Published papers

How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?

Picture of Yahong Li
How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Yahong Li - Sunday, 16 August 2009, 6:27 PM
This report involves the story of how I help my students as an English language teacher to develop learner autonomy in English language-learning. Over two months I help them define their goals, draw up plans, and work towards them. Students keep a journal on how they performed in their learning once a week. Meanwhile I show how I help to promote learner autonomy in the classroom by such processes as encouragement, persuasion and independent learning-observations. I show how I, with my colleagues’ support and cooperation, collect data through classroom observations, my own journal, reading the students’ journals, and talking to them, to find the evidence to help in the development of their learning autonomy. I choose three students as particular subjects in the research and show in detail how I help them to recognize their methodological and linguistic weaknesses, and how I help to improve their attitudes to learning, and to accomplish their own goals by using some effective learning strategies.

I am looking forward to the comments of my reviewers.
Tian Fengjun
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Tian Fengjun - Sunday, 16 August 2009, 6:35 PM

It is a wonderful story to know about how hard-working and a great success Ms. Li Yahong has achieved in her teaching and, yet a quite impressive story about how happy and lucky those students are with their Ms. Li.

Ms. Li goes with a clear presentation of her family and education background which could certainly bring her a good determination to become a good teacher so to change her students’ life and improve their values. Observation of classes from two more experienced teachers gave her very particular insights and self-determination while she used to be a middle school teacher and M.A. student, her pleasant talk with Dr. Vadna Murrell-Abery, a VSO teacher, and her careful study about learning stories of her students would all bring her good mind to work hard so to become an excellent teacher. She succeeded in helping her students especially three different students, as her chosen ones, Mr. Zhang, Ms. Jin and Ms Fang. She has a clever mind to have worked out very workable teaching and learning plans, these are quite matchable to her students, her love, patience, encouragement and sympathy to three of her students have succeeded well that they have made good progress in their English language learning and the story of her Action Research has enriched experiences to set good examples for her successive teaching. This may also influence her students who will be teachers after their graduation.

Ms. Li followed a typical AR model with five questions and she dedicated well to keep a quite workable teaching journal and to ask her students to keep a learning journal as well. She often had conversations with her colleagues and her students so that she could know well about how her teaching and her students’ learning going on. From every story, we can get a clear insight about her love, freedom, justice, courage, patience and democratic evaluation being very strongly conveyed.

As I know, many students at Shangluo University are just from mountainous regions, they all have very strong responsibility for their parents and their hometown. Ms. Li’s teaching story especially her dedication to teaching and her students might well give students good memory, they are sure to be benefited to study hard and learn well and, certainly be come good will-be teachers.

Picture of Yahong Li
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Yahong Li - Saturday, 29 August 2009, 3:41 AM

Dear Mr. Tian,

Thank you for your kindly comments on my work. I've just managed to help my students to achieve what they want and what they want to be. In fact, I had benefited a lot from your lecture which made me determined to continue my AR research project. I hope we can often keep in touch.

Warm regards and wishes.

Li Yahong.

Branko Bognar
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Branko Bognar - Monday, 19 October 2009, 2:34 PM
Dear Li Yahong,

I am happy that you submitted your paper "How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?" for publishing in EJOLTS and I am so glad to review it. I'll try to avoid imposing some external rules in reviewing your work which could hinder flexibility and originality of your work. That is, by the way, one of important distinctions of our journal, or it should be (see

However, it does not mean that I did not have any expectation of your paper. I was wondering to find something more about your educational context, especially because I never have been in China and I do not know too much about your country. This is, probably, a reason why I enjoyed reading the introduction chapter of your paper. You gave enough information about your cultural and educational context and that helped me a lot in understanding the main part of your story. Sometimes this important part of action research account could be neglected. If that was the case, then I would not be able to grasp the meaning of that you obtained in your practice. By the way, I like the figure 1. It is a pity that you do not have more such photos particularly from your classroom, but probably it would be problem for you to take them.

The Figure 2 is well known to me since Croatia was also socialistic country. Such photos could be often seen at classrooms wall until 1990. After democratic changes they were substituted by national and religious symbols for which is also assumed that they intensify a sense of patriotism.

