A Framework for the Assessment of Learner Autonomy in Language Learning: Establishment of a Measuring Scale and Bands

A Framework for the Assessment of Learner Autonomy in Language Learning: Establishment of a Measuring Scale and Bands

Sahar Matar Alzahrani (Umm Al Qura University, Saudi Arabia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3062-7.ch001
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This research reports on the assessment of the improvement in the language learner autonomy (LLA) of a group of Saudi medicine students at tertiary level following an intervention that aims to examine and enhance their LLA in a blended course. Thus, this study proposes a research model for the assessment of LLA in the 21st century and establishes a scale for its measurement. Because LLA is a combination of observable and non-observable behaviors, quantitative and qualitative methods were triangulated in a mixed method research to look at it through the learner voice and metacognition (process perspective) and through the learner gained test scores (product perspective). To overcome the problem that LLA is an unsteady state, the assessment model integrates summative and formative assessment methods. Findings show that the assessment of LLA helps to better understand the process of LLA enhancement and the potential factors that might influence learners' LLA.
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The current chapter focuses on the assessment of language learner autonomy (LLA) in a blended Self-Access Language Learning (SALL) environment. It is argued that one of the main changes that teachers need to undertake when they aim to empower their learners is to change assessment practices within their classroom (Everhard, 2015a). This requires exerting time and effort. Assessment of LLA is one of the most difficult tasks for the teacher and the researcher in SALL because other variables are in play including the use of technology (Reinders and Lázaro, 2007). Assessment is often undertaken using ‘underdeveloped methodologies and assessment tools’ (ibid: p. 1). Therefore, this research was carried out to propose a model for the assessment of LLA in the twenty-first century based on the assumption that there are several components underpinning the concept of LLA and that the lack of any one of these components may influence the level of students’ LLA. It also aims to establish a scale for the measurement of LLA in a self-access learning environment. The word ‘measurement’ is used to refer to the quantitative work which provides numerical evidence on the level of learners’ LLA; and ‘assessment’ is used for the broader process of assessment of LLA including the use of quantitative and qualitative data collection methods.

The study in this chapter is based on an experimental mixed-method research which investigates the measurement and the development of LLA of a group of Saudi students at tertiary level in a blended course and proposes a comprehensive framework for LLA assessment in the twenty-first century. This paper aims to answer one research question based on its design of a LLA scale: How can the development of LLA be measured within a blended learning environment?

First, the chapter gives the definition and constituents of learner autonomy, and its relation to assessment. Next, it draws attention to the gap in the literature of LLA assessment and establishes a LLA measurement scale. Ultimately, based on the research on this scale, it shows findings, solutions and recommendations along with further considerations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Rating Scale: A six-point Likert scale which presents a large number of items about the LLA component parts considered in this study and it is presented to all the students in the three participating groups.

Reflective Writing Forms: A qualitative research method designed to collect data about learners’ reflective ability to explore their LLA.

Control Group: The group of participants who are not exposed to any treatment besides the core Face-to-Face Medical English Course.

Focus Group Interview: A group form of an interview and an economical approach of gathering qualitative data which is used to examine the agreement and disagreement happening among the different participants.

Offline Treatment Group: The group of participants which is taught using the same content of the Medical English Strategy Course given to the online treatment group but in an offline mode in addition to the existing Face-to-Face Medical English Course.

Time 1 (Before the Experiment): The time in which all the measurements are carried out before the treatment.

Blended Learning: Web-based online approaches both synchronous and asynchronous integrated with a traditional face-to-face taught course- the online part can take place either blended with classroom teaching, complementing face-to-face teaching as homework to do online after a class, or complementing face-to-face teaching in self-access sessions on campus, at home, or on the go (mobile learning).

Perceived Strategy Use: The learners’ understanding of a preferred and used effective collection of strategies.

Language Learner Autonomy: Learners’ metacapacity to take control of their learning process to different extents and in different ways according to the learning situation. This metacapacity entails learners’ independent capacity to make and carry out the choices which govern their actions to use the acquired knowledge and skills confidently, flexibly, appropriately and independently of the teacher and to judge the degree of success of their learning (self-assessment).

Time 3 (After the Experiment): The time in which all the measurements are carried out after the treatment.

Language Learning Strategies: The core of the tasks in the supplementary material that was designed for the learner training which the learners in the two treatment groups were exposed to.

Online Treatment Group: The group of participants which is intended to be exposed to a blended learning experience by adding an Online Strategy Course with Medical English content to the already existing Face-to-Face Medical English Course in the foundation year.

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