Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Maintaining Control

Maintaining Control: Autonomy and Language Learning

Richard Pemberton
Sarah Toogood
Andy Barfield
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Maintaining Control
    Book Description:

    Whereas in previous decades autonomous, self-directed or 'independent' learning may have been assumed to be an alternative to classroom learning, the emphasis has now shifted to the point where learner autonomy, viewed as capacity to take charge of one's own learning, is increasingly being promoted as a goal for general language education. Autonomy, as Phil Benson points out in his chapter, has "become part of the current orthodoxy of language teaching and learning research and practice: an idea that researchers and teachers ignore at their peril".   This volume brings together a diverse body of work by leading theorists of autonomy in language education, as well as locally situated accounts by autonomy practitioners working with secondary-level, university or adult migrant learners, or engaged in teacher education and curriculum development. Localising autonomy in such settings, different views of autonomy emerge as social practice, much less an abstract set of discrete skills, attitudes or behaviours to be developed, and much more a historically and socially situated process that evolves through relations among persons-in-action in specific contexts of practice. Different authors explore learners' and teachers' voices to raise thought-provoking questions about roles, resources and practices important to any pedagogy for autonomy. Suitable for use with teachers in pre-service and in-service training, this landmark volume will also strongly appeal to teachers working in different education sectors, as well as teacher educators and researchers.

    eISBN: 978-988-8052-54-7
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction

    • 1 Maintaining Control: An introduction
      (pp. 3-10)
      Richard Pemberton, Sarah Toogood and Andy Barfield

      The origins of this book lie in a major conference entitled ‘Autonomy and Language Learning: Maintaining control’ held in Hong Kong and Hangzhou (mainland China) in June 2004. That conference was the younger sibling of another important conference held 10 years earlier, also in Hong Kong and mainland China, which formed the basis of the book Taking Control: Autonomy in language learning (Pemberton et al. 1996).

      Back in June 1994, at the time of the first of these two conferences, the concept of autonomy in language learning — together with related practices of self-directed and self-access language learning (SALL) — had been...

  5. Theories and discourses of autonomy and language learning

    • 2 Making sense of autonomy in language learning
      (pp. 13-26)
      Phil Benson

      In December 1976, a group of language educators gathered at the University of Cambridge to discuss an idea that was, at the time, largely unheard of in the field of language teaching and learning. The idea was ‘autonomy’ and the discussion that took place was preserved for posterity in a mimeographed collection of papers that has recently been made available once again on the Web (Harding-Esch 1977a). Reading the collection for the first time, almost 30 years later, I was struck by the fact that the issues addressed by the contributors were very similar to those that we continue to...

    • 3 Crash or clash? Autonomy 10 years on
      (pp. 27-44)
      Edith Esch

      In the first part of this chapter, I show how the notion of autonomy has spread into language pedagogy in the past 10 years and how this mainstreaming has been accompanied by conceptual distortions and discursive dissonances. Such dissonances can be located in the contradictions between the discourses of individual personal autonomy and of critical socially situated autonomy. I argue that we are at a crossroads and that if we take the notion of social learning seriously, opting for the road of individual personal autonomy is not sufficient. We need to take a whole-community approach to autonomy and reassert the...

    • 4 Discursive dissonance in approaches to autonomy
      (pp. 45-64)
      Philip Riley

      This was a very timely conference, not just because it marked a 10th anniversary, but more importantly because that period has been one of intense research, practice and reflection in our field, a period of growing competence and confidence during which myriads of ideas have been generated and tested.

      One of those many ideas, just one but an important one, is the belief that we can only really understand what autonomy is about if we examine it in the widest possible context, theoretically, educationally, and, above all, socially.

      I say “above all, socially” because the overall thrust of the work...

  6. Practices of learner autonomy

    • 5 Controlling learning: Learners’ voices and relationships between motivation and learner autonomy
      (pp. 67-86)
      Terry Lamb

      The rationale for this chapter is closely linked to the context of foreign language learning in English secondary schools, a context in which motivation to learn languages is recognised as being in need of development (Nuffield Languages Inquiry 2000; King 2003). Research shows that languages are increasingly becoming an elite subject, with fewer children from poorer families choosing to continue to learn them (Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, Association for Language Learning and University Council of Modern Languages 2003). Problems of motivation can lead to disappointing standards of achievement or, at worst, disruptive behaviour in the classroom,...

    • 6 Learner autonomy in a mainstream writing course: Articulating learning gains
      (pp. 87-108)
      Sara Cotterall

      The starting point for this chapter was my interest in exploring gains in metacognitive knowledge about writing which occurred during a onesemester course in academic writing (WRIT 151) that I was teaching and coordinating. The course aimed to develop both learners’ knowledge of the characteristics of effective academic writing, and, at the same time, their independence as writers. I was therefore interested in tracing possible links between individuals’ understanding of the tasks they were engaged in, and their willingness and ability to attempt those tasks with diminishing amounts of support. To do this, I examined in detail an extended piece...

