Learner autonomy represents a consumed subject in the realm of English as a foreign language instruction. Nonetheless, the Algerian literature demonstrates a dearth of research on teachers’ beliefs about learner autonomy in the Algerian Middle school setting. This paper, therefore, examines the beliefs of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers about learner autonomy in Algeria. To this end, quantitative and qualitative data were collected from a sample of 129 Algerian middle school teachers of English as a foreign language. The study deployed a questionnaire in conjunction with an interview for data collection. The questionnaires’ data were numerically analysed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPPS), while the interviews’ data were analysed qualitatively using coding and theme generation. Findings reveal that teachers often view learner autonomy from psychological and technical orientations, implying that it encompasses the concepts of independence, choice, and collaboration. Additionally, the findings indicate a strong belief in teachers’ roles in promoting learner autonomy as well as in the latter’s role in enhancing the learning process. Furthermore, the findings indicated teachers’ desirability to involve learners in decision-making and assist them in developing skills for learning how to learn outweighs their feasibility. The investigation concluded with some suggestions.

1. Introduction

We have become so accustomed to the necessity of making meaning of the English language teaching and learning process [1]. To achieve greater meaning, it is vital to understand how teachers influence the learning process from the inside out. A revealing approach may be found, for example, in the sphere of learner-centeredness. The latter has been recommended as a possible genre for empowering students to take control of their own education. In this respect, it is obvious that the majority of the world’s contemporary education systems have recently prioritized learner autonomy (LA) as a critical topic and direction for implementing learner-centred lenses that support both teachers and learners in attaining an internal degree of growth. Algeria is not completely off the table. The new education reform of 2016 placed a greater emphasis on the education sector, both within and outside the classroom, as a means of enacting change and thereby evaluating the reform’s success. The new education reform concentrated on revising the curriculum for all teaching subjects and levels, including English. Based on a socio-constructivist approach to education, the curriculum of the English language at the intermediate level was altered. As a result, new teaching syllabuses, textbooks, and teaching materials were created, and teacher development programs were launched to help instructors execute the new curriculum. The new curriculum placed a focus on raising students’ levels and results. It strives to improve communicative competence by transitioning from a paradigm of linguistic knowledge and ideas accumulation and transmission to a paradigm of interaction and integration, all within a social constructivist view of learning [2].

This is why, it is advised that a variety of methods, including competency-based learning, project-based learning, and integrated situations, be fully implemented in settings where learners are active and engaged in a self-directed learning environment.

2. Literature Review

2.1. The Nature of Learner Autonomy

Before delving into LA, it is necessary to define autonomy in the context of language learning. Numerous studies and research have been undertaken on this topic as a major concern for teaching and learning in the modern age [35]. In their various works, they have included many definitions and interpretations of LA. For example, Benson [3] described autonomy as the ability to take responsibility for or direct one’s own learning. Following this, he expanded his definition to include more endogenous elements believing that they contribute to the conceptualization of autonomy, such as learners’ abilities, aptitudes, and attitudes, which individuals possess and may develop to varying degrees. Palfreyman [6] outlined a set of classroom decisions that contribute to the development of an autonomous learner. These decisions are “determining the objectives, defining the contents and progressions, selecting methods and techniques to be used, monitoring the procedure of acquisition, and evaluating what has been acquired.” Similarly, Nunan [7] identified several aspects of learning and classroom decisions that contribute to the development of independent and autonomous learners, including the following: setting clear and attainable objectives, maintaining a high level of motivation, selecting useful tasks, selecting appropriate learning strategies and techniques, monitoring one’s own learning, and deciding on self-evaluation. Each decision is made independently and consciously. Thus, autonomous learning is a decision that represents the learners’ effort to learn rather than a method of learning. Schmenk [8] asserted in this respect that “autonomy is not a method of learning, but an attribute of learner’s approach to the learning process.” (p. 82). He also added that “autonomy in language learning is about people taking more control over the purposes for which they learn languages and how they learn them.” Accordingly, raising students’ self-awareness and control over their learning will substantially increase self-determination and motivation, resulting in the development of LA. Raising students’ self-awareness entails building an atmosphere in which students progressively gain trust to enable students to take risks [9], generating opportunities for students to process their experiences via constructive criticism, in which they are aware of the potential suffering connected with critiques [10], boosting student to take self-awareness assignments that encourages taking risks via taking part in role-play activities that combines self-reflection and peer feedback [11, 12].

Furthermore, autonomous learners can be identified by specific characteristics, including being methodical and disciplined in their learning, logical and analytical in thinking, reflective and self-aware, and exhibiting persistent curiosity, motivated, flexible, and being proficient in interpersonal and interrelated areas; they have perseverance and are responsible and creative, independent, and self-sufficient [13]. Another fundamental aspect for developing self-sufficient students is to take into consideration the differences among them in order to make learning completely unique for each individual [13, 14]. Therefore, with the development of autonomy within learners, these differences, such as motivation and learners’ abilities and competencies, are no longer a hindrance in the language class. Rather than this, they empower all learners with the freedom to pick what is best for their learning conditions among the options imposed by social institutions, as well as complete responsibility for cultivating their own intrinsic motivation and fostering learning progression [15]. It is important to keep in mind that a learner’s freedom of choice in the classroom does not imply total independence, as students are still required to work collaboratively in pairs or groups to complete class assignments, in addition to adhering to the rules and regulations set forth by teachers and the educational system as a whole [1, 16].

