File Name: teaching and researching autonomy in language learning phil benson .zip
- Learner autonomy
- Autonomy and Its Role in English Language Learning: Practice and Research
- Teaching and Researching: Autonomy in Language Learning
Autonomy in the transition from foreign language learning to foreign language teaching. This paper discusses the historical development of the concept of teacher autonomy in foreign language education and its relationship to the idea of learner autonomy. Three major phases in the development of conceptions of teacher autonomy are reviewed, involving attention to teacher roles in autonomous learning projects, professional development and professional freedom.
Different ways of conceptualising the link between teacher and learner autonomy are discussed and an alternative conception based on the notion of transition from learner autonomy to teacher autonomy in learning-teaching careers is proposed. Key-words: Learner autonomy; Teacher autonomy; Self-directed learning; Teacher development.
Palavras-chave: Autonomia do aprendiz; autonomia do professor; aprendizagem autodirecionada; desenvolvimento do professor. The idea of autonomy has also acquired a particular importance in the field of foreign language education, in which more than 20 book-length publications have been published since the turn of the century Benson After 30 years or so of research and practice, there is now a fair degree of consensus on what learner autonomy means in the context of language education.
Over the past decade, however, the notion of teacher autonomy has also come to the fore and to date there is much less consensus over its meaning and significance. One reason for this is that there has been far less discussion of teacher autonomy beyond the field of foreign language education.
The teacher education literature has tended to equate teacher autonomy with professional freedom, or the degree to which curricula and institutions allow scope for teacher discretion. It is in this sense, for example, that Anderson used the term, arguing that the rise of uniform staff development programmes and evaluative classroom observations in the United States had led to a "decline of teacher autonomy".
Webb 48 also uses the term in this sense, when he refers to the ways in which "teachers exercise their autonomy in the face of accountability systems that aim to reduce or eliminate their independent decision-making".
Webb aligns the concept of teacher autonomy with Lortie's notion of "teacher power" and also with Maxcy's view that "educational professionalism" means "power being placed in the hands of educators such that they may possess leadership in the policy and decision-making affecting learning in schools". A somewhat different conception of teacher autonomy has, however, occasionally been articulated in the teacher education literature. Although it is not especially characteristic of the broader literature on teacher education, this view has received stronger support in the foreign language education literature, where professional freedom has been seen as one, but by no means the most important, element in a conception of teacher autonomy that has largely evolved out of efforts to understand the most appropriate roles for teachers in projects aimed at the development of learner autonomy.
In foreign language education, teacher autonomy has largely been viewed as a professional attribute to be developed through teacher education processes and, more recently, through processes of self-directed professional development. It has also been closely linked to a commitment on the part of teachers to the principle of learner autonomy.
This collection of papers on autonomy in foreign language education in Brazil offers an apt opportunity to reflect on the nature of teacher autonomy and its relationship to learner autonomy, because it brings together empirical studies in which the research participants include both foreign language students who are studying languages with the prospect of becoming teachers and practising teachers, who doubtless still consider themselves to be, in some sense, foreign language students.
Viewing the collection as one that deals with autonomy at various levels of the learning and teaching process for prospective and practising teachers, therefore, we have a unique opportunity to consider the relationship between learner autonomy and teacher autonomy as one of transition.
We begin this paper by placing the idea of teacher autonomy within the development of research and practice on autonomy in foreign language education. We then discuss three major phases in the evolution of research on teacher autonomy, concerned with teacher roles, teacher professionalism and professional freedom.
Lastly we return to the relationship between learner autonomy and teacher autonomy as one of transition and attempt to establish a theoretical basis for this idea in the notion of personal autonomy as an attribute that is acquired in and across particular domains of an individual's life.
Learner and teacher autonomy in foreign language education. In brief, the concept of autonomy entered the field in the mids in the context of innovative adult foreign language learning projects Harding-Esch ; Holec Some of these projects were based in 'self-access' language resource centres where learners were expected to self-direct their learning, while others focused on 'learner training' for self-directed learning.