Another expectation of your paper was to find out a bit more about ongoing changes in your country. Namely, I know that China has made huge progress in economy and that it has become more open for external world. But I did not know a lot about changes in educational system. I am glad to find out that the New Curriculum emphasizes importance of development learner autonomy. It is interesting that few years ago such trends occurs in Croatia too, but unfortunately they were paralyzed by the opposite tendency which aim was the standardization of knowledge, that was reduced to testing. However, in the Croatian National Curriculum is also accentuated child-centered education: "In a teaching process focus is shifted from the curriculum and teacher to a student and his/her development and achievements. The purpose of teaching is not realization of curriculum, but developing human abilities of each student. " (Ministry of Science, Education and Sport, 2008, p.11) Such declarations are important, but they are not sufficient for real changes in practice. To obtain real changes it is important that ordinary practitioners take on responsibility for implementation of declared values in their practice. Certainly, it is easier to declare some values then to carry out them in practice. In doing so, experiences of practitioners are very important. Therefore, I am glad that you sent us your paper in which you show how you are living your values in your educational context.

The process of changes you obtained in the classroom is thoroughly described and explained. Moreover, the door of your classroom was wide-open in your account that I could imagine myself sitting with your students and learning with them and you. By presenting the perspectives of people from different points of view (students, critical friends, mentor, your records and reflection) you obtained triangulation of sources (Patton, 1991, p.467). Certainly, you feature accounts could be strengthened by using methods triangulation - combination of qualitative and quantitative data, triangulation through multiple analysis - including other people in data analysis, and theory triangulation - using different theoretical perspectives (ibid., p.464-470). Certainly, this does not lessen importance and quality of your current paper. Regarding methodology, you did not elaborate your methodological approach, and I am not sure is it necessary requirement. Namely, from my point of view it is much more important that your paper is well organized and it is obvious that you know how to use methodology. Actually, methodology is tool and it is not necessary to explain how it functions whenever we use it, although that may turn out to be useful to be aware of differences between research paradigms. Thomas Kuhn (2002, p.300) once said that "a paradigm is what you use when theory is not there." Namely, his original meaning of this word was, until he messed it up (ibid, p.298), that this is a model "of the right way to do things". In other words, paradigm is "the right application of axioms whatever they are that this is a model application." Therefore, if we use some model, according Kuhn we do not need to explain it all the time, unless we decide to bring into question axioms on which some paradigm is based. Actually, I do not agree completely with such reductionist approach to the question of paradigm. Namely, I agree with Patton when he points out enabling and constraining nature of paradigm:

A paradigm is world view, a general perspective, a way of breaking down the complexity of the real world. As such, paradigms are deeply embedded in the socialization of adherents and practitioners: paradigms tell them what is important, legitimate, and reasonable. Paradigms are also normative, telling the practitioner what to do without the necessity of long existential or epistemiological consideration. But it is this aspect of paradigms that constitutes both their strength and their weakness - their strength in that it makes action possible, their weakness in that the very reason for action is hidden in the unquestioned assumptions of the paradigm (Patton, 1978, as cited in Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 15)

Therefore, I would suggest you to find out more about different research paradigms and particularly about living theory approach since it will help you to strengthen your understanding, thereby it could contribute quality of your practice. However, I am aware that you may face with difficulties since I do not know are you able to find necessary literature in your professional context. Teachers, with whom I cooperate, have pretty much problems with finding literature, but for me is much more important what they do, then what they read. However, I agree with you that we were doing the real learning when we were "thinking about the meaning and the value of life and trying to read some literature" (Li, 2008, p.24). Therefore, maybe you could, in subsequent papers, give us insight in the Chinese literature, especially, those which is not enough known at the international level like it is work of Jia Pinqwa. This could be opportunity for mutual learning.

My final expectation of your paper was to find out a bit more about your values. Your care after students, that they observed and gratefully acknowledged, is obvious throughout the paper. I particularly enjoyed reading the following sentence: "In my opinion, happiness, understanding, empathy and consideration are more important than the course-learning and its score" (Li, 2009, p.25). I hope that happiness, empathy and consideration will become values on which we could develop our journal.

I suggest that your paper be ACCEPTED - publish as it stands.


Lincoln, Y. S. & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Newbury Park, London, New Delhi: SAGE Publications.
Kuhn, T. S., Conant, J. & Haugeland, J. (2002). The road since structure: philosophical essays, 1970-1993, with an autobiographical interview. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ministry of Science, Education and Sport (2008). Framework of national curriculum for preschool education and compulsory education in elementary and secondary schools. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from
Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (second edition). Newbury Park, London, New Delhi: SAGE Publications.

