Saturday, 29 May 2010

Learner Autonomy

Dear All

I went through very insightful and comprehensive articles What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered? and Learner Autonomy: Bird-in-the-hand or Bird-in-the-bush? by Thanasoulas (2000) and Sheu (n.d.) respectively. The former defines learner autonomy, discusses theories underpinning learner autonomy and provides some practical activities for fostering learner autonomy. Learner autonomy is defined as a learning process in which learners learn independently. It is learners' ability to cope with process of learning utilising their own learning styles. Thanasoulas (2000) argues that an autonomous learner is an active agent in the learning process. Likewise, Little (1991:4) defines it as "a capacity for detachment, critical reflection, decision making, and independent action." In learner autonomy, learning is considered as a constructive process in which learners actively participate in exploring meanings which fit in their world views. Learners are not passive recipients of knowledge but an important source of constructing new knowledge. In this sense, in the autonomous learning process, the bottom-up process in which learners are put at the centre is adopted rather than the top-down in which teachers seek to transmit what they have in their head to the students.

Thanasoulas further says that "Learner autonomy consists in becoming aware of, and identifying, one's strategies, needs, and goals as a learner, and having the opportunity to reconsider and refashion approaches and procedures for optimal learning." This clearly tells us that learners must be aware of their own learning styles or strategies. I agree with the idea that without identifying the needs and goals of learners, teachers cannot facilitate them towards being an autonomous. With an extensive review of the literature on learner autonomy, Thanasoulas argues that the objective of language teaching should be to produce an autonomous learner. Without promoting autonomy, we can of course question or doubt on sustainability of any language teaching program and effectiveness of teaching.

He has also discussed activities that promote learners autonomy. First, he talk about self-reports in which learners are asked to report how they will be learning (introspective self-report) and how they learned (retrospective self-report). I agree that self-reporting promotes learner autonomy in general. However, it is very difficult for learners to self-report their own learning. Especially, young learners cannot self-report their learning. Moreover, this process does not seem to foster any kind of cooperation among learners. Diaries are better than self-report, I think. On the one hand, they help us to keep record of learning styles and on the other hand, they help students reflect on their own learning. Importantly, diaries represent learners' voices.

However, learners' beliefs and attitudes towards learning, teachers and themselves are very important factors to determine learner autonomy. For example, in my contexts, learners expect notes through dictation from teachers and they consider teachers' idea final. Even the master's level students do not go through the books prescribed in the course. They ask teachers to give notes. They never ask questions in the classroom. This is the continuity of how children are taught in schools in Nepal. When I was in school, I was never asked to read the passages and discuss with friends to answer questions based on the text. Teachers used to give us answers. Moreover, I was never asked to write a paragraph or essay myself. Teachers used to dictate us all essays on discipline, value of time, river in Nepal etc. for example and we should parrot them line-by-line. The same learning style gets continuity upto higher level. One of the lacunas in Thanasoulas's article is that he does not discuss anything about the role of academic culture and socio-cultural factors which shape the whole teaching and learning process. In this regard, Samuel P-H Sheu opines that the degree of learner autonomy is not only an individual process but it is determined by the whole teaching system. I agree with him. For example, my students are not motivated to learn themselves independently. There are two reasons behind this. First, the whole evaluation system of university is so limited that students' performance is evaluated on the basis of a 4-hour written examination in which they have to answer the structured questions asked from the syllabus. They cannot put their views and critiques. They have to write what the teachers say but not their own judgement and opinions. Second, teachers have to finish the whole course within a limited time frame. So they focus mainly on finishing the course by delivering lectures and giving notes rather than involving students in independent works. Moreover, as the students are evaluated on the basis only what they score in the examinations, they do not see any relevance of reading more books, articles and judging them from their own perspectives.

Richard Smith, as cited by Sheu, is right to argue that learner autonomy is correlated with teacher autonomy. If he/she does not believe in the exploratory learning, does not involve students in classroom interaction, does not try bringing changes within the teaching system where he/she works and does not have his/her own idiosyncratic way of teaching and learning, there is no point of discussing the value of learner autonomy. At the same time, teachers can an agent of change by giving students active role in the learning process. In my opinion, teacher autonomy is equally important for learner autonomy.

