Sources of information on Learner Autonomy

LEARNER AUTONOMY PROJECT INVENTORY 1 (LAP1)

This inventory was compiled by the Scientific Commission on Learner Autonomy in Language Learning. The LAPI is a response to colleagues who have stressed that there is a need to encourage exchange among those of us who are working in the field of learner autonomy.  The project description is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a general overview of what was done and for what purpose. More information can be obtained from the contact person, whose name and address are listed with the
description.


TALKBASE: PROMOTING AUTONOMY THROUGH CONTENT BASED PROJECTS

William Savage
Center for Language and Educational Technology
Asian Institute of Technology
GPO Box 2754
Bangkok 10501 Thailand
Tel:(66-2) 524-5836 Fax:(66-2) 524-5872


Learner group
AIT is an international English-medium postgraduate institution. Learners are students who have been admitted to AITs master degree programs in various fields of engineering, applied sciences and management. They come mainly from countries in East and Southeast Asia.

Project objectives
As a result of participating in Talkbase, learners will be better able to:

a) self-direct their learning
b) initiate pieces of work
c) plan, organize and carry out pieces of work
d) explain why they are doing what they are doing
e) understand what other people mean when they talk and write about what they are doing
f) examine their own and other peoples work critically
g) clarify ideas in speech and in writing
h) elicit relevant information from other people
i) use media in the process of clarifying ideas and carrying out pieces of work
j) work and cooperate with other people

Project description
The intensive 8-week Talkbase program is held three times a year prior to the beginning of each term of entry. The methodology is learner-centered and task-based. The pedagogical framework is built around the research paradigm of field-problem-solution. The contents and materials of each program are determined by the fields of interest of the participants, their experiences and the particular academic demands facing them.

During the first half of Talkbase, participants engage in a variety of tasks aimed at establishing fields of enquiry, identifying and clarifying problems to be solved, and approaching solutions. Tasks include large and small group text analysis, audio-and video-taped interviews, and pieces of writing. There are regular reportbacks on individual and group activities.

Towards the second half, common fields of interest emerge among groups of students. These are developed through investigative research as pieces of work which are presented and evaluated at the end of the program in a seminar.


SELF ACCESS PROGRAMME IN SPECIALIST TEACHER TRAINING INSTITUTE

Lum Yoke Lin
62 Jalan 56/26,
Taman Sri Rampai, Setapak,
53300 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: 03-4126108

Learner group
The target group of users includes the preservice English language option teacher trainees; the Matriculation students; trainees from the non-English option and other in-service teachers. They have learned English as a second language in primary and secondary schools. The proficiency level varies from below average to good.

Project objectives
In late 1989 the Teacher Education Division of Malaysia launched the Self Access Project, initially funded by the British Overseas Development Administration. Its general purpose was to support the overall goals of the Teacher Education Division, i.e. the pursuit of quality education and the preparation of teachers for life long education and professional development. Specifically, the Self Access Project aimed to establish self access centres in all 28 colleges in the country to provide facilities for teacher trainees to improve their English language proficiency and to encourage learner autonomy. The networking of all these centres has resulted in the establishment of the largest integrated self access programme in the world (Report on consultancy visit related to the Evaluation of the Project by Leslie Dickinson, September, 1994).

Project description
Pioneering work was carried out in seven colleges, which also act as zonal centres. The zonal centres function as a model for the other colleges in the respective geographic areas and they are also responsible for their training. Among the centers, the Specialist Teachers Training Institute (STTI) acts as the National Self Access Centre. It is a clearing house for materials and for the dissemination of ideas. It also provides resources for staff training and materials writing workshops.

The self access center (SAC) in the STTI is located on the first floor of the library. The opening hours are thus the same as that of the library and this includes night opening. Hence it is easily accessible.

We have a wide range of self-instructional materials: 3000 pieces of print and audio materials, 500 computer assisted materials and 50 video tapes. Most of the materials are produced by our teacher educators. They cover the language skills at all proficiency levels, study skills and tests and every effort is made to link them to classroom work so that students will perceive their relevance. Besides these in-house materials, literary texts, class readers, and some reference books are also kept in the centre. The formal time table includes an hour a week for self access learning. During this time trainees may go to the self-access center and/or participate in learner training sessions. Trainees are encouraged to use the centre outside the time-tabled hour as well.

In the SAC learners are expected to take responsibility for their own learning after the initial training. They may work on their own, with friends or seek the guidance of a facilitator. These facilitators, who are teacher educators, are expected to (1) provide resources and information to the trainees (2) help learners draw up their learning contracts (3) check learners record cards to monitor learners progress and to give advice (4) conduct learner training to help learners to be autonomous and to learn effectively in the SAC.

