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Volume 16 Number 3, Autumn 2019, Pages 768-1068 PDF Download

Understanding EFL Learner Agency in Collaborative Activities: A Case Study in a Taiwanese English Course

    Pei-Chia Liao

Although language learner agency has recently gained attention in the field of applied linguistics, the concept of language learner agency remains predominantly theoretical based; empirical studies in EFL classroom settings centering on this topic are scarce. Furthermore, task-based teaching in language classrooms has gained popularity, yet studies on how tasks are implemented and in which students exert learner agency are understudied. Through audio recordings of group activities, class observations, and interviews with student focus groups, the purposes of this study were 1) to illustrate how a wordless picture book project was designed and implemented in a Taiwanese English course with 31 students, and 2) to explore how the college learners approached and what they did in the collaborative tasks. Situating this work within the conceptualizations of agency as action-oriented endeavors, it revealed that the students exerted learner agency by co-constructing and developing a deeper understanding towards the story content through peer discussions. They self-initiated actions by employing their own resources and self-monitored their Mandarin and English in order to achieve the task objectives. The study also confirmed the learner agency was shaped by the specific communities of practice they engaged in. Based on the results, pedagogical implications will be provided.

Keywords: collaborative activities, language learner agency, tasks