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On Autonomous Learning of English-major Students Wangtielin Zhangshanshan (Changchun University of Science and Technology) Outline of the paper Introduction Literature Review Investigation

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on autonomous learning of english major students

On Autonomous Learning of English-major Students

Wangtielin Zhangshanshan

(Changchun University of Science and Technology)

outline of the paper
Outline of the paper


Literature Review


Major findings



1 introduction
1. Introduction

It is said that the more we know about the learners, the better we can teach. Based on this notion, the author has done a preliminary research from learner’s perspective on Autonomous learning of first-year English majors of ChangChun University of Science and Technology. The unexpected results show that there exists some problems in students’ AL, and this investigation provides us a lot of reflections on the teacher’s task in the future.

2 literature review
2.Literature Review

What is autonomous learning

Characteristics of autonomous learners

Why do we need autonomous learning The aim of autonomous learning

2 1 what is autonomous learning
2.1What is autonomous learning

“The word autonomous comes from the Greek word autos which means self. It is therefore understood that autonomous learning is related to self-directed studies and the learning process. I believe that a good autonomous learner must have very good planning skills in order to plan time for reading and research. I also believe that he/she should be able to prioritize and be committed to the learning process. Autonomous learning also allows the learner to direct his reading and research towards subjects that he/she feels need improvement.” (George Aloumpis, October 2005)

2 2 characteristics of al
2.2 Characteristics of AL

Dickinson (1993:330-31) identifies five characteristics of autonomous learners:

they understand what is being taught;

they are able to formulate their learning objectives;

they are able to select and make use of appropriate learning strategies;

they are able to monitor their use of these strategies;

they are able to self-access , or monitor their own learning.

2 3 why do we need al
2.3 Why do we need AL

Social needs: highly-developed changing society needs people with AL competence

Personal needs: to improve students academic level

To develop each person’s potential

Their Long-life task

2 4 the aim of al
2.4 The aim of AL

1.Makes students develop their own learning styles and adopt different learning strategies

2.Form strong learning motivation and increase

learning interests.

3.Make students be self-control

4.Get self-encouragement, self-regulation

5.Have healthy mentality, improve their attention,


6.Make students learn how to cooperate.

3 investigation

3.1 procedure

The author made a questionnaire based on Candy (1991:459-66)’s lists on competencies associated with autonomous learning.

candy s lists
Candy’s lists

Be methodical and disciplined

Be logical and analytical

Be reflective and self-aware

Demonstrative curiosity, openness and motivation

Be flexible

Be interdependent and interpersonally competent

Be persistent and responsible

Be venturesome and creative

Show confidence and have a positive self-concept

Be independent and self-sufficient

Have developed information seeking and retrieval skills

Have knowledge about, and skill a, learning processes

Develop and use criteria for evaluating.


A questionnaire consisting of 26 questions designed by the author was distributed to 118 first-year English major students from ChangChun University of Science of Technology. The questions1-8 mainly focus on general ideas about their English learning and AL;Qs9-13 about their pre-class learning; Qs 14-18 about while-class learning; Qs 19-23 about post-class learning; Last three are some open questions concerning their opinions about AL, successful learners and learning strategies.

3 2 results of the survey
3.2 Results of the survey

As to question1-8, we are happy to see that 91% students are interested in learning English, 72% students said that they had confidence in learning, nearly 60% students thought they had found their own way of learning, meanwhile, over 60% students had a clear awareness about how well they learned English and were persistent and responsible in their learning. But 34% students hadn’t found their own way of learning, this is not a small number, it needs the teachers’ attention.

From this investigation, we can see that most students did pre-class work well, 85% students could learn new words with the help of dictionary. But to our disappointment, only1/3 students would look up about the background information related to the text. This lack of concern about culture background information should be noticed.
Questions 14-18 were designed to evaluate the students’ classroom learning. Compared to pre-class learning, students did quite badly in class. Only 48% students could concentrate on learning, only 1/3 students could actively answer the teacher’s questions. On the other hand, they were more actively involved in group discussion or role play. This problem deserves further research, it may involve many factors.
From students response to question19-23, it seems that after class, students only did two things, one was that most of them could only finish the exercises in the textbook, this is the least requirement of the course. There were only small percentage of students who could review vocabulary and grammar. It shows that students paid more attention to vocabulary and grammar but without any extra reading.
4 factors affecting al
4.Factors affecting AL

4.1 Anxiety affects autonomous learning

4 2 interests affect al
4.2Interests affect AL

Although higher percentage students were interested in learning, they could not concentrate on learning, they could not actively answer the teachers’ questions. Interests are one thing, learner’s actual behavior is another.It is urgent to foster

their AL Competence.

4 3 motivation affects al
4.3 Motivation affects AL

50 % students said that their motivation in learning English was to find a good job. They had a lower integrative motivation, moderate instrumental motivation.

The relationship between learning interests, motivation and AL competence?

4 4 learning strategies affect al
4.4 Learning strategies affect AL

O’Malley and Chamot (1990:138) 0rganise metacognitive strategies in to seven major groups:


Directed attention

Selective attention



Problem identification


Social strategiesAffective strategies

Asking questions Lowering your anxiety

Cooperating with others Encouraging yourself

Empathising with others Taking your emotional

temperature (Oxford1990;21)

It is a pity students really don’t know what strategy refers to , they simply think memorizing words, listening, reading, doing exercises are their strategies. It is our teacher’s task to tell them what is strategy and to do some learning strategy training.
4 5 study conditions affect al
4.5 Study conditions affect AL

From primary schools to university, students always learn under the guide of teachers in school. AL requires that teachers give them a free learning condition. They can choose their own reading materials ,they can learn by following teachers or in our own way, whether they learn by the textbook or by other learning activities. they should learn in their own thinking, but they do not deny the teacher’s function. School and teacher should give them a free condition to learn, they will learn better.

4 6 learning styles affect al
4.6 Learning styles affect AL

A variety of individual psychological variables

aptitude and personality

learning style

visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or tactile learning modalities (Reid,1987)

field-dependence/independence (Chapelle and Green,1992)

motivation, affective state and beliefs

5 how to be a successful autonomous learner
5. How to be a successful autonomous learner

Be capable of self-discipline

Be capable of self-management

Be capable of self-monitoring

Be confident and persistent

Be capable of developing one's own learning style and strategies

major findings
Major Findings
  • 1. Students have realized the importance of Autonomous learning
  • 2. They could not tell the difference between Autonomous learning and self-study.
  • 3. Higher interests but lower motivation, passive learning in class
4. Higher anxieties
  • 5.They knew almost nothing about learning strategies.
  • 6.Few successful language learners.
reflections on the teacher s task
Reflections on the teacher’s task

The difference between AL and self-study

How to help students lower their anxiety

How to make students actively involved in classroom learning

How to enhance students’ motivation

How to help the students have a clear awareness about some learning strategies and do some strategy training

How to foster AL competence


1. From dependent learning to independent learning.

2. From passively choosing learning materials to actively choosing learning materials.

3. From simple learning approach to various kinds of learning approaches.

4. From passively getting input of knowledge to actively researching.


This study tells that the first-year English major students’ degree of learner autonomy is not so satisfactory. But they themselves should not be blamed. Conversely, I think, it is our teacher’s obligation to help them to transfer their instrumental motivation to motivation of intrinsic interests , to arouse their awareness of learning strategies , further more to foster their ALcompetence