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Title: Understanding the situation of learner autonomy within the context of higher education in Kurdistan-Iraq
Author: Hamad, Karmand Abdulla
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 3239
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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Learner autonomy has been recognised as a desirable educational goal, especially within the domains of adult and higher education. Whereas this has led to a growing body of research addressing learner autonomy across different educational and cultural contexts, there are still contexts, including Kurdistan-Iraq (i.e. the context of this research), which have remained under-researched. On that account, researchers (e.g. Dickinson, 1996; Little, 1999; Palfreyman, 2003; Usuki, 2007) encourage examining learner autonomy within such settings. This research, therefore, was an attempt to understand the realities and complexities of the situation of learner autonomy within a public institution of higher education in Kurdistan-Iraq. To achieve that, this research included students, teachers and senior administrators as participants assuming that these are the major interacting parties that could influence and determine the overall situation of learner autonomy. This study adopted a qualitative case study design within which multiple methods of data collection were used. The data was obtained through classroom observations, focus groups with thirty-four students divided among six groups and interviews with six teachers and five senior administrators. The sample of students, teachers and senior administrators was drawn from five different academic disciplines, namely English, Kurdish, Law, Psychology and Biology across the four distinct existing faculties. The findings generally showed an unsatisfactory situation of learner autonomy within this specific context and there emerged multiple personal, pedagogical, institutional and socio-cultural constraints which altogether seemed to pose serious challenges to the exercise and development of learner autonomy. Apart from that, students turned out to be relatively more autonomous compared to their previous educational experiences and there appeared to be certain behaviours and practices not just among students as a manifestation of their autonomy but also on the part of teachers towards encouraging the sense of autonomy and responsibility among students. However, these autonomous and autonomy-supportive practices and behaviours seemed to be confined to ‘isolated individual efforts’ of some students and teachers which implies that no systematic institutional attempts were present to promote autonomy or at least to create a conducive environment within which autonomy could flourish or be exercised. The findings also indicated that the autonomous behaviours and autonomy-supportive practices appeared to mainly circulate within the non-political form of autonomy which tends to focus on personal learning gains and lack a political dimension which concerns with the need for autonomous capacities to resurge within the social and political life to serve the public good. This seemed to reflect the interpretations and values the participants associated with learner autonomy which were significantly oriented towards the non-political variant of autonomy. This study, therefore, points to the need of further research, particularly action research, aiming at promoting the political understanding of autonomy.
Supervisor: Durrant, Philip Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: learner autonomy ; higher education ; critical pedagogy