from a talk on trends in teacher and learner autonomy
Write your own ticket:
Recent trends in Teacher and
IP Exhibition, Thessaloniki, Sept. 1,
That is why most
men dread it.”
-- George Bernard
the model is static; languages are not.
it is one-directional; there is no room for
human experience (which John Dewey
says should lie at the heart of education);
experience comes pre-digested from
students across the world, across
Europe, across Greece, across
Thessalonki, across any class that you
have ever taught, are not the same.
nor are teachers and schools the same.
For the mind does not require filling like
a vessel, but rather, like wood, only
requires kindling to create in it an
impulse to think independently and
desire the truth.
--Plutarch (1st cent. A.D.)
Think of learning as self-expression,
and lead your students to think of it that
way. They will make English their own
that much faster and more permanently.
How do you orchestrate student
autonomy in class?
Make your English classes a place
where students do things.
Playwriting (role play)
“Don‟t use force in training children in
their studies, but rather play. In that
way you can better discern what each
is naturally inclined towards.”
◦ --Plato, The Republic
"The whole point of language pedagogy
is that it is a way of short-circuiting the
slow process of natural discovery and
can make arrangements for learning to
happen more easily and more
efficiently than it does in 'natural
-- Henry Widdowson (1982)
"Although [students] often mention as positive
forces well-designed textbooks and a suitable
curriculum, their true enthusiasm is reserved
for their teachers and their relationships with
“The teacher's ability to empathize, help
students manage their feelings and
expectations, and tune interventions
appropriately to the emotional and
developmental states of the learners, are key
factors in many successful learning outcomes.
Effective language teachers find ways to
provide learners with support and scaffolding
when they need it, and to remove the
scaffolding when the learners no longer need it.
What about you?
“As schools become more autonomous and
open learning environments, teachers
assume ever greater responsibility for the
content, organisation and monitoring of the
learning process, as well as for their own
personal career-long professional
-- Communique of August 2007 from the
Commission to the Council and
From The Guardian, Feb. 2013
“I love my class and I love helping children to achieve, but it
increasingly feels that teaching is being made into a factory
production line… I clock in, deliver the lessons planned for me
by some anonymous educationalist, read the stories chosen for
me by some book marketing company, send the kids home and
then mark the books using the marking and assessment code
designed for me by some senior leader with no class of their
own. Bit by bit, the autonomy of teachers is being chipped away
at by people who don't trust us to be able to plan effectively for
the children we teach.
What the current method seems to ignore is that the children
themselves need to experience the exciting feeling of truly
tailored, creative lessons - designed by professionals who know
them - in order to progress… These days, the time I would have
spent dreaming up imaginative, inclusive and stimulating
lessons is instead spent trying to reformulate the standard
lesson into something that is both achievable and challenging to
my class of EAL [English as an Additional Language] learners
with very little life experience beyond their housing estate.”
From the resignation letter of Gerald Cont
of New York, April, 2013:
“I now find that this approach [based on the
principles of John Dewey] to my profession is
not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps
in some quarters despised. STEM [Science,
Technology, Engineering, Math] rules the day
and „data driven‟ education seeks only
conformity, standardization, testing and a
zombie-like adherence to the shallow and
generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of
oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings.
Creativity, academic freedom, teacher
autonomy, experimentation and innovation are
being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is
not broken in our system of public education.”
Teacher autonomy defined
A capacity for self-directed teaching: In determining the
initiatives they take in their classrooms, teachers must
be able to apply to their teaching . . . reflective and self-
Freedom from control over their teaching: „In practice, .
. . language teachers often work in situations where
their capacity to grant learners greater freedom in
learning is severely constrained‟ (Benson 2000: 115);
Capacity for self-directed professional development:
[The autonomous teacher is] „one who is aware of why,
when, where and how pedagogical skills can be
acquired in awareness of teaching practice itself‟ (Tort-
-- Richard C. Smith, Teacher education for teacher-
learner autonomy (2003)
Just as learning should be seen as
creative self-expression for the learner,
so the act of teaching must afford
creative space to the teacher.
Teachers, no less than students, need
to make what goes on in class their
“Very few men are wise by their own
counsel, or learned by their own
teaching. For he that was only taught by
himself, had a fool to his master.”
-- Ben Jonson
The centrality of the self
Teachers themselves need to be
model life-long English-language
For further reading:
Benson, Phil (2011) Teaching and Researching Autonomy, 2nd ed., Pearson.
Benson, P. (2007). Autonomy in language teaching and learning. State of the Art
Article. Language Teaching, 40(1).
Borg, S., Al-Busaidi, S. (2012). Teachers' beliefs and practices regarding learner
autonomy. ELT Journal, 66(3), 283-292.
Boyer, N., & Maher, P. (2005). From Spoon-Fed to Student-Led: Fostering an
Atmosphere for Web-Based Transformative Learning. International Journal of
Self-Directed Learning, 2(2), 66-80.
Levels of Autonomy and Responsibilities of Teachers in Europe, European
Commission, Education and Culture DG, 2008:
Jackson, Frederick H. and Marsha A. Kaplan, Lessons learned from fifty years of
theory and practice in government language teaching,
Reinders, H., & Balcikanli, C. (2011). Learning to foster autonomy: The role of
teacher education materials Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 2 (1), 15-25:
Smith, Richard C., Teacher education for teacher-learner autonomy: