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Developing Learner Autonomy: From Theory to Classroom Practice

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Presentation on theme: "Developing Learner Autonomy: From Theory to Classroom Practice"— Presentation transcript:

1 Developing Learner Autonomy: From Theory to Classroom Practice
Plenary talk Leni Dam, Denmark Venice 2011

2 What is language learner autonomy? Why learner autonomy?
Outline of talk What is language learner autonomy? Why learner autonomy? How learner autonomy? The role of the teacher. Final remarks by two learners. Venice 2011

3 What is language learner autonomy?
Autonomous language learners are actively involved in their own learning, willing to take responsibility, and capable of doing so. (Leni Dam, after Henry Holec) Learner autonomy does not entail an abdication of initiative and control on the part of the teacher: she remains responsible for ensuring that learning happens. (David Little) Venice 2011

4 Why learner autonomy ? (1)
(1) Learner autonomy implies focus on learning Venice 2011

5 Why learner autonomy? (2)
“To learn is to develop relationships between [what is already known to the learner and the new knowledge presented to him], and this can only be done by the learner himself ”. (Barnes 1976:78) (2) Learner autonomy is the optimal form of differentiation Venice 2011

6 Why learner autonomy? (3)
“No school, or even university, can provide its pupils or students with all the knowledge and the skills they will need in their active adult lives. […] It is more important for a young person to have an understanding of himself or herself, an awareness of the environment and its workings, and to have learned how to think and how to learn.” (Trim 1988 :3) (3) Learner autonomy prepares for life-long learning Venice 2011

7 Why learner autonomy? (4)
“The schools that kids love have the quality of active learning environments, allowing students to become shareholders of their own learning.” (Rogers 1969:9) (4) Learner autonomy supports and develops self-esteem and self-respect, and as a result, respect for others. Venice 2011

8 Cooperation/ Negotiation
How learner autonomy? Plan what to do Carry out the plans Evaluate the outcome Next step Cooperation/ Negotiation Teacher directed Learner directed Venice 2011

9 Extract from “It’s up to yourself if you want to learn” –
2nd day of project work. A class of 15-year-old, mixed ability students. Beginning of their 5th year of English, which means that they have had app. 400 lessons of English of 45 minutes. Venice 2011

10 Venice 2011

11 Classroom practice (1): Make the learners willing to take responsibility for their own learning
Make the learners feel secure by exploiting the knowledge that they bring to the classroom: their knowledge about themselves, about learning, and about communication; their world knowledge as well as their knowledge about the target language. Make the learners feel respected and accepted as individuals in the social process of learning: show them that their views as well as their existing knowledge are important factors in the learning environment. Venice 2011

12 About myself Venice 2011

13 “English words I know” – and – “Words I want to learn”
Venice 2011

14 Why do I learn English? How do I learn English?
After one month in their first year of English (10 lessons), 11-year-old learners were asked to answer these two questions in their logbooks. Their answers are translated from Danish. This activity is also used at intermediate level when starting a new class. Venice 2011

15 Why do I learn English? Susan, a weak learner
Karsten, a clever learner “If I am going abroad one day. It is a cozy language. Nearly everybody can speak English. I would also like to learn another language.” “It is good to be able to speak English when you travel around the world. (I love travelling.) So that you can understand American and English films without subtitles. You can tease the small ones without them knowing what’s all about. (I find that funny.) In short, it is a language which is good to be able to speak and it is fun to learn.” Venice 2011

16 How do I learn English? Karsten Susan
“Speak more English. And when sitting in groups.” “I learn English by concentrating on what I am doing. Read a book in English. Make a book in English. Speak English with my friends. Watch American and English films.” Venice 2011

17 The best thing you can do is to become extremely good at being yourself!
Venice 2011

18 Classroom practice (2): Make the learners capable of taking over responsibility for their own learning Make clear (in writing) to the learners what is demanded and expected of them – and why. Give them choice. Let them make decisions. (choice → reflection and (co-)responsibility) Let them set up individual goals within given guidelines. Get them accustomed to keeping track of their own learning in logbooks and portfolios. Integrate evaluation of the teaching/learning process in every lesson. Increase learners’ talking time ↔reduce teacher’s talking time. Venice 2011

19 Demands and expectations
Rules for homework Homework is a must. You can choose from the list of ideas. You must be able to do your homework without the help of your parents. Whatever you choose should be so interesting that you can’t help doing it. You must always read in your extra reader – till you have come across at least 5 new words. (Rules made in cooperation between teacher and learners) Demands for the logbook Make it easy to follow: what you have done during a lesson, what you have “learned” (new words, new expressions, other things), and who you have worked with. Remember to write down homework and perhaps a plan for the next lesson. Remember to number the pages and make margins. Remember “Month pages”. Make it nice to look at. Venice 2011

20 Personal contracts! Karsten’s logbook entrance from Spring, 4th year of English: “My personal contract for April: I will read aloud from my book when I am sharing homework to practice my articulation. I will write some stories as homework, to practice my spelling and written language.” (Dam, 2006:270) Venice 2011

21 The role of the teacher when developing learner autonomy
Focus on learning rather than teaching. Be a co-learner. Be a model: Speak the TL, respect the learners – and especially their time (authentic language use, activity types, etc.) Keep learners and parents fully informed as regards: What you do as a teacher, why you do it, and what you expect from learners as well as parents. Trust the learners: Take what the learners say at face value. See problems as challenges to be dealt with – together with the learners. Venice 2011

22 Venice 2011

23 Thank you! Venice 2011

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