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Successful Learner Autonomy and Learner Independence in Self-Directed Learning


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This is the last lecture in Phase II (Dec 2006 - June 2007) of the video-conferencing teacher education and teacher training project in ELT from UK to Al-Quds Open University in Palestinian Territories. The project is sponsored by the British Council, and Mark Krzanowski is the Project Manager in London. This session has been prepared for Palestinian trainer trainers and experienced Palestinian teacher educators.

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Successful Learner Autonomy and Learner Independence in Self-Directed Learning

  1. 1. ’ Successful Learner Autonomy & Learner Independence in Self-Directed Learning ’: Tuesday 29th May 2007 <ul><li>Mark Krzanowski </li></ul><ul><li>EAP Adviser: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of London </li></ul><ul><li>Freelance ELT Consultant & MKUKED Director </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>University of London London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  2. 2. Organisation of the Lecture <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Interactive Discussion of Questions from Pre-Lecture Task </li></ul><ul><li>Break </li></ul><ul><li>Questions from Trainer Trainers </li></ul><ul><li>Review of specialist literature on the topic </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul><ul><li>Official closure of Phase II of the Project </li></ul>
  3. 3. 1 . Provide your own definition of learner independence for an EFL learner. <ul><li>Learner independence is a student’s ability, innate or acquired, to function autonomously or semi-autonomously in an ELT classroom while taking judicious control and responsibility for their own language progress and development. Each and every learner is different, and levels of learner autonomy vary dramatically from one student to another. There may be a national or cultural dimension to the concept as well. Learner over-independence may be potentially dangerous and may at times alienate the learner from the group learning and teaching process (Mark Krzanowski) </li></ul>Learner autonomy may at times result in cases where an adult learner relies on self-study as a predominant mode of acquiring education. LA can be considered in relation to learning a language or in general [e.g. attitude to study] (MK).
  4. 4. ELT specialists on learner independence <ul><li>'Autonomy is the ability to take charge of one's own learning' (Henri Holec) </li></ul><ul><li>'Autonomy is essentially a matter of the learner's psychological relation to the process and content of learning' (David Little) </li></ul><ul><li>'Autonomy is a situation in which the learner is totally responsible for all the decisions concerned with his [or her] learning and the implementation of those decisions'. (Leslie Dickinson) </li></ul><ul><li>'Autonomy is a recognition of the rights of learners within educational systems'. (Phil Benson) </li></ul>
  5. 5. 2. At what stage of one’s educational development does learner autonomy become especially important? 3. Give at least 5 characteristics of a good autonomous language learner. <ul><li>2. Tertiary education / university education </li></ul><ul><li>up to age of 18 (end of high school or secondary school): </li></ul><ul><li>teaching syllabi offered as a finely-tuned input </li></ul><ul><li>University sector onwards/upwards: </li></ul><ul><li>Roughly-tuned input a norm; </li></ul><ul><li>- learners expected to actively engage in ‘aggressive reading’ </li></ul><ul><li>- self-directed learning considered then a key to success; seen as a competitive / differential advantage or USP (e.g. ‘able to work on one’s own initiative’) </li></ul><ul><li>3. A good and efficient autonomous language learner: </li></ul><ul><li>Is able to take initiative and assume responsibility for his learning </li></ul><ul><li>Possesses a range of transferable skills acquired from the tutor or other students, and is able to make a positive transfer </li></ul><ul><li>Sees independence as a challenge and an enriching educational experience </li></ul><ul><li>Employs a range of effective strategies to constantly improve his/her English </li></ul><ul><li>Is not afraid to experiment on his/her own, often through trial and error, in a quest for language improvement </li></ul>
  6. 6. 4. Does the Palestinian educational system advocate learner autonomy – is it part of Palestinian (academic) culture? <ul><li>Contributions from 4 Campuses of Al-Quds </li></ul><ul><li>British secondary education: pupils need to be prepared to function in a post-secondary ‘world’/context </li></ul><ul><li>English-speaking academy: </li></ul><ul><li>Study skills and pastoral care are often ‘frontloaded’ </li></ul><ul><li>Overseas or non-EU EAP/ESP/EFL students: often shocked or traumatised </li></ul><ul><li>Students from ‘affluent’ countries, middle-class families or from the private education sector: not always prepared to readily accept the concept from ‘day one’ </li></ul>
