Learner autonomy : a case study on People's Republic of China (PRC) scholars studying in a university in Singapore
This empirical study focuses on developing learner autonomy amongst PRC scholars who were enrolled in an English bridge course in an institution in Singapore. As PRC students come from a predominantly teacher-centred learning environment, encouraging them to be autonomous learners may be met with resistance. The effectiveness of self-access learning (SAL) is considered by examining the Chinese culture of learning, the kinds of activities these students engage in at the Self Access Centre and their views on whether SAL is effective in helping them to improve their language. An interpretative case study approach is adopted as this study focuses on a specific phenomenon. Attention is drawn specifically to explaining why students have different viewpoints and experiences despite being put in a similar learning context. Interviewing was selected as the main instrument for data collection as it provided opportunities to develop insights regarding how the participants interpret and make meaning of the world. Besides interviews, questionnaires and journals were also employed to obtain snapshots of the students' views and for triangulation purposes. It was found that the forty PRC scholars who participated in this study generally display traits that show conformance to the Chinese culture of learning. This however did not in general discourage them from developing autonomy as the students welcomed the idea of making decisions concerning and taking charge of their learning. Despite this, they believe that a teacher still plays an important role in their learning. Although SAL is generally perceived to be moderately effective in helping the students improve their English, most students reported marked improvements in their listening skills.