From the late s onwards, however, attention shifted to younger learners and more conventional classrooms, leading to the emergence of a body of literature emphasizing the need to foster the socio-psychological attributes associated with learner autonomy in all foreign language education contexts Dam ; Little Although this literature forms a relatively small part of the foreign language literature as a whole, it has connected in recent years with the increasingly accepted view that high degrees of foreign language proficiency cannot be achieved through classroom instruction alone.
Interest in the idea of learner autonomy has thus increased exponentially over the past 15 years or so to the point where it is now more or less universally acknowledged that successful foreign language acquisition depends upon students achieving and exercising some degree of autonomy in respect to their learning.
In early work in the field of foreign language education, learner autonomy referred both to situations in which learning proceeds independently of teachers or specially prepared teaching materials Dickinson and to learners' capacity to take charge of their own learning Holec There has been a tendency in more recent work, however, to reserve the term 'learner autonomy' for the capacity to take charge of one's learning, while the terms 'self-directed' or 'independent' learning tend to be used for situations in which this capacity is put to use.
This tendency is connected, in part, to the rise of classroom-based approaches to learner autonomy in the field. It is widely accepted that most individuals lack the capacity to direct their own foreign language learning, at least in the early stages. It is in this context that the attributes of teachers involved in autonomous learning projects become important. Teachers may be more or less in favour of learner autonomy and more or less skilled in helping their students develop learner autonomy.
This is also likely to be related to their own experiences of language learning and teacher education and development. In the following sections, we discuss three major phases in the evolution of the idea of teacher autonomy in the field of foreign language education. The first phase was focused on discussion of teacher roles prior to the emergence of the concept of teacher autonomy, the second focused on teacher autonomy as an aspect of teachers' professional competence, and the third involves recent discussions of the role of professional freedom in the development of professional competence.
The role of teachers in autonomous learning projects. Teacher roles were addressed from an early stage in the literature on autonomy in language learning, partly in response to concerns that the idea of autonomy implied a radical restructuring of foreign language education that would ultimately do away with the need for teachers altogether.
In a paper entitled "Does the teacher have a role in autonomous learning? Discussing the rise of self-access centres, where the teacher's role was perhaps most at risk, Sheerin Sheerin described the teacher's role in the self-access centre as "a difficult one requiring great skill and sensitivity" p. Sturtridge 71 argued for teacher development programmes to help teachers working in self-access centres "become aware of their new role as facilitators" and pointed to a second paradox: "teachers need to be trained to stop teaching students".
Sturtridge also noted that discussions of teacher roles in self-access learning had moved historically from a focus on guidance in the selection and use of learning materials to more complex issues of learner development and individual tutoring, while O'Dell observed a parallel movement in the concerns of teachers as they became more experienced in self-access centre work.
Other contributions addressed teacher roles in autonomous learning projects in a wider context than the self-access centre. Riley , for example, commented that a number of terms had been used to describe "a person working with learners but whose role, behaviour and objectives differ from those of the traditional teacher".
These included 'counsellor', 'helper', 'facilitator', 'knower', 'mentor', 'adviser' and 'consultant'. Lack of consensus on the most appropriate term, he argued, reflected basic uncertainties about the roles of teachers in such situations. Attempting to clarify these terminological and conceptual uncertainties, Voller discussed teacher roles in autonomous learning in terms of Barnes's contrast between "transmission" and "interpretation" teaching.
Discussing four roles compatible with interpretation framework - facilitator, counsellor, resource and negotiator - Voller concluded that "the teacher's role in autonomous learning can be characterized essentially as one of negotiation, both with learners and external authorities" p.
They also suggested that these six ways of acting "seem to entail that, as a teacher, I need to recognize and assert my own autonomy" p.
First it explains why teacher autonomy is so strongly linked to learner autonomy in the foreign language education literature: the idea of teacher autonomy was introduced into in this literature by researchers who were primarily interested in learner autonomy.
Second, it helps us to see how this idea evolved out of certain practical problems posed by the theory of learner autonomy. In what sense was the presence of teachers required in situations where the students were expected to direct their own learning?