Picture of Yahong Li
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Yahong Li - Saturday, 29 August 2009, 3:48 AM

Dear Mr. Bognar,

Many thanks for your comments and warm suggestions to my work. I am impressive that you have some mutual experience in socialistic culture and China's education reform.  I will take them very carefully and try my best to make changes to develop the work.

Best regards and wishes from,

Li Yahong

Picture of Jacqueline Scholes-Rhodes
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Jacqueline Scholes-Rhodes - Sunday, 18 October 2009, 8:29 PM

Dear Li Yahong,

I appreciate the opportunity to both read and review your paper – and to read of a teaching practice in a culture that is otherwise unknown to me. I trust you will therefore understand that my response comes from a very different space, reflective of the commercial context I myself work in and representative of the scope of action research as I have experienced it.

As others have commented, I too am immediately drawn into your learning environment and have absolutely no doubt about the authenticity of the values you express nor do I need to question how you embody these values in your practice. Both your intention and attention are clear.

I wonder therefore if I might take a slightly different approach to my review and offer you a challenge that I hope will support you in expanding your action research practice.

You refer often to the journals of your students – and your own – and I am intrigued by what I experience as a certain formality or boundary of respect which leaves me to feel that I am observing at the edge of a dialogue, and one that is only realised silently in the text.

I feel I should offer some greater clarity to my comment.

When we seek to build our professional practice through first-person action research we create both a richness of inquiry – and a dilemma. The value of our research is embodied in its personal meaning for each of us as researchers – but at the same time we also need to evidence how we have engaged with others as part of that learning journey. This becomes an intrinsic part of our approach to validation. In my own first-person research (Scholes-Rhodes, 2002) I found it useful to access some of David Bohm’s work to help me resolve the challenge, using his framework of dialogue as an easy way in which to engage with others as co-researchers. This enabled me to be inclusive in my approach, balancing my role as both subject and object of the research with an equally balanced respect for those colleagues included in the research. David Bohm describes this generative practice clearly in his work â€On Dialogue’ (1996):

“When one person says something, the other person does not in general respond with exactly the same meaning as that seen by the first person. Rather, the meanings are only similar and not identical. Thus, when the second person replies, the first person sees a difference between what he meant to say and what the other person understood. On considering the difference, he may then be able to see something new, which is relevant both to his own views and to those of the other person. And so it can go back and forth, with the continual emergence of a new content that is common to both participants”. (1996: p.2)

If you are able to develop an approach of this kind then I believe you may find a way in which you can express out-loud all those voices in your class-room, combining them through a collective experience of journal-writing story and culminating in an experience of shared and dynamic sense-making. You already make wonderful use of journals, your own and those of those students, and I want to encourage you to allow us to hear even more of the voices of those who write in dialogue with your own. Much of what your students write in their journals is wonderfully affirmative for you as their teacher – yet I am left to wonder what richness of conversation may have ensued if you were able to share your readings together and document the change that potentially happens through those connective conversations or dialogues.

This next suggestion may expose my lack of understanding of your cultural context, and if so I apologise for that. However, I wonder if you might also encourage your students to document their own reflective practice in their journals – giving them insight into their own learning journeys while also sharing with you both similarity and difference with your own. What would it take for this creative and â€out-loud’ process to happen? What would it take for your collective journal-writing to become just that – an exchange of developing thoughts, evidence of your mutual influence, and the sharing of unanswered questions?

Moving on I am struck by your decision to express your appreciation of your student’s work even if there had been only slight progress, in section III on page 9. I am reminded of the work of Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander “The Art of Possibility” (2002) in which Benjamin experimented with his music students by giving them all an â€A’ at the start of the year. He had a hypothesis that a focus on examination performance was in fact inhibiting their capacity to take the risks that were critical to their creative development. The results were sufficiently convincing for him to integrate the experiment into his normal teaching practice. You may find extracts from the text of interest.

Finally, I would like to encourage you to continue to develop the scope of your action research and to find ways in which you might transcend the boundaries of teacher and student and find a way in which you might represent your mutual learning in a live and dynamic dialogue that you might share more broadly. There is so much delight and commitment in your work – I look forward to hearing more of your learning.

