes like organized thinking, acting upon the
impulses of curiosity and working over the existent problems in order to create better
substitutes.
2
There were recent reports of research studies on the importance of promoting
learner autonomy by helping the learners identify their goals and supporting them
throughout the process of achieving the goals by creating the social contexts and bringing
about an awareness of those contexts in all the learners. However, in spite of the fact that
the teachers and the learners have responsibilities from their side in achieving the goals of
learner autonomy, whether the teachers and the learners in the classroom context are really
dispensing their responsibilities is a topic of research for many scholars. According to
Benson (2001) and Little (2007) learner autonomy is the outcome of the teachers practices
that can be manifested in their interaction with their learners. Although teachers’
consistent interaction with their learners is desirable in achieving learner autonomy, studies
are required on the kind of interaction that is more effective in achieving learner autonomy.
Urun,D emir & Ankar (2014) note that the learner autonomy is closely related to the
constructivism that encourages the learner to build their own knowledge and act in
accordance with their learning needs and interests. The later concept of communicative
language teaching is considered to be a substitute to the constructivism. In fact the
concepts of constructivism and communicative language teaching have been recognized as
the crucial factors in promoting learner autonomy in EFL context by the ministries of
education and policy makers in many countries. In contrast to the traditional grammar
translation method that lays a greater emphasis on the grammar rules, many scholars
reported that in language teaching focus must be laid much on using a language for
communication rather than on grammar rules. Wikipedia mentions that the
resourcefulness, initiative and persistence are the crucial factors for leaner autonomy in
high school level students. One can’t find a consistent increase of learner autonomy in all
the students from their lower grades to the upper grades; instead researches show a
dramatic progress in achieving learner autonomy after the high school levels. In fact
learner autonomy is an outcome of the research works on the importance of self-driven
learning by adults. Self-driven learning skill is an important skill that can enhance the other
skills quite so naturally. And it is quite a necessity in case of adult learners to keep
updating and upgrading their knowledge in their own way. The relation between self-
driven learning and learner autonomy are so well composed that both of them are
concerned with the way the learners should think, the way they need to learn and the way
that they can have control of their learning. However, autonomous learners can feel
complete responsibility and decision-making in contrast to the self-driven learners who
wouldn’t assume responsibility for their decision-making.
3
Bedoya (2014) notes that the most important contribution on learner autonomy has
been the one by Benson and Voller (1997) who held that learner autonomy can be viewed
from the technical, political and psychological perspectives upon understanding the
connections between the principles, the approaches to learning and the accounts of
autonomy. Furthermore, they think that learner autonomy is more of a psychological
conception since it is concerned with the behaviors and attitudes. From Nunan’s (1997)
point of view learner autonomy is not something that the students can have in quantifiable
measures; instead it is degree that we can observe in every individual. This study will
investigate autonomous learning at University of Tabuk (UT) Preparatory year learners. It
will be carried out at the preparatory year program (PYEP) at Tabuk University Tabuk,
Saudi Arabia. Like many learners in Saudi Arabia, they experienced the process of
learning through traditional educational methods, which reinforced didactic and teacher-
centered modes. English language learners at (PYEP), Tabuk University, believe that
English learning is difficult and complicated. At university level, learners should be
trained to become autonomous and make conscious effort to learn English inside and
outside classrooms simply because exposure to target language inside class room is limited
and not enough for students to acquire good language. To be autonomous learners is very
important to develop and enhance their English learning. These English language learners
prefer learning in which the teacher is in full control of the learning process and they are
left with very little or no choice, and control over the content and method of study. In such
context of the study, the researcher will attempt to find out whether the students of the
preparatory year are autonomous learners or not.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
The researcher, as an English language teacher, observes that some of the Saudi
students at the Preparatory Year Program at University of Tabuk encounter some
difficulties in perceiving their own and their teachers’ role in learning English. It appears
that they are not interacted in doing some activities such as participation in the classroom.
These are not willing to learn English and they lack self-confidence. As a result, they are
unable to do their classroom tasks and develop themselves in learning English properly and
efficiently. So, the researcher is going to investigate the real cause of the problem.
4
1.2 Objectives of the Study
The main objectives of the study are to investigate the autonomous activities of the
students in acquiring English language and explore their beliefs about the role of teachers
and their own role in learning and find out the perspectives of their teachers on learners’
autonomy. Teachers bring their own educational beliefs into the classroom and these
beliefs must be considered and evaluated. It is commonly accepted that the meaning of
learner autonomy may differ from culture to culture and from person to person according
to differences in beliefs. So, the study intends to:
a. define the concept of autonomous learning,
b. find out whether the students of PYEP at UT are autonomous learners or not,
c. measure the level of motivation in learning English for preparatory students at UT,
d. understand whether the preparatory students at UT understand their own and their
teachers’ responsibilities in learning English,
e. investigate the learner's performance in the activities outside and inside the
classroom in learning English, and
f. examine the differences in the learners’ motivation levels in learning English.
1.3 Questions of the Study
This study will be conducted by answering the following questions:
a. What is the level of motivation for learning English among the preparatory students
at UT?
b. How do the learners perceive their own and their teachers’ responsibilities in
learning English?
c. To what extent do the learners perform the outside classroom activities and
English language assignments?
d. Are there any differences in students’ motivation to learn English?
1.4 Hypotheses of the Study
This study will investigate autonomous learning at UT, PYEP. The researcher will
try to find out whether the students are autonomous learners or not, which deemed to be
related to the following hypotheses:
a. The students in PYEP at UT are unwilling to take the responsibility of learning
English properly.
5
b. The students in PYEP at UT do not observe their teachers' responsibilities in
learning English.
c. The students in PYEP at UT do not show any interest in dealing with their own
language learning through doing homework and assignments.
d. There are differences in the learners’ motivation levels in learning English with
regard to their proficiency level.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The findings of this study will be useful and helpful in gaining insight on how
autonomy is important for students to be self-reliant and also it gives an insight into
aspects of learning and teaching that might influence the way in which learners practice
learner autonomy. Also it helps the authorities at PYEP in gaining insight into the learning
contexts that can be selected/created and improved for promoting learners’ independence.
As Nunan (1998: 3) suggests, not everything can be taught in class. Also, findings will be
helpful for English language teachers in designing and developing suitable materials for
their students. Finally, the findings will be useful in identifying the student's needs in
learning English language.
1.6 Limitation of the Study
This study is devoted to investigate learner autonomy at PYEP, Tabuk University.
The population of the study will be Preparatory Year students at Tabuk University and
their teachers as well. The questionnaire will be distributed among the target sample of…