2.2. The Role of the Teacher in Learner Autonomy

Since the shift to the learner-centred approach in EFL teaching/learning, the teacher has ceased to be a knowledge transmitter and a central controller. Their role, however, remains sacred and crucial in EFL classes, where they serve as a guide, facilitator, and counsellor. In this regard, Masouleh and Jooneghani [17] claimed that autonomous learning is not an “inborn capacity” that individuals already have. Instead, it is a “natural tendency” [3] that should be nurtured and strengthened with the assistance of an expert. Hence, it can be said that, within EFL classrooms, one of the primary teachers’ roles is developing and promoting learners’ autonomy. According to Holmes [18] as cited in Masouleh and Jooneghani [17], to help learners assume greater control over their learning, it is important to help them become aware of and identify the strategies that they already use or could potentially use. To put it differently, the first step teachers may take to assist students to build their autonomy is to help them become aware of the various aspects of their own learning process, such as motivation, learning techniques, approaches, needs, objectives, and chances for further learning. Additionally, Mifsud et al. [19] presented three teachers’ roles that help foster autonomous learning within a language classroom:(1)The teacher as a manager: they must be an effective planner, manager of assessment methods, and developer of the learning environment, assisting learners in clarifying their decision-making and improving their meta-cognitive strategies(2)The teacher as a resource person: they assist learners in developing a knowledge of their preferred learning styles and provide them with a variety of resources and materials.(3)The teacher as a counsellor: they accompany a student through the learning process, provide meaningful answers to learning problems, and assist learners with their needs.

To summarize, in EFL classrooms and with a learner-centred approach, the teacher is critical in activating and fostering learners’ autonomy. In Each function they perform in the classroom contributes to the learners’ education being of higher quality.

2.3. The Rationale for Promoting Learner Autonomy in EFL Learning

Because of the benefits it provides to students, fostering LA in EFL classrooms is increasingly important. Among these benefits, autonomy has the potential to significantly improve the quality of learners' learning processes [19]. The more the learners have a say in their own learning and potentials, the more driven they are to learn. Besides, autonomy helps prepare learners for life-long learning rather than short-term memorization. It enables students to participate actively in the process of meaning-making and knowledge-building. It fosters a sense of freedom in accordance with democracy as a fundamental human right and produces students who are self-sufficient both inside and outside the classroom and takes responsibility for selecting the best learning opportunities for themselves [20].

2.4. Learner Autonomy and Language Learning

A few decades ago, language learning underwent significant reforms in the communicative approach [14, 21]. This approach shifted the language teaching paradigm away from the teacher and toward the learner, empowering the latter to take responsibility for their own learning. Therefore, over the past years, learners have become the centre of attention in most research related to foreign language teaching and learning, with the goal to improve their learning process and become more independent and self-reliant. This was the first step in incorporating autonomy with language learning. Autonomy would motivate students of high and average levels to improve learning strategies, and as a result, their academic abilities and skills increased. Autonomy would also positively boost students of low level to regulate their learning behaviour and methods and hence empower them to learn effectively, allowing them to gradually progress along the “learner autonomy continuum” and achieve their goal [22].

From its inception in the field to the present day, this concept has become popular in EFL classrooms and has evolved into one of the core goals of language instruction. Numerous studies and research have been devoted to this field as a major concern for teaching and learning in the modern day [35]. Autonomy in language instruction began to emerge in the 1970s. Among the first organizations to encourage autonomy-related research was the Council of Europe’s Modern Languages with its Modern Languages Project in 1971 [23]. The Centre de Recherches et d’ Applications en Langues in France coordinated this project, which was launched by Yves Chalon, a pioneer in the field of autonomous language learning. However, the term “autonomy” in language learning has been associated with Henry Holec since 1981. The literature on autonomy has considered him the originator of LA. This is because, throughout the 1980s, he made significant contributions to the field’s advancement.

Following Holec’s influential work in the 1980s, there were several investigations and research contributions on LA. For instance, Dickinson [24] defined “autonomy” to encompass all of the learner’s decisions noting that: “autonomy is the state in which the learner is responsible for all decisions pertaining to his learning and the implementation of those decisions” (p.11). Additionally, Allwright [25] advocated for reconceptualization of the word “autonomy.” He asserted that autonomy is not only a trait of the learner but also rather covers a variety of pedagogical practices. Unexpected participation of the learner can refer, for example, to independent learning. He believes autonomy should coexist with a radical rethinking of language pedagogy.

The 1990s saw a surge in research on “autonomy” in language learning and instruction. Among the notable findings during that period are the ones introduced by Dickinson [24] and Howard et al. [26]. They emphasized psychological dimensions of autonomy, such as self-awareness of one’s own learning needs and goals, as well as autonomy in one’s abilities. Similarly, Nunan [7] asserted that a variety of factors contribute to the development of LA, including awareness of explicit and implicit learning objectives, motivation, practical task choices, selection of learning strategies and techniques, and self-evaluation and self-regulation.

