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Taiwanese High-School Students' English Autonomous Learning Processes: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

Yi-Ping Liu, Fang-Ying Yang
National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu City, Taiwan


The implementation of autonomous learning projects has become a crucial component of high school education in Taiwan, under the 2019 New Curriculum Guidelines. As part of these guidelines, high school students are required to undertake at least one 18-week autonomous learning project during their three-year study, with the project outcomes documented in their learning portfolios, which serve as one of the criteria for college admission. This qualitative study addresses two objectives. Firstly, the study examined the processes involved in implementing English autonomous learning projects by three Taiwanese vocational high school students. Additionally, the study adopts the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) as a theoretical framework to investigate how the students' psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are supported during the implementation of the projects. Among the three participants, two collaborated on an autonomous learning project, aiming to create an English comic book, whereas the third participant independently developed a project related to English speech contests. Data were collected for one semester, including five semi-structured interviews with each participant and weekly learning logs provided by each participant. The results reveal that the participants followed distinct learning stages throughout the project implementation: assessing motivations, setting project objectives, making and executing the plans, and modifying the plans. During the processes of implementing the projects, the participants’ three psychological needs were satisfied; most importantly, they actively constructed and modified their learning environment to satisfy their own needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness by, for example, critically evaluating teachers’ feedback, adjusting the scope of the project, and seeking peer support. This study has theoretical implications for the SDT, highlighting learners’ active role in seeking support for their own psychological needs within the context of autonomous learning projects. Moreover, the study offers pedagogical implications for the design of high-school autonomous learning programs.


Self-determination theory, Learner autonomy, Autonomous learning project, New curriculum guidelines, Basic psychological needs

International Joint Conference of APLX, ETRA40, and TESPA 2023