by Richard Miles
Nanzan University, Japan
Since the 1990s, learner autonomy has become more widely utilized by educators around the world (Little, 2007), but does it necessarily have a positive effect on motivation in second language classrooms? In an attempt to provide at least a partial answer to this question, a preliminary study was conducted in which students in an oral communication class at a Japanese university were given a degree of autonomy in part of the curriculum and then compared with a similar class in which no such autonomy was granted. Students in the dependent group made autonomous decisions as to how the teacher would assess their speaking effort, how feedback would be provided and how this portion of their grade would be calculated and assigned. While an argument for direct causality is difficult to make, students in the dependent group exhibited a stronger level of motivation than those in the control group at the end of the semester, suggesting learner autonomy had had a positive effect in this case. Potential reasons for this finding are that the greater involvement of the students in the curriculum in the dependent group meant a higher level of self-awareness and reflection with regard to their spoken English. While the findings from this study add support to the argument that there is a potentially strong relationship between learner autonomy and motivation, further research is needed before any conclusive claims can be made.