Fostering learner autonomy in the classroom

Intenational House Newcastle
3. Nov 2013

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Fostering learner autonomy in the classroom

  1. Jane Maria Harding da Rosa Professional Development Coordinator International House Newcastle
  2. Is learner independence the same as learner autonomy?  Being able to work independently, on their own is not quite the same as students deciding what they need to do, how they learn best and what would benefit their own learning.  The students who can take responsibility for their learning are more successful (in terms of progress) than those who rely solely on the teacher  It is, however, the teacher’s responsibility to encourage and demonstrate learner training and language tasks in the classroom so that students are equipped with tools to help them make decisions about what they can do outside class.  Teachers should provide practical ideas to promote learner autonomy 2
  3. How can you promote learner autonomy in the classroom? • Set learning goals • Give choices • Demonstrate learning tasks • Encourage students to set their own tasks/rewards 3
  4. Set some learning goals S-M-A-R-T goals! Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely The teacher can start by setting goals, encouraging the students to set their own Examples: • By Christmas I will read a (graded) book in English. • I will try to use an English-English dictionary • I will set myself and complete a learning task each week. (see slides on demonstrating learning tasks) 4
  5. Give students choices Do you give all your students the same tasks for homework? Why? Why not? Why? - easier to mark/check - students can get peer support - students’ progress/abilities can be compared within the group - checks exactly how each student understood the task Why not? - more personalised learning - differentiation in terms of task/skills - help foster learner independence Examples: • For homework, choose an activity from … • Answer 3 out of the 5 questions • Choose one of the two topics 5
  6. What’s the difference? Home-learning  There is something about the word ‘work’ that implies it is more of a chore. Learning, on the other hand, implies a benefit to the person doing it.  A piece of ‘work’ is something that should be developed until the author/artist is pleased with the result.  Homework is to be handed in, for the teacher to mark  Home learning is optional, but encouraged; for students to see the benefit of learner autonomy (teacher doesn’t check (or can’t check) if it has been completed. The onus is on the student to complete the tasks, and/or to set their own tasks.
  7. Demonstrate Learning Tasks As already mentioned, it is not enough to talk about what students can do at home, they need concrete examples. It needs to start in the classroom so they can see that they can take the ideas and activities and do them at home. The following slides provide ideas for how to demonstrate learning tasks in class, with the assumption that students can do the same on their own.
  8. Demonstrate Learning Tasks Headlines: Take the headlines from a newspaper article, or even a text from a coursebook to start with. Elicit questions on to the board about the headline. This  activates interest in the text  gives students practice in writing questions  Provides students with a purpose to read. If it becomes a routine in class, it could become a habit outside class
  9. Demonstrate Learning Tasks What are your students  Encourage them to ‘Think in English’ (activate their inner voice in English)  Start to think consciously in English so it moves to the subconscious  (aim for thinking in the dreaming in English!) For a handout and more information see
  10. Demonstrate Learning Tasks Encourage your students to have imaginary conversations: Is there someone they see everyday? Sit quietly and ask them to think. What would they say to... ...the person sitting next to them on the bus? ... someone walking towards them in the street? ... to their teacher if they saw them in a cafe?
  11. Demonstrate Learning Tasks Writing sentences really helps to consolidate grammar and vocabulary. Encourage your students to write sentences using the language covered in class. Expand the sentences they have written by adding adverbs and adjectives. Take the verb they have used and make it into a noun or a noun to an adjective etc. And re write the sentence. Doing it in class first gives the students the confidence to do it at home. Check their home learning if they ask you to.
  12. Demonstrate Learning Tasks The majority of your students now have a smart phone or ipad/ipod in class. They all have access to a recording app. When they next do a pairwork discussion, get them to record their conversation. Ask them to listen to it. What does it sound like to them? How can they make improvements to their speaking? (pronunciation/ errors/ L1 interference?) How can they make it sound more ‘English’? Ask them to transcribe their conversation. Can they identify their mistakes now? Which ones do they repeat? Can they correct them?
  13. Demonstrate Learning Tasks When you have finished a reading text or article get students to notice the language that is used. Underline the different tenses in different colours (present perfect and past simple) what do they notice (which is more common) Highlight adjectives and nouns in different colours. What do they notice about word order? Choose a part of speech and focus on it in one text. Ask them to identify what they find difficult and encourage them to notice that language in a different text.
  14. Demonstrate Learning Tasks Mindmaps are a useful resource as they can be added to and built up gradually and have a visual affect on the learner. Ask students to reproduce a mindmap that was used in class Remind students they can take photos of the white board at the end of a lesson and look back at what the language that was covered.
  15. Demonstrate Learning Tasks Remind students that they can take photos of the language they see while they are out and about., Encourage them to find out what it means. The photos on their phones can also be used to promote conversation in class; describing what they see, what they were doing, who they were with etc. They can then use other photos to think in English at home (see earlier slide on thinking in English)
  16. Encourage learners to set themselves....  A Ten Minute Task  A Quick Quest  A Massive Mission They should also give themselves rewards for completing some home-learning
  17. Fostering Learner Autonomy in the Classroom Jane Maria Harding da Rosa Thank you