A complex system of teachers' beliefs and practices in developing learner autonomy in Indonesian junior high school contexts: A mixed-methods study
The new junior high school curriculum in Indonesia requires teachers to develop learner autonomy and create a student-centred approach in English classrooms. It is therefore important to study what perceptions Indonesian English teachers have of this requirement and how their perceptions are reflected in their teaching practices. Learner autonomy may be perceived differently by Indonesian teachers as traditionally this concept has been applied in Western countries whose teaching traditions differ from those of non-Western countries. The research site is a tourist area where Indonesian students may have access to English users and authentic English language materials unlike other regions in Indonesia. This context prompted me to investigate how teachers perceived and used these local English language resources to facilitate their students’ English language learning and autonomy development. This study used S. Borg and Al-Busaidi’s (2012a) survey instrument within an explanatory sequential mixed-method design to investigate 145 junior high school teachers’ perceptions of developing learner autonomy. The second phase was a multiple-case study of nine English teachers in Magelang Regency, Central Java, Indonesia. The findings from the survey and the thematic analysis show that in general Indonesian teachers had positive perceptions about learner autonomy and its development. These teachers’ willingness to introduce the concept of autonomy suggests that there were no perceived cultural barriers to adopting this Western concept in Indonesia. However, the teachers did not share a common understanding of autonomy which may have affected the way they applied the curriculum. Teachers displayed complex underlying beliefs about the importance of autonomy and also about the different supports and constraints offered by their teaching contexts. These included different levels of experience in managing classrooms which appeared to result in varying levels of effectiveness in implementing learner autonomy. This study reveals a complex interrelationship among teachers’ beliefs, practices, and contextual factors in which teaching experience played an important role. Positive beliefs about learner autonomy did not always result in good practice. Conversely, lack of facilities did not always undermine the practice of developing learner autonomy provided teacher belief in it was strong. Classroom management skills appeared to exert significant influence on developing autonomy in practice, as without these skills, teachers’ efforts to facilitate autonomous language learning seemed to result in teachers’ losing control of the classroom. These findings signal the importance of assisting teachers to develop the classroom management skills necessary for autonomous language learning. Some tensions among teachers’ practices also emerged in this study. The new curriculum, like its (2006) predecessor, required that learning contexts should be extended outside the classroom, but the use of authentic local learning resources was still limited by many teachers’ understanding of the new requirements of the 2013 curriculum. The participant teachers were also coming to terms with the new, government-mandated textbooks. This heavy reliance on textbooks suggested that their primary focus continued to be on preparing students for the examinations, which were still the primary means for assessing student achievement. Teachers also seemed uncertain about how the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilitated autonomy development, how to assess students’ learning, and how to play new and unfamiliar facilitation roles in the classroom. In addition, not all teachers had participated in professional development to prepare them for curriculum implementation, and not all schools had received the required government textbooks. These findings suggest that there was a rush towards curriculum implementation in Indonesia in 2013. This study also shows that access to local learning resources such as tourist sites in Magelang Regency did not necessarily facilitate autonomy development. Some teachers had taken students to the temple in the past but some perceived that the new curriculum and other new challenges inhibited them from continuing this practice. These constraints outweighed teachers’ positive perceptions about the use of those local resources. This study contributes to the study of English Language Teaching (ELT) in an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) context as it provides insights into how teachers begin to implement a new curriculum requirement to develop student autonomy and / or use authentic learning resources in the local area as resources for autonomy development. This study highlights subtle differences in the individual systems of teachers’ beliefs about learner autonomy and uses complexity theory to analyse how these beliefs interacted with the local environment to contribute to the various degrees of success in promoting learner autonomy.