Part Practica1 perspectives
5 Learner profiles
In educational contexts it is important to know as much as possible
about the learners: their needs, their wants, their learning styles, their
beliefs, their attitudes and their abilities. Monitoring learners is rela-
tively easy in classroom-based learning. It is more difíicult to achieve in
self-access learning because of the individualised nature of the work and
because of the reduced leve1 of teacher contact. It might be argued that,
in self-access, information about learners is in the private domain of the
individuals and that they should be free not to disclose it. We are not
suggesting that learners be forced to supply information but that they
should be made aware of the benefits of doing so. Learners sbould be
informed of the reasons for collecting information about them an$ for
monitoring their activities. It should be made clear to them how this
information will enhance the learning opportunities made available to
them through self-access learning.
In this chapter we discuss the collection of information about
learners and how this can contribute to enhancing the self-access
Iearning experience. This enhancement is achieved firstly by making
the learners individually more aware of their own language profile,
and secondly by providing the information teachers need to develop
materials and activities directly related to the requirements of the
We suggest the use of learner profiles as an integrated approach to
collecting and using information. These profiles are developed for and
by individual learners and therefore are of irnmediate relevance to them.
Because the profiles use a standardised format, information can be
collected together into a central database from which analyses can be
performed of al1 the self-access learners or selected sub-groups of them
(e.g. beginners or part-time students). Such analyses are invaluaMe fUt
the development of the self-access system, materials and activities. They
could also contribute to the measurement of effectiveness (see Chapter
12),and to periodic reports and justifications of funding (see Chapter
Both qualitative and quantitative data can be used in building learner
profiles. These profiles can be linked very closely to learner assassments
&,d a n be used to record their outcomes. Profiles also have the
gmtential to be used as the basis of assessment procedures. This is an
b u e which requires careful consideration as it also involves risks (e.g.
alienating learners or reducing the usefulness of the awareness raising
LEARNER PROFILE FOR:
In this c h a ~ t e r íirst define learner profiles, then we discuss the
we Commencement Date:
goals of usingthem. Following this, we look at the benefits for students
and teachers of using learner profiles. Then we look at what a learner To the learner
profile contains, how to construct one and how to make it an on- The contents of this profile are al¡ about you. he purpose of the
going, updateable document. Finally, we comment on the issue of who profile is to give an accurate picture of what you are able to do well
should have access to the information in a learner profile and for what and what you need to improve.The contents are not a secret record.
You can see them at any time and you can also comment on what is
recorded here. You can add whatever you like to this profile and staff
in the Self-Access Centre may also add things. You might want to
include non-paper items as part of this profile (e-g. a tape recording).
5.2 A definition of a learner profile That's OK. Just add a note in the relevant section saying where the
document is. If you want to discuss your profile take it to your
A learner profile is a collection of information relating to an individual wunsellor.
learner (see example in Figure 5.1; also see Section 7.2 for examples of
Wbat to put in & profile
activities for getting learners started on making profiles). Its purpose is
The profile is divided into the following sections:
to provide a picture of the learner's current development and future
potential in terms which relate to self-access learning. The profile will:
1. Needs-and-wants analysis
describe the learner's needs, wants and abilities; record the learner's This section records what you need and also what you want to
goals and study plans; document actions taken to fulfil the study plans; learn.
and record learning outcomes. These are not new ideas. There is a lot of 2. Contracts
literature in the field of English language teaching about needs analysis Here you can state the goals you will aim at during a specific
(beginning with Munby 1978). Recording of learners' goals has been penod of time.
debated in the field of self-access learning under the guise of learner 3. Study plans
In this section you keep the detailed plans you make to achieve
contracts (e.g. Dickinson r987; Or 1994). There is some discussion on
the use of study plans in self-access and documenting their success (e.g.
4. Records of learning achievement
Or 1994; Gardner and Miller 1997). Finally, learning outcomes are
In this section you show your progress. You wuld use any of the
widely debated in the literature on testing. What is new about the
learner profile is an attempt to bring its elements together so they may
self assessments, peer assessments, tests, consultants' comments,
interact and produce an integrated whole which is of use to both your views of your progress, your class teachers' views.
learners and teachers. 5. Reflection
Here you record your thoughts about the learning methods and
materials you have been using and also about your progress.
5.3 The goals of using learner profiles
Remember to keep this profile up to date.
There are two major goals in creating profiles of self-access learners.
The T s t is to establish the needs and wants of the learners and the 1
second is to monitor progress. These goals are equally relevant for self-
access learners and teachers although their reasons for pursuing the Figure 5.1. The first page o f a learner profile
oals are often different (Table 5.1).