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Independent Language Learning

Independent Language Learning: Building on Experience, Seeking New Perspectives

Edited by Bruce Morrison
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Independent Language Learning
    Book Description:

    Independent learning is not a new concept for language educators but while teachers, curriculum designers and policy makers have embraced it as underpinning modern notions of education, it remains a dynamic and vibrant field for researchers and academics who aim to broaden its scope and deepen our understanding of how it may be applied most effectively both inside and outside the classroom. The book’s authors use their experience of applying the concepts related to independent learning in various geographical, cultural and pedagogical tertiary level learning contexts to present new perspectives on how independent learning can inform and support policy, teaching methodology, curriculum development and the nurturing of successful learners. While the first section of the book provides a view of the field from three broad curriculum development viewpoints, the remaining chapters primarily focus on the experience of learners, teachers and curriculum developers in applying principles of learner autonomy, self-regulation and self-direction with various types of learner – each with their own identities, motivations, expectations and goals. These learner and teacher stories provide insights that are important for an understanding of some of the impacts an independent learning approach to language learning have on learners in various educational contexts. This book will be of value to pre-service and in-service teachers, curriculum developers and teacher educators working in diverse educational contexts in more fully appreciating the contribution an independent learning focus can make to successful learning.

    eISBN: 978-988-8053-91-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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

    • Building on experience, seeking new perspectives
      (pp. 3-10)
      Bruce Morrison

      Independent learning is hardly a new concept. Its twentieth-century roots lie in the work of educators such as Dewey (1916) and Tyler (1949), both of whom emphasised the need for teachers and students to take a greater role in and responsibility for the educational process. Freire (1970) and Illich (1971) contributed liberational concepts of an informal education which lies outside the institutional educational structure, and Knowles (1975, 1980) provided a conceptualisation of andragogy and the self-directed learner which was to underpin the mainstream US post-secondary education system. In the UK tertiary educational context, the work of the Nuffield Group for...

  5. Section 1: Emerging perspectives

    • 1 Inside independent learning: Old and new perspectives
      (pp. 13-24)
      Cynthia White

      Independent language learning (ILL) has been conceptualised and researched from a diverse range of perspectives and theoretical frames developed over the past three decades. A common thread in all these has been seeing the fundamental challenge of independent learning as developing the ability of learners to engage with, derive benefit from and contribute to learning environments not directly mediated by a teacher. This central challenge remains an important touchstone for the field, and yet also reveals fundamental shifts in what we know about and what we do in independent learning.

      In this chapter, I will argue that the shifts taking...

    • 2 Learner autonomy, self-assessment and language tests: Towards a new assessment culture
      (pp. 25-40)
      David Little

      Cognitive autonomy is a species-specific imperative (Little 2009, 52): each of us has his or her own thoughts and emotions, and the extent to which we can penetrate the thoughts and emotions of others is strictly limited. Perhaps as a result of our cognitive autonomy, behavioural autonomy seems to be one of three basic human needs, the other two being effectiveness and relatedness (Deci 1996). According to this view, in order to have an integrated sense of self, we need to be autonomous in our behaviour, to set and follow our own agenda. At the same time, we need to...

    • 3 Strategic and self-regulated learning for the 21st century: The merging of skill, will and self-regulation
      (pp. 41-54)
      Claire Ellen Weinstein, Taylor W. Acee, Jaehak Jung and Jeremy K. Dearman

      We are currently experiencing a worldwide need for our citizens to be better educated, more skilled, lifelong autonomous learners who can adapt to the rapidly changing and evolving demands of the modern world. However, at a time when we have increasing needs for an educated and skilled workforce, a large number of students entering post-secondary education are not effectively prepared to benefit from their studies. This can be seen, for example, in the United States where of those students who enter post-secondary institutions, only about 45% graduate (ACT 2009).

      Globally, many colleges, training institutes and universities have developed programmes to...

  6. Section 2: The independent learner

    • 4 Identity and learner autonomy in doctoral study: International students’ experiences in an Australian university
      (pp. 57-72)
      Sara Cotterall

      Studying in an overseas university involves challenges ranging from adjusting to differences in food and climate to making sense of the local academic culture. Previous research into the linguistic and academic challenges overseas students face suggests that being able to solve learning problems independently is a prerequisite for survival (see, for example, Leki 1995, Skyrme 2007). The project reported on in this chapter investigates the experiences of a group of quintessential independent learners—international doctoral students—and concludes that negotiating their identities as legitimate members of their new community of practice (Wenger 1998) represents a considerable challenge for them.


    • 5 I’m not giving up! Maintaining motivation in independent language learning
      (pp. 73-86)
      Linda Murphy

      In any language learning context, learners need to maintain their initial motivation until they achieve their intended goals. Research has increasingly highlighted the significance of affective and social aspects of language learning, particularly in independent, distance learning contexts (White 2003, 2005). This may underline the importance of the affective and social language learning strategies identified in Oxford’s widely used (1990) language learning strategy taxonomy. However, relatively few studies explore the use of these strategies in independent or distance learning settings. To paraphrase Oxford and Lee’s (2008, 313) question, ‘How do independent distance language learners keep themselves going when the going...