Due to the fact that the teacher-student relationship has a substantial influence on autonomy, several researchers in language teaching and learning have concentrated their studies and research on defining the teacher’s duties and qualities [2729]. However, limited studies have been dedicated to teachers’ beliefs regarding LA [30]. Littlewood [31] believed that teachers’ attitudes and beliefs on LA must be clear and evident in language learning. Hence, it is critical to research instructors’ perspectives and attitudes about LA in order to get a better knowledge of LA and to promote autonomous learning in EFL classes.

2.5. Teachers’ Beliefs on Learner Autonomy

Numerous research studies on language learning have been undertaken in order to shed light on teachers’ beliefs and practices toward LA. Mifsud et al. [32], with sponsorship from the European Centre for Modern Languages, arranged a study in six European research sites (Malta, the Netherlands, Belarus, Poland, Estonia, and Slovenia). A detailed questionnaire was used to collect data directed to 328 teachers. This questionnaire had 13 questions that examined teachers’ beliefs and attitudes about LA, as well as their classroom practices, including learners’ participation in class activities and tasks. The findings indicated that teachers had a favourable attitude toward involving learners in a number of classroom activities, including self-assessment, explanation seeking, and finding learning procedures. They met substantial opposition, however, to learners’ independence and engagement in picking textbooks and making lesson preparation choices. A few years later, she replicated her study with six teachers of foreign languages. The study was conducted in Malta in a classroom setting, with data collected by classroom observation. She observed a substantial absence of LA in foreign language teaching.

Based on the Mifsud et al. study [32], Balçıkanli [33] explored teachers’ beliefs toward LA in a Turkish educational context at the Department of English, Gazi University. Using Mifsud et al.’s questionnaire, he surveyed 112 teachers and interviewed 20 of them. He found in his research that teachers’ perceptions about LA were positive. Teachers believe that students should be involved in the decision-making process (e.g., selection of course objectives, class management, homework assignments, and selection of subjects). However, this survey indicated that the majority of teachers had unfavourable attitudes toward student involvement in timing, placement, and textbook selection.

Borg and Al-Busaidi [34] carried out an investigation of autonomy. They studied the concept of LA in light of teachers’ attitudes and then reported on their practices regarding LA. 61 EFL teachers at a large university language centre in Oman responded to surveys and interviews. The findings indicated that teachers were conceptually cognizant of LA. They were, however, hesitant to promote it in their classrooms due to reservations about its feasibility. Additionally, this study identified teachers’ perceptions of factors that impede LA, such as a lack of motivation and desire to learn, limited experience with independent learning, inflexible and long curriculum, and learners’ reliance on teachers.

Another research was performed by Al Asmari [35] on the practices and perspectives of teachers regarding LA in the English Language Centre at Taif University in Saudi Arabia. This research utilized a questionnaire administered to 60 Arabic language teachers from various countries. The results reflected that both male and female teachers had similar positive attitudes towards students’ participation in decision-making about their learning. Additionally, he stated that the majority of teachers believe autonomy plays a critical role in enhancing the learning process and providing opportunities for learning. Finally, he emphasized the need of incorporating autonomy training into the teaching process in order to develop autonomous learners.

Duong [36] conducted a study in which they examined EFL teachers’ perceptions about LA and classroom practices in Thai context. The data were gathered via a closed-ended questionnaire administered to 30 EFL teachers at a Thai university. The results demonstrated that teachers appropriately understand the notion of LA and recognize teachers’ roles in developing autonomous language learning courses. As with the prior research by Borg and Al-Busaidi [34], teachers often find it difficult to apply their understanding of LA to their practice.

Alzeebaree et al. [37] conducted another research in an Iraqi environment to ascertain EFL teachers’ beliefs about LA. He employed the questionnaire designed by Borg and Al-Busaidi [34] to obtain data from 116 EFL teachers (87 males and 29 females) with diverse academic and teaching backgrounds (diploma, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, as well as intermediate, secondary, and university levels). The study’s results reveal that EFL teachers have a supportive attitude toward student autonomy to some extent.

Moreover, in an Iranian context, Salimi and Ansari [38] investigated the EFL teachers’ beliefs about LA, which was done through a questionnaire responded by 35 EFL teachers. The results revealed that teachers have positive attitudes towards learning autonomy, and they are aware of its nature and its significance for more useful language learning. However, despite their theoretical knowledge of autonomy, they faced some difficulties in implementing and promoting their learners’ autonomy, which resulted from a contradiction between the teachers’ perceptions and their classroom practices.

Alhaysony [39] explored 77 EFL teachers’ perceptions and beliefs about LA, based on their classroom experiences, at Aljouf University in Saudi Arabia. Using Borg & Al-Busaidi’s questionnaire, she found that EFL teachers well perceived LA and have positive beliefs about it. They are also aware of its significance in enhancing language learning. Additionally, the inquiry revealed that teachers’ beliefs were different about learners’ degrees of autonomy. Some of them believed that their learners are autonomous since they are aware of their learning process as well as strengths and weaknesses. In contrast, others believed that their learners are not autonomous for many reasons, including the lack of motivation and desire, the inability to take advantage of the available opportunities, a total dependence on teachers, and unawareness of one’s own learning strengths and weaknesses.

