Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Julie Byrd Clark


Since its emergence in the early 1980’s, the notion of learner autonomy has not only become a buzzword in second language education literature but a revolutionary phenomenon affecting teaching/learning approaches across the world. A great number of countries have adopted measures to promote learner autonomy in their language schools. In Europe, for instance, the Council of Europe developed the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the European Language Portfolio (ELP) with the explicit goal of developing language learner autonomy (Little, 2007). In Canada, following the introduction of Manitoba Collaborative Language Portfolio Assessment (CLPA), very recently Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) has been introduced and gradually implemented in government-funded ESL programs across the country (Pettis, 2014) to realize the same goal.

Given its importance, this study investigated the present status of the promotion of language learner autonomy in Ontario’s ESL context. To this end, through a mixed methods research design using interviews and surveys, the study explored the perceptions of ESL teacher trainers, ESL instructors, and ESL learners. Based on David Little’s comprehensive theory of language learner autonomy (2009), the study presents a thorough understanding of participants’ perceptions of the construct of learner autonomy, desirability, feasibility, and challenges of promoting learner autonomy, its contribution to second language learning and teachers’ roles in the context. The study furthers delves into the perceptions of introduction, and implementation of PBLA and discusses its shortcomings and advantages. It further suggests implications for practice regarding the promotion of language learner autonomy.