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Teacher Role and Learner Autonomy in Language Learning  

2012-12-06 07:47:44|  分类: 读书摘记 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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    Abstract: Nowadays, increasing attention has been drawn to the importance of autonomy in language learning. Autonomy has in fact become a buzzword (Little, 1991) and a central theme in language learning and teaching (Camilleri, 1999). Autonomy entails an attitude towards the learning which bridges the gap between what is taught and how it is applied in real life. It will facilitate learners to apply the knowledge acquired in a given context to different situations. However, learners’ autonomy cannot be analyzed and fulfilled thoroughly without taking account of teachers’ roles in correlated interaction of teaching and learning. This paper aims at looking into the relation between the teacher and the learner to see how teachers’ role is associated with the development of learners’ autonomy. It is composed of four parts: the first part is the general definition of automony, in the second part, I will focus on a reconsideration of learners’ autonomy and the third part is about teachers’ role for learners’ autonomy. Finally, I will give a further implication for teachers and learners to better improved learners’ autonomy. Key words: learner autonomy teacher roles communication.

    I. Autonomy in Language Learning ought to be aware of their roles in autonomous
    i. What Is Autonomy learning therefore they will facilitate the process of
    Holec (1981) defines autonomy as the autonomy and enhance the efficiency; however, capacity of taking charge of one’s own learning. I think that independence does not mean the I believe that an autonomous learner should be ignorance of the importance of teachers’ role. aware of his actual role in language learning Learner autonomy can not be adequately and be capable of controling the whole learning fulfilled without teachers’ help and guide. process; therefore, they are self-directed in the According to Dam(1995, p.1) “Learner whole process. The autonomous students are autonomy is characterized by a readiness to take required to be independent in their learning charge of one’s own learning in the service of and problem solving. They are likely to make one’s needs and purposes. This entails a capacity advancement in their study if they get rid of and willingness to act independently and in dependence on others. What is more; they need cooperation with others, as a socially responsible to be capable in critical thinking and can give person.” In his view, learner autonomy is not prompt feedback. only concerned with the inherent ability but Wenden(1991, p.15) argued that in effect, also the social responsibility. Learner autonomy ‘successful’ or ‘expert’ or ‘intelligent’ learners is the internal ability of independent learning; have learned how to learn. They have acquired what is more, autonomous learners are willing learning strategies, the knowledge about learning, to lead an active role in their learning. Despite and the attitudes that enable them to use these the fact that the definitions of autonomy are skills and knowledge confidently, flexibly, ap-variable, there are really common points. For propriately and independently, therefore, they are example, they suggest that the autonomy is autonomous. a capacity of independence in learning and Autonomy is learners’ own responsibity independence acts as the basis of autonomy. and meanwhile, learners should acquire essential

    ii. What Autonomy Is Not knowledge and skills about learning, and Since it appears not easy to define what autonomy is, it is better for us to make a clear definition through the other angle, that is, the negative aspect of autonomy-what it is not. There exists several misunderstandings of the autonomy. And simultaneously some misconceptions are mixed up with autonomy.
    We need to make them clarified and expose the true interpretation of learner autonomy.
    First of all, it is a misinterpretation that teachers’ roles are no longer the part in the autonomous learning process. However, the fact is that teachers play a vital role and their responsibilities can never be ignored nor abdicated. Learner autonomy is based on learner’s independence and active attitude towards learning. The learner has the responsibility to make decisoins and take charge of their learning. But without teachers’ counsel and supervision, the whole process will result in low efficiency or even fall into disorder.
    Secondly, the misconception pointed out by Little is that self-instruction is often regarded as a synonym of autonomy. However, they are not equivalent. “Self-instruction refers to the situa-tion in which a learner is working alone without the direct control of the teacher”. ( Dickinson 1987, p.5, cited in Jones 2003) and in the narrow sense, self-instruction is a “deliberate long-term learning project instigated, planned and carried out by the learner alone, without teacher intervention”.( Benson 2001, p131, cited in Jones 2003) It focuses on whether learning is carried out by the learner alone and excludes the ses-sions within the taught course. On the contrary, learner autonomy focuses on whether the learn-ing is controlled by the learner. In autonomous learning, learners take their own responsibility for goal-setting, materials selection, learning activities and/or assessment, instead of a teacher or self-study materials being in overall charge (Benson, 2001).
    Thirdly, the misconception is to perceive autonomy as a single, easily described behavior. Autonomy cannot be easily described because it may manifest in many different forms. Finally, because their performance can never be guaranteed, autonomy is not a steady state achieved by some learners. A learner who is highly autonomous in one circumstance may be not autonomous at all in another. 
   