Thanasoulas (2000) argues that persuasive communication changes learners' beliefs and attitudes. But I argue that teachers' autonomy reflected in the classroom teaching is more important to change the beliefs and attitudes of learners. Until, teachers are able to leave positive impact in the classroom through their teaching, students are not motivated to become autonomous learners.

From the above discussion, some issues of contentious have emerged. First, is learner autonomy an inborn capacity (as Thanasoulas, referring to Benson & Voller 1997, puts) which is suppressed by institutional education? In my opinion, learner autonomy is neither inborn nor it can be suppressed by institutional education. I think it is more socio-cultural which is shaped by different socio-cultural factors including institutional education. Thus, as a teacher we need to consider the socio-cultural things which shape the beliefs and attitudes of learners towards the way of learning, teachers and themselves.

Second, is learner autonomy only an individual or social? This question is related to aanother question: Is it process or product? I think learner autonomy is not only individual but also social. And it is not only a product but also a process. I think that we cannot produce a 100% autonomous leaner. Autonomy always remains in degree and process. In order to enhance autonomy, learners need to be engaged in interaction in which they get chance to negotiate their views. At some point, I find that the concept of learner autonomy contradictory with the concept of learning through interaction and collaboration. This tension is intense if we take learner autonomy as an individual. Thanasoulas (ibid.) also does not address this tension as he does not focus on the social strategies of learning (Cook, 2008) – learners collaborate with friends to learn – rather focuses only on metacognitive and cognitive strategies.

To sum, the theory behind learner autonomy has to integrate social-cultural factors. A discussion on process vs. product of learner autonomy has to be backed up by some empirical studies. I argue that learner autonomy is closely related to teacher autonomy. The way teacher presents himself in the classroom through his/her way of teaching determines the degree of learner autonomy. One of the important tools in this regard will be technology which empowers the ability of both teachers and students as we have discussed in previous weeks. Moreover, technology provides a motivating space for collaboration and sharing among friends which gradually promote learner autonomy.

I will be happy to read you comments on this post.

References
Benson, P. & Voller, P. (1997). Autonomy and independence in language learning. London: Longman.
Cook, V. (2008). Second language learning and language teaching. UK: Hodder Education.
Sheu, S. P-H. (n.d.) Learner Autonomy: Bird-in-the-hand or Bird-in-the-bush? Available at http://coyote.miyazaki-mu.ac.jp/learnerdev/LLE/8.1/sheuE.html
Thanasoulas, D. (2000).'What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered?' The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 11. Available at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Thanasoulas-Autonomy.html
Little, D. (1991). Learner autonomy 1: Definitions, issues and problems. Dublin: Authentik.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

some issue

Dear All

Many interesting points are emerging from the discussion in this thread. Most of the posts suggest that teaching in a large class is challenging as B├╝lent and Mary argue "Teaching in large classes is really challenging for every teacher. Keeping students engaged in large lecture classes is a hard thing to do." Of course, there are many issues, ranging from low classroom interaction to noise, in large classes. However, I have a bit different idea. I have been teaching in large classes of around 130 students in a class. I feel that a large class can be a significant source for teaching English. I enjoy teaching in a large class as I can see so many people listening to me attentively even for 4 hours with 20 minutes break in the middle.

Since a large class consists of students from diverse linguistic and socio-cultural backgrounds, we can ask them to share their own cultural backgrounds. On one hand, this process motivates them to interact in the classroom and on the other hand, an intercultural atmosphere will be developed in the classroom. In this connection, technology will be a help to explore the videos and cultural texts of the students from different cultural backgrounds.
I argue that the presence of technology is not a big deal in a large class. Out-of-Class-Technology can also be a significant source to create an interactive classroom environment. Exploring text, activities and videos appropriate to the level and need of the students will, of course, motivate students to interact in the classroom. What do you think friends? Please comment on this.