  7. 7. 5. Give practical examples of how you would exploit the CD recordings of ‘Active Learner’ for promotion of learner autonomy in English for Academic Purposes classes . ‘
  8. 8. Specimen worksheet for ‘Active Learner’ - Programme 6 <ul><li>In a moment you will listen to Part 4 of the BBC World Service Programme ‘Active learner’. Programme 4 is devoted to ‘Academic Writing’. </li></ul><ul><li>As you listen, try to take notes or answer the following questions: </li></ul><ul><li>How many people take part in the programme? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the narrator (the female programme producer) saying about academic English and academic writing? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the name of the female student who is interviewed? </li></ul><ul><li>What is she saying about academic writing in English? What kind of advice is she giving to international students? </li></ul><ul><li>How did the student cope with the academic exercise given to her? </li></ul><ul><li>Was her tutor pleased with her performance? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the academic tutor saying about academic writing? </li></ul><ul><li>Which interesting things did you learn in this particular programme? </li></ul><ul><li>Did you learn any interesting vocabulary, phrases or expressions? </li></ul><ul><li>Will this programme give you some practical ideas that will improve your own academic writing? </li></ul>
  9. 9. 6. Give examples of what paper, audio- and audio-visual resources can be of help for self-study and how they can be exploited. <ul><li>Newspapers: hard copy editions and online editions </li></ul><ul><li>General and specialist dictionaries (e.g. dictionaries of collocations) </li></ul><ul><li>Journals and periodicals (e.g. ‘New Scientist’ for EAP students) </li></ul><ul><li>TV (documentaries, e.g. BBC ‘Horizon’) </li></ul><ul><li>Radio (e.g. BBC Radio 4 educational programmes; cf ‘Analysis’) </li></ul><ul><li>Language websites (e.g. the British Council sponsored ones like ‘Learning English’ or ‘Teaching English’) </li></ul><ul><li>If a teacher raises learners’ awareness that the above sources can also be accessed and utilised independently for further self-study, many students will do so. Learner training and demo-ing are crucial. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  10. 10. 7. Give examples of different modern Learning Technologies (LTs) and comment on whether they are a blessing or a curse for educators wishing to promote learner independence. Provide some specific instances of the advantages of LTs for self-directed learning. “ Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment. Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology. A very wide range of people in industry and in private and public sector education have learning technology as a core part of their role: you do not have to be called or to call yourself a learning technologist to be one!” Examples: Technologies such as Macromedia Flash and streaming video and audio permit material to be viewed again and again, anywhere, any time. The three main (incompatible) formats for streaming media are Real , QuickTime and Windows Media . Practical example: YouTube &
  11. 11. Other examples of modern learning technologies <ul><li>Internet & email </li></ul><ul><li>Email discussion groups </li></ul><ul><li>Slideshare ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>Video conferencing </li></ul><ul><li>Wikis and blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual Learning Environments </li></ul><ul><li>PowerPoint </li></ul><ul><li>Online assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Digital course materials </li></ul><ul><li>Pdf files & Adobe Reader (Pdf file creator) </li></ul><ul><li>CD & DVD technology (cf cassette & video) </li></ul><ul><li>Distance and open learning environments </li></ul><ul><li>Scanners & digital cameras & digital video cameras </li></ul><ul><li>Flash drives & zip drives </li></ul>
  12. 12. 8. What is your understanding of ICT & the ICT revolution in the ELT classroom? How has it impacted on self-directed learning? 9. In what way is self-learning or self-study in the 21st century different from what it was like in the last couple of decades of the past century? <ul><li>Learners: ‘quick on the uptake’ and embrace it easily </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers: not always keen; at times so deep in ritualistic behaviour that they would not make an effort to accept and take on innovations in learning and teaching </li></ul>
  13. 13. 10. What teaching strategies does a teacher need to use in order to help students become more autonomous in their learning English? <ul><li>Pair-work, group work, individual presentations, group presentations, project work, talking about learner autonomy in class and in 1-2-1 tutorials, using for example the Test-Teach-Test approach, leaving the classroom occasionally & leaving SS ‘to their own devices’ </li></ul>