Furthermore, Meisani & Rambet [40] presented an investigation on the beliefs of an EFL Indonesian teacher about LA and her classroom practices she used to enhance it. With the use of questionnaires and interviews for data collection, this study concluded that classroom activities that promote LA are necessary for EFL teachers to improve students’ learning processes. Also, it revealed that both the teacher and the learners are responsible for the development of learning autonomy.

It can be noted that the studies reviewed above have amply elucidated EFL teachers’ beliefs of LA as different results are presented and in different contexts. However, upon detailed analysis of the relevant literature, we discovered that teachers’ views and behaviours regarding LA in Algeria have not been sufficiently investigated. Particularly, EFL teachers’ beliefs regarding LA, the role of LA in English learning, the role of teachers in improving LA, and desirability and feasibility in promoting LA are scare in Algerian context. As such, this study attempts to examine this subject in Algeria in order to bridge the gap between EFL instructors’ attitudes and practices on LA literature and to provide exploration-based accounts with novel considerations. By focusing on Algeria as a fresh research environment, this study is expected to make a meaningful contribution to the literature. The present research addresses the following main queries:(1)How do Algerian EFL teachers perceive LA?(2)To what extent does LA contribute to English language learning in Algerian middle schools?(3)How do teachers perceive their role in fostering learners’ autonomy?(4)How desirable and feasible do teachers feel it is to promote LA?

3. Methods

3.1. Participants

The study population is the community of English language teachers in Algerian middle schools. This study was conducted on a nationwide survey basis with random sampling, and this study was conducted on a sample of 129 English language teachers from different regions in Algeria. Among these, 8 teachers volunteered to undertake the interview. The study included 69% female and 31% male teachers with different teaching experiences: 0–4 years (67%), 05–09 years (39%), 10–14 years (14%), and 25 years and above (9%) . In terms of educational credentials, 52% hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees, while 25% hold a magister degree. The number of female participants exceeds the number of male participants. The researchers attempted to attain equilibrium between the participants based on their gender; however, low engagement of male teachers in participating in the study was noticed and remarked as on one of the limitations. The following Table 1 clearly illustrates the study sample:

3.2. Research Instrumentation

The research collected data qualitatively and quantitatively. The data collection tools used to collect relevant data are a questionnaire approved by Borg & Al-Busaidi [34] and a semistructured interview. The Borg and Al-Busaidi’s [34] designed questionnaire to address the EFL teachers’ beliefs about learners’ autonomy in Oman; hence, its items are found to be suitable to address the research questions of this study. The adaptation process of both tools entails several adjustments, including the deletion of statements deemed unnecessary to the research questions. The questionnaire modifications consist of the omission of the following:(i)Sections 3 and 5(ii)Questions 4, 6, and 8 in Section 4(iii)Item 21 of the first section about “LA is promoted by independent work in a self-access centre,” as this does not exist in Algerian middle schools(iv)Items of the effect of age on LA (1, 10, and 20)(v)Items of the effect of cultural context on LA (13–23)(vi)Items of the effect of proficiency on LA (9-26-34)(vii)Items of the effect of teacher-centeredness on LA (15–17)

The final version of the questionnaire consists of three sections:(i)The first section collects demographic data about the teachers involved in the study, such as their gender, educational qualifications, and years of teaching experience.(ii)The second section is about different beliefs about LA. It includes 25 items that can be measured based on a 5-point Likert scale: strongly disagree (SD), disagree (D), agree (A), and strongly agree (SA).(iii)The third section consists of 14 items that revolve around teachers’ beliefs about the desirability and feasibility of learners’ participation in decision-making about their learning.

The focuses of semistructured interview were based on three research questions. However, the fourth research question “How desirable and feasible do teachers feel it is to promote LA?” was addressed quantitatively only:(i)How do Algerian EFL teachers perceive LA?(ii)To what extent does LA contribute to English language learning in Algerian middle schools?(iii)How do teachers perceive their role in fostering learners’ autonomy?

A tentative guide was created. Participants were given the opportunity to respond freely to open-ended questions. The guide was given to a broad panel of three education professionals to guarantee the validity of the semistructured interview. The interview was piloted with five English language instructors after the panel’s suggested changes were implemented. As a consequence, several changes were made to the final guide, and it was polished.

