Autonomy and Technology in Language Learning
: An Investigation into Hong Kong College Students’ Personal Response towards a Technologically-Mediated Putonghua Programme

  • Y Yao

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)

Abstract

This study attempts to scrutinize and gain insights into the nature of the relationship between autonomy and technology in the context of language learning, by capturing, collecting and evaluating Hong Kong college students’ personal response to a technologically mediated Putonghua programme. Therefore, the focus of the study is to investigate the students’ personal response to a technologically mediated Putonghua programme in terms of their blended lessons and free-time strand. Along this line, learner autonomy in relation to the use of technology is discussed, from which a division of proactive and reactive autonomy, individual and group autonomy are respectively illustrated. A self-financed community college in Hong Kong, the College of Professional and Continuing Education (CPCE), is applied as a case study.

In attempting to operationalize autonomy in the context of language learning mediated by a technological learning environment (TLE), two interconnecting tools are proposed to facilitate the capture and evaluation of instances of autonomy in action: one tool is the TLE autonomy framework adopted by Macaro (2007), which sets out a clearly defined set of criteria to collect, capture and categorize the types of autonomous student behaviour. The other tool is a conceptual framework for autonomous learning behaviour in a learning environment, which attempts to evaluate instances of autonomy from a theoretical perspective. Data collection involved two sources: semi-structured interviews and observations. Interview data were mainly gathered from the in-depth individual interviews as well as pair and focus-group interviews. Observational data were collected by observing the students’ CM blended lessons and tracking their online activities in terms of the analysis of their online writing assignments and forum postings.

The main contributions of the study could be presented at three levels: at the theoretical level, distinguished from a simple causal link between technology and autonomy, the study advocates that the introduction of technology may reconfigure the social dynamics of the activity space and change the totality of relationships between individuals and the affordances they appropriate in the activity space, which requires a focus on ecological autonomy. At the methodological level, a learner-oriented research approach adopted in this study can help to understand if a gap is existed between learners’ perceptions and actions. At the pedagogical level, in looking beyond matters of whether technology improves learning, the challenge for teachers, teacher educators, materials designers and software developers lies in recognizing, understanding and harnessing the pedagogical value that might be achieved from the transformative effects of the digitalized learning environment.
Date of Award26 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRobert Sharples (Supervisor) & Leon P Tikly (Supervisor)

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