The SAC in STTI is now five years old and so is the self access project. However, it is now known as the self access programme as it is integrated into our curriculum. We are consolidating our work and trying to better ourselves learning from our experience. We are now concentrating our efforts on learner training and trainer training.


MATERIALS FOR SELF-ACCESS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGES

Vicky Wright and Alison Piper
The Language Centre
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton SO9 5NH
Tel: 0703 592224 Fax: 0703 593849



*CKS stands for the Universities of Cambridge, Kent and Southampton who are charged with producing multi-media materials in French and German.

Learner group
Undergraduate scientists and engineers learning French and German at 3 levels: post-beginners, intermediate, advanced.

Project objectives
The project objectives are to provide self-access learning materials which will foster the necessary skills and strategies for students to be effective in the management of their own learning. More specifically these materials aim to:

1. to provide practice in understanding and using a wide range of authentic materials in a wide range of media.
2. to provide practice in using German to talk and write about general scientific and engineering concepts.
3. to develop an awareness of language variety and use.
4. to focus on and develop individual language skills and levels.
5. to focus on and practice appropriate language functions.
6. to provide an insight and introduction to living, working and studying in a German speaking environment.

Project description
The learning materials are topic-based and consist of authentic listening, viewing and reading texts and associated exercises and activities. These include related CALL activities. The same texts are used for all three target language levels, so adding a flexibility of use for those wanting to "recycle" their learning. An additional flexibility and accessibility will be added when the materials are incorporated into a hypermedia environment in the near future. This will enhance the learners ability to both manage their own learning and their specific learning environment. The project is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council of the UK through their Teaching and Learning Technology Programme, and the materials are designed for free distribution throughout the Higher Education sector in Britain.


THE L2 LEARNING STRATEGIES PROJECT

Andrew Cohen, Director of the NLRC Grant
ILASLL, 196 Klaeber Ct., U. of Minnesota
320 16th Ave. S.E., Minneapolis , MN 55455
Tel. (612) 624-3806, Fax: 612-624-4579,

Learner group
The learners are studying a wide variety of languages. Their proficiency levels will also differ. They will include students in foreign language classes at the University of Minnesota (UMN), at other colleges and universities in the Twin Cities as well as high school learners.

Project objectives
Broadly, the project objectives are (1) to train teachers of foreign languages (2) to train their own learners to use strategies in a more systematic and effective way in their language learning and (3) to do research on the effectiveness of the strategies.

Project description

Project activities include:


RESEARCH ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF AUTONOMOUS LEARNING

Leni Dam
Danmarks Laererhoejskole (Royal Danish School of Higher Education)
2690 Karlslunde, Kopenhagen/Denmark
tel: +45 / 42-15 09 24

Lienhard Legenhausen
Universitat Munster
Institut fur englische Sprache und Literatur und ihre Didaktik
Johannisstr. 12-20
48143 Munster Germany
Tel: +49 251-83-9224 Fax: +49 251-83-4827

Learner group
Learners from a Danish comprehensive school who started English at the age of 11 (5th grade) in August 1993.

Project objective
The language development of a class with 21 pupils who learn English the autonomous way is compared and contrasted with the development of a German grammar school class (Gymnasium) that follows a traditional textbook-based syllabus (same age / same year). The main objective is to assess achievement/proficiency levels at various stages of their linguistic development over several years.

Project description
The vocabulary that emerged in the first four weeks and which was publicly shared in the classroom was systematically recorded. It formed the basis for the first two data elicitation phases which focussed on vocabulary acquisition only. We have tried to vary the elicitation formats systematically and focus on different language aspects.


TEACHING LEARNING TO LEARN: LEARNER AUTONOMY AND EFL
IN SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL IN SWEDEN

Cecilia Thavenius

PhD and Honorary docent at Lund University
Norra Promenaden 3 d, S-222 40 Lund, Sweden
Tel.: 46-46 122948 Fax 46-46 148l834.

Learner group
Senior high school, ages 17-19 with a six-year-long background of EFL

Project objective
The project tries to find out what happens to the students - and the teacher - during the process towards learner autonomy. What happens to their initial attitudes to language learning, learner role and teacher role? To what extent do the individual students develop the skills of self-directed learning? How and to what extent can you influence their attitudes and their skills?

Project description
Data has been collected through questionnaires, students diaries, and teacher diary during three years. The data will be submitted to descriptive analyses.


