The internationalization of a university relies heavily on the proficiency of its faculty and students in English and other international languages. Hence, to support students' learning of foreign languages outside the classroom, self-access centers (SACs) have been widely established in universities across countries, constituting a resourceful site for autonomous learning. Various factors have been found to shape the practice of SACs, such as the qualities and histories of individual students and the support mechanisms and administration policies (Gardner & Miller, 1999, 2011; Victori, 2007).
Despite the prevalence of SACs in Asia, such institutions have been understudied in Taiwan (Chung, 2013). To fill this gap, the present paper focuses on the SAC administered by the language center of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. While encouraging every registered student to voluntarily access the resources it provides, the SAC is also highly integrated with Freshman English courses at NTUST, which require the students to collect "self-learning points" at the SAC. Those obtaining the most points each semester are rewarded with gifts and certificates.
To investigate the students' perception of and interaction with the SAC, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five students that outperformed others in gathering self-learning points and five students who barely or never obtained any points even though required to do so. Four sets of interview questions were asked, including basic information regarding the participants, their use of the SAC, their perception of the SAC, and other issues pertinent to autonomous learning. A number of factors were found to affect their use of the resources provided by the SAC or the lack thereof, including the school policies regarding Freshman English courses and proficiency tests, their perception of English, their career plan, the accessibility of the resources, and the potential cost of the resources, among others.
This study thus has several contributions. First, it provides a concise description of the SAC at NTUST and explicate how it motivates students to utilize the resources and become a more autonomous learner. Second, it reveals the personal and contextual factors that influence how the students perceive and interact with the SAC. Finally, by presenting a case study of an SAC in an Asian context, this paper also provides insight into not only the theory and practice of SACs and other forms of autonomous learning but the policy and promotion of internationalization in higher education.
Les Centres d'auto-apprentissage (Self-access centers, SACs) sont présents dans les universités à travers le monde et ils sont riches en ressources pour l'apprentissage autonome dans l'enseignement supérieur. En offrant une variété de ressources pour l'apprentissage des langues, le SAC de l'Université nationale des sciences et technologies de Taiwan encourage non seulement les étudiants à accéder au matériel et aux activités, mais s'intègre également bien aux cours d'anglais des étudiant de première année. Cette étude a pour but de (1) présenter ce SAC et d'expliquer comment il motive les étudiants à profiter de ses ressources; (2) d'étudier la perception qu'ont les étudiants du SAC et leurs interactions avec ce dernier, en interrogeant ceux qui l'utilisent fréquemment et ceux qui ne le font bien que ce soit conseillé par leurs enseignants; (3) de mettre en lumière à la fois la théorie et la pratique des SAC et d'autres formes d'apprentissage autonome, ainsi que la politique et la promotion de l'internationalisation dans l'enseignement supérieur.
- Chung, I. F. (2013). Are learners becoming more autonomous? The role of self-access center in EFL college students' English learning in Taiwan. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 22(4), 701-708.
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- Victori, M. (2007). The development of learners' support mechanisms in a self-access center and their implementation in a credit-based self-directed learning program. System 35, 10-31.
Chen-Yu Chester Hsieh is currently an assistant professor at the language center of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. He also serves as the manager of the self-access center for foreign language learning in the same university. He received his Ph.D. degree in Linguistics from National Taiwan University, with a dissertation on the use of directives in the discourse between tutors and tutees in a writing center in Taiwan. He is interested in looking at the interplay between language and social interaction and specializes in applied linguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, Interactional Linguistics and Cognitive Linguistics.