Exploring Full Learner Autonomy in Self-Instructional LCTL Learning

Principal investigators and researchers

Sponsor and grant funding

U.S. Department of Education International Research and Studies Program, $304,331 for three years, 2023-26

About the study

This groundbreaking study documents the strategies and outcomes of fully self-instructional learning of less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), responding to the national need for increased access to effective learning opportunities for studying LCTLs, especially at high proficiency levels. The study also addresses international calls for empirical research on language learner autonomy, self-directed learning, self-assessment, and resource management strategies.

The study will analyze data collected from 60 self-instructional language learners (SILLs) studying 28 African and Southeast Asian LCTLs through UW-Madison’s Multilanguage Seminar, an innovative two-semester sequence of fully self-instructional LCTL learning developed and taught by the co-PIs, over nine academic years and three summers. The dataset includes SILLs’ individual study plans, daily or weekly learning journal entries and students’ responses to one another, learning resources SILLs created, reflective essays, self-assessment plans and results, emails to the instructors with assignments or feedback, and other homework assignments.

The qualitative study will answer six main research questions:

(1) What kinds of learning goals do SILLs set for themselves, and what evidence is there that they achieve them?
(2) What strategies do SILLs use to achieve their goals, and which are most effective?
(3) How do SILLs find, evaluate, and create target language (TL) resources?
(4) In the absence of a teacher or tutor, what role do conversation partners play in LCTL self- instruction?
(5) How do SILLs use the internet to research their TLs and share information with others?
(6) How do SILLs assess and offer evidence of their learning?

The core project activities are data preparation, analysis, and dissemination of findings, including a free workshop for language instructors and program administrators, presentations at scholarly conferences, and at least one publication, a book, in Year 3. Robust dissemination and evaluation plans ensure that the project will broadly impact U.S. foreign language education and research.