  14. 14. 11. Allegedly a good independent learner is able to use a wide range of cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies. Give some examples of both, and say which group is more important. Directed attention, when deciding in advance to concentrate on general aspects of a task; Selective attention, paying attention to specific aspects of a task; Self-monitoring, i.e., checking one's performance as one speaks; Self-evaluation, i.e., appraising one's performance in relation to one's own standards; self-reinforcement, rewarding oneself for success Repetition (when imitating others' speech) Resourcing, i.e. having recourse to dictionaries and other materials; Translation (using their mother tongue as a basis for understanding and/or producing the target language; Note-taking; Deduction (conscious applic. of L2 rules); Contextualisation (embedding a word or phrase in a meaningful sequence); Transfer (using knowledge acquired in the L1 to remember and understand facts and sequences in the L2); Inferencing, when matching an unfamiliar word against available information (a new word etc); Question for clarification, when asking the teacher to explain Metacognitive [Wended, 1998] Cognitive [ O’Malley & Chamot, 1990]
  15. 15. 12. In what teaching contexts learner autonomy is of peripheral importance in learning English, and in what contexts is it of central / utmost importance? <ul><li>It depends. In well-resourced systems where there are sufficient human resources and the staff-student ratio is low, learner independence may be perceived to be less important. In countries with high levels of literacy learner training is not an issue either. LA is exceptionally important in overcrowded classrooms, at HE level and in countries where distances prevent people from receiving equitable education. </li></ul>13. What is the difference between CALL and Multimedia? Which type is better suited for development of autonomous learning? The former did not allow for diversions or skipping any elements. The latter offers more choices, and allows users to ‘chop and change’ as required. The latter appears more flexible. 14. How would you help a learner (a trainee teacher or a student) if it is technophobia that hinders their progress in self-directed learning. ‘ counselling’ & tutoring or mentoring; graded exposure through gradual osmosis; demo-ing; positively promoting ‘alternative practices’, management of change; challenging ‘ritualistic teaching’ or ‘fossilised learning habits’.
  16. 16. 15. How do cultural attitudes in relation to what goes on between teachers and students affect the process of self-directed learning? <ul><li>“ EFL learners have certain cultural expectations about teacher and student roles. For many, the teacher has the duty to impart knowledge to them, and their duty as learners is to memorize it. This attitude is clearly not conducive to self-direction.” (Kazunori Nozawa) </li></ul><ul><li>LEARNER AUTONOMY ACROSS CULTURES </li></ul><ul><li>Language Education Perspectives </li></ul><ul><li>Edited by David Palfreyman and Richard C. Smith (Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ This book is a must have for those who are teaching in non-western cultures. Though a number of articles, it addresses the field of language learning autonomy in non-western cultures. There has been concern that autonomy is only valid in western cultures because it is based on the western tradition of education. However, as these essays show, it may be dangerous to make this sort of cultural or ethnic generalization. Autonomy is present in all educational cultures. What may be the problem is that the approach of the teacher and the approach of the students may be different. If this is the case, then there may be some difficulty in developing autonomy in the students. I really recommend that any teacher teaching in non-western countries pick this up.’ (Amazon review) </li></ul>
  17. 17. 16. Give practical examples of how you would exploit the DVD recordings of ‘An A-Z of English’ (originally produced by the British OU) for promotion of: learner autonomy among advanced students of English among trainee teachers of English. <ul><li>“ From ‘accent’ to ‘zero’ - a rapid tour of themes, ideas and issues that are bound up with the English language. People with a wide range of views on English, from countries as far apart as India, Jamaica, France, Singapore, the USA and Scotland, including linguists, poets and teachers are presented here to represent the diversity of English. This diversity includes the different forms that English takes - in writing as well as speech - varieties of English such as Scots and Creole, and the different settings in which English is used. “ </li></ul>I originally recorded the programme on TV back in the mid-1990s. Originally I used it in the classroom for teaching advanced learners, then I realised that the programme also had a teacher training potential. Finally, over the years, I have realised that the programme is also ideal for students or teachers working on their own. Please refer to Appendix 1 (pdf) to see how I have modified all the tasks depending on whether I use the recording for classroom teaching or for promotion of self-study. (Mark Krzanowski)
