Autonomy in language learning Members: Cheung Lai Ling, Echo Choy Wai Yan, Vivien Tsang Man Yin, Angel
What is Learner Autonomy? • Definition of learner autonomy • “At the core of the notion of autonomy are the learners’ ability and willingness to make choices independently” (Littlewood, 1996, p.427) • Ability • knowledge and skills that helps an individual to be able to make choices • Willingness • motivation and confidence that helps an individual to take responsibility for the choices required
The Goal of Teaching • General teaching • To help learners become independent in how they think, learn and behave • Language teaching • to help learners become independent from their teachers in their learning and use of language
Components and Domains of Autonomy in Language Learning Confidence, Motivation Knowledge, Skills Willingness Ability To carry out choices in Specific Tasks Life in General Autonomy as Communicators Autonomy as Learners Autonomy as Persons
Autonomy in Language Learning • Teachers’ role • In order to help learners to develop autonomy in their process of acquiring the language, • a teacher should consider three domains (for different levels of autonomy) • Communication through language • Learning process • Students’ personal life
Factors affecting the development of learners’ autonomy • All behavior is governed by beliefs and experience. • Autonomous language learning behavior may be supported by a particular set of beliefs or behaviors. • The behavior may either contribute to or impede the development of their potential for autonomy.
Factors affecting the development of learners’ autonomy Students’ belief in… • Role of the teacher • Director VS Facilitator • Role of feedback • Informative VS Evaluative • Learner independence • Classroom learning VS Self learning • Learner confidence in study ability • Motivated VS Unmotivated • Experience of language learning • Experience VS Inexperience • Approach to studying • Learn the language VS Use the language
Reasons for teachers to foster learners’ autonomy • People who take the initiative in learning (Proactive learners) learn more things and learn better than do people who sit at the feet of teachers, passively waiting to be taught (Reactive learners). • They enter into learning more purposefully and with greater motivation.
Reasons for language teachers to foster learners’ autonomy • In the past two decades, as our language teaching practice shifted to a more communicative approach, it has also become more learner-centered. • For language teachers, language learners are becoming the source of information for class activities and the focus of curriculum design (Campbell and Kryszewska, 1992; Nunan, 1993; Tarone and Yule, 1989)
The relationship between autonomy and motivation • “Learners’ active and independent involvement in their own learning (autonomy) increases motivation to learn and consequently increases learning effectiveness” (Dickinson, 1995, p.165) • Autonomous learners can identify goals, formulate their own goals, andcan change goals to suit their own learning needs and interests; they are able to use learning strategies, and to monitor their own learning
The relationship between autonomy and motivation • Extrinsic motivation (Teacher-centered) • Use extrinsic incentives • Grades, Praise, Rewards • Use controlling events • Exercise, tests and exams • Intrinsic motivation (Learner-centered) • Use intrinsic incentives • Explain the purpose of language learning • Provide uncontrolled events • Authentic context
Ways for teachers to foster learners’ autonomy In the area of independent work, teachers need to consider… • Students’ motivation by… • Clarifying the relationship of the tasks to their own needs and objectives. • Students’ confidence by… • Beginning with structured and controlled tasks to creative tasks. • Students’ knowledge and skills by… • Providing a systematic approach to familiarizing students with the tasks. i.e., from easy to difficult.
Ways for teachers to foster learners’ autonomy In the area of communication strategies, we need to explore • Ways of encouraging learners to be ready to take risks and make errors in communication • Non-threatening atmosphere • Ways of increasing students’ confidence in their ability to communicate successfully • Positive feedback • Ways of making students aware of specific strategies for compensating gaps in their linguistic knowledge • Information exchange
Ways for teachers to foster learners’ autonomy • Create a space for students to construct their personal learning contexts • e.g. through experiential learning (Project work) • Learner-centered approach • to use tasks which allow learners to personalize their language use
Discussion • To what extent do your students have autonomy in learning? • What strategies did you use to help your students develop autonomy in language learning? • What are the factors that afford and constrain students’ autonomy in language learning in your school? • Can you think of other possible ways to stretch their autonomy in learning?
Conclusion • We want our students to have autonomy in a teacher-directed classroom setting, in settings such as self-access learning centers and in the real world. • Teachers have a very important role in helping language learners understand learning strategies and expand their own self-direction in learning.
Conclusion • We need to be open for the new roles of teachers as helpers, facilitators, advisors, guides. • We need to construct a shared understanding of the language learning process in order to foster students’ learning autonomy. (i.e., shared belief)
Suggestions • Some students lacked self-disciplined and needed support from each other and the teacher. • We cannot force, beg or threaten students into learning. • Provide structured formats, such as peer support groups.
Suggestions • Teacher need to persuade students that… • they are capable of self-assessment • assessment is not something that needs to be left to teachers. • To facilitate authentic self-assessment by students, teachers suggest that students use local bilingual resources might such as television news, films with subtitles and written materials (Gardner, 1996)
References • Cotterall, S. (1995). Readiness for autonomy: Investigating learner beliefs. System, 23(2), 195-205. • Dickinson, L. (1995). Autonomy and motivation – A literature Review. System, 23(2), 165-174. • Littlewood, W. (1996). “Autonomy”: An Anatomy and a framework. System, 24(4), 427-435. • Yang, N. D. (1998). Exploring a new role for teachers: Promoting learner autonomy. System, 26, 127-135. • Gardner, D., (1996). Self-assessment for self-access learners. TESOL Journal 5, 18-23.