Cheers
Prem

Using technology in large classes

Dear All

I went through Using Technology In Teaching Large Classes at http://www.uoregon.edu/~tep/workshops/teachertraining/largeclasses/usingtechnology/usingtechnology.html where I could see so many ideas to use technology to make teaching effective especially in the large class context. I could see that there is a great role of technology in promoting interactions or discussions in the classroom. First, technological tools like WebQuest and technology-integrated projects allow students to work in a small group independently. Second, since such tools have clear expected outcomes, they are focused on the activities or tasks. In order to accomplish the tasks, students have to interact with each other.

The above discussion indicates that introduction of technological tools undoubtedly helps to maintain interaction in large classes. Moreover, technology also helps teachers to focus on the topic and encourage students to ask questions. To give my own example, I used to be tired while shouting for 2 hours to teach a large class. I could hear noises in the classroom. But after I started using power point, I feel comfortable and students pay attention on the point mentioned on the PPT. Overall, the lesson is more organised.

However, it is true that we need to handle technology properly in order to make it more interactive. I argue that technology itself may not be interactive. It largely depends upon how we use it in the classroom. I like 'priming' for large classes. It will motivate students to discuss on the issue of discussion. But in my context, Just-in-Time teaching does not work as there is no facility of computers and internet connections in the classroom. However, this technique involves students in the thinking process before beginning of the class.
One of the important points that Felder (1997) discusses is out-of-class group assignments. In this technique, students are divided into various groups depending on their number. For example, if there are 100 students we can divide them into ten groups. After the group division, we provide students with technology-integrated projects or webquests. We can ask them to work in group and present their report in the classroom. This will create an interactive classroom environment. This will also help teachers to manage large classes.

Moreover, interactive power points with the interactive techniques like Think-Pair-Share and Concept Tests make large classes more interactive. To sum up, if teacher can select an appropriate technology, large classes can be made more interactive. But technology itself is not interactive. It needs proper handling with clear objectives in the classroom.

There are a lot to share. There are tons of articles to read which takes may than a month to finish. Please share your ideas and comment on my post.

Regards
Prem
References
.
Felder, R.M. (1997). Beating the numbers game: Effective teaching in large classes. Available online at
http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Largeclasses.htm
Teaching Large Classes. Available online at
http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/earlycareer/teaching/largeclasses.html#technology
Using Technology In Teaching Large Classes. Available online at http://www.uoregon.edu/~tep/workshops/teachertraining/largeclasses/usingtechnology/usingtechnology.html

Using technology in large classes

Dear All

I went through Using Technology In Teaching Large Classes at http://www.uoregon.edu/~tep/workshops/teachertraining/largeclasses/usingtechnology/usingtechnology.html where I could see so many ideas to use technology to make teaching effective especially in the large class context. I could see that there is a great role of technology in promoting interactions or discussions in the classroom. First, technological tools like WebQuest and technology-integrated projects allow students to work in a small group independently. Second, since such tools have clear expected outcomes, they are focused on the activities or tasks. In order to accomplish the tasks, students have to interact with each other.

The above discussion indicates that introduction of technological tools undoubtedly helps to maintain interaction in large classes. Moreover, technology also helps teachers to focus on the topic and encourage students to ask questions. To give my own example, I used to be tired while shouting for 2 hours to teach a large class. I could hear noises in the classroom. But after I started using power point, I feel comfortable and students pay attention on the point mentioned on the PPT. Overall, the lesson is more organised.

However, it is true that we need to handle technology properly in order to make it more interactive. I argue that technology itself may not be interactive. It largely depends upon how we use it in the classroom. I like 'priming' for large classes. It will motivate students to discuss on the issue of discussion. But in my context, Just-in-Time teaching does not work as there is no facility of computers and internet connections in the classroom. However, this technique involves students in the thinking process before beginning of the class.
One of the important points that Felder (1997) discusses is out-of-class group assignments. In this technique, students are divided into various groups depending on their number. For example, if there are 100 students we can divide them into ten groups. After the group division, we provide students with technology-integrated projects or webquests. We can ask them to work in group and present their report in the classroom. This will create an interactive classroom environment. This will also help teachers to manage large classes.

