Teachers’ and Students’ Perceptions of Language Learning Autonomy and Its Implications in the Classroom: A Case Study of English and German Teachers and their 9th Grade Students
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The present study explored English as a second language (EFL) and German as a foreign language (GFL) teachers’ and learners’ beliefs and classroom practices concerning learner autonomy at a secondary comprehensive school. Mixed methods were used: classroom observations, questionnaires consisting of both open-ended and Likert type items, and semi structured interviews revealed what the involved 12 language teachers understood by learner autonomy and in what ways they claimed that they incorporated it in their practice. The study also looked into language learners’ beliefs and reported autonomous behaviours involving all the 9th graders (n=100) from the school. Students’ questionnaire explored to what extent students felt responsible to influence their autonomy in language learning. Furthermore, classroom observations helped me gain insight into language teachers’ classroom practices and language learners’ autonomous behaviours. Finally, the study revealed correspondences and mismatches between teachers’ and students’ autonomous beliefs. The results showed that although learner autonomy was listed among the stated educational aims in the curriculum, and teachers’ attitudes towards autonomy was positive, their beliefs did not translate into practice. Teachers’ attitudes towards autonomy seem to be strongly connected to their own learning experiences and influence their practices concerning autonomy support. Teachers believed that their students had low levels of autonomy, which coincided with students’ views about themselves, who did not view their school as a space to develop their autonomy as language learners. The findings of the research carry pedagogical implications to practicing teachers and teacher educators as teachers’ awareness should be raised about the importance of learner autonomy to help teachers shape their learners’ learning experiences positively regarding autonomy development.