Kind Regards

Jacqueline Scholes-Rhodes


Bohm, D. (1996) On Dialogue

London; New York: Routledge

Scholes-Rhodes, J.J. (1992) From the Inside Out: Learning to presence my aesthetic and spiritual â€being’ through the emergent form of a creative art of inquiry,

PhD thesis, University of Bath

Zander, R.S & B. (2002) The Art of Possibility, USA; Penguin Books

Recommendation: My recommendation is to publish as is – with some correction of the fourth paragraph on page 23 where the word â€which’ needs deleting between the first and second sentences.

Picture of Moira Laidlaw
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Moira Laidlaw - Monday, 19 October 2009, 11:30 AM
Hello! I am writing to everyone involved in reviewing Li Yahong's paper - and of course to you as well, Li Yahong! I wanted to write to congratulate you on the great success of your paper. I am so glad that you made the decision to submit your paper to this journal and wish you all the very best in your career in the future. I hope that we can keep in touch. Please give my best wishes to your family.

Love from, Moira x
Branko Bognar
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Branko Bognar - Wednesday, 21 October 2009, 11:41 AM
Thank you Moira. I would also like to congratulate you for the help which you provided to Li Yahong in writing her inspiring paper. Certainly, my congretulation to you Li Yahong. I hope that your work will encourage other authors from China to send us their accounts.
Picture of Yahong Li
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Yahong Li - Tuesday, 27 October 2009, 10:24 PM

Dear Moria, Branko Bognar and Jacqueline Scholes-Rhodes,

I apologize that my amendment of the report has taken a much longer time than what it had been expected as I am a little ignorant in Action Research and then spent some time to read some literature works.

 I have been doing my best to add something, hoping that you could read something more about Chinese  education culture, my values and my understanding of Action Research as a methodology so that you could gain a more clear mind of what I had done in my research.

Furthermore, I have done some changes in developing thoughts by using David Bohm’s framework of dialogue Jacqueline Scholes-Rhodes suggested. However,  as you can read something more about Chinese cultural context later, the perspective of sharing learning experience is new to me which may bring new development in my next action research project.

I hope what I have done could develop this work and I am seeking for further development if necessary.

kind regards and wishes,

Li Yahong.

Picture of Yahong Li
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Yahong Li - Tuesday, 27 October 2009, 10:49 PM

Dear Moira, Jackqueline Scholes-Rhodes and Branko Bognar,

I apologize that the amendment of my report has taken a much longer time that what it had been expected because I am a little ignorant in Action Research and therefore, I spent some time to read literature work.

I have been doing my best to add something to this work, hoping that you could read something more about Chinese education culture, my values and my understanding on Action Research, such a living theory as a methodology so that you could gain a clearer mind of what I had done.

Furthermore, I am trying to make some changes  in developing thoughts in David Bohm’s  framework of dialogue. However, as you could read more about Chinese culture context later, the perspective of sharing learning experience with students is new to me which, I believe, will bring new development in my next Action Research project.

I hope what I have done could develop this work and I am seeking further development if necessary.

Best regards and wishes,

Li Yahong. 

Picture of Yahong Li
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Yahong Li - Monday, 2 November 2009, 9:09 AM

Dear Jacqueline and Branko,

I am really appreciated that you both can read and review my report and your comments really enlight me a lot. However, I was feeling so trapped as I don't know much about Action Research, such an educational living theory, that I thought I needed time to cope with it. So it took a longer time. At last, it was sent away last Wednesday.

Yet, I was not light-hearted. During the whole day my thoughts were lingering on your comments, Jacqueline, which disabled me to concentrate on my other work . Then I read them  once again, hoping to seek a way to fulfill your recommendation. I felt more frustrated when I found I failed again. I had no choice but to turn to Moira, who knows about China and  had spent more time and energy than you imagine in making efforts to aid me draft and revise my report, and then she gave me some suggestions on what I can do.

Thus, these days I am trying to make some more changes in "transcending the boundaries of teachersand students" within what I have done, hoping that they could fulfill your comments.

Thanks to both of  you again for your wonderful comments on my work and any suggestion would be welcome for I could sense my  thought developing during adressing your suggestions although I had encountered difficulties.

Warm regards,

Li Yahong

Picture of Pip Bruce Ferguson
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Pip Bruce Ferguson - Wednesday, 4 November 2009, 2:42 AM

Dear Li Yahong

I am not one of your formal reviewers, although I review for this journal. I just wanted to 'pop in' to this conversation to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your paper, and to encourage you to take it through to publication. My husband teaches Chinese students here in New Zealand, and I have colleagues both at the University where I work and at the Institute of Technology where my husband teaches, whom I am sure would like to read your paper when it is published. It is very helpful to other teachers in getting insight into the joys and difficulties of Chinese students and teachers.

