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Taking Control

Taking Control: Autonomy in Language Learning

Richard Pemberton
Edward S.L. Li
Winnie W.F. Or
Herbert D. Pierson
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Taking Control
    Book Description:

    TAKING CONTROL: Autonomy in Language Learning focuses on an area of language learning and teaching that is currently receiving an increasing amount of attention. The book, featuring 18 chapters from key figures around the world in the field of autonomous and self-access language learning, provides insightful coverage of the theoretical issues involved, and represents a significant contribution to research in this area. At the same time, it provides a variety of examples of current practice, in classrooms and self-access centres, at secondary and tertiary levels, and in a number of different cultural contexts. This volume is a timely publication which will be of interest to all those concerned with learner autonomy and self-directed language learning.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-285-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Richard Pemberton, Edward Li, Winnie Or and Herbert Pierson
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Richard Pemberton

    The chapters that follow provide insights into a field of language learning that has been attracting an increasing amount of attention over the last 20 years. Numerous books for language teachers have appeared during this period on the subjects of learner autonomy, self-directed learning, self-access systems and individualized/independent learning (e.g. Harding-Esch 1976; Altman and James 1980; Holec 1981; Geddes and Sturtridge 1982a; Mason 1984; Riley 1985; Dickinson 1987; Wenden and Rubin 1987; Brookes and Grundy 1988; Holec 1988; Ellis and Sinclair 1989; Little 1989; Sheerin 1989; Willing 1989; Gathercole 1990; Little 1991; Wenden 1991; Dickinson 1992; Page 1992; Esch 1994;...

  6. Section I: Introductory perspectives

    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 9-12)

      One of the main purposes of this book is to provide an account of the concept of autonomy as it relates to second language learning and to discuss how this goal can be translated into practice. In this introductory section, which sets a theoretical foundation for the book, the concept of learner autonomy is discussed from the varying perspectives of teachers, learners and self-access centre managers. David Nunan (Chapter 1) presents examples of how learner- and learning-centred classrooms can help develop learner autonomy, while Phil Benson (Chapter 2) argues for a critical approach to autonomy that addresses issues of social...

    • 1 Towards autonomous learning: some theoretical, empirical and practical issues
      (pp. 13-26)
      David Nunan

      In this chapter I shall look at some of the theoretical, empirical and practical issues associated with the concept of learner autonomy. In the first part of the chapter, I shall provide my interpretation of some of the key terms associated with learner autonomy, as well as providing a rationale for autonomous learning. The second part of the chapter contains a selective review of some research which illuminates issues of relevance to autonomous learning. Finally, I shall look at some of the practical implications of fostering autonomy in language learning. This final section will be illustrated with materials for developing...

    • 2 Concepts of autonomy in language learning
      (pp. 27-34)
      Phil Benson

      It is often taken for granted that we know what learner autonomy for language learning is although the concept is, in fact, commonly represented in at least three different ways. For some, learner autonomy is an ideal state, seldom actually achieved, where learners are fully responsible for decisions about their own learning. For others, it represents a set of skills that can be learned. And for others still, autonomy is an inborn capacity that is suppressed as we go through the processes of institutional education. These appear to be significant differences, but their implications have seldom been discussed. Indeed a...

    • 3 Promoting learner autonomy: criteria for the selection of appropriate methods
      (pp. 35-48)
      Edith Esch

      The concept of autonomy has shaped views on education for thirty years in Europe, mainly through the influence of the work of the Modern Languages Project of the Council of Europe. It is a concept which arises from a fundamentally optimistic view of man according to which learners are able to be in charge of their own learning.

      However, technological advances have changed the context within which language education takes place almost out of recognition. Satellite communications and high-speed networks transform the way we think about communicating with students. With two-way video links for conferencing, it is a matter of...

    • 4 Learner culture and learner autonomy in the Hong Kong Chinese context
      (pp. 49-58)
      Herbert D. Pierson

      One concern about introducing an instructional innovation such as autonomous language learning into the Hong Kong educational environment is that it could be antipathetic to established educational traditions and practices. This is especially true when the innovations might be seen as something imported from the outside. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss some fundamental cultural and pedagogical issues as educational institutions introduce autonomous language learning into traditional pedagogical settings such as Hong Kong. By examining the current understandings of Hong Kong Chinese learners, I hope to examine some of the obstacles we might expect to encounter. I will...

  7. Section II: The learner and the learning process

    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 59-60)

      This section reports on projects in which teachers/helpers interact with learners or organize a learning experience with the aim of increasing learner control over the learning process and developing learner autonomy. Similar projects, involving the use or creation of language-learning materials, are reported in later sections; here the focus is on the capacity of learners to develop new ways of learning through training or counselling or through the provision of opportunities for the practice of self-directed learning.

      One type of help that can be provided is strategy training (see also the chapters by Nunan, Esch and Sinclair). In Chapter 5,...

    • 5 A study of strategy use in independent learners
      (pp. 61-76)
      Diana Simmons

      This study arose out of the concerns of teachers on the Independent Learning Program at Macquarie University about the lack of preparedness of our students to negotiate their own learning programs.

