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This paper identifies and describes three interrelated concepts which were found to be central to the development of autonomy in a study of distance foreign language learners, namely metacognition, goal-setting and cultures of practice. One key aspect of metacognition, self-management, is discussed in terms of how it is deployed by learner to establish an autonomous approach to learning. It is argued that goal-setting is also central to autonomy and examples are given of how learners used metacognitive awareness to set explicit goals for the course and direction of their learning. Learners who did not set goals reported difficulty in engaging with the target language, and a tendency to browse through target language materials. The paper explores the wider question of how learners respond to the choice and control offered by a self-instruction context for language learning and two key influences are highlighted : prior experiences of learning and cultures of practice in different language classrooms. Implications for the language classroom and for teacher-learner interactions are discussed.



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