Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Learner Autonomy and EFL Learning at the Tertiary Level in Vietnam

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posted on 2021-11-10, 03:56 authored by Nguyen, Thi Cam Le

There has been a growing interest in the role of learner autonomy (LA) in language teaching and learning. Over the last twenty years, researchers have extensively explored LA in a range of settings and have developed various approaches to fostering it both as a means to language learning and as an end in itself. This study attempts to investigate LA in the Vietnamese EFL context, and to explore the relationship between LA and language learning results. In this study, LA was conceptualised and operationally defined as learner self-initiation and learner self-regulation. The research was composed of three phases. The pilot study looked at the range of activities, and the amount of time devoted to learning English by 388 Vietnamese English majors of different levels of academic achievement. It identified differences in LA among students of different year levels as well as LA at two types of tertiary institutions in Vietnam. In the first phase, an exploratory correlational study was conducted among 177 students to comprehend features of LA as demonstrated by these students, their preferred self-initiated activities both inside and outside the classroom, and the relationship between each aspect of LA and language proficiency. In the second phase, an intervention study was conducted with the participation of 37 students in an experimental group, and 54 students in two control groups. Phase two explored the efficacy of a learner-based approach to promoting LA with a focus on strategy-based instruction. The three phases revealed several important findings. The pilot study discovered that the level of autonomy was related to students' level of academic achievement but not to their year level. In addition, autonomy seemed to be affected by the social setting in which it was exercised. In Phase one, the findings revealed that Vietnamese learners' self-initiation efforts mainly concentrated on covert learning in class. Outside the classroom, these learners preferred to undertake receptive rather than productive activities, and tended to avoid social interaction. Moreover, most aspects of LA positively and significantly correlated with EFL proficiency measures. Lastly, the task-specific training of self-regulation in Phase two resulted not only in significantly improved writing scores but also in greater LA. However, these metacognitive skills in writing did not seem to transfer to other areas of language learning, although improvements in writing were maintained in a delayed test. Overall, the study suggests that LA appears to be linked positively to language proficiency. High achievers are more likely to be autonomous learners. Most importantly, training learners in metacognitive regulation improved learners' writing ability and their autonomy in learning.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Gu, Peter