      In 1991 the first Independent Learning Program was carried out at the National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research at Macquarie as part of the government-funded Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) conducted there. There were 18 participants in the initial course which was designed to provide opportunities for people wishing to continue studying English, but who for various reasons were unable to attend the mainstream courses. All had...

    • 6 Self-assessment in self-directed learning: issues of learner diversity
      (pp. 77-92)
      Chihiro Kinoshita Thomson

      I would like to claim that we are born self-directed learners. My own experience in child rearing and a number of casual observations of other children tell me that the young ones know how to take charge of their own learning. Recent developments in psychology support this notion (Hatano and Inagaki 1990).

      However, by the time they have grown up, they have changed. When they come to our university classes, many have ‘unlearned’ most of their skills as self-directed learners. All come with preconceived ideas on how learning should occur, and this often excludes self-directed learning opportunities. Many like to...

    • 7 Language counselling for learner autonomy: the skilled helper in self-access language learning
      (pp. 93-114)
      Rena Kelly

      Self-access language learning (SALL) is widely acknowledged as a leading innovation in TESOL. Many tertiary institutions in Asia have established self-access centres within the last five years (Miller 1992). Focusing on the needs of the individual language learner can be seen as an outcome of curriculum evolution that originated in the needs analysis protocols of early ESP (Munby 1978), and of a humanistic person-centred approach to course design and classroom teaching (Nunan 1988). SALL is also an expression of technological innovation, particularly with regard to computer applications to language learning. The underlying theory of SALL, to the extent that there...

    • 8 Conversation exchange: a way towards autonomous language learning
      (pp. 115-132)
      Peter Voller and Valerie Pickard

      The path towards learner autonomy can be characterized as learning how to learn in order to take greater control of one’s own learning. There are differing points of view on how best to achieve this — for instance, by teaching learning strategies, by raising language awareness, by deinstitutionalizing learning, or by a combination of such approaches. However, the literature on learner training and learner development does agree on five or six characteristics that will help learners to become more independent and take them further along the road to full autonomy. These have been summarized as identification of needs, definition of objectives,...

    • 9 Autonomy in the classroom: peer assessment
      (pp. 133-146)
      Lindsay Miller and Raymond Ng

      Promoting learner autonomy in the classroom has taken on a new focus recently with the establishment of self-access centres in many institutes throughout the world. Self-access centres rely not only on well-planned implementation and good management, but also on the learners’ ability and willingness to use them. Miller and Gardner (1994) point out that much more research needs to be conducted into self-access language learning for it to become a viable supplement to classroom-based teaching. The project described in this chapter reports on one way of preparing learners for the responsibilities of monitoring and assessing their own language skills. In...

  8. Section III: Materials

    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 147-148)

      This section examines the design and use of materials for autonomous language learning. Chapter 10 focuses on learner-training materials from the point of view of the materials writer. Chapters 11 and 12 are concerned with the use of authentic materials, from the point of view both of the teacher and the learner.

      In Chapter 10, Barbara Sinclair considers the question of explicitness in learner-training tasks. She finds that most activities in current ELT course books that are designed to promote learner autonomy are not presented in an explicit way, and are therefore not likely to develop language-learning awareness. However, as...

    • 10 Materials design for the promotion of learner autonomy: how explicit is ‘explicit’?
      (pp. 149-166)
      Barbara Sinclair

      This chapter considers the representation in published and self-access materials of the promotion of learner autonomy in language learning. Learner autonomy is by no means a new concept, but its promotion in the field of language learning through systematic learner development (most commonly referred to as learner training) is a relatively recent phenomenon. In particular, the design of tasks and materials which effectively promote such learner development has become a current issue of concern for materials writers and teachers.

      Work in this field by Wenden (1987, 1991), Ellis and Sinclair (1989) and Oxford (1990) has highlighted the need for explicit...

    • 11 The role of materials in the development of autonomous learning
      (pp. 167-184)
      Winnie Lee

      In recent years there has been a good deal of interest in the development of self-access, self-directed and autonomous learning. It is now widely believed that in order to develop learners’ responsibility for their own learning, they need to have some idea of learning strategies, and should know how to choose their materials and how to evaluate themselves. Consequently, much of the discussion relating to self-directed and autonomous language learning has focused on learner training and self-assessment (Allwright 1981; Blue 1988; Dickinson 1988; Blanche and Merino 1989; Ellis and Sinclair 1989; O’Malley and Chamot 1990; Oskarsson 1990).

      Within this context,...

    • 12 Lights, camera, action: exploring and exploiting films in self-access learning
      (pp. 185-200)
      Elsie Christopher and Susanna Ho

      In the language-learning spectrum of today, there are many tools available for students to use as pathways to improving both their language proficiency and their learning efficiency. The video is one of these tools as it combines natural speech patterns with the two-dimensional visual elements of film. Today, videotapes and laserdisc technology are able to provide language learners with a wealth of authentic spoken discourse. Having access to such a wide range of choices, students are able to develop their own existing language skills by becoming more autonomous in their choices of topics for consideration. Many language teachers are beginning...