How exactly were teachers expected to spend their time and deploy their skills in such situations? And how would teachers trained in more traditional modes of teaching adjust to these new expectations? By the mids, however, the focus in answers to these questions had begun to shift. Where researchers had previously been concerned exclusively with teacher roles in non-conventional teaching and learning settings, they were now far more concerned with the underlying attributes that would allow teachers to engage in pedagogies for autonomy in the classroom.
Teacher autonomy as a professional attribute. The concept of teacher autonomy was explicitly introduced into the foreign language education literature in the mids by Little Little's paper was preceded, however, by several contributions extending work on teacher roles in autonomous learning projects to classroom settings.
Crabbe p. Based on microanalysis of teacher discourse in the classroom, he also argued that the crucial factor in the development of learner autonomy was whether or not "the minute-by-minute classroom practice" encouraged student decision-making. In an especially important contribution to the literature on classroom autonomy, Dam provided a detailed account of her own role in classrooms where much of the responsibility for decision-making was assigned to students.
The main contribution of Little's paper lay in its application of insights from practical work in classrooms to the theoretical construct of teacher autonomy. Little's basic premise was that genuinely successful learners have always been autonomous in the sense that they accept responsibility for their learning and possess the "capacity to reflect on the content and process of learning with a view to bringing them as far as possible under conscious control". In this sense, he argued, there is nothing new or mysterious about learner autonomy, and "our enterprise is not to promote new kinds of learning, but by pursuing learner autonomy as an explicit goal, to help more learners to succeed".
Like Crabbe , Little argued that the decisive factor in the development of learner autonomy was "the nature of the pedagogical dialogue". In order to conduct such a dialogue effectively, teachers would need to engage in a "probably protracted process of negotiation by which learners can be brought to accept responsibility for their learning" p.
They would also need to determine the extent to which it was possible for learners to set their own objectives, select learning materials and contribute to the assessment of their progress, taking account of factors including the institutional framework and the age, educational background and target language competence of the learners p.
In order for teachers to do all of these things, the principal requirement was that they should be autonomous in relation to their own practice. Little was also among the first to discuss teacher education issues within the literature on learner autonomy. According to Little ,.
Genuinely successful teachers have always been autonomous in the sense of having a strong sense of personal responsibility for their teaching, exercising via continuous reflection and analysis the highest degree of affective and cognitive control of the teaching process, and exploring the freedom that this confers.
From this perspective, teacher autonomy is analogous to learner autonomy, differing from it primarily in respect to the object of responsibility and control. Whereas learner autonomy involves responsibility for learning and control over the learning process, teacher autonomy involves responsibility for teaching and control over the teaching process.
For this reason, teacher autonomy can also be developed through educational interventions parallel to those leading to the development of learner autonomy. In this sense, teacher education programmes should not simply teach student teachers about the idea of learner autonomy, they should also be oriented towards teacher autonomy as a goal.
Arguing that "language teachers are more likely to succeed in promoting learner autonomy if their own education has encouraged them to be autonomous", Little proposed that "teacher education should be subject to the same processes of negotiation as are required for the promotion of learner autonomy in the language classroom" p. While Little's suggestions for teacher education appeared to have most relevance to pre-service contexts, and rested strongly upon the idea of the teacher as a learner of the craft of teaching, later contributions focused more on in-service contexts and developmental aspects of teacher autonomy.
Thavenius , for example, defined the autonomous teacher as one "who reflects on her teacher role and who can change it, who can help her learners become autonomous, and who is independent enough to let her learners become independent". Viewing awareness as a crucial dimension of teacher autonomy, she argued that the process of becoming more aware of one's role in the development of learner autonomy required "not only recurrent in-service training and classroom practice, but also a radical change of attitudes and a good insight into introspection" p.
Using the term "teacher-learner autonomy", Smith ; emphasised the sense in which teachers are also learners, not only of the craft of teaching but also, in the context of foreign language education, either of the languages they teach or of their students' first languages.
From this perspective, ongoing experiences of self-direction in teacher-learning are conducive to teachers' efforts to foster learner autonomy. McGrath similarly outlines a conception of teacher autonomy as "self-directed professional development" and notes the convergence of this conception with a number of ideas in the broader teacher education literature, such as teacher development, teacher research, reflective practice and action research. The common thread in the contributions to the literature discussed in this section is the idea that teacher autonomy can be conceptualised as a professional attribute connected, on one hand, to a capacity to control the processes involved in teaching process and, on the other, to a capacity to control one's own development as a teacher.
