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Title: Towards enhancement and assessment models and a measuring scale for language learner autonomy in a 21st century blended learning environment in tertiary education : an intervention study in Saudi Arabia
Author: Alzahrani, Sahar Matar
ISNI:       0000 0004 6347 4799
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2016
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This research reports on an intervention study which aims to examine and enhance the language learner autonomy (LLA) of a group of Saudi students at tertiary level following a blended course and to assess the improvement in their LLA after the intervention. Thus, this study proposes two research models: one for the enhancement and another for the assessment of LLA in the 21st century and establishes a scale for the measurement of LLA. The study was conducted in a semester-long (13 weeks) undergraduate Medicine ESP Course in Saudi Arabia. The blended course was taught to two groups of Medicine students in their preparatory year (online and offline). The mixed-method design of this research uses an experiment to investigate the effect of the online mode on the enhancement of LLA and a case study to further explore the construct of LLA and the way improvement in LLA was taking place besides validating the proposed measurement scale. Little’s (1999; 2001) model for the enhancement of LLA, with its three interrelated principles, was expanded using Schwienhorst’s (2008) suggestion. Learner training was provided to students to enhance their metacognitive knowledge and to improve their skills and competences in language learning. Medical English content relevant to their subject was selected for the supplementary material to increase the learners’ motivation to engage. As the research goal was to enhance LLA, there was no particular focus on language skills. Language learning strategies as the underpinning pedagogical framework were tailored in a task-based format to design the supplementary component of the blend. A variety of learning/ teaching approaches were also deployed in the tasks chosen for the course content. These support the learners’ cognitive engagement and interaction in a collaborative way to exploit the learners’ cognitive and social dimensions in line with recent views of learner autonomy in the language classroom (e.g. Vygotsky, 1978; Dam, 1995; Seeman and Tavares, 2000; Thomsen, 2000; Little, 2001; Lamb, 2010; Benson, 2011; and Tassinari, 2012, 2015). The supplementary component of the blend was used with on- and off-line treatment groups and these two different modes aim to test the impact of technology on the enhanced LLA. Tools built into a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Desire2Learn, were used in the design of the online element of the blended course. For the assessment of LLA, quantitative and qualitative methods were triangulated in a mixed method research approach to look at it through the learner voice and metacognition (process perspective) as well as through the learner gained tests scores (product perspective) as LLA is a combination of observable and non observable behaviours. A model was developed to assess LLA starting with the quantitative measurement and moving on to the qualitative part of the assessment to test the reliability of the measuring scale. To overcome the problem that LLA is an unsteady state, the assessment model integrates summative and formative assessment methods. Findings from the integrated data types shows that the training is more important for the development of LLA than the technology, but technology is effective in making a difference between individuals in the improvement in LLA capacities mainly confidence, reflection, planning, and learning management. It also finds that learners’ language proficiency is a key indicator for their LLA and that the assessment of LLA helps to better understand the process of LLA enhancement and the potential factors that might influence learners’ LLA. Finally, the qualitative part of the assessment helps to capture the effect of learners’ willingness (attitude and belief) on their readiness to accept the effort exerted to enhance their LLA which illustrates the need for examining learners’ readiness before starting any plan for LLA enhancement.
Supervisor: Wright, Vicky ; Baker, William Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available