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Classroom Research in Autonomous LanguageLearning Venice 2011Lienhard Legenhausen University of Münster
Overview • Why research in the autonomous classroom? • Aims and findings of the LAALE research project 2.1 Looking at the quality of learning • Vocabulary • Grammar • General proficiency 2.2 Comparison with other groups of learners 3. Action research -Teachersandlearnersasresearchers
Whyresearch in theautonomousclassroom? Aims: • Finding out more about the quality of learning in the autonomous classroom • How does learning in the autonomous classroom compare to that in other contexts? • Empirical evidence needed also as a reaction to sceptical voices: • Will it work in my context as well? • How can I be sure?
The LAALE Research Project(Language Acquisition in an Autonomous Learning Environment) Research questions: • Whataccuracylevels do autonomous learnersachieve? (cf. grammar) • Howdo conversationalinteractionscomparetothoseof "traditional" learners? Cf. Skehanandothers: earlyreliance on meaning-focussedactivitiespreventlearnersfromdevelopingthe relevant formal features
The Experimental Design • a longitudinal study over 4 years • 11-year-old Danish learners who started learning English in grade 5 • mixed ability class • first two years: three lessons per week (one double lesson and one 45-minute lesson) next two years: three lessons
ComparativeData(textbook-based traditional teaching) • Data from German Grammar School classes (inter alia) • high ability students / ~ 35 % of a year • Data from the same Danish comprehensive school
Spontaneous Recall Test / grade 5 / after 30 lessons Danish Autonomous Class German 'Gymna- sium' Class Danish Traditional Class
Effectsofteaching:presentperfectforms Traditional learners: In 1 ½ hoursoffreeconversationalinteractions: • noacceptable form couldbeobserved • 4 attempts in appropriatecontexts • 57 % deviant forms: Infinitive insteadofPastParticiple. Autonomouslearners: OnlyadvancedlearnersbegintousethePresentPerfect. Learner K accountsfor 25 % of well-formedoccurrences. Conclusion:Prematureteachingofstructuresmightevenhavedetrimentaleffects (Pienemann )
PastTense Formation (Full Verbs)Correct Forms Traditional Class: German Gymnasium
The C-Test –a measure of linguistic proficiency What did we do wrong? We are a middle-aged couple with a teenage family. We ha___ always wor___ hard a___ our profes___ careers a___ our jo___, have alw___ paid o___ tax a___ tried t___ do t___ best f___ our chil___. …
C-Test Results Danish auto. 7* and 8*: The same class a year later
Action Research – an alternative to large-scaleprojects LAALE: an exampleof a large-scale longitudinal studywhichisbeyondtheresourcesof individual persons Action Research: an approachwhichallows individual teacherstoexploretheirownpractice
Defining Features ofAction Research • teacher-initiated, i.e. typically carried out by the teacher • practice-oriented: Identification of a problem in their own teaching context • immediate results which lead to changes in the teaching practice => A natural extension of the teachers’ professional skills
The AffinitiesbetweenAutonomousLanguageLearning & Action Research The objectives Action research : => theteacher's "emancipationandempowerment" K. Lewin (1945) LearnerAutonomy : => thecitizen's (thelearners') emancipationandempowerment (cf. The Council of Europe) ALL: learnerstakechargeoftheirownlearning (Holec, Dam, Little etc.) AR: teacherstakechargeoftheirown professional development (Burns)
The affinitiesbetween ALL and AR The importanceof 'oldknowledge' • ALL: The important point is to start out from what the learners already know (cf. Leni Dam's talk) • AR does not presuppose extensive knowledge of the literature and the theories; … action researchers start out from the practical knowledge they have (cf. A. Burns 2010)
Startingyourownactionresearch: Delimitingyourtopic (i.e. theproblem) Topics: Not: 'Makeclassroommoreautonomous' But: 'Allow learners more choices ' Technique: Focussing circles (Edge 1992) Example: Raise awareness of formal aspects of the target language Cf. Workshop
Us Guidance: Rules of thumb or accurate des-criptions => preferences? Introduction of concordancers => Helpful? linguistic awareness- raising awareness-raising Focus on form in collaborative writing => Evidence? Indirect corrections => The problem of noticing?
ConcludingRemarks • Trust learners to be able to develop grammatical and communicative competencies by getting them involved in authentic communicative interactions. • Action research and autonomous language learning are based on the same underlying principles: There is not only the need to get learners involved in their own learning, but also to get teachers more systematically involved in their own professional development through action research. (Cf. the aim of this conference)
Thank you for your attention !
References Burns, A. (1999). Collaborative Action Research for English Language Teachers. Cambridge: CUP. Burns, A. (2010). Doing Action Research in English Language Teaching. A Guide for Practitioners. New York: Routledge. Dam, L. (1995). Learner Autonomy 3. From Theory to Classroom Practice. Dublin: Authentic. Dam, L. / Legenhausen, L. (1996). „The acquisition of vocabulary in an autonomous language learning environment - the first months of beginning English.“ In: Pemberton, R. et al. (ed.). Taking Control - Autonomy in Language Learning. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, pp. 265-280. Edge, J. (1992). Cooperative Development. Harlow: Longman. Legenhausen. L. (1999). "Language acquisition without grammar instruction? - The evidence from an autonomous classroom." Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (RCEI) 38. 63-76.
Legenhausen, L. (2001). "Discourse behaviour in an autonomous learning environment." AILA Review 15. 65-69. Legenhausen, L. (2003). "Second language acquisition in an autonomous learning environment." In: Little, D. / Ridley, J. / Ushioda, E. (eds.) Learner Autonomy in the Foreign Language Classroom – Teacher, Learner, Curriculum and Assessment. Dublin: Trinity College Dublin, pp. 65-77. Lewin, K. (1946). "Action research and minority problems." Journal of Social Issues 2. 34-46. Little, D. (1991). Learner Autonomy 1. Defintions, Issues and Problems. Dublin: Authentik. Skehan, P. (1998). A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: OUP.