Moreover, interactive power points with the interactive techniques like Think-Pair-Share and Concept Tests make large classes more interactive. To sum up, if teacher can select an appropriate technology, large classes can be made more interactive. But technology itself is not interactive. It needs proper handling with clear objectives in the classroom.

There are a lot to share. There are tons of articles to read which takes may than a month to finish. Please share your ideas and comment on my post.

Regards
Prem
References
.
Felder, R.M. (1997). Beating the numbers game: Effective teaching in large classes. Available online at
http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Largeclasses.htm
Teaching Large Classes. Available online at
http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/earlycareer/teaching/largeclasses.html#technology
Using Technology In Teaching Large Classes. Available online at http://www.uoregon.edu/~tep/workshops/teachertraining/largeclasses/usingtechnology/usingtechnology.html

Learner Autonomy

Dear All

I went through very insightful and comprehensive articles What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered? and Learner Autonomy: Bird-in-the-hand or Bird-in-the-bush? by Thanasoulas (2000) and Sheu (n.d.) respectively. The former defines learner autonomy, discusses theories underpinning learner autonomy and provides some practical activities for fostering learner autonomy. Learner autonomy is defined as a learning process in which learners learn independently. It is learners' ability to cope with process of learning utilising their own learning styles. Thanasoulas (2000) argues that an autonomous learner is an active agent in the learning process. Likewise, Little (1991:4) defines it as "a capacity for detachment, critical reflection, decision making, and independent action." In learner autonomy, learning is considered as a constructive process in which learners actively participate in exploring meanings which fit in their world views. Learners are not passive recipients of knowledge but an important source of constructing new knowledge. In this sense, in the autonomous learning process, the bottom-up process in which learners are put at the centre is adopted rather than the top-down in which teachers seek to transmit what they have in their head to the students.

Thanasoulas further says that "Learner autonomy consists in becoming aware of, and identifying, one's strategies, needs, and goals as a learner, and having the opportunity to reconsider and refashion approaches and procedures for optimal learning." This clearly tells us that learners must be aware of their own learning styles or strategies. I agree with the idea that without identifying the needs and goals of learners, teachers cannot facilitate them towards being an autonomous. With an extensive review of the literature on learner autonomy, Thanasoulas argues that the objective of language teaching should be to produce an autonomous learner. Without promoting autonomy, we can of course question or doubt on sustainability of any language teaching program and effectiveness of teaching.

He has also discussed activities that promote learners autonomy. First, he talk about self-reports in which learners are asked to report how they will be learning (introspective self-report) and how they learned (retrospective self-report). I agree that self-reporting promotes learner autonomy in general. However, it is very difficult for learners to self-report their own learning. Especially, young learners cannot self-report their learning. Moreover, this process does not seem to foster any kind of cooperation among learners. Diaries are better than self-report, I think. On the one hand, they help us to keep record of learning styles and on the other hand, they help students reflect on their own learning. Importantly, diaries represent learners' voices.

However, learners' beliefs and attitudes towards learning, teachers and themselves are very important factors to determine learner autonomy. For example, in my contexts, learners expect notes through dictation from teachers and they consider teachers' idea final. Even the master's level students do not go through the books prescribed in the course. They ask teachers to give notes. They never ask questions in the classroom. This is the continuity of how children are taught in schools in Nepal. When I was in school, I was never asked to read the passages and discuss with friends to answer questions based on the text. Teachers used to give us answers. Moreover, I was never asked to write a paragraph or essay myself. Teachers used to dictate us all essays on discipline, value of time, river in Nepal etc. for example and we should parrot them line-by-line. The same learning style gets continuity upto higher level. One of the lacunas in Thanasoulas's article is that he does not discuss anything about the role of academic culture and socio-cultural factors which shape the whole teaching and learning process. In this regard, Samuel P-H Sheu opines that the degree of learner autonomy is not only an individual process but it is determined by the whole teaching system. I agree with him. For example, my students are not motivated to learn themselves independently. There are two reasons behind this. First, the whole evaluation system of university is so limited that students' performance is evaluated on the basis of a 4-hour written examination in which they have to answer the structured questions asked from the syllabus. They cannot put their views and critiques. They have to write what the teachers say but not their own judgement and opinions. Second, teachers have to finish the whole course within a limited time frame. So they focus mainly on finishing the course by delivering lectures and giving notes rather than involving students in independent works. Moreover, as the students are evaluated on the basis only what they score in the examinations, they do not see any relevance of reading more books, articles and judging them from their own perspectives.