    • 7 Reflective lesson planning: Promoting learner autonomy in the classroom
      (pp. 109-124)
      Lindsay Miller

      Learner autonomy is a somewhat nebulous concept. It is, in Holec’s (1981: 3) widely used definition, “the ability to take charge of one’s own learning”. However, for language teachers wanting to develop a more student-centred approach in the classroom which might lead to the promotion of autonomy, this definition does not help to identify how autonomy can be achieved. A more detailed definition is Dam et al.’s view (1990: 102) that an autonomous learner is:

      an active participant in the social processes of classroom learning ... an active interpreter of new information in terms of what she/he already and uniquely...

    • 8 The use of logbooks — a tool for developing learner autonomy
      (pp. 125-144)
      Leni Dam

      Even though it is nearly 30 years since the first steps were taken towards developing learner autonomy in the EFL classroom in Denmark (see Dam & Gabrielsen 1988), it is my experience that very few teachers have actually taken up the principles of autonomous language teaching and learning in their classes. It is still surprisingly difficult to get teachers to change from a traditional — usually entirely teacher-directed and teacher-fronted — approach to one which develops learner autonomy, where learners are given specific opportunities to get actively involved in their own learning.¹ If a change of teacher role actually does take place,...

  7. Practices of teacher autonomy

    • 9 Learner autonomy, the European Language Portfolio and teacher development
      (pp. 147-174)
      David Little

      This chapter is about learner autonomy and the contribution that the European Language Portfolio (ELP) can make to learner and teacher development in language learning contexts where learner autonomy is a central goal. The first part of the chapter explores the concept of autonomy as a basic human need, a general educational goal, and a determinant of language teaching programmes; the second part describes the ELP, first as a generic concept and then in the version developed by the EU-funded Milestone Project; and the third part reports on the use of the Milestone ELP with adult learners of English as...

    • 10 The teacher as learner: Developing autonomy in an interactive learning environment
      (pp. 175-198)
      Barbara Sinclair

      In this chapter, I consider how teachers of English in China may be encouraged to develop greater autonomy, both as teachers and learners, through e-learning in an interactive learning environment. Using data from an extensive needs analysis research for two collaborative e-learning projects involving universities in China and the UK, I will explore the currently held perceptions of Chinese teachers of English concerning learner and teacher autonomy. I will then go on to describe the influences of the teachers’ voices and the pedagogical principles informing the project work to design exemplar e-teacher training materials, and highlight some of the design...

    • 11 Defending stories and sharing one: Towards a narrative understanding of teacher autonomy
      (pp. 199-216)
      Naoko Aoki and Hiroaki Kobayashi

      There has been a growing sense of need among second language teachers and researchers to focus on the learner as a social being (Norton Pierce 1995; Norton 2000; Pavlenko & Lantolf 2000; Toohey 2000; Pavlenko et al. 2001; Pavlenko 2002; Block 2003; Johnson 2004; Pavlenko & Blackledge 2004). Underlying these authors’ work is an awareness that both education and research have long neglected the learner’s agency, which at once shapes and is shaped by society, and have reduced the learner to a passive being whose processes and outcomes of learning are (solely) determined by a limited number of variables. In...

    • 12 Autonomy and control in curriculum development: ‘Are you teaching what we all agreed?’
      (pp. 217-238)
      Mike Nix and Andy Barfield

      The purpose of curriculum development is usually to achieve greater coordination and integration between people, resources and practices. Even when such reforms are not explicitly directed at the promotion of learner autonomy, many challenging issues about autonomy and control at the curricular level are still raised: Who takes control? Who maintains control? In whose interests? And why is control of these different people, resources and practices being attempted here and now? For whose benefit? For several years we have been involved in developing an academic literacy-focused English curriculum in the Law Faculty at Chuo University in Japan, where we have...

  8. Commentary

    • 13 Autonomy: Under whose control?
      (pp. 241-254)
      Richard Smith and Ema Ushioda

      We would like to begin this commentary/response by declaring a personal interest — we each, separately, know all the authors of the preceding chapters, many of them as friends, colleagues and/or collaborators. Briefly, here is how:

      Richard: As a teacher in Japan throughout the 1990s, I met Naoko Aoki at a JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching) conference and we agreed to set up the JALT Learner Development Special Interest Group together in 1993. Then we both attended the 1994 ‘Autonomy in Language Learning’ conference in Hong Kong and that’s where I first came into contact with Phil Benson, Leni Dam,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 255-258)
  10. References
    (pp. 259-282)
  11. Index
    (pp. 283-292)