Veronika Williams Abstract
Ph.D. Graduate, Spring 2016
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching GIDP
Teachers of English to Speakers of other Languages (TESOL)
April 5-8, 2016
Fostering Learner Autonomy: from Curriculum Design to Classroom Practices
Learner Autonomy (LA) has gained renewed attention due to the recent advances in technology and pedagogy (Benson 2007, 2011, 2013; Gu & Nguyen, 2012; Nguyen, 2013; Smith & Graig, 2013). Modern language learners are exposed to more choices in their language education than ever, including learning modes, approaches, and resources. However, this means learners must be capable of making informed decisions about their education and take some control over it in order to become successful. In current understanding, autonomy is applicable to most educational contexts, including formal language education. The vast body of research is dedicated to investigating different approaches to promoting LA: resource-based, technology-based, learner-based, classroom-based, curriculum-based, and teacher-based (Benson, 2011). Our university-based IEP developed an autonomous learning program Program for Intentional Learning (PIL) which implements a hybrid approach to fostering LA. The conception and inception of PIL were sparked by a rapid growth of our Intensive English Program over three years which revealed the necessity for a systematic way to support and enhance students’ learning skills and to prepare our students for a transition to American universities. This presentation will provide an outline of the program and specific techniques for creating autonomous learners in the classroom. PIL focuses on learner development in language learning, general academic, and personal / social skills to develop life-long language learners. PIL modules include learner training in goal-setting and metacognitive skills, language learning strategies, effective use of self-access materials, American general and academic cultures and digital literacy. The second part of this presentation will present qualitative and quantitative data on the effectiveness of PIL in developing autonomous learners and PIL participants’ perceptions and insights into the changes in their learning behaviors.