Stages in the process of developing learner responsibility (autonomy)
People do not normally wake up to a fine day and find that they have become responsible overnight. More likely, they go through a slow, gradual process as they are approaching adulthood.
Nunan (1997) proposes five levels to train learners to be more autonomous:
1) Awareness: learners are made aware of pedagogical goals, contents and strategies;
2) Involvement: learners are actively involved in the learning;
3) Intervention: learners are encouraged to modify and adapt their goals, learning style and strategies;
4) Creation: learners set up their own goals and plans for self-directed learning;
5)Transcendence: learners move beyond classroom setting for independent learning.
The efficiency of teaching depends on learners’ motivation, skills, and willingness or ability to cooperate and work as a community very much. So in order to raise learners awareness, the first step is to use different ways (such as open questions) to get information about your students’ existing attitudes and knowledge. Then they can use activities, for example, guessing hidden strengths, to give confidence to and motivate students by emphasizing skills and knowledge they already possess. Then teachers can use some examples to get the students to think about their learning styles and introduce some new strategies to help students to find out what works best for them, for example, explicit instruction. In this phase, it’s important to pay attention to the choice of activities, and all activities the teacher chooses should be aimed at opening the students’ eyes to new ways of thinking about their learning.
To sum up, we can say that there are degrees of learner autonomy and that it is not an absolute concept. It would be important to assert that learners come into the learning situation with the knowledge and skills to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning, or to make decisions on content or objectives. Moreover, learner autonomy is an ideal that can, and should, be realized, if we want self-sufficient learners and citizens capable of evaluating every single situation they find themselves in and drawing the line at any inconsistencies or shortcomings in institutions and society at large. Certainly, autonomous learning is not similar to "unruly learning." There has to be a teacher who will adapt resources, materials, and methods to the learners’ needs and even abandon all these if necessary. Learner autonomy consists in becoming aware of, and identifying, one’s strategies, needs, and goals as a learner, and having the opportunity to reconsider and refashion approaches and procedures for optimal learning. But even if learner autonomy is amenable to educational interventions, it should be recognized that it ‘takes a long time to develop, and…simply removing the barriers to a person’s ability to think and behave in certain ways may not allow him or her to break away from old habits or old ways of thinking’. As Holyoake (1892, vol. 1, p. 4) briefly put it, ‘[k]nowledge lies everywhere to hand for those who observe and think’.
Holec, H. 1981. Autonomy in Foreign Language Learning. Oxford: OUP.
Graham, S. 1997. Effective Language Learning. Great Britain: WBC.
Benson, P. 2001. Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. London: Longman.
Nunan, D. 1997. Designing and adapting materials to encourage learner autonomy. Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning. London: Longman
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