Language learner autonomy in Turkey

Creative Commons License

Okay A., Balçıkanlı C., Özmen K. S.

in: Navigating Foreign Language Learner Autonomy, Christian Ludwig,Maria Giovanna Tassinari,Jo Mynard, Editor, CANDLIN AND MYNARD, Sydney, pp.479-515, 2020

  • Publication Type: Book Chapter / Chapter Vocational Book
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • City: Sydney
  • Page Numbers: pp.479-515
  • Editors: Christian Ludwig,Maria Giovanna Tassinari,Jo Mynard, Editor
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


We have witnessed that foreign language learner autonomy has become a prominent framework, thereby an assumed goal of language education across the world. The pursuit of foreign language learner autonomy is an ideal to which foreign language teachers adhere, as evidenced in many studies. Researchers and practitioners in the field of foreign language learning in Turkey are not indifferent to this idealism along with 51 MA theses and 8 PhD dissertations written in local universities on learner autonomy since 2005. In order to conceptualize learner autonomy in different contexts, it is highly critical to experience it within the dynamics of specific cultures. Thus, it is the specific context that determines the skills and types of knowledge to choose and procedures or methods to select in the attempts to develop skills for autonomy. We are fully aware of the fact that the cultural and educational contexts surrounding the learning environment exert a huge impact on the development of autonomy. 

Turkish educational system, in this regard, has widely been reported not to create contexts in which autonomy is fostered, traditional and teacher dominated actions are taken, and more specifically teacher-centered, textbook-driven, and content-focused approach to teaching is the dominant classroom instructional style in the schools in Turkey (Yumuk, 2002; Balçıkanlı, 2010). To this end, the education system itself would act as a barrier to adjusting schools and curriculum on the basis of the needs and interests of learners in different provinces, urban and rural environments. In most studies in Turkey, foreign language students are actually found to be willing to take responsibility of their own learning – but maybe because they’re not given the chance to do so, they cannot develop any capacity for this, and as a consequence, they do not feel themselves responsible whatsoever. Language education in Turkey has gone through drastic changes since the early 2000s with a lot of political revolutionary acts. English language programs have been updated with a specific focus on such concepts as learner autonomy, self-assessment and reflective teaching.

This chapter, then, will explore the concept of foreign language learner autonomy in Turkey from a cultural perspective and address the challenges faced in the development of learner autonomy given the role of cultural and educational constraints over time. Bridging eastern and western geographies, housing a large population of diversified minority groups, and having undergone numerous changes as regards its education system over the years, Turkey has a particularly prominent role in illuminating the culturally-constructed nature of foreign language learner autonomy as well as the potential consequences of educational factors on the manifestation of learner autonomy.