  9. Section IV: Technology

    • [IV Introduction]
      (pp. 201-202)

      This section examines the use of technology to promote learner autonomy. As Esch points out in her chapter, technology is often seen as automatically aiding learner autonomy In fact, technology, like materials, can hinder learner autonomy just as easily as promote it — what counts is the way in which it can be used, and the extent to which the technology controls the learner.

      In Chapter 13, David Little explores the processes involved in learner autonomy and considers how these processes can be fostered by computer-based technologies. In the first part of the chapter, Little points out that autonomy (as freedom...

    • 13 Freedom to learn and compulsion to interact: promoting learner autonomy through the use of information systems and information technologies
      (pp. 203-218)
      David Little

      This chapter is divided into two parts. In the first part I explore the nature and processes of learner autonomy, and in the second I consider how information systems and information technologies can contribute to the development of autonomy in second and foreign language learning. Essentially, I shall argue

      1. that learner autonomy is a special instance of a socio-psychological phenomenon that is central to human experience in some domains and to human potential in all domains;

      2. that autonomy (as freedom to learn) combines with dependence (as biological imperative to interact) to generate communicative processes that are fundamental to...

    • 14 Interactive video as self-access support for language-learning beginners
      (pp. 219-232)
      David Gardner and Rocío Blasco García

      This chapter discusses an experiment with an interactive video program which was written to support beginner learners in using a target language movie as a source of authentic linguistic input. A key element of this approach is the provision of bilingual support screens at strategic points in the program which users can choose to access. The purpose of the experiment was to assess whether this kind of interactive video support program is an effective contribution towards moving learners in the direction of greater autonomy in their learning. Although this is a preliminary study with a relatively small number of users,...

    • 15 From word processing to text processing
      (pp. 233-248)
      John Milton, Ian Smallwood and James Purchase

      This chapter describes a prototype computer-writing environment under development at the Language Centre, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). It is intended to provide some of the cognitive and linguistic support which our EFL learners require as they write. We expect this self-access resource to aid both collaborative and individual composition within an academic environment by assisting in the planning, generation, formulation and organization of ideas, as well as the development of language fluency and accuracy. Assistance is keyed to the particular text-types undergraduate university students are required to produce.

      A question raised repeatedly in this particular...

  10. Section V: The evaluation of learner autonomy

    • [V Introduction]
      (pp. 249-250)

      Whereas several chapters in previous sections have evaluated projects designed to help learners move towards autonomy in language learning, the final chapters of the book are concerned with the evaluation of the learning that takes place in autonomous or self-access environments. In Chapter 16, a number of fundamental questions relating to research and research methodologies are discussed; and in Chapters 17 and 18, quantitative methods are used to evaluate autonomous and self-access language learning.

      In Chapter 16, Philip Riley explores methodologies and concepts appropriate for research into autonomous and self-access learning. He discusses the opposition between qualitative and quantitative approaches...

    • 16 ‘The blind man and the bubble’: researching self-access
      (pp. 251-264)
      Philip Riley

      A blind man has friends who talk to him about the world which they can see but which he cannot. Amongst the things that interest him most are what his friends call ‘bubbles’. He has a certain amount of factual but second-hand knowledge about ‘bubbles’: they can be made from soap-and-water or washing-up liquid, for example, forming extremely thin spherical membranes which are very nearly as light as air, so they float. They are beautiful, multi-coloured, fun to make and play with.

      Intrigued, the blind man asks his friends to make him some bubbles, which they do, but since he...

    • 17 The acquisition of vocabulary in an autonomous learning environment — the first months of beginning English
      (pp. 265-280)
      Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen

      This chapter reports on our research project LAALE (Language Acquisition in an Autonomous Learning Environment) in which the language development of a class of 21 students who learn English ‘the autonomous way’ is compared and contrasted with proficiency levels of classes which follow a more traditional, textbook-based syllabus. The project started in 1992, and has so far seen four different data elicitation phases. Table 1 below gives an overview of the various test formats and different language aspects focused on so far.

      This chapter is only concerned with the acquisition of vocabulary in the first few months.² The vocabulary selected...

    • 18 Use and abuse of autonomy in computer-assisted language learning: some evidence from student interaction with SuperCloze
      (pp. 281-302)
      Vance Stevens

      Although the situation is steadily being corrected, it has often been noted that CALL (computer-assisted language learning) has so far developed well ahead of its research base (e.g. Dunkel 1991). The result is that developers of CALL often work on intuition alone and have little real idea what students actually do with their programs (Chapelle 1990). To compound this situation, what research there is on CALL effectiveness is often done using procedures where the researcher intrudes on the learner, thus possibly contaminating the autonomous aspects of the process under study.

      Feldmann and Stemmer (1987) discuss the various cognitive limits...

  11. References
    (pp. 303-326)
  12. Index
    (pp. 327-338)