Learner Autonomy

1084 WordsNov 9, 20095 Pages
What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered? Dimitrios Thanasoulas The Internet TESL Journal 2. What is Autonomy? For a definition of autonomy, we might quote Holec (1981: 3, cited in Benson & Voller, 1997: 1) who describes it as 'the ability to take charge of one's learning'. On a general note, the term autonomy has come to be used in at least five ways (see Benson & Voller, 1997: 2): • for situations in which learners study entirely on their own; • for a set of skills which can be learned and applied in self-directed learning; • for an inborn capacity which is suppressed by institutional education; • for the exercise of learners' responsibility for their own learning; • for the right of…show more content…
This stands to reason, for most of the characteristics imputed to the "autonomous learner" encapsulate a wide range of attributes not commonly associated with learners. For instance, Benn (1976, cited in Candy, 1991: 102) likens the autonomous learner to one '[w]hose life has a consistency that derives from a coherent set of beliefs, values, and principles--[and who engages in a] still-continuing process of criticism and re-evaluation', while Rousseau ([1762] 1911, cited in Candy, 1991: 102) regards the autonomous learner as someone who 'is obedient to a law that he prescribes to himself'. Within the context of education, though, there seem to be seven main attributes characterising autonomous learners (see Omaggio, 1978, cited in Wenden, 1998: 41-42): 1. Autonomous learners have insights into their learning styles and strategies; 2. take an active approach to the learning task at hand; 3. are willing to take risks, i.e., to communicate in the target language at all costs; 4. are good guessers; 5. attend to form as well as to content, that is, place importance on accuracy as well as appropriacy; 6. develop the target language into a separate reference system and are willing to revise and reject hypotheses and rules that do not apply; and 7. have a tolerant and outgoing approach to the target language. Here, some comments with respect to the preceding list are called for. The points briefly touched upon above are
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