The whys of the project

Why autonomous learning?

Empowerment of the student to learn autonomously is important for several reasons:

  • Learning a language requires a lot of practice and the time available in the classroom is not sufficient to guarantee this. Therefore, students need to be able to learn and practise on their own.
  • Up to the CEFRL A2-level, learning can take place quite homogeneously but, after that, differentiation, both in needs (competence) and wants (motivation and objectives), is a key factor. This can be achieved best by motivating the students to work on their needs and wants autonomously.
  • Empowering students means you give them the ability to take their learning process in their own hands: this will enable them to continue to learn, even after the formal instruction is finished.
  • People love autonomy: it is one of the gatekeepers of intrinsic motivation (see the self-determination theory by Ryan and Deci.

Why focus on speaking?

Because of the complexity of language learning, we considered it more efficient to focus on one aspect of language learning, namely speaking:

  • Focusing on one skill gave us the opportunity to investigate how teachers can be supported in the task of empowerment.
  • According to the output hypothesis (Swales), the most efficient learning takes place in the output phase (speaking and writing)
  • Speaking is generally considered the most important language skill in terms of usage of the target language, but also the most difficult one to empower the learner for.

Why action research?

We chose action research because it is an efficient method to empower teachers and provide them with the ability to take their professional development into their own hands.

A ‘copy and paste’ scenario in which we provide ‘solutions’ simply does not work: the initial situation is often different and, more importantly, professionalisation is in the process, not in the results.

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