    II. Reconsideration in Learner Autonomy
    A review of literature reveals two concerned issues on learner autonomy. Autonomy implies both learner self-managements in language learning and learner self-reliance in their second language learning and using. It is suggested that language learning and using are in a two-way relationship. Therefore, the development of communicative proficiency depends on learners’ language use and each occasion of language use furthers their language learning. On the one hand, learner autonomy is the responsibility shared by the learners, on the other hand, it is the capacity of learners to take control of the language and use language autonomously. Therefore, autonomous learners are capable to control the learning process and autonomous learning is not a matter of institutional mode or compulsory task but a matter of learners’ internal attitude. Learner autonomy is to recognize the self-directed and independent learning as well as the essential cooperation between teachers and learners. (adapted from Usuki 2002)
    Learners need to prepare themselves in autonomous learning. They ought to understand what they are expected and which kinds of resources and intentions are in their command. On the one hand, they should be willing to put their efforts into learning and have an active attitude towards the learning process. What is more, learners are required to be equipped with the learning stategies so that they are able to take full advantage of the resources and knowledges. They are also likely to know how their efficient behaviours will enhance their capacity in autonomous learning. Helping learners facilitate and adapt to autonomous learning is a crucial part of teacher role. Particularlly, a teacher’s attitude towards learners is inevitably important for learner autonomy. A teacher should be aware of his new role which should keep pace with the development of learner automony as well as the importance of good teacher-learner relationship.

    III. Teacher Roles for Learner Autonomy

    i. Changing Roles for Teacher

    Teacher role and learner role is an integral part in autonomous learning. Autonomy requires the understanding of new roles between both teachers and learners. It is necessary for them to change their roles so as to adapt themselves to the new requirement of autonomy. The promotion of autonomy is dependent greatly on how teachers are aware of their new roles. a)Teacher’s Traditional Role
In traditional language teaching, teachers are dominant in the process of education. According to Richards and Rodgers(1986), the teacher acts as the model of language, the lesson planner, the controller of learner practice and the assessor of learner’s performance. First of all, teachers organize the teaching program in terms of knowledge of grammar and correct forms. Teachers are also the planners of the course, prepareing the materials and deciding what and how learners ought to learn. In these two phases, the teachers are definitely the center of teaching, controling in the whole performance. The teacher “becomes more like the skillful conductor of an orchestra, drawing the music out of the performers.”(Brynne 1976, cited in Richards and Rodgers 1986, p37) They control not only the teaching material but also the learning steps of their learners. What is more, teachers are also assessors of the learners’ knowledge and performance. In one word, teachers hold the dominant status of teaching and learners appear to follow passively what is taught in a traditional language teaching. They tend to be superior to their students. In light of teacher role in a traditional language teaching, learners’ behavior and performance of low efficiency can find its root. In this case, there is no doubt that the teacher is a complete authority who takes charge of the class while the students become passive and anxious in learning who just listen to the teacher and write down mechanically what the teacher has told them. This will naturally lead to poor teacher-student interactive relation and unsatisfactory effect of language teaching. b)Teacher Role in Learner-centered Teaching
    As opposed to the traditional role of teachers, in a learner-centered class, the teacher should shift the role from teacher-centred in which teachers dominantly teach the grammatical knowledge and control learners’ performance to the learner-centred mode, in which the learner is the centre of the programme. It implicates that the role of the teacher means more than merely providing materials and guide for students. In the whole process of teaching and learning, teachers need to adapt to perform a variety of roles. Breen and Candline classify the roles of teachers into the following categories: teacher as manager and organizer; teacher as facilita-tor; as “an independent participant within the learning-teaching group and the resource.” The third role is that teacher as counselor. (Richards and Rodgers 1986, p.77)
    Teacher as manager and organizer
    In a learner-centered system teacher must be the principal agent of curriculum development. The task of the teacher is to create a harmonious classroom atmosphere which is warm and stimulating and in which students feel confident and much motivated. Furthermore, the teacher should take the responsibilities of organizing various kinds of activities and games which are appropriate, effective and relevant to the classroom teaching and which will best meet the students’ needs and expectations. The ultimate goal is to respond to the students’ interests and abilities so that they will be highly motivated to perform in each stage of classroom activities. But the teacher should bear in mind that he or she should give clear instructions as to what is to be done because the success of many activities, no matter whether it is a specific role-play or a group discussion, depends on good organization and on the students’ knowing exactly what they are expected to do. Otherwise, it is impossible for the two parts of teaching-learning process to achieve their objective. Teacher’s role as manager and organizer is considered to be the first and foremost role teacher has to play in class. When organizing any single teaching and learning activity, the teacher should take all the following responsibilities into account as telling the students what they are going to do, giving clear instructions about what the task is, getting the activity going smoothly and then organizing feedback when it is over. Otherwise, the students will not be able to perform their task satisfactorily.

