Learner autonomy in a blended learning English language course: a case study of a Pakistani university

Ayesha, Abida (2020) Learner autonomy in a blended learning English language course: a case study of a Pakistani university. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Digital technologies are often credited with increasing access to learning opportunities and promoting learner autonomy by enabling learners to exploit digital learning resources in out-of-class contexts. However, learner autonomy is not merely about widening access. It is the capacity and willingness of learners to take responsibility for their own learning. Language learner autonomy, a concept with its origins in Europe, was considered irrelevant and impractical in Asian educational contexts because of the apparent sociocultural influences of Asian societies on learning and teaching practices. The teacher is often viewed as the only authority in the class together with the textbook and learners only follow these two important sources of knowledge. This pertains in many Pakistani public sector educational institutions. However, wider availability and increased affordability of digital technologies have changed the learning landscape. In this thesis, I argue that autonomy is not culture-specific, and learners should not be stereotyped on the basis of the society in which they are born and educated.

Using theories of autonomy proposed by Dearden (1972), Little (1991) and Benson (2013) as a theoretical foundation for the study, I investigate the concept of autonomy in a developing Asian country context. I endeavour to understand how a group of English language learners and teachers perceive and understand learner autonomy in a blended learning context. I seek to understand the attitudes of language learners and teachers towards autonomy and the use of digital technologies in language learning and teaching. I explore the learning and teaching practices that may be considered the practices of autonomy at the university. Additionally, I explore the factors that may affect the promotion of learner autonomy through blended learning in this context.

Employing a mixed method case study approach this project focuses on one professional university (NUCES) in Pakistan. Two research instruments were used to gather the data for the study: a student questionnaire completed by 150 students at three campuses of the university followed by semi-structured interviews with 21 students and nine teachers. The quantitative data from the questionnaire was analysed using descriptive statistics. The qualitative data from the interviews was analysed using thematic analysis. The two types of data were synthesised for an interpretation of the results and to provide a coherent presentation of the study findings.

The findings indicate that, contrary to the prevalent image of Pakistani students being passive and teacher-dependent, learners are not hesitant to accept and carry out their responsibility in the language learning process. Learners demonstrate a willingness to think independently and make reasoned choices and they hold positive attitudes towards using digital technology for autonomous language learning both on and off campus. Although they enjoy some control over course content at the micro level of classroom activities and tasks, at present the learners have no representation in decisions regarding course curricula. The university in my study offers some digital learning facilities to implement a blended learning approach to language learning, but, as my data suggests, this model can best be called an enhancing rather than a transforming blend at present. The data also indicates that teachers acknowledge their limited understanding of how to use digital technology beyond a few commonly known practices such as using the internet in its broadest sense. The teachers call for better training in this area in order to move towards a transforming blend at the university. In my concluding chapter, I suggest that there is a need for policy makers at the national level and within the university to ensure active learner involvement in blended learning course design, to provide substantial training to the teachers in digital language teaching pedagogies and encourage both learners and teachers to explore the available online resources for their autonomous learning and growth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from The Punjab Educational Endowment Fund (PEEF) of the government of Punjab, Pakistan.
Keywords: Learner Autonomy, digital technologies, blended learning, English language earning and teaching, Pakistan.
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Pedagogy Policy and Practice
Supervisor's Name: Hirsu, Dr. Lavinia and Hedge, Professor Nicki
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 20 October 2023
Depositing User: Dr Abida Ayesha
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81730
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2020 14:05
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2020 14:05
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81730

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