In the first sense, teacher autonomy is a parallel concept to learner autonomy; while autonomous learners control learning, autonomous teachers control teaching. In the second sense, it involves the teacher's own autonomy as a learner; autonomous teachers control the process of learning how to teach, which may include ongoing learning of their subject matter.
These conceptions of teacher autonomy, with their emphasis on capacities to control teaching and learning, is somewhat removed from the conception of teacher autonomy as professional freedom prevalent in the wider teacher education literature and the absence of this dimension of professional freedom has been identified as a weakness by some foreign language education researchers.
Teacher autonomy as professional freedom. In foreign language education contexts, the strongest arguments for the incorporation of professional freedom into conceptions of teacher autonomy have been made by Benson and Mackenzie Criticising the assumption that learner autonomy develops in institutional settings primarily through 'transfer of control' from teachers to learners, Benson argued that most teachers work under conditions in which the control that they exercise is severely constrained by factors such as educational policy, institutional rules and conventions, and conceptions of language as an educational subject matter that condition what counts as foreign language teaching and learning.
For this reason, the teacher's role in the development of learner autonomy must involve a critical approach towards the ways in which these wider constraints on learning are mediated through his or her agency. Teachers' willingness to go against the grain of educational systems and struggle to create spaces within their working environments for students to exercise greater control over their learning is a crucial aspect of teacher autonomy. Extending this argument, Mackenzie took direct issue with Little's perspective on teacher autonomy, arguing that it:.
There is no sense here that teachers can have responsibility for, or influence over the constraints around us. This focus on control from the outer denies our inner psychological and physical need to change the environment around us towards our own ends. These drives are often strong or misdirected, but used consciously with full awareness of the impact that we are having on others, they can help us act to change our teaching and learning contexts.
Autonomy and Its Role in English Language Learning: Practice and Research
Since the arrival of the Internet and its tools, computer technology has become of considerable significance to both teachers and students, and it is an obvious resource for foreign language teaching and learning. The paper presents the results of a study which aimed to determine the effect of the application of Internet resources on the development of learner autonomy as well as the impact of greater learner independence on attainment in English as a foreign language. The students in the experimental group were subjected to innovative instruction with the use of the Internet and the learners in the control group were taught in a traditional way with the help of the coursebook. The data were obtained by means questionnaires, interviews, learners' logs, an Internet forum, observations as well as language tests, and they were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. The results show that the experimental students manifested greater independence after the intervention and they also outperformed the controls on language tests. In the field of foreign language learning and teaching the importance of supporting students in becoming more autonomous has become one of the most prominent themes. The majority of theorists, researchers and methodologists have been stressing the need for making learners capable of taking responsibility for their own learning.
Learner autonomy has been a popular concept in foreign language education in the past decades, especially in relation to lifelong learning skills. As the result of such practices, language teaching is now sometimes seen as the same as language learning, and it has placed the learner in the centre of attention in language learning education in some places. There is a comprehensive bibliography for learner autonomy. The term "learner autonomy" was first coined in by Henri Holec, the "father" of learner autonomy. Many definitions have since been given to the term, depending on the writer, the context, and the level of debate educators have come to.
Autonomy has become a keyword of language policy in education systems around the world, as the Teaching and Researching: Autonomy in Language Learning ByPhil Benson eBook ISBN Subjects.
Teaching and Researching: Autonomy in Language Learning
This chapter picks up discussion in the previous edition of this handbook of how the concept of autonomy has influenced language education and applied linguistics in recent years. Key practical initiatives and research findings are reviewed, to illuminate how autonomy has been interpreted in relation to learners, teachers, and the learning situation; how it has been linked or contrasted with other constructs; and how fostering autonomy has been seen as a part of pedagogy. Recent developments from the earlier edition are discussed regarding metacognition and, in particular, various contextual dimensions of learner autonomy.
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This list is based on CrossRef data as of 09 february Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them. Terry Lamb. Hayo Reinders. Hardbound — Available Buy now.
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