  18. 18. 17. Is the CD recording ‘Great speeches of the 20th century’ of any use for fostering learning independence? Please give some examples. <ul><li>There are 14 speeches to choose from </li></ul><ul><li>Learners have an element of choice: ‘De gustibus non disputantur est’/There is no accounting for taste </li></ul><ul><li>Possible role models: e.g. Martin Luther King & his determination to free the oppressed and the disadvantaged </li></ul><ul><li>Wide variety of idiolects, accents and ‘Englishes’ </li></ul><ul><li>the Guardian series is not produced specifically for ELT, but can be used for self-study </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic materials </li></ul><ul><li>Promotion of global issues </li></ul>&quot;We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.&quot; Martin Luther King delivers his 'I have a dream' speech. Photograph: AP
  19. 19. 18. What is the function of a modern / contemporary self-access centre in college or at university? <ul><li>19. What is a condition sine qua non to ensure that a self-learner ultimately becomes a reflective learner? </li></ul>20. How can an institution create a conducive learning and teaching environment for autonomous learning? Initially it was meant to supplement learning, whereas these days it is fully integrated into the learning & teaching paradigms. It has also become an integral part of blended learning & distance education frameworks. Teachers need to train learners in how to acquire and develop the ability to self-reflect on one’s learning and one’s study so that the process of regular reflection benefits one’s further endeavours. Positive experiences need to ‘amplified’, shared on a wider forum and reinforced – as if in a behaviouristic fashion. This can vary from one educational institution to another, and is particularly wide ranging in the university sector, given its traditional self-autonomy. It requires a concerted effort of like-minded educators who are on the forefront of L & T developments and who are unconditionally committed to the cause.
  20. 20. 21. Give an example of a good classroom activity which can help student reflect on learning. <ul><li>There are many activities to choose from, e.g.: </li></ul><ul><li>A questionnaire on learning styles OR </li></ul><ul><li>A 5-minute check at the end of the lesson (name at least 3 useful things that you learnt today) OR </li></ul><ul><li>Which of the following activities [1 to 10] from the last term did you find most useful for becoming more independent in your studies? OR </li></ul><ul><li>Consult your learner diary, and share with us useful self-study techniques for better reading that you developed while doing research for your researched essays. </li></ul>22. How easy is it to promote and/or foster learner independence / learner autonomy / self-directed learning in the Palestinian ELT classroom? - Contributions from 4 Campuses of Al-Quds 23. What are the practical implications for ELT materials writers who wish to cater for an autonomous learner? <ul><li>Diversity of a self-directed learner needs to be duly acknowledged in mats design </li></ul><ul><li>Generic mats brought to a common denominator need to be complemented by fairly specific ones </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Never assume’ </li></ul><ul><li>What works in the classroom may not work outside </li></ul><ul><li>Mats must be exceptionally attractive and user-friendly </li></ul>
  21. 21. 24. To what extent is syllabus negotiation or a process syllabus a reflection of learner autonomy? <ul><li>Closely related to attitudes and motivation is the concept of self - esteem , that is, the evaluation the learner makes of herself with regard to the target language or learning in general. '[Self- esteem is a personal judgement of worthiness that is expressed in the attitudes that the individual holds towards himself' (Coopersmith, 1967: 4-5, cited in Brown, 1987: 101-102). If the learner has a 'robust sense of self ', to quote Breen and Mann (1997, cited in Benson & Voller, 1997: 134), his relationship to himself as a learner is unlikely to be marred by any negative assessments by the teacher. Conversely, a lack of self - esteem is likely to lead to negative attitudes towards his capability as a learner, and to 'a deterioration in cognitive performance', thus confirming his view of himself as incapable of learning (Diener and Dweck, 1978, 1980, cited in Wenden, 1998: 57). </li></ul><ul><li>[Dimitrios Thanasoulas: ] </li></ul>25. How important for effective autonomous learning is self-esteem? By involving learners in the process we make a course or a programme more relevant to their needs. They are likely to be more autonomous if their suggestions are considered or included. The traditional power - historically vested in the teacher - is to a certain extent horizontally shared in a syllabus negotiation.
