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Teacher roles and autonomous language learners: Case study of a cyber English writing course

, The Pennsylvania State University, United States

The Pennsylvania State University . Awarded


In this study, I re-conceptualize the concept of learner autonomy and propose a working definition of an autonomous language learner as one who uses language to learn and communicate, thereby demonstrating a capacity to take control of his or her learning. Over the last two decades, increasing attention has been drawn to the importance of autonomy to language learning. Teachers of autonomous language learners are portrayed as helper, facilitator, resource, consultant, counselor, coordinator, and adviser.

Nonetheless, there is a lack of research to investigate the reactions of language learners in response to teacher roles said to promote autonomy. This study aimed at investigating the relationship of teacher roles and learner autonomy in a cyber pedagogical context, a context where the teacher as well as the learners were L2 users of English with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds and experiences. Data consisted of 362 email messages generated in a twenty-month period of the cyber English class.

A qualitative data analysis software, NVivo 1.1-3 was used to conduct a content analysis that identified the teaching and counseling roles of the teacher in 90 email messages, spreading equally among the beginning, middle and end phases of the instructional period. The results showed that the teacher's teaching roles became less active as the course progressed whereas the counseling roles remained active throughout the instructional period. Data analysis also calls into question the universality of established categories of teacher roles, suggesting that cultural context and experience need to be taken into consideration.

Linked to the content analysis, a follow-up discourse analysis investigated the ensuing learner-teacher interactions to explore how the learners reacted to the teaching and counseling roles of the teacher. The results suggested that teaching roles did not provide opportunities for promoting learner autonomy, but counseling roles created a supportive learning environment for the learners to develop autonomy in language learning. The results of the discourse analysis provided additional evidence in support of the working definition of learner autonomy with particular emphasis on the connection between communication and autonomy in language learning.


Chiu, C.Y. Teacher roles and autonomous language learners: Case study of a cyber English writing course. Ph.D. thesis, The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved February 28, 2020 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 22, 2013. [Original Record]

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