    Teacher as facilitator
    In order to make the progress more flexible and successful, it is necessary for teachers to serve as a facilitator. As facilitators, teachers need to do all the efforts to help make the learning easier and motivate learners to play to the best of their potentials, which includes: helping the learners to plan and carry out their independent language learning; helping learners to acquire the knowledge and skills and motivate learner to learn actively and autonomously. In the process of facilitating, it involves teachers’ encouragement and assist. Teachers encourage learners’ commitment, helping them to get rid of the uncertainty and anxiety and overcome the obstacles. In learner-centered curriculum, the teacher becomes a bridge between language input and output. The teacher should provide each learner with opportunities to participate, to practice and to produce. This will enable the students to enhance their confidence and awareness through learning; as a result they will become more independent and ensure more effective autonomous learning.

    Teacher role as resource
    During the participation in classroom activities, the teacher is expected to be the language resource. It is obvious that the teacher is responsible to ensure necessary language input and to offer help whenever it is needed. During this process, the teacher is to motivate learners to produce their own language and to advisably correct students’ errors so as to help students develop their own learning strategies and techniques. Teacher role as counselor Richards and Rodgers (1986, p.78) argued: “The teacher-counselor is expected to exemplify an effective communicator seeking to maximize the meshing of speaker intention and hearer interpretation, through the use of paraphrase, confirmation, and feedback.”
    Teacher as counselor is to give advice and help to learners so that they can achieve more efficient learning. This kind of role can be realized by means of helping learners to become more self-monitoring, fulfill learner’s aims and needs, as well as give feedback and support learners towards the target of autonomous learning.

    ii. Preparing Teachers to Prompt Learner Autonomy
    Ho and Crookall (1995) argue that the teacher can help the learners redefine their views about responsibility for autonomous learning and create an environment for them to exercise their responsibility. In autonomous learning, teachers should take control of the teaching process so that they are able to provide enough room for the learners’ action, besides they should develop the capacity of self-directed teaching. Preparing teachers for their engagements with learners in the teaching process is absolutely necessary, since teachers and learners are correlated to each other. An abdication of either part will lead to the failure in autonomous learning. Teachers need to mediate the process of learner autonomy and the constraints which impede autonomy. Teacher should assist and guide learners to reflect and monitor the learning. Apart from that, teachers are capable and free in using the multimedia to facilitate learning by means of video, radio and the internet. In order to prompt learner autonomy, teachers should also equip themselves with essential skills, for instance, they need the personal skills, thus, they are able to evaluate learners’ potential and recognize what they expect in learning; secondly, they need to have the educational skills in order to present the proper material and information to the learners and guide the learners to-wards the right way to autonomous learning. What is more, teacher has to develop learn-ers’ awareness and capacity in independent learning. 
   