  22. 22. 26. How pedagogically valid are self-placement, self-assessment and self-evaluation in an ELT (or: HE) educational process? <ul><li>In university contexts, such systems would probably work better with postgraduate students (they tend to be more mature and probably therefore more objective) </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural issues: students from non-assertive cultures (e.g. those from the countries influenced by the teachings of Confucius) may under-grade themselves (‘modesty’) </li></ul><ul><li>Comprehensive training or awareness raising might be needed for S-P, S-A & S-E to be effective </li></ul><ul><li>It may be extremely difficult for an autonomous or self-directed learner to be objective in self-assessment if ‘impressionistic’ elements are involved </li></ul>
  23. 23. 27. Which type of motivation has the biggest impact on self-directed learning? <ul><li>Probably: intrinsic motivation </li></ul>“ The humanistic teacher also needs to be aware of what motivates their students. Some will probably want to learn English because they have to (e.g. for their job), while others want to simply for the sake of it. The former is called 'extrinsic motivation' , while the latter is called ' intrinsic motivation' . Those students who are more extrinsically motivated will be more goal-oriented and might want, for example, a lot of tests and exams. Students who are intrinsically motivated will derive a lot of satisfaction from solving language problems - the solution will be a reward in itself.”
  24. 24. 28. What do we mean by learner counselling? <ul><li>In the EF context, this could probably be equated with (a) ‘language & study advice’ as well as (b) the pastoral care element. For (a) pls refer to: </li></ul>  Language advising “There is a well developed educational argument (examined elsewhere in the Good Practice Guide) which considers independent learning a desirable goal of Higher Education. The shift in language learning from a teacher-led to a more learner-centred approach and the increased use of a variety of media and technologies has required a repositioning of the teacher and a reappraisal of the teachers skills. Within this context a new professional role, distinct from the teacher, has emerged. Terms such as facilitator, mentor, counsellor, adviser, helper, learner support officer and consultant have been used to characterise such role and identify differences in skills and functions with the teaching profession. [This article focuses on the skills and practices of language advising .]” (my underlining – MK)
  25. 25. 29. How should ELT teacher education and teacher training embrace the concept of learner autonomy in blended learning and distance education? <ul><li>ELT TE & TT need to embrace all current ICT developments to assist self-directed learners in the initial process of self-shifting towards (more) autonomous study </li></ul><ul><li>ELT trainers, lecturers and trainee teachers need to ensure that they undergo extensive and comprehensive training in ICT and current advances of BL & DE; frequently students perform better on an ICT level than their tutors, and this should not normally or ever be the case. </li></ul>
  26. 26. <ul><li>31. What is a ‘retrospective self-report’? </li></ul><ul><li>Often learners are asked to write up a process that had undergone while learning something so that this retrospective ‘reflection’ is used by the tutors for future generations of students to guide them in the process of self-study (e.g. distance learning students often have to replicate in solitude what ‘traditional’ students do on a daily basis and ‘naturally’ in the classroom or in the lecture room). </li></ul><ul><li>32. Is ‘learner empowerment’ subsumed under ‘learner autonomy’ or is it the other way round? Justify your view. </li></ul><ul><li>It can be assumed that learner empowerment can in certain contexts overlap or be a constituent part of learner autonomy. LA would seem to be a hyper-ordinate concept for LE. Learner empowerment can bring out the best in student’s self-study. </li></ul>30. What do you understand by ‘learner empathy’? ELT practitioners need to ‘put themselves in learners’ shoes’: only by so doing will they see what it feels like being an autonomous learner, and what is needed for better self-functioning in this direction.
  27. 27. Conclusions <ul><li>’ Successful Learner Autonomy & Learner Independence in Self-Directed Learning’ continue to occupy a prominent place in ELT in the 21st century. There is trust as well as responsibility vested in trainer trainers and teacher educators to ensure that they embrace the very best practice in the area and that they ‘practise what they preach’. </li></ul><ul><li>Since most of educational practices in learning and teaching are based on ‘cascading’ and sharing and disseminating good practice, we are expected to offer expertise and training in the concepts discussed today. It appears that the generic principles remain similar across the world (despite erroneous past assumptions that LA & LI normally typified Western educational systems), and perhaps the only factual barrier to self-study or self-learning would be underdevelopment of ICT infrastructures or simply lack of funding in some countries. Nevertheless, there are always compensatory strategies to remedy this. </li></ul><ul><li>’ Successful Learner Autonomy & Learner Independence in Self-Directed Learning’ are achievable, and remain an integral part of learning and teaching as we know it today. </li></ul><ul><li>Mark Krzanowski, May 2007 [email_address] </li></ul>
  28. 28. Selected Bibliography  Chapter on ‘Learning with Self-Access’  Why should learners contribute to the self-access centre? Diane Malcolm ELT Journal 2004 58(4):346-354; doi:10.1093/elt/58.4.346  MK (BBC World Service, 2002-2003)