It's good to have an insight into the principles of autonomous learning. We selected some articles and discussed the important elements. Reading is great, talking about it with your colleagues is even better!
Welcome to the theoretical part. We are glad you decided to dive into the theory before starting the journey. Teachers like concrete information, but somehow we are also attracted to the theory beneath it all. Our point is: that's what makes us real teachers, so we are proud to present our theoretical part!
Teachers need to be able to support and coach the student toward self-empowerment and learner autonomy as defined by Holec: "the ability to take charge of one's own learning". This needs to be done in steps as there is a strong correlation between competence and autonomy: students should be given the level of autonomy proportionate to their level of competence (both learning competence and language competence).
If students are given too much autonomy too soon, their motivation will drop and vice versa. Teachers need to be able to estimate the level of autonomy they can gradually give to their students. This gradation of autonomy may be organised according to the following list of decision topics (Holec):
- fixing the objectives and defining the content and progressions
- selecting the methods and techniques to be used
- monitoring the acquisition procedure and evaluating what has been acquired
For each of the above topics, teachers may decide on their own, inform students on the decision or gradually include students more in the decision-making process by giving them options to choose from. Ultimately, they could leave the decision completely up to the learner.
Fixing the objectives and defining the content and progressions
The teacher makes a diagnosis of the student's language learning process. In order to do so, the teacher identifies the key elements of the learning process. This diagnosis requires the ability to:
- design tasks that are suited for diagnostic testing
- identify -from the different tasks- the key elements of the different subskills
- analyse the feasibility, difficulty and importance of the diagnosed elements
- define the learning objectives and their timing accordingly
The teacher gives efficient feedback to their students in such a way that
- the student feels the feedback is clear, precise and adapted to their own needs and learning style
- the student feels motivated and stimulated to work on their learning process
Selecting the methods and techniques to be used
In order to support and coach the student in this step, the teacher needs to:
- be familiar with a variety of methods and techniques to learn autonomously
- suggest and explain efficient methods and techniques for different skills or underlying knowledge
- motivate the learner to make choices and to start the learning
- support the learner in the first learning steps
Monitoring the acquisition procedure and evaluating what has been acquired
In order to support and coach the student in the monitoring and evaluation of the progressions, the teacher needs to:
- give efficient feedback on the progressions of the student
- visualise the progressions
- intervene when necessary
- motivate the student to continue
- gradate the autonomy according to the growing competence of the learner