    IV. Further Implication of Teacher Role and Learner Role in Learner Autonomy.
    In the way to achieve learner autonomy, there is still a lot of room to develop teacher role and learner role. It is indispensable for teacher and learner to lead a positive and supportive relationship in teaching and learning. There are some implications for teacher role and learner autonomy.

    On the one hand, attention should be paid to motivation in learner autonomy. It still leave much room of improvement for both teacher and learner. For the part of the teachers, since “one of the main tasks for teachers is to provoke interest and involvement in the subjects even when students are not initially interested in it”(Harmer 1998, cited in Xue and Yu 2005, p.68). In order to motivate learners, teachers should be capable to select the materials which can be used to arouse learners’ interest and cater to their learning level so that this ensures the learners’ satisfaction and confidence. What is more, teachers might help learners to set goals towards the direction of learner need and encourage them to make out their own goals, all of which will be helpful in motivating learners. For the learner’s part, they need to know that their attitudes towards learning concerned a lot with the autonomy. They should cast away the passive style of learning and encourage themselves to perform more actively. In another word, they need to motivate themselves in order to cooperate with teachers in learninig. They ought to bear their responsibility of autonomous learning in mind, thus they are able to perform well with the guideline of their teacher.

    On the other hand, it is teacher’s responsibility to construct a good environment for learners so that learners are able to take risks, and be creative and active in acquiring the knowledge and practicing autonomously in the harmonious atmosphere. Meanwhile, learners will overcome the obstacles and uncertainty which they encounter during learning. A good environment can enable the teacher to transmit the knowledge and information and guide the whole process more conveniently and efficiently as well.

    Ⅴ. Conclusion:
    This paper is to see into the relation between teacher role and learner autonomy. Teacher role and learner autonomy correlate to each other. Learner autonomy can not be fulfilled without the teacher role. Inautonomous learning, both teachers and learners need to recognize and put into practice their new roles in learner autonomy. During this process, teachers will be able to transfer the traditional teacher oriented mode to learner-centred mode so as to help them become autonomous language learners, teachers also adapt themselves to the new roles such as facilitator and counselor through which teachers are enabled to create an environment to support the development of learner autonomy and foster the consciousness of learners to achieve autonomy.

References:
1. Benson, P (2001) Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. Longman, Harlow.

2. Camilleri, A. (1999) Introducing learner autonomy in teacher education. Council of Europe Publishing.

3. Dam, L. (1995) Learner autonomy3: from theory to class-room practice. Authentik, Dublin.

4. Ho, J. and Crookall, D. (1995) Breaking with Chinese cultural traditions: Learner autonomy in English language teaching, System, Vol.23, No.2, p. 235-243.

5. Holec, H., (1981) Autonomy and Foreign Language Learn-ing. Pergamon, Oxford.

6. Jones R.Francis (2003) ‘Self-instructed foreign language learning’, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, viewed 8 June 2007,

7. <http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/f,r,jones.definition.htm.>

8. Little, D(1991) Learner autonomy1: Definitions, issues and

problems. Authentik, Dublin.

9. Richards, J.C. and Rodgers, T.S. (1986) Approaches and methods in languages teaching: A decription and analysis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

10. Usuki, M (2002) Learner autonomy: learning through student’s voice, Center for Language and Communication Studies. Trinity Coll, Dublin, viewed in 11 May 2007.

11. <http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/Home.portal?_

nfpb=true&_pageLabel=ERIC_Search>

12. Wenden, A.(1991) Learner strategies for learner autonomy. Prentice Hall International, London.

13. XuXiaozhen and YuJinping (2005) Constructing motivation by use of interactive approaches and techniques in the ELF classroom. CELEA Journal, Vol.28, No.2, p.68-75.

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