The study instrument’s factorial validity was established. The Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin (KMO) value found in this study was 0.81 which is greater than the values suggested in the literature. The significance of the Chi-squared statistics obtained at the end of the Bartlett’s test of Sphericity (BST) displayed the normal distribution of the data with multiple variables. BST was established to be statistically significant (X2 = 1033; ). These results demonstrated that the instrument was appropriate for factor analysis [41], implying that factor analysis could be conducted when the KMO value exceeded 0.6 [42]. Initial exploratory factor analysis (EFA) using eigenvalues for 39 items revealed a five-factor structure. Results showed that the first factor consisted of 25 items whose factor loads ranged between 0.45 and 0.78, the second factor consisted of 14 items whose factor loads ranged between 0.46 and 0.73, and the communalities values of items ranged between 0.45 and 0.66. The research instrument items have been confirmed by confirmatory factor analysis (CFA); all the loading values came higher than 0.50, and all factor loadings were statistically significant at . On the other hand, Cronbach’s alpha was tested for finding out the reliability of the two sections in the whole sample and was 0.79 and 0.76, respectively. According to Hair et al. (2014), the validation of the current study tool was acceptable and qualified for implementation.

3.3. Data Collection Procedures

Since COVID-19 spread across Algeria, forcing the government to postpone classroom instruction in favour of online platforms, data gathering in this research has been conducted through online surveys and interviews. For the survey, the researchers designed an electronic survey and posted it on social media platforms, particularly in Facebook groups for middle school teachers, which include a large number of teachers from a variety of areas and with a variety of academic backgrounds and experiences. This may help collect data in a shorter period and allow participants and researchers convenient access to the questionnaire and data, respectively. Data collection took place between March 2020 and June 2020. The teacher collaboration rate was unsatisfactory with only 129 teachers answering positively. The researchers could not reach large quantity of teachers because some teachers did not have time to collaborate as they were stacked with teaching, lessons preparation, and assessment. The researchers could not manage the distribution of questionnaire online due to some technical problem happened to questionnaire online draft and often the page of the questionnaire appears as empty. One of the obstacles faced by researchers with the participants was the inability to guarantee equilibrium between them in terms of demographic characteristics, gender, academic qualification, and teaching experience. Then, the results were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) v.22. For the interview, volunteer teachers who expressed their desire to participate in the interview in the last question of the survey were randomly selected and invited to zoom meetings. The researchers could not make balance between male and female teachers since the number of female teachers who accepted to be interviewed exceeds the number of male teachers. The researchers did their best to balance between them by calling male teachers to take part, but it was subject to failure. Data were analysed qualitatively through coding and the generation of themes.

4. Findings

4.1. Data Analysis of the Questionnaire
4.1.1. Teachers’ Beliefs about the Concept of Learner Autonomy

This section reports the overall beliefs of teachers regarding LA. As shown in Table 2, all orientations get substantial support, with psychological orientation receiving the highest support with a mean of 3.80, followed by technical orientation at a mean of 3.06. A detailed presentation of the orientations will be shown.

In addition, the interview responses provided more insight into the idea of LA. According to some participants, LA arises from “independence and choice,” which involves less reliance on the teacher and the ability to approach the learning process independently. The independence and choice should not be slogans in classrooms, but the participants seem to refer to their real application. The teacher is just a supporter and facilitator in the classrooms. His role is to allow students construct knowledge by themselves by implementing their capacities and preferences. A teacher argued

“LA means the ability to learn independently and go through tasks projects with little teachershelp. It means also to give learners the independence to exercise their own decisions in organizing their preferences and chosen tasks.”

Another teacher expressed the same concern when she referred to choice and freedom in learning. She expressed autonomy in independence and choice in the content and way of conducting learning tasks. In this regard, it seems that this teacher gives importance and interest in the content and approach of learning and considers them as keys to achieving independence in learning.

“As its name suggest, LA is the ability of learners to be free and independent in learning process. The space they create for learning is totally based on their choice of what and how to exercise and carry out learning.”

The teachers regarded external human assistance and support in favour of internal ability and will, with the ultimate goal of reaching the very core of autonomy and empowering learners to forcibly enhance it. From another angle, a teacher felt that LA equated to “cooperation” among students.

He maintained

“LA for me takes full meaning when learners work together. Here, they feel the sense of responsibility to learn on their own and being able to solving problems.”

Such cooperative activities are not just a source of frustration for teachers; they have also a positive influence on learning. He considered cooperation “a fabulous entity” that aids and abet students to take full application and employment of autonomous learning. Through cooperation, students work together to maximise their independence and freedom in learning and hence increase their own contribution in learning. Similarly, another teacher believed that cooperation is one set of things that students should concentrate on as sine qua non to elevate autonomy. He stated

“LA could be maintained through cooperation between students for own learning as leading factor to know how to act and react to decisions and choices.”

To this point, it can be maintained that interview results highlight other concepts that explain LA or are equivalent to the concept, which is independence, choice, and cooperation.

4.2. Psychological Orientation

Based on the findings reported in Table 3, the participants support this orientation. They favour “learning how to learn is key to develop LA” and “to become autonomous, learners need to develop the ability to evaluate their own learning” with mean values of 3.62 and 3.60, respectively. Teachers also believe that motivated language learners, the ability to monitor learning, and confident language learners contribute to learning autonomy. Thus, teachers seem to believe that learners who know how to learn and evaluate their learning can develop autonomy more effectively and easily than learners who do not know how to do so. Additionally, they think that, in order for learners to develop autonomy, they have to be motivated, confident, and capable of self-monitoring.

