Teacher Autonomy in Turkish Lower Secondary Schools, in Relation to English Language Teaching: A Mixed Methods Study

Khalil, Betul (2018). Teacher Autonomy in Turkish Lower Secondary Schools, in Relation to English Language Teaching: A Mixed Methods Study. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d11d


Teacher autonomy has long been a topic of great interest in the field of applied linguistics for language learning and teaching. However, the research to date on the subject has been mostly restricted to the exercise of autonomy by teachers within their classrooms. Schools are large social organisations and language teachers are active participants in these organisations. They undertake a number of roles and responsibilities within their work contexts. Therefore, we need to extend our scrutiny of language teachers’ exercise of autonomy to encompass not only their teaching practice in the classroom but also their wider organizational roles.

Adopting just such a broader approach, this research examines the concept of teacher autonomy in Turkish state lower secondary schools with reference to English language teaching. The aims of this study are to explore how teacher autonomy is understood in an institution-wide context and how it is exercised in relation to four areas of teacher activity: teaching and assessment, school management, professional development and curriculum development. My purpose is to uncover the deep structures that shape understandings and the exercise of teacher autonomy.

To investigate the emergence of teacher autonomy, this study draws upon the critical realism approach developed by Roy Bhaskar, applying his transformational model of the connection between social structure and agency. Taking a mixed methods approach, it relies on a range of data sources including documents, a questionnaire, observations and interviews with Turkish teachers of English, head teachers and educational administrators.

The research revealed that teacher autonomy was a meaningful concept within the Turkish education system and was exercised in varying degrees in relation to all four areas of teacher activity. A complex interplay between structure and agency underpinned the emergence of teacher autonomy. The understanding and exercise of teacher autonomy were shaped by the geopolitical context, compliance and accountability, trust, school culture, and teacher collegiality mechanisms. The outcomes of this research have implications for our understanding of teacher autonomy in the field of applied linguistics and for improving the quality of English language teaching in Turkey.

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