    • 6 Research methods to investigate emotions in independent language learning: A focus on think-aloud verbal protocols
      (pp. 87-100)
      Stella Hurd

      Affect as a critical dimension of language learning has been attracting a growing number of researchers as emotions continue to play an increasingly prominent role in theories of learning and language learning (Brown 1994; Arnold 1999; Oxford 1999; Young 1999; Dewaele 2005; Beard, Clegg and Smith 2007; Putwain 2007; Dewaele, Petrides and Furnham 2008). In terms of second language acquisition (SLA), Robinson (2002, 63) reminds us that ‘researchers in the field of language learning have not paid sufficient attention to emotional phenomena’. Scovel (2001, 140) goes further in maintaining that ‘of the five major components of SLA [People, Languages, Attention,...

  7. Section 3: Supporting the independent learner

    • 7 Achieving your GOAL: A case study of three learners
      (pp. 103-118)
      Tanya McCarthy

      Learning a second language can be a frustrating process if a learner does not develop effective learning strategies to take control of his/her learning process. Taking control of one’s learning involves developing metacognitive strategies such as setting appropriate goals, monitoring progress and reflecting on outcomes (see Zimmerman 2002; Perry, Nordby and VandeKamp 2003). In the self-access learning centre (SALC) at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS), independent study modules are offered in order to help learners develop these metacognitive strategies, thereby fostering the capacity for autonomous language learning.

      Goal-setting is a commonly used metacognitive strategy in self-directed learning, and is...

    • 8 On the road to self-directed learning: A language coaching case study
      (pp. 119-130)
      Christina Wielgolawski

      Learner autonomy has gained its place in both the discourse and practice of the language learning domain. One approach to fostering autonomy is self-directed learning (SDL), where a learner assumes responsibility for his/her language learning but does not necessarily operate in isolation. Such a self-directed learner may be supported by a coach, whose role depends on what is needed and wanted in a particular context.

      The objective of the study I report on in this chapter is to investigate what happens over time as reflected in learner emails, dialogue and actions when language learning takes place in a self-directed mode...

    • 9 Developing learner autonomy through peer teaching experiences
      (pp. 131-144)
      Shu-Hua Kao

      ‘Peer teaching’ refers to students’ involvement in learning from and with each other, sharing knowledge, ideas and experience (Boud, Cohen and Sampson 2001). With its emphasis on learning, it is often associated with terms such as ‘peer and cross-age tutoring’, ‘peer learning’, ‘learning through teaching’ (Britz, Dixon and McLaughlin 1989; Gaustad 1993), and ‘peer-assisted learning’ (Topping and Ehly 1998). As ‘the tutor is usually two or more years older than the tutee’ (Damon and Phelps 1989, 137), peer tutoring is often referred to as ‘cross-age’ tutoring. Through peer teaching, learning occurs when participants explain ‘their ideas to others’ and take...

    • 10 Developing the ARC: Creating an online autonomy resource centre
      (pp. 145-156)
      Tony Cripps

      Japanese universities are struggling to come to terms with the effects of a shrinking student population and the worst economic environment since the Second World War. The declining birth-rate in post-baby boom Japan has resulted in increased competition among universities for the diminishing student population (Poole 2005). This has left would-be university students with the luxury of choice, a challenge to which many private universities have responded by establishing new faculties and developing innovative courses.

      In such tough economic times, companies are less likely to invest time and money in on-the-job training. Instead, they are becoming increasingly attracted by graduates...

    • 11 Autonomous learners in digital realms: Exploring strategies for effective digital language learning
      (pp. 157-172)
      Rebecca L. Oxford and Chien-Yu Lin

      The arrival of the Digital Age has been a ‘white water change’ (Oxford 2008c, 191), a metaphor describing the rapid, complex and all-encompassing nature of this technological wave. The Digital Age has changed the characteristics of language learners themselves. With the pervasive influence of digital technology, most learners in economically developed countries are now either ‘digital immigrants’ or ‘digital natives’ (Prensky 2001; Carlson 2005). Digital natives are individuals who have been surrounded by digital technologies all their lives and who cannot easily imagine an existence without applications such as videogames, email, blogs, texting, cell phones, digital cameras and iPods. Digital...

    • 12 ePortfolios for independent language learning: Episodic innovation or lasting reform?
      (pp. 173-186)
      Juliana Chau

      Since the 1990s, teaching and learning in higher education has become increasingly technology-mediated and student-centred (Benson and Brack 2009). As part of this move, many universities have pursued the development of a managed learning environment with efficient interfaces between web-based learning materials and learner support materials (Beck, Livne and Bear 2005; Liu and Tsai 2005). The teaching and learning strategy at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), for instance, emphasises the wider use of blended learning, and the provision of facilities for learners to ‘develop … personal responsibility, and commitment to being independent learners’, and to enhance their ‘ownership of...

  8. Index
    (pp. 187-190)