LEARNING STRATEGIES AND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION:
A STUDY OF CUBAN STUDENTS

Francisco L. Hernandez Reinoso
Instituto Superior Pedagogico de Pinar del Rio. (ISP.PR)
English Department. (ISP.PR)
Edif: 102 Apto:D7
Ave: Borrego Rpto: Hermanos Cruz
CP: 20200.P. del Rio, CUBA
Fax: 335030. Tel:62443,62230
bibli@binapr.lib.cu or aylin@reduniv.cu

Learner group
Learners of English from the University teaching-training courses. (elementary-intermediate-advanced)

Project objective
The study aims at
(1) determining the learning strategies the students use
(2) finding a correlation between strategy use and age/sex/general academic results/personality/language competence/educational background
(3) finding a correlation between success in L2 acquisition and the predominance of certain strategy area(s).

The project plans a follow up that will create didactic materials offering training in the use of certain areas of strategies and the validation of its results. The whole idea is to promote learner autonomy.

Project description
To a certain extent, I am replicating Rebecca L. Oxfords study (using the questionnaire SILL Appendix B.203.Version5.l.1989), which I have translated into Spanish and applied to 110 cases--50% of the teacher-training course students. We have processed the data statistically using NCSS in its 1987 version, analysis of variance through Duncan method and factor analysis among others. We still have to process self reports and observation records.  So far we have found Oxfords division of strategies into direct and indirect functions for us and the areas show a positive correlation among them showing that they cooperate. The cognitive area, the compensation, the metacognitive and the affective are very connected. The areas that are less connected are the social and the memory area. They show a 0 correlation. (0 indicates null for us).

The areas in hierarchical order according to their use by Cuban students:
1. cognitive...significantly superior.
2. metacognitive...no significant difference from the next.
3. social
4. compensation...no significant difference from the next.
5. affective
6. memory...significantly inferior to the rest.

We have found a null correlation between strategy use and sex. The same for ages 20 to 32. For learners over 32 there is a weaker use of cognitive strategies with a probability of 0.01.; weaker use of metacognitive with a probability of 0,05; and a weaker use of affective strategies with a probability of 0,01. We are still working on deciphering links between the strategy use and the other elements listed in the objectives.


METACOGNITON AND FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING STRATEGIES

Vera Maria Xavier dos Santos
Universidade Federalde Santa Maria
Caixa postal 844
97.100 Santa Maria RS
BRAZIL
Tel: 055 221 3834

Learner group
The learners are students of public and private secondary schools of the region as well as students of English as a foreign language at the Federal University of Santa Maria. Their mother tongue is Portuguese. Their level of proficiency ranges from low (in the schools) to intermediate and advanced in the University.

Project objectives
Our main hypothesis is that our students, in general, do not know how to use the right strategies to cope with the problems of learning a foreign language. This happens for many reasons-- unqualified teachers, large classes and, in our opinion, mainly because students are too dependent on their teachers. In other words, students in Brazil tend to be passive learners.  The main objectives of this study were twofold:

(1) to change learner/teacher roles by giving more emphasis to the learner
(2) to demonstrate to the teachers that when students are made responsible for their learning, they become better learners--not only in language classes

Project description
Prior to collecting the data, we observed the strategies of students using interviews, protocols and videos. The next step was to show both groups--students and teachers--some techniques for studying alone, peer working and using self-access materials. Then the data was collected in three public schools of the region (central part of Rio Grande do Sul, south of Brazil) and from undergraduate students of the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria who were students of English as a Foreign Language. Results have shown very clearly the lack of autonomy mentioned above. It was also demonstrated that what the teacher teaches is not what the student expects to be taught. In other words there is a discrepancy between what the student wants and what the teacher really does in the classroom.


STRATEGY USE OF DISTANCE & CLASSROOM LANGUAGE LEARNERS

Cynthia J. White
Dept. of Linguistics and SLT
Massey University
Private Bag 11222
Palmerston North, New Zealand
tel: 06 356 9099 X8436 fax: 06 350 5633

Learner group
Learners of Japanese, Chinese, French and German at three levels of study: beginners, intermediate and advanced.

Project objective
The aim of the project is to compare the strategies used by distance vs classroom language learners enrolled in a dual- mode institution. Strategy use is examined through the metacognitive, cognitive, social and affective strategy use model, to determine precisely where mode of study impacts on strategy use. A further aim of the project is to compare the influence of mode of study on strategy use to that from other aspects of the learning context (TL, level of study, language use opportunities) and from learner characteristics (age, gender, language learning experience, prior experience in learning the TL, motivation, proficiency).

Project description
Data was collected through a questionnaire and a verbal report procedure known as the yoked subject technique. Results revealed that mode of study was the predominant influence on metacognitive strategy use. Distance learners exploited all dimensions of metacognition (planning, monitoring, evaluation) to manage their learning while metacognitive control used by classroom learners was confined mostly to planning strategies. Distance learners made wider and more frequent use of metacognitive strategies, in particular the strategies of self- management, advance organization and revision. Results also indicated that distance learners make less use of social strategies and greater use of affective strategies than their classroom counterparts.

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