4.3. Technical Orientation

As shown in Table 4, the results for this orientation reveal that the statement “independent study in the library is an activity which develops LA” is most supported by participants, with a mean value of 3.16. The second supporting statement is “out of class tasks which require learners to use the Internet promote LA” with a mean value of 3.07, followed by the statement of “autonomy can develop most effectively through learning outside the classroom” with a mean value of 2.96. Thus, participants believe that learning in the library and outside of the classroom through independent activities by learners are effective ways to enhance LA.

4.4. Social Orientation

The results for this orientation, which are shown in Table 5, demonstrated that teachers agree that LA can be promoted through cooperative group work activities, activities that give learners opportunities to work together and learn from each other. However, they share less inclination to the claim that LA is promoted through working alone and regular opportunities for learners to complete the task alone as the mean value is less than 3. This demotes that teachers prefer collaborative work among learners over working alone as a means of fostering LA.

4.5. Political Orientation

The results reported in Table 6 demonstrate that LA can be enhanced by involving learners in decisions about what to learn, how to learn, and the kinds of activities to do since the means values of the three propositions are higher than 3. The means value of “LA is promoted when learners are free to decide how their learning will be assessed” and “LA is promoted when learners can choose their learning materials” are less than 3 which indicates that teachers are less likely to believe that having freedom in choosing assessment ways and teaching materials can promote LA.

4.6. The Contribution of Learner Autonomy to English Language Learning

As shown in Table 7, the mean value for teachers’ responses ranges from 3.48 to 2.10, which proves the strong belief of the participants towards the contribution of LA to English language learning.

The interview analysis revealed a variety of links between LA and English language learning. For example, one teacher stated that

“LA facilitates the process of learning English language components, including grammar and vocabulary.”

He recognized that, as a result of autonomy, learners immerse themselves in acquiring additional potential groundings in language, particularly grammar and vocabulary, which are always in front of them wherever they go. Students may select their own learning materials, techniques, and degree of study, as well as study on their own timetable. The method of employing autonomy to learn English can compensate for the lack of a general approach in the absence of a genuine English environment, which will considerably improve English vocabulary and grammar learning. Likewise, another teacher is intrigued by the role of autonomy in English language learning. He argued that it fosters strong study initiative, a wide range of options, and enjoyable dynamic engagement in problem-solving.

“Autonomous learners can be able to take risks and at the same time solve problems related to English language learning tasks. The essence lies in improving their self-confidence vis-à-vis English language learning.”

It is worth noting that the teacher’s belief in autonomy is critical in preparing learners to feel confident about their English language proficiency and therefore to know how to deal with tasks and operate effectively and comfortably throughout the learning process. In this regard, it seems that teachers see autonomy as a prerequisite toward intensive and focused learning of the English language. Vocabulary and grammar growth are crucial parts of obtaining proficiency with any new language, including comprehending, speaking, reading, and writing, and learner autonomy is a vital feature in optimizing the creation of an improved vocabulary. The development English learning must involve some successful ways for autonomously learning vocabulary and grammar. It might be claimed that the learner’s input and engagement in the academic setting is critical to autonomously learning vocabulary and grammar.

4.7. The Role of Teacher in Enhancing Learner Autonomy

Table 8 shows that the participants appreciate the role of a teacher in enhancing LA. Specifically, they disagreed with the claim that teachers do not have an important role in supporting learners’ autonomy with a higher mean value of 03.48. At the same time, they supported their belief by validating the statement “LA cannot develop without the help of the teacher with a mean value of 02.56.”

The teachers also stressed their contribution when they disagreed upon “LA requires the learner to be independent of the teacher” and “LA means learning without a teacher” with a mean value of 01.96 and 01.37, respectively.

The interview analyses also refer to the role of the teacher in fostering LA. A participant bends to the total belief that teachers guide and aid learners in becoming totally autonomous on the basis of pure knowledge and experience. Autonomy necessitates that teachers make their contributions worth. He asserted

“Teachers are good in supporting their learners to be autonomous certainly by directing, facilitating and monitoring their independent learning.”

Another teacher was of the same view when he believed that teachers could act as a tremendous help to get certain élan as the way to a breakthrough and their role lies in finding out students’ needs and interest. Students have varying levels of knowledge, study skills, and cognitive capacity when it comes to studying. Teachers rarely have enough time in class to focus on the many acceptances. As a result, they focus on interacting with students to allow them get involved and simultaneously identify their weakness and needs. He avowed

“Teachers are able to improve autonomy learning through their interaction with their students so that to diagnose their needs and abilities ”

Likewise, another participant considered the teacher as an important agent in boosting the level of learners’ autonomy, without his ways of instruction, autonomy becomes just a slogan. He asserted

“As teachers are prominent in the classroom, their strategies to engage learners in autonomous learning are very much appreciated; they frequently implement freedom-based practices in the classroom to pique learners’ interest and make them feel safe and eager to solve problem situations by their own selves.”

Therefore, it appears that teachers believe in the important role they have in creating and boosting learners’ autonomy. Teachers must recognize that they are the most direct supervisors for providing a high-quality atmosphere, assisting students in strengthening their autonomy and developing independent learning approach, in order to empower their autonomy, specifically to build a learning platform for students.