Richard Smith, as cited by Sheu, is right to argue that learner autonomy is correlated with teacher autonomy. If he/she does not believe in the exploratory learning, does not involve students in classroom interaction, does not try bringing changes within the teaching system where he/she works and does not have his/her own idiosyncratic way of teaching and learning, there is no point of discussing the value of learner autonomy. At the same time, teachers can an agent of change by giving students active role in the learning process. In my opinion, teacher autonomy is equally important for learner autonomy.

Thanasoulas (2000) argues that persuasive communication changes learners' beliefs and attitudes. But I argue that teachers' autonomy reflected in the classroom teaching is more important to change the beliefs and attitudes of learners. Until, teachers are able to leave positive impact in the classroom through their teaching, students are not motivated to become autonomous learners.

From the above discussion, some issues of contentious have emerged. First, is learner autonomy an inborn capacity (as Thanasoulas, referring to Benson & Voller 1997, puts) which is suppressed by institutional education? In my opinion, learner autonomy is neither inborn nor it can be suppressed by institutional education. I think it is more socio-cultural which is shaped by different socio-cultural factors including institutional education. Thus, as a teacher we need to consider the socio-cultural things which shape the beliefs and attitudes of learners towards the way of learning, teachers and themselves.

Second, is learner autonomy only an individual or social? This question is related to aanother question: Is it process or product? I think learner autonomy is not only individual but also social. And it is not only a product but also a process. I think that we cannot produce a 100% autonomous leaner. Autonomy always remains in degree and process. In order to enhance autonomy, learners need to be engaged in interaction in which they get chance to negotiate their views. At some point, I find that the concept of learner autonomy contradictory with the concept of learning through interaction and collaboration. This tension is intense if we take learner autonomy as an individual. Thanasoulas (ibid.) also does not address this tension as he does not focus on the social strategies of learning (Cook, 2008) – learners collaborate with friends to learn – rather focuses only on metacognitive and cognitive strategies.

To sum, the theory behind learner autonomy has to integrate social-cultural factors. A discussion on process vs. product of learner autonomy has to be backed up by some empirical studies. I argue that learner autonomy is closely related to teacher autonomy. The way teacher presents himself in the classroom through his/her way of teaching determines the degree of learner autonomy. One of the important tools in this regard will be technology which empowers the ability of both teachers and students as we have discussed in previous weeks. Moreover, technology provides a motivating space for collaboration and sharing among friends which gradually promote learner autonomy.

I will be happy to read you comments on this post.

References
Benson, P. & Voller, P. (1997). Autonomy and independence in language learning. London: Longman.
Cook, V. (2008). Second language learning and language teaching. UK: Hodder Education.
Sheu, S. P-H. (n.d.) Learner Autonomy: Bird-in-the-hand or Bird-in-the-bush? Available at http://coyote.miyazaki-mu.ac.jp/learnerdev/LLE/8.1/sheuE.html
Thanasoulas, D. (2000).'What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered?' The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 11. Available at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Thanasoulas-Autonomy.html
Little, D. (1991). Learner autonomy 1: Definitions, issues and problems. Dublin: Authentik.

Learner Autonomy

Dear All

I went through very insightful and comprehensive articles What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered? and Learner Autonomy: Bird-in-the-hand or Bird-in-the-bush? by Thanasoulas (2000) and Sheu (n.d.) respectively. The former defines learner autonomy, discusses theories underpinning learner autonomy and provides some practical activities for fostering learner autonomy. Learner autonomy is defined as a learning process in which learners learn independently. It is learners' ability to cope with process of learning utilising their own learning styles. Thanasoulas (2000) argues that an autonomous learner is an active agent in the learning process. Likewise, Little (1991:4) defines it as "a capacity for detachment, critical reflection, decision making, and independent action." In learner autonomy, learning is considered as a constructive process in which learners actively participate in exploring meanings which fit in their world views. Learners are not passive recipients of knowledge but an important source of constructing new knowledge. In this sense, in the autonomous learning process, the bottom-up process in which learners are put at the centre is adopted rather than the top-down in which teachers seek to transmit what they have in their head to the students.

