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LEARNER AUTONOMY FAQ WHAT IS IT AND WHY DO I NEED IT? By Hayo Reinders www.innovationinteaching.org. Learner Autonomy is, first and foremost, a mindset. A way of thinking about learning as a journey where you decide where to go, and how to travel. .
Learner Autonomy is, first and foremost, a mindset. A way of thinking about learning as a journey where you decide where to go, and how to travel.
You may occasionally hire a tour guide to explain about the local sights, but then you’re on the road again, to wherever the events and the people you meet take you.
Because no one knows you better than you do, and no one can make your choices for you, autonomy requires you to get to know yourself better.
Autonomy does not live happily in places without choice and it does not prosper in places where one part of the population is disadvantaged over another.
You are a great teacher! You are ready give your students the freedom to express themselves as individuals. Many teachers find this unnerving, as it makes their lessons less predictable.
You are obviously adventurous enough to consider taking a step towards making your classes more learner-centred. Applause! Many of your colleagues are not ready yet.
You have two basic choices. One is to introduce the idea of autonomy in your classroom. The other is to make use of resources specifically designed to develop learner autonomy, such as self-access centres and language advising.
Let’s start with the first option. There are some practical tips further down, but let’s talk about the preparation phase first. You will need three things: patience, patience, and ... patience! Developing autonomy takes time and depends on your persistence.
Don’t give up if your learners take some time to get used to their new-found freedom and their changing roles. It would not be realistic to expect your students to take responsibility for their learning from one day, or even month, to the next.
The overall classroom atmosphere needs to value and encourage reflection and learner initiative. Students need to recognise that their views and roles are valued before they are willing to risk greater participation.
As part of the preparation you will also need to talk to your students about what you aim to do and why. No one likes to be left in the dark, especially when there are changes in everyday classroom routine. Explain your thinking and what it means for your students.
So, what does encouraging in the classroom look like? Below you will find a link to a short article about implementing a pedagogy for autonomy with some practical tips on where to start. When you complete reading it, a computer-generated test will be emailed to you to check your understanding of the article (just kidding).
So much for the language classroom. How about more specific approaches? The table below shows you some of the more common approaches to implementing autonomy.
Autonomy is about freedom and being free is a fundamental human need. Autonomy therefore suits every culture. What does not suit every culture is being told how it views or develops towards freedom.
In my own teaching and academic work in over 30 countries, I have found many manifestations of autonomy, often within the same country. Each context demands its own interpretation and needs to be valued for its unique character. By respecting your learners and their backgrounds, you will together find the best way towards learner autonomy.
As a research tool you may want to check out the autonomy bibliography, which currently has over 1,700 references in the area of autonomy. Also have a look through current autonomy projects on the ‘LAPI’ page on www.innovationinteaching.org.
If you would like formal instruction in this area, the University of Hull offers an online postgraduate certificate in language advising:http://www.hull.ac.uk/languages/postgraduate/online_PG/index.html
You are in luck! Below you will find some of the key organisations, books, and online resources about learner autonomy and related areas. Happy browsing!
AUTO-L discussion listTo Subscribe send a message to:Wldyc@cynyvm.cuny.edu Subject line: AUTO-L Request Message: Subscribe AUTO-L Your name Your institutional affiliation Your e-mail address
References: Learner autonomy Benson, P. (2000). Teaching and Researching Learner Autonomy. Harlow, Longman. Benson, P., & Voller, P. (1997). Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning. Harlow: Longman. Knowles, M. S. (1975) Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.Lamb, T. & Reinders, H. (Eds.) (2008). Learner and Teacher Autonomy: Realities and Responses. Amsterdam: Benjamins / AILA Review. Lamb, T. & Reinders, H. (Eds.) (2007). Supporting Independent Learning: Issues and Interventions. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. Lier, L. V. (1996). Interaction in the language curriculum : awareness, autonomy and authenticity. london: Longman. Winch, C. (2007). Education Autonomy and Critical Thinking. Routledge.
References: Self-AccessGardner, D. & Miller, L. (1999). Establishing Self-access. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lázaro, N. and Reinders, H. 2009. Language learning and teaching in the self-access centre. A practical guide for language teachers. Available from www.innovationinteaching.org
What makes a good language learner? Naiman, N., Fröhlich, M., Stern, H.H., & Todesco, A. (1996). The good language learner. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
References: Language advising http://ec.hku/1to1Online examples and videorecordings with worksheets of language advising sessions. Mozzon-McPherson, M. and R. Vismans (2001). Beyond Language Teaching Towards Language Advising. London, Cilt.
Lifelong learning Arthur, L. & Hurd, S. (2001) Supporting Lifelong Language Learning. Theoretical and Practical Approaches. London: CILT.http://www.learning-for-life.org/ http://www.lifelonglearnresearch.co.uk/
Strategies Strategy inventory for Language Learning, available from: http://ell.phil.tuhemnitz.de/cing/frontend/questionnaires/oxford_quest.php Chamot, A. et al. (1999). The Learning Strategies Handbook. White Plains: Addison Wesley Longman. Cohen, A. (1998). Strategies in Learning and Using a Second Language. London: Longman. Cotterall, S. & Reinders, H. (2004) Learner Strategies: a Guide for Teachers Singapore: RELC.Macaro, E. (2001). Learner Strategies in second and foreign language classrooms. London: Continuum.O'Malley, J.M. & A.U. Chamot. (1990). Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Oxford, R.L. (1990). Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know. Boston, Mass: Heinle & Heinle.
Learner training and study skillsReinders, H., Moore, N. and Lewis, M. (2008). The International Student's Handbook. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Rubin, J., & Thompson, I. (1982). How to be a more successful language learner. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Some free articlesAbout strategies:www.innovationinteaching.org/docs/article - 2004 - Guidelines.pdf About self-access:www.innovationinteaching.org/docs/article - 2007 - CALL EJ.pdfAbout language advising:www.innovationinteaching.org/docs/article - 2004 - language learning journal.pdfwww.innovationinteaching.org/docs/article - 2007 - relt.pdfAbout autonomy:http://www.innovationinteaching.org/thesis_request.php
Questions?Contact me through www.innovationinteaching.org Skype: innovationinteaching Facebook: email me to join the autonomy community. I’d love to hear from you!Hayo Reinders