4.8. Desirability and Feasibility of Learner Autonomy
4.8.1. Desirability and Feasibility of Learners Involvement in Decision-Making

Table 9 indicates that, in all cases, except the topics discussed, teachers’ desirability of involving learners in decisions is higher than their feasibility. In other words, students’ involvement in decision-making is seen to be most feasible to the topics discussed.

4.8.2. Desirability and Feasibility of “Learning to Learn” Skills in Learners

Table 10 demonstrate that teachers’ beliefs concerning the desirability of learners developing all stated autonomous abilities are reported to be consistently higher than its feasibility. Teachers are most positive about the desirability of learners’ developing the ability to monitor their progress, identify their strengths and weaknesses, learning cooperatively and independently, and least positive about learners’ ability to evaluate their learning and identify their own needs. In terms of feasibility, identifying weaknesses and strengths are perceived as the most feasible abilities, compared to learning cooperatively and independently, identifying needs, monitoring progress, and evaluating learning as the least feasible abilities.

5. Discussion

The subject of LA in language education has been extensively investigated to the point that it has become a “slippery idea: it is not always clear whether the term denotes a behaviour or an attitude; a right; or a responsibility” [43] (p. 71). However, the literature demonstrates a dearth of inquiry into LA from the standpoint of teachers, including their beliefs and practices about this multifaceted and complex subject. The study was inspired by the scarcity of research in the literature addressing Algerian EFL instructors’ beliefs about LA and their actual practices to promote it. To address this gap, this research intended to ascertain EFL teachers’ beliefs on four major points: (a) teachers’ beliefs about the concept of LA, (b) the contribution of LA to English language learning, (c) the role of the teacher in enhancing LA, and (d) desirability and feasibility of LA.

Teachers’ beliefs about LA are central because they influence their actual classroom practices. Indeed, teachers’ classroom practices mirror their beliefs about what constitutes good teaching. Teachers appeared to share similar conceptions about LA in this study, but a greater emphasis was placed on “psychological orientation” concepts of autonomy, which imply that learners who can learn independently of their teacher, as well as those who are confident and motivated, are more likely to develop autonomy than those who lack such specifications. These findings are consistent with several studies in the literature in which teachers view autonomy primarily as learners learning independently of the teacher [25, 30, 44]. Algerian teachers have also placed a premium on two primary criteria for defining the autonomous learner: the ability to learn how to learn and the ability to evaluate their own learning. Additionally, teachers find that turning to the library, working collaboratively with other peers, and participating in decisions about how to learn are all traits that distinguish the autonomous learner. This is in line with the findings of Yasmin and Sohail [45] who indicated that Pakistani teachers promote LA by encouraging learners to become independent and work with their classmates. However, Meisani and Rambet [40] found that both teachers and the learners are responsible for the development of learning autonomy. This demonstrates that teachers have a strong theoretical understanding of LA, which is critical because it enables teachers to make early efforts to structure and increase LA especially given that EFL classes in Algeria are supposed to be “learner-cantered” and guided by a competency-based approach, both of which emphasize the importance of learners being independent and having the necessary skills for success. This brings us to the next point of how teachers view LA to influence the learning process of EFL students.

It is generally established that language learning is a complex multidimensional process where several factors overlap but all pursue the same goal of equipping the learner with the knowledge and skills required for academic and professional success. Foreign language education is designed to provide learners with the knowledge and skills to successfully confront real-life situations. According to Algerian teachers, autonomy is critical for fostering and strengthening students’ attainment of course objectives since it enables students to study effectively and independently of the teacher. In other words, self-directed learners will seek out opportunities to practice their English outside of the classroom. Eventually, this focused ongoing learning will result in the development of a competent learner. This is consistent with the study of Salimi and Ansari [38], which showed that instructors have good attitudes on learning autonomy and are aware of its nature and relevance for more practical language learning. These results are similar with the study of Little [46] who showed that learners who were trained in autonomy were more likely to be able to control their own learning process and, therefore, be better prepared to communicate outside of the classroom. By contrast, Alhaysony [39] discovered that instructors’ opinions regarding learners’ autonomy differed. Some of them claimed that their students are independent since they are aware of their own learning process as well as their own skills and flaws. Others, on the other hand, claimed that their learners are not independent for a variety of reasons, including a lack of motivation and drive, an inability to capitalize on existing chances, a total reliance on teachers, and an ignorance of one’s own learning strengths and limitations.