Thanasoulas further says that "Learner autonomy consists in becoming aware of, and identifying, one's strategies, needs, and goals as a learner, and having the opportunity to reconsider and refashion approaches and procedures for optimal learning." This clearly tells us that learners must be aware of their own learning styles or strategies. I agree with the idea that without identifying the needs and goals of learners, teachers cannot facilitate them towards being an autonomous. With an extensive review of the literature on learner autonomy, Thanasoulas argues that the objective of language teaching should be to produce an autonomous learner. Without promoting autonomy, we can of course question or doubt on sustainability of any language teaching program and effectiveness of teaching.

He has also discussed activities that promote learners autonomy. First, he talk about self-reports in which learners are asked to report how they will be learning (introspective self-report) and how they learned (retrospective self-report). I agree that self-reporting promotes learner autonomy in general. However, it is very difficult for learners to self-report their own learning. Especially, young learners cannot self-report their learning. Moreover, this process does not seem to foster any kind of cooperation among learners. Diaries are better than self-report, I think. On the one hand, they help us to keep record of learning styles and on the other hand, they help students reflect on their own learning. Importantly, diaries represent learners' voices.

However, learners' beliefs and attitudes towards learning, teachers and themselves are very important factors to determine learner autonomy. For example, in my contexts, learners expect notes through dictation from teachers and they consider teachers' idea final. Even the master's level students do not go through the books prescribed in the course. They ask teachers to give notes. They never ask questions in the classroom. This is the continuity of how children are taught in schools in Nepal. When I was in school, I was never asked to read the passages and discuss with friends to answer questions based on the text. Teachers used to give us answers. Moreover, I was never asked to write a paragraph or essay myself. Teachers used to dictate us all essays on discipline, value of time, river in Nepal etc. for example and we should parrot them line-by-line. The same learning style gets continuity upto higher level. One of the lacunas in Thanasoulas's article is that he does not discuss anything about the role of academic culture and socio-cultural factors which shape the whole teaching and learning process. In this regard, Samuel P-H Sheu opines that the degree of learner autonomy is not only an individual process but it is determined by the whole teaching system. I agree with him. For example, my students are not motivated to learn themselves independently. There are two reasons behind this. First, the whole evaluation system of university is so limited that students' performance is evaluated on the basis of a 4-hour written examination in which they have to answer the structured questions asked from the syllabus. They cannot put their views and critiques. They have to write what the teachers say but not their own judgement and opinions. Second, teachers have to finish the whole course within a limited time frame. So they focus mainly on finishing the course by delivering lectures and giving notes rather than involving students in independent works. Moreover, as the students are evaluated on the basis only what they score in the examinations, they do not see any relevance of reading more books, articles and judging them from their own perspectives.

Richard Smith, as cited by Sheu, is right to argue that learner autonomy is correlated with teacher autonomy. If he/she does not believe in the exploratory learning, does not involve students in classroom interaction, does not try bringing changes within the teaching system where he/she works and does not have his/her own idiosyncratic way of teaching and learning, there is no point of discussing the value of learner autonomy. At the same time, teachers can an agent of change by giving students active role in the learning process. In my opinion, teacher autonomy is equally important for learner autonomy.

Thanasoulas (2000) argues that persuasive communication changes learners' beliefs and attitudes. But I argue that teachers' autonomy reflected in the classroom teaching is more important to change the beliefs and attitudes of learners. Until, teachers are able to leave positive impact in the classroom through their teaching, students are not motivated to become autonomous learners.

From the above discussion, some issues of contentious have emerged. First, is learner autonomy an inborn capacity (as Thanasoulas, referring to Benson & Voller 1997, puts) which is suppressed by institutional education? In my opinion, learner autonomy is neither inborn nor it can be suppressed by institutional education. I think it is more socio-cultural which is shaped by different socio-cultural factors including institutional education. Thus, as a teacher we need to consider the socio-cultural things which shape the beliefs and attitudes of learners towards the way of learning, teachers and themselves.

