Fostering Learner Autonomy Through Empowering Students in EFL Writing

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Department of English, NTNU


In most EFL countries, teaching composition has remained a challenging area for teachers due to the heavy workload associated with grading students’ work, and students’ lack of interest and readiness in developing their writing skills. This paper reports on a study that investigated how some new components of a writing course could foster a higher level of learner autonomy among the participating students. The research design focused on giving the locus of control to students so that they could choose topics of their own interest for their essays throughout the two semesters of the writing course. In addition, a process-oriented approach (involving three drafts) was adopted to help students learn how to improve their writing. For each assignment, comprehensive electronic feedback was provided to guide students in revising their essays. The students would turn in the first two drafts for comments and the last draft for a grade. All three aspects (freedom in making writing choices, electronic feedback and the multi-drafting process) were designed to determine if students could learn to take more responsibility in becoming better writers. The data in this study included the drafts of each assignment, a survey on learning attitudes and outcomes, and interviews. Results showed that students took more responsibility for their own learning, invested more time and effort in information collection and revision on the topics of their own choice, and improved their writing performance in terms of both longer word counts and richer content. It is concluded that to foster autonomy in EFL students, both student empowerment and teacher feedback are essential components in the writing course design.