Teachers’ beliefs about their role in developing LA are critical, as are their beliefs about the importance of autonomy in the language learning process. Teachers are critical in determining student achievement since the majority of classroom decisions are made by the teacher and have a direct influence on students’ learning and performance both inside and outside the classroom. As previously shown in this research, teachers acknowledge their critical role in promoting LA. These results are similar to several research studies in the literature. Some studies found that the majority of language educators are aware that LA has a significant influence on language learning [35, 47]. However, if teachers recognize that LA is subjective to several externalities, rather than them, their efforts will be diverted away from shaping and improving LA, which will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the learning process and deprive learners of the opportunity to become somewhat autonomous. The earlier the students’ autonomy is formed, the better and more effective their ability to learn and think will be. It is crucial according to Ertürk [48] for teachers to understand how the concept of autonomy makes it possible for learners to become effective and successful users of language; how the concept of autonomy allows students to become effective and successful language users. By responding to these questions, instructors will have a better understanding of how to gradually incorporate educational activities aimed at increasing students’ autonomy, regardless of whether these activities are included in the accredited curricula. Additionally, today’s classrooms are student-centred, which implies that the teacher acts as a facilitator, guide, and monitor for all of the students’ work in the classroom. Learner-centeredness principles advocate for greater autonomy in the classroom, and if teachers grasp this concept properly, their instructional approaches will correspond with it, allowing students to exercise autonomy more often. This was eloquently explained by Ertürk [48], who said that the conventional concept of teachers as the primary source of educational content and control contradicts the aims of autonomous learning by depriving students of enough opportunities to develop abilities as independent learners. This raises the question of whether instructors’ efforts to foster student autonomy are comparable with their willingness to encourage students to become autonomous?

Between teachers’ desire to form LA and taking the necessary actions to fulfil this desire, there is a substantial gap. The findings suggested that teachers’ desirability to involve learners in decision-making outweighs their feasibility, while the opposite is true for students to decide on the topics they will discuss in the classroom. This is in parallel with findings by Yuzulia and Yusef [49] who found that teachers viewed students’ decision-making abilities in choosing learning objectives and evaluating their own learning to a minimum. Another study by Senouci [47] revealed that teachers only allowed students a limited degree of responsibility in selecting topics, activities, and materials. Likewise, teachers’ desire for learners to have the ability to learn how to learn is higher than their feasibility, contradicting their earlier beliefs that autonomous learners are capable of knowing how to learn and assessing their own learning. Teachers believe that students are not able to do this perhaps because their degree of awareness regarding autonomy and its importance is low. This low degree of awareness might be attributed to students being in middle school and so not mature enough. It is quite unlikely that they have the self-awareness and self-control necessary to monitor and analyze their own learning needs. While instructors strive to aid students in establishing their autonomy, the likelihood of this occurring is slim. This is due to a number of factors, including teachers’ restrictions to textbooks, intensive courses, and the teacher’s goal of completing the program on time, as well as teacher-centred instruction. The latter is congruent with Yasmine and Sohail’s [45] findings that the majority of teachers are conventional in that their instruction is teacher-centred, which tends to have a negative influence on students’ autonomy.

In a nutshell, Algerian middle school teachers often associate the meaning of autonomy with independence from the teacher in the learning process. They recognize the critical nature of autonomy in the language learning process and their vital role in developing and enhancing LA. However, the feasibility of the components that contribute to autonomy seems less likely to occur in contrast to teachers’ desires on this issue.

6. Conclusion

The current research, which sought to explore EFL teachers’ beliefs and practices regarding LA in Algerian middle schools, produced results that may reasonably be considered surprising. The findings indicated that teachers’ beliefs are clearly applicable to all orientations, with a greater emphasis on psychological and technical orientations, as well as the concepts of independence, choice, and collaboration. This indicates that “LA may be cultivated via an understanding of how to learn and how to assess learning, as well as through freedom and choice in learning and collaboration outside the classroom, such as in the library, with the guidance of a teacher.”

It is vital to emphasize several educational implications in light of the study’s findings which are meant to provide policymakers, school administrators, and teachers with a wider perspective on LA, thereby assisting them in identifying and resolving a variety of LA-related issues. To foster LA, policymakers should make educated guesses and establish laws and procedures that encourage and enable autonomous learning. For instance, the government can set new national frameworks with specific measures that allow to make decisions regarding learning autonomy challenging issue and development of appropriate solutions, establish new policy that allows policymakers assess learning autonomy application in the classrooms to assign new principles that attain it, and formulate operational policies and codes of conduct to promote the implementation of autonomy in classrooms. They should offer appropriate teaching and learning materials, as well as support tools, to help teachers in implementing autonomy. Principals are expected to foresee and anticipate possible difficulties that teachers may encounter while preparing and implementing autonomy in the classroom and to conduct tangible initiatives to assist them in becoming effective in such planning and execution. Additionally, teachers should rethink how to establish a productive autonomous learning environment and lesson plans that maximize learners’ engagement in independent learning despite time constraints and curriculum overload.

Last but not the least, like other studies, the current study is subject to some limitations. Due to limited resources, the study was carried out on teachers of English as a foreign language only. These participants may not fully represent teachers’ beliefs and practices regarding LA. Hence, this study is unlikely to provide a complete picture of teachers’ beliefs and practices regarding LA. Moreover, the results of the research cannot be generalized to all Algerian EFL teachers owing to the study’s small sample size. Therefore, some research suggestions on this topic can be presented to researchers. First, comparable research of inspectors, principals, and middle school learners could be designed to determine their beliefs regarding teachers’ beliefs about LA. Subsequently, a large number of participants from Algeria could be involved by other researchers. Then, in-depth interviews and classroom observations may be performed to obtain a deeper understanding of the subject.

Data Availability

The data were primary data and obtained from the participants of this study.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.