I have great admiration for your ability to read a wide range of literature in English, and then to carry out your own action research, write it up, and respond to reviewers' comments. Please don't get disheartened by needing to make changes! Be assured that your work is worth a wide audience, and I will look forward to passing it on when it has passed through the reviewing process and is published.

Kind regards

Pip Bruce Ferguson

Picture of Yahong Li
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Yahong Li - Thursday, 5 November 2009, 3:30 AM

Dear Pip,

I am very happy and grateful to receive your kindly and warm encouragement. I have really learned and experienced a lot in writing and amending this Action Research report. You, Moira, Jacqueline and Branko are all very kind and helpful to me. I am feeling very touched that you've given your kindly help and support to me, such a stranger just out of  love, the love to anybody who happens to pass by you. It is you and what you've done that tells me what are values and how to live values in life.

I don't feel disheartened in amending this report. I know learning should be open and open ended and amendment is quite necessary and natural for  developing thoughts and ideas. However, I also know the differences exists between western and Chinese culture. What I have done is really limited and I only have the rights to say something within what I have done. What the reviewers suggested has really enlightened me which would develop me in new perspectives in my research and learning.

I am very delighted to hear that you and your husband are very interested in my paper and something about China and Chinese. China is reforming and open to the world and of course is learning from the West now. I believe more and more westerners will know about China, my country.

Best regards to you and your husband,

Li Yahong

Picture of Jacqueline Scholes-Rhodes
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Jacqueline Scholes-Rhodes - Thursday, 5 November 2009, 9:19 AM

Dear Li Yahong

I have felt such a deep pleasure in reading your responses to each of our reviews and would encourage you to continue to share your stories and insights as widely as you can. Each time you write I feel I get a little nearer to understanding your educational and social context - and more significantly notice the shift in my own response to your writing. For me, this is such a valuable evidence of your capacity to extend your educational influence that I would like to acknowledge that clearly here - and hopefully hold open a space in which we might enjoy future conversations about your work. 

Wtih very kind regards


Picture of Yahong Li
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Yahong Li - Thursday, 5 November 2009, 10:15 AM

Dear Jacqueline,

I am feeling very grateful to gain your understanding and consideration for me and my ignorance.I know my amendment doesn't achieve what you are asked for. I feel very very sorry for that. In fact, we can read about new ideas generally in books or hear them from someone. However, it is on rare occasions to put them into practice as theory is abstract and general and far away from practice sometimes and of course nobody teaches you how to do with it. This is the culture of learning in China and this is also why China has taken actions to reform its educational system. So in this aspect, we are learning.

This is my first trial to do action research with aids and encouragement from Dr. Vadna Murrel-Abery and Prof. Moira Laidlaw. I know what I have done is quite limited because of cultural context and I can only have rights to say things within what I have done. However, I can learn. Your suggestions really give me much thoughts in learning and doing researches.  From your reviewers, I've learnt what is learning and what are one's values and how to live one's values in life.

Thank you very much for your kind words to me. Yes, I will enjoy conversations with you and share your thoughtful ideas in future.

With all my best regards to you,

Li Yahong

Picture of Pip Bruce Ferguson
Re: How Can I Help My Students Promote Learner Autonomy in English Language Learning?
by Pip Bruce Ferguson - Thursday, 12 November 2009, 7:42 PM

Dear Li Yahong and Jacqueline

This is a great 'learning' conversation for all of us, including those of us not formally involved in the reviewing process. I do believe that what is going on here is that not only is Li Yahong learning to shape her writing to the standards of this e-journal, but also she is teaching us about aspects of Chinese educational practice.

I visited China last year, and did a couple of 'guest lectures' on action research at Universities there. It's a great place, and I warmly encourage readers to visit if you get the chance!  I think my rather lively presentation style (I don't like standing up the front when I can walk among the students asking questions!) was a bit of a shock to many of the Chinese. I have to say, though, at one University the students responded well and started to participate. In the other, however, the Dean was present and I think people were a bit scared to speak out. It was a wonderful chance to meet with fellow educators and to learn something about their practice - the strengths of it, and how mine is different. I thank you, Li Yahong, for sharing these thoughts and advice with us through this journal.

Warm regards

Pip Bruce Ferguson