Language
Centre

Where from?

The form of supporting learner autonomy differs today due to the reasons mentioned above. Nevertheless, there is a framework for foreign language learning within which students are given lots of freedom and therefore lots of proactivity is required from them. The framework could possibly be applied to other disciplines too, providing both the teachers and the students are willing to accept different roles in the learning process. The framework has been labelled English Autonomously at Masaryk University and it is based on a course Autonomous Learning Modules (ALMS) developed and run by Helsinki University Language Centre and initiated by Leena Karlsson and Felicity Kjisik (http://www.helsinki.fi/kksc/alms/).

Autonomous learning requires from the learners mature metacognitive skills that are then expanded together with the language competences. Readiness for autonomous learning has been investigated by authors like Ming and Cotterall in 1990s. Nevertheless, the research in learners´ autonomy began in 1970s. Henri Holec calls for autonomy in language learning and prepares the grounds in Council of Europe (Holec, 1980). He is followed by others, especially David Little who expands the role of European Language Portfolio (ELP). He understands autonomous learning as “…drawing together the threads of self-assessment, goal-setting and reflection…” (Little, 2007). This way he illustrates a network of metacognitive skills that determine the success in learning and that are further developed. The role of metacognition towards learning is undeniable within or outside of autonomous learning. These skills condition the development and progress in the learning process in both, formal and non-formal learning.

Readiness for autonomous learning is not only about metacognitions and skills that people have and develop though. For Benson, autonomy is “the capacity to take control of one´s own learning” (Benson, 2001), which implies responsibility and self-discipline – character qualities. At the same time learners have to employ a number of cognitive strategies in order to accomplish the learning process (Wenden, 1991).

In spite of all the benefits autonomous learning brings, it has to be stated here, that it is not an approach suitable for everybody. There will always be students who will prefer to be instructed what to do and how to achieve the results demanded by their teachers or institutions. Furthermore, at universities and schools, as they are established in the 21st century, there is no space for genuine 100% learner autonomy. We can only support it within the constraints set by the system.


REFERENCES and FURTHER READING

Benson, Phil: Teaching and Researching Autonomy in language Learning. Pearson Education Limited, 2001.

Holec, Henri: Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 1980.

Karlsson, Leena, Kjisik,Felicity, Nordlund, Joan: From Here to Autonomy. Helsinki University Press, 1997.

Little, David: Learner autonomy: drawing together the threads of self-assessment, goal-setting and reflection.  (online)

Little, David: Language learner autonomy: some fundamental considerations reconsidered. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching 1.1, 2007, pages 14–29.  (online)

Wenden, Anita: Learner Strategies For Learner Autonomy. Prentice Hall Europe, 1991.

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