Developing learner autonomy in underprivileged Indonesian senior high schools
: EFL teachers’ and students’ beliefs and teachers’ practices

  • Bonik Amalo

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Learner autonomy, defined as the learners’ capacity to self-regulate and be responsible for their own learning, has been recognised as a significant asset in students’ second language learning success. Abundant research has examined student and teacher perceptions about learner autonomy and strategies for its development in various well-resourced environments. Such research is absent in less-resourced and underprivileged contexts where the promotion of learner autonomy is a greater necessity. Despite the Indonesian government's strong emphasis on learner autonomy promotion in the national curriculum, preliminary research in well-resourced Indonesian contexts suggests practical and reported challenges in its development. This phenomenon motivated this research to examine EFL teachers’ and learners’ beliefs and teachers’ practices for developing autonomy in underprivileged senior high school contexts in rural Indonesia. A qualitative phenomenological research design was adopted in this study combining 32 semi-structured interviews with teachers, six focus groups with 30 students and 12 classroom observations to provide an in-depth understanding of this unique context and to address the gap arising from the mainly quantitatively researched field. The findings highlighted some mismatches between teachers’ and students’ conceptions of learner autonomy. The teachers held a partial understanding of the concept of learner autonomy, mainly embracing its reactive sense, emphasising students’ responses to learning agendas initiated by the teacher. In contrast, most students held a broader understanding of learner autonomy, emphasising mainly its proactive sense. In addition, while the teachers viewed the prospect of developing learner autonomy negatively, the students were more optimistic about its development in their context. Both groups identified a set of challenges in developing learner autonomy, revealing the dominance of socio-economic factors. Analysis of teachers’ reported and actual practices of learner autonomy demonstrated that teachers’ pedagogical autonomy strategies were predominantly associated with the psychological dimension of autonomy. These included motivational and affective strategies to enhance student engagement, and create a positive learning environment. Their practices highlight limited adoption of explicit strategy training focusing on technical and socio-political dimensions of autonomy aimed at empowering students to be in control over their own learning decisions. This study raises awareness of the implementation and challenges of learner autonomy development in underprivileged contexts and offers pedagogical recommendations to address these challenges suitable to Indonesian and other under-resourced educational environments.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorEleni Petraki (Supervisor) & Elke Stracke (Supervisor)

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