Last week, I read three articles on learner autonomy by Dimitrios Thanasoulas (2000), Samuel P-H Sheu and Ricahrd Smith (conversation with Andy Barfield). The articles deal with different aspects of learner autonomy. Dimitrios Thanasoulas discusses the correlation between learner autonomy and learning strategies, activities for promoting learner autonomy and factors affecting learner autonomy. Learner autonomy is based on the philosophy of constructivism in learning in which students take an active role. At the same time, teachers also should play a constructive role to facilitate the learning process. The whole idea as discussed by Thanasoulas is based on the theory of learning strategies. An autonomous leaner makes an effective use of their learning strategies. They are provided many alternatives in order to allow them to work with their own learning strategies. Although meta-cognitive and cognitive learning strategies have been discussed in the article, there is no any discussion about socio-affective strategies which implies that learner autonomy is more concerned with individual phenomenon rather than social one. Is learner autonomy individual or social?
Self-report, diaries and evaluation sheets are major activities suggested to promote learner autonomy. I would also like to add one more activity or technique, project-based language learning, which promotes learner autonomy through collaboration. I am always confused with whether learner autonomy is process or product. I believe that learner autonomy is more a matter of process than a product. All learners are to some extent autonomous. Only the difference is the degree.
Learner autonomy is always affected by beliefs of both learners and teachers towards teaching and learning. If learners do not have positive beliefs towards self-learning and teachers also do not believe in learning through students’ active participation, there is no point in arguing for learner autonomy. Moreover, as discussed by Samuel P-H Sheu and Ricahrd Smith (conversation with Andy Barfield), other factors like teacher autonomy, and academic system (examination system, teaching style, expectation of authority and learners) also seem to affect leaner autonomy. Of course, there is no doubt that if teacher is not autonomous to decide what techniques of teaching and textbooks are relevant for their students, learners cannot be autonomous. In a structured and closed type of syllabus, learner autonomy does not make any sense.
Moreover, curriculum should itself be a guide to promote learner autonomy. For this, it should involve goals, strategies, text, methods, learners’ and teachers’ role etc. which guide learners to be more active in the learning process. Thus, the whole process of learning autonomy depends on the curriculum designing process. Likewise, socio-cultural factors cannot be forgotten. They are crucial to shape the learning process.
I also went through various websites on one-computer classroom. I learned that even a use of one computer in the classroom help learners to be more autonomous and independent.