Investigating autonomy in international students' approaches to university writing assignments
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 11:11 authored by Bao Tram Nguyen
Learner autonomy is believed to be an important construct for both language and content learning. In universities, students are expected to demonstrate a certain level of autonomy to successfully complete their assignments, especially in a new international context of education. This study aimed to: (1) investigate how international EAL students approach a university writing assignment for a specific course; (2) explore the difficulties these students faced when preparing their first major writing assignment; and (3) examine how students exercise learner autonomy while preparing and completing the assignment. Based on these three aims, a qualitative multiple case study was designed. Seven participants selected for this project were international EAL undergraduate students who were studying in their first year at Macquarie University in different majors. Data were collected through a three-stage procedure comprising one questionnaire, one post-submission interview and one post-feedback interview. The findings of this study show that international EAL students followed five main steps: considering the requirement of the essay; searching relevant materials and reading for stimulating main ideas; brainstorming the outline; writing; and revising for the final draft. Good students may have also applied peer correction and teacher correction during the process. The study also indicates that lack of academic language use, the language barrier, cultural differences, and limitation in technology use, were common factors causing challenges for these students. Finally, learner autonomy behaviours exercised by successful students were explored, which leads to a conclusion that there is a correspondence between autonomy behaviours and students’ success in writing assignments.