Second, is learner autonomy only an individual or social? This question is related to aanother question: Is it process or product? I think learner autonomy is not only individual but also social. And it is not only a product but also a process. I think that we cannot produce a 100% autonomous leaner. Autonomy always remains in degree and process. In order to enhance autonomy, learners need to be engaged in interaction in which they get chance to negotiate their views. At some point, I find that the concept of learner autonomy contradictory with the concept of learning through interaction and collaboration. This tension is intense if we take learner autonomy as an individual. Thanasoulas (ibid.) also does not address this tension as he does not focus on the social strategies of learning (Cook, 2008) – learners collaborate with friends to learn – rather focuses only on metacognitive and cognitive strategies.

To sum, the theory behind learner autonomy has to integrate social-cultural factors. A discussion on process vs. product of learner autonomy has to be backed up by some empirical studies. I argue that learner autonomy is closely related to teacher autonomy. The way teacher presents himself in the classroom through his/her way of teaching determines the degree of learner autonomy. One of the important tools in this regard will be technology which empowers the ability of both teachers and students as we have discussed in previous weeks. Moreover, technology provides a motivating space for collaboration and sharing among friends which gradually promote learner autonomy.

I will be happy to read you comments on this post.

References
Benson, P. & Voller, P. (1997). Autonomy and independence in language learning. London: Longman.
Cook, V. (2008). Second language learning and language teaching. UK: Hodder Education.
Sheu, S. P-H. (n.d.) Learner Autonomy: Bird-in-the-hand or Bird-in-the-bush? Available at http://coyote.miyazaki-mu.ac.jp/learnerdev/LLE/8.1/sheuE.html
Thanasoulas, D. (2000).'What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered?' The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 11. Available at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Thanasoulas-Autonomy.html
Little, D. (1991). Learner autonomy 1: Definitions, issues and problems. Dublin: Authentik.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Reflection: Week 7

Dear All
Week 7 was a motivating and relevant week for me. It was motivating because I was dealing with making the power point presentation (PPT), which I have been using for 2 years, more interactive. It was relevant because there was an extensive discussion on teaching in large class contexts like that of mine in Nepal where I have been teaching more than 100 students in a class.

Regarding interactive PPT, I learned major techniques like Minute Paper and Concept Test to include in PPT to make the presentation more interactive. Moreover, it is interesting to know that there are many ready-made templates available in different websites which help us to design jeopardy games and interactive stories.
Moreover, I also learned to hyperlink (both external and internal) different websites and texts in order to make the presentation more interactive. I learned that hyperlinking helps teachers to make a thread on a particular topic which encourages students to learn in detail. This technique does not only make a class interactive but also addresses the multiple learning styles of students. Overall, I learned how to make PPT more interactive.

I also designed an interactive PPT incorporating different media like pictures and videos. I also hyperlinked the slides in order to make PPT more interactive. By incorporating the feedback from Deborah, I removed texts from the overloaded PPT. I learned that PPT should have minimum texts but it should have more visuals.

Another important thing that I learned was how technology helps to make a large class more interactive. There are so many wonderful ideas for this. One of the ideas is applying WebQuests or Project-integrated language teaching for students. In the context where there is no access to the internet in the classroom, we can also give students Out-Side-Classroom projects and ask them to work in group. We can ask them to research on a particular issue, write a report and present in the classroom.
There are some issues which emerged from the discussion last week. First, PPT may be boring too if it is not designed by keeping multiple learning styles of students in mind. It also spoils class sometimes. Second, the use of multimedia in PPT must be relevant to the lesson and level of students. Likewise, although technology can be a help to promote interaction in the classroom, teachers’ and students’ beliefs towards technology should always be positive. If they do not take it positively, there is no point of using technology in the classroom. For this, we need to assess the beliefs of the students first.

Oh! How I can forget the most important thing. I got a partner, Eve, to work on report jointly. We had wonderful chats last week.

Cheers
Prem