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How Autoethnography Is Being Utilized to Support Learner Development

Saurabh Anand, University of Georgia
Marlen Harrison, Southern New Hampshire University

(Submitted 2/14/22 to the Learner Development Journal for the upcoming Volume 7)

The last two decades of learner development scholarship has seen an expansion in applications of autoethnography, a qualitative research method that uses personal experience as evidence with which to investigate culture by uniting aspects of ethnography and autobiography. The education field, specifically, has seen a shift in the focus of this method from largely professional development purposes for educators (for example, see Bayne, Land, & Oliver, 2005; Long, 2008; Spenceley, 2011) to more convention-challenging, student-centered practices. For example, Mynard (2020) recommends autoethnography as a method to investigate student self-access language learning; Alm & Ohashi (2020) used autoethnography to analyse the interrelationship of their experiences as foreign language learners, educators, and researchers; and Sah’s (2019) critical autoethnographic study explores his English language learning and adjustment difficulties in the UK. As such, this manuscript – a duoethnography – seeks to examine the rationale for the increased use of autoethnography as a tool to promote/support language learner autonomy, capitalizing on the personal experiences of the authors, a multilingual, early-career, PhD candidate in language and literacy who is a published autoethnographer, and a multilingual, veteran, language professor who has been practicing and advocating for autoethnography in a variety of settings since 2006. Our own experiences with autoethnography will be presented alongside our review of the scholarship in order to more deeply contextualize the approaches and possibilities inherent in supporting language learner autonomy as well as to address the role of culture – classroom, department, campus, community, etc. – in language learner development. Secondary purposes of this project include identification of a) theoretical orientations that embrace autoethnography, b) best practices in the use of autoethnography as evidenced by the current language learner autonomy research, and c) future directions for application of autoethnography in learner development and autonomy.


Alm, A. & Ohashi, L. (2020). From self-study to studying the self: a collaborative autoethnography of language educators as informal language learners. CALL for widening participation: short papers from EUROCALL 2020. (pp.1-6). 10.14705/rpnet.2020.48.1156.

Bayne, S., Land, R., & Oliver, M. (2005). Editorial. E-Learning and Digital Media, 2(4), 314–316.

Long, L. (2008). Narrative autoethnography and the promotion of spiritual well-being in teacher research and practice. Pastoral Care in Education, 26(3), 187–196.

Mynard, J. (2020). Ethnographies of self-access language learning. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 11(2), 86-92.

Sah, P. K. (2019). Academic discourse socialization, scaler politics of English, and racialization in study abroad: A critical autoethnography. The Qualitative Report, 24(1), 174-192.

Spenceley, L. (2011). Breaking the wall? Autoethnography and the transition from subject specialist to professional educator in FE. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 35(3), 409–421.