Benson Lecture Inpla[1] Phil Benson

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  • 1.Autonomy and student-centered learning Phil Benson Hong Kong Institute of Education

2. 3. Autonomy and student-centered learning

  • What is autonomy - definitions and versions?
  • Why autonomy, why now?
  • What kind of autonomy do we want?

4. Sources for autonomy in language teaching and learning Autonomy in language learning Personal autonomy Freedom in learning Self-directed learning Focus on learner Constructivism Political philosophy Educational reform Adult education Language learning Psychology of learning 5. Sources for autonomy

  • Political philosophy: Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jean-Paul Sartre, Robert Young, Joseph Raz, Anthony Giddens
  • Psychology: Lev Vygotsky, George Kelly, Bruno Bettleheim
  • Educational reform: John Dewey, William Kilpatrick, Paolo Freire, Ivan Illich, Carl Rogers
  • Adult education: Allen Tough, Malcolm Knowles, Philip Candy, Stephen Brookfield, Jack Mezirow
  • Language learning: Learner-centredness, Communicative language teaching, Individual differences, Learning strategies, Sociocultural theory

6. What is autonomy? Abilities, attitudes, predispositions, etc. A capacity that learners possess or acquire Student power, learner control, learners rights. The right to control ones own learning Self-directed learning, planning, decision-making,etc. Learners responsibility Autonomous events and episodes Learners independent actions Self-instruction, use of learning strategies, etc. Methods of learning Autonomous classrooms, learning schemes, etc Teaching situations Learning without a teacher or on your own Learning situations 7. Definitions that are not definitions

  • 100+ competencies associated with autonomy (Candy, 1991)
  • Autonomy in learners can take numerous different forms, depending on their age, how far they have progressed with their learning, what they perceive their immediate learning needs to be, and so on(Little, 1991, p.4).
  • Autonomy is a multidimensional capacity that will take different forms for different individuals, and even for the same individual in different contexts or at different times(Benson, 2001: p.47).

8. Control over learning

  • Autonomy is the capacity to take control of ones own learning Benson (2001)
    • What is a capacity?
    • What do we mean by control of learning?

9. What is a capacity? AUTONOMY Ability Freedom Desire 10. What is a capacity?

  • just as the ability to drive a motor vehicle does not necessarily mean that whenever one gets into a car one is obliged to take the wheel, similarly the autonomous learner is not automatically obliged to self-direct his learning either totally or even partially. The learner will make use of hisabilityto do this only if he sowishesand if he ispermittedto do so by the material, social and psychological constraints to which he is subjected.
  • (Holec, 1988: p.8)

11. Controlling what? AUTONOMY Learning management Learning content Cognitive processes 12. Controlling what?

  • Learning management
    • (e.g. making a study plan)
  • Cognitive processes
    • (e.g. attention/noticing input)
  • Learning content
    • (e.g. choosing what you learn)

13. Versions of autonomy (Benson, 1997)

  • Technical
    • Positivism + focus on learning management
  • Psychological
    • Constructivism + focus on cognitive processes
  • Political
    • Critical theory + focus on learning content

14. Perspectives on autonomy Oxford (2003)

  • Objected to privileging the political
  • Added Sociocultural I (Vygotskyan) & Sociocultural II (SCT, investment, situated learning, etc.)
  • All perspectives are valid

15. Proactive and reactive autonomy

  • Proactiveautonomy
    • regulates the direction of activity as well as the activity itself.The key words are action words: learners are able totake charge oftheir own learning,determinetheir objectives,selectmethods and techniques andevaluatewhat has been acquired
  • Reactiveautonomy
    • ...regulates the activity once the direction has been setthe kind of autonomy which does not create its own directions but, once a direction has been initiated, enables learners to organize their resources autonomously in order to reach their goal.
  • Littlewood (1999)

16. Versions of autonomy

  • Convergence, divergenceconvergence and convergencedivergence perspectives Rib(2003)
  • Individualcognitive, socialinteractive and exploratoryparticipatory perspectives - ORourke & Schwienhorsts (2003)
  • Nativespeakerist, culturalrelativist and social approaches Holliday (2003)

17. Strong and weak pedagogies

  • Weak pedagogies
    • Assume that students lack autonomy
    • autonomy is seen as a deferred goal and as a product of instruction rather than as something which students are currently ready to exercise directly.
  • Strong pedagogies
    • Assume that students are already autonomous
    • Focus on co-creating with students optimal conditions for the exercise of their autonomy
    • (Smith, 2003, 130-132)

18. Arguments for autonomy AUTONOMY Economic Ideological Psychological 19. Argumentsfor autonomy

  • Ideological
    • the individual has the right to be free to exercise his or her own choices, in learning as in other areas, and not become a victim (even an unwitting one) of choices made by social institutions.
  • Psychological
    • Learning is more meaningful, more permanent, more focussed on the processes and schemata of the individual when the individual is in charge.
  • Economic
    • society does not have the resources to provide the level of personal instruction needed by all its members in every area of learningindividuals must be able to provide for their own learning needs, either individually or cooperatively, if they are to acquire the knowledge and skill they want.
    • Crabbe, D. (1993, p.443)

20. Why autonomy? Why now?

  • Globalization and
    • The expansion of second language education
    • The self as a reflexive project
    • The self as technology

21. The expansion of second language education

  • More teachers and more learners
  • Biographical diversity
  • Diversity of purposes
  • Migration of learners
  • Migration of teachers
  • Diversity within classrooms
  • Diversity of situations and practices
  • Autonomy as:
    • Sensitivity to diversity
    • A practical solution to the problems posed by the complexity of mass education

22. The self as reflexive project Giddens (1991)

  • Traditional vs. late modern cultures
  • The need to form ones own identity in late modern society
  • The self as a reflexive project narrative identity
  • The role of second language learning in the formation of new identities
  • Identities are fragmented, contradictory and dynamic but falling to pieces is pathological
  • What holds our identities together??

23. The self as technology

  • Self-improvement culture
    • a range of practices and text-types focusing on the individual and her or his relationships with others, and particularly on the problems of modern personal life. Among the most accessible expressions of this culture are self-help and popular psychology books, and broadcast talk shows of the confessional type where people talk about their experiences, problems and feeling, sometimes receiving advice from an expert (a therapist, counsellor or psychologist). (Cameron, 2002, p.75)
  • Emphasis on self-training workforce and the importance of communication skills in the new economy.

24. Autonomy and agency

  • We believe that learners have to be seen as more than processing devices that convert linguistic input into well-formed (or not so well-formed) outputs. They need to be understood as people, which in turn means we need to appreciate their human agency. As agents, learners actively engage in constructing the terms and conditions of their learning.(Lantolf & Pavlenko, 2001: p. 145)

25. Conclusion

  • What is autonomy? Or what kind of autonomy do we want?
    • Autonomy as the production of responsible, active, flexible and adaptable worker-learners?
    • Autonomy as agency learners as critically aware individuals capable of authoring the world in which they live?