Autonomy, agency and identity in foreign and second language education

Jing (Peter) Huang, Phil Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reviews key constructs explored in this special issue of Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, including autonomy, agency and identity in foreign/second language education. We first explore and compare, in relatively greater depth, the complex meanings of the two similar concepts of autonomy and agency. In discussing autonomy, we start with an analysis of the meaning of capacity and control in Benson’s (2011) broad definition of autonomy as a capacity to take control of one’s own learning, and briefly look at related issues of learner agendas and affordances. Based on a close scrutiny of the concept of agency, we propose that autonomy and agency are best treated as distinct concepts in terms of the degree of effective control over the learning-teaching process. Following a close examination of the two similar concepts of autonomy and agency, we discuss the concept of identity and finally the interrelatedness among these major concepts of autonomy, agency, and identity in language education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-27
Number of pages22
JournalChinese Journal of Applied Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • autonomy
  • agency
  • identity
  • affordances
  • learner agendas


Dive into the research topics of 'Autonomy, agency and identity in foreign and second language education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this