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Teachers' perspectives on autonomy

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Plenary presentation at CAMTESOL

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Teachers' perspectives on autonomy

  1. 1. Teachers’ perspectives on learner autonomy Phil Benson Macquarie University CAMTESOL 2016 I wonder if this presentation is on slideshare.net? I wonder if this presentation is on slideshare.net?
  2. 2. Menu • What is learner autonomy? • The problem of teaching • Teachers’ perspectives on autonomy • An exploratory practice project • Some implications for professional development
  3. 3. What is learner autonomy?
  4. 4. Galileo Galilei 1564-1642 “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”
  5. 5. Zhu Xi 朱熹 1130-1200 “If you are in doubt, think it out by yourself. Do not depend on others for explanations. Suppose there was no one you could ask, should you stop learning?”
  6. 6. Learner autonomy ‘…a capacity to control your own learning…’ Ability FreedomDesire AUTONOMY
  7. 7. It is impossible to teach learners everything they need to know of a language in class….
  8. 8. Personal relevance of learning ….Class time should be used to teach “those aspects of the language which the learners themselves deem to be the most urgently required”. Nunan, D. (1988). The learner-centered curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 3.
  9. 9. Ownership of language “Having a choice in their own language learning means the language learner or user taking control not only of the language being learnt, but also of the goal and purpose of that learning…. Autonomy resides in being able to say what you want to say rather than producing the language of others…” Macaro, E. (2008). Learning strategies in foreign and second language classrooms. London: Continuum. (p. 59-60).
  10. 10. The problem of teaching “Suppose I had a magic wand that could produce one change in our educational systems. What would that change be?” (Carl Rogers 1902-87)
  11. 11. The problem of teaching “I finally decided that my imaginary wand, with one sweep, would cause every teacher to forget that he or she is a teacher.”
  12. 12. ‘Transmission’ teaching Jean Marc Coté. A L’école, 1903
  13. 13. The problem of language teaching in Asia • Policies favour autonomy, learners are willing. But… • Early start in language learning • Shortage of trained teachers • Students’ approaches to learning conditioned by a series of experiences of ‘being taught’
  14. 14. What’s wrong with ‘being taught’? • Instruction helps language learning? The evidence is… …weak • Participating in learning activities help language learning? The evidence is… …much stronger
  15. 15. Pedagogical strategies for autonomy • Encouraging student preparation • Drawing on out-of-class experience • Using ‘authentic’ materials and ‘real’ language • Independent inquiry • Involving students in task design
  16. 16. Pedagogical strategies for autonomy • Encouraging student-student interaction • Peer teaching • Encouraging divergent outcomes • Self- and peer-assessment • Encourage reflection
  17. 17. Teachers’ perspectives on autonomy
  18. 18. Borg and Al-Busaidi (2012) • Few studies of teachers’ views on learner autonomy • Previous studies show gap between –positive theoretical views –less positive reports of practice in the classroom • Questionnaire on teachers’ perspectives + professional development activities
  19. 19. Borg & Al-Busaidi - Findings • >90% agreed LA has a positive effect on learning • 80% believed their teaching gave students opportunities to develop LA • (Response rate 30%)
  20. 20. Borg & Al-Busaidi - Findings • Should students make decisions? • ‘Desirability rated above feasibility’ –Widest gap for objectives, materials and assessment –More feasible for when, where, how questions –Less feasible for what, what for questions
  21. 21. An exploratory practice project • Collaborative Professional Development project between Macquarie Applied Linguistics and English Language Centre • PD workshop on pedagogical strategies • 1 year project with two pairs of ELC teachers – ‘Book Club Café’ – José Lara & Lesley Speer – ‘Motivating Learner Independence’ – Mary Ann Chehade & Gamze Sayram
  22. 22. Exploratory Practice puzzles • Exploratory practice – “… a vehicle for practitioners (teachers and learners) to plan and work together to deependeepen their understandingstheir understandings of life in the language classroom” – Dick Allwright • Puzzles – BCC - Why don’t students read more? – MLI - Why can’t students be more active learners in and out of class?
  23. 23. My puzzle – feasibility • Innovations in autonomy are… –often ‘experiments’ –often ‘outside’ the curriculum –successful in short-term –but sustainability and transferability unclear
  24. 24. The big puzzle • Exploratory Practice projects – repeated over 8 x 5-week blocks – with different classes / different teachers – within the existing curriculum – How can teachers design and implement sustainable and transferable pedagogical strategies for autonomy
  25. 25. Exploratory Practice - findings • Sustainable pedagogical strategies are… –integrated into the curriculum –repeatable –allowed to evolve over time –‘plant a seed’
  26. 26. Exploratory Practice - findings • Transferable pedagogical strategies are • clearly articulated • flexible and uncomplicated • adaptable to different teaching styles, courses and proficiency levels
  27. 27. Implications for professional development • PDfor autonomy is about –closing the gap between desirability and feasibility –exploring possibilities • Exploration leads to change, but… –it needs time and conversation –it grows out of repetition and variation
  28. 28. …to have learned something is only a point of departure… “To have learned something for the child is only a point of departure. When he has learned the meaning of an exercise, then he begins to enjoy repeating it and he does repeat it an infinite number of times, with the most evident satisfaction.” Maria Montessori (1870- 1952)
  29. 29. Pedagogical strategies for autonomy • Encouraging student preparation • Drawing on out-of-class experience • Using ‘authentic’ materials and ‘real’ language • Independent inquiry • Involving students in task design • Encouraging student-student interaction • Peer teaching • Encouraging divergent outcomes • Self- and peer-assessment • Encourage reflection

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