Thursday, August 5, 2010

Week 7: Teacher Autonomy & Learner Autonomy!

We are introduced in week 7 to a very important topic either for teachers or students. Smith (2001), in his article: Interconnections: Learning Autonomy Teacher Autonomy, talked about the importance of having autonomy in teachers first and then their students. He wondered whether teachers have autonomy in the sense of having the basic capacity to decide on objectives, syllabus, materials, methods and means of assessment in a particular context. If that sort of control isn't in teachers’ hands in the first place, then they have little to “let go” of or let students “take control” of, at least in that particular institutional setting. Actually, I do agree with this viewpoint as the proverb says “One who has nothing can give nothing” or “A man can do no more than he can”. If teachers themselves are not autonomous learners, they can’t develop such autonomy in their students.

Our task in this week is to read about learner autonomy and think about what we can do to encourage greater autonomy in students, with or without technology. This task has taken more time and effort. I’ve read all the resources provided by my instructor Deborah and also I’ve surfed the internet for more information about this topic. Also, I’ve read all of my colleagues’ posts about what they can do to foster and encourage autonomy in their students. All these resources need more than a week to digest.

What I’ve perceived about learner autonomy is that both teachers and students share the same responsibility. Both of them play a vital role in the learning process. They are indispensable elements in any experience learned. Whenever, I think about the relation between teachers and students in the classroom, I remember the saying “You can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. Even if teachers provide students with all information and resources they need and the students are not willing to contribute or lack motivation, there will not be any learning at all.

Thus, teachers take the responsibility for not just delivering information to students but providing them with all techniques, tools and opportunities that help them to be more autonomous. Reading posts on Nicenet about what could teachers do to encourage autonomy in students, I’ve found many wonderful suggestions by my colleagues. Among these suggestions are pair/group work, self-reflection, praising success, blogs, wikis, various student-centered approaches (e.g., problem or project-based learning, self-regulated learning, task-based learning, online-based learning, self-learning, cooperative learning, inquiry-based learning, strategic instruction, ...... etc), creating PP presentations by students, learning logs, self-reports, increasing motivation and self-esteem, peer feedback, debates, creating safe and friendly environment, WebQuests, learner strategies, … etc.

All these techniques can help me to make a large shift in students’ new roles from just passive listeners to planners, organizers, managers, and evaluators of their own learning as Duan (2005, 46) mentioned. Of course, all these new roles will be under the supervision of teachers’ new role as a guide and facilitator. These new roles are badly needed in the 21st century. So, teachers and students should step towards them as soon as possible to make them not something to do and then forget about it, but to make them as a habit that should be continued and nurtured to flourish.

Now, I’ll leave you with a fantastic video about the voice of learners in the 21st century, you can see how and what they like to learn. Have a nice watching!

Resources Used:
  • Duan, Li (Jul. 2005). How to Foster Learner Autonomy in English Teaching and Learning. Sino-US English Teaching, Vol. 2, No. 7 (Serial No. 19), pp. 45-47.
  • Smith, R. (2001). Interconnections: Learning Autonomy Teacher Autonomy. Available online at:


  1. Dear Azhar ,

    How to develop a sense of responsibility in our learners? How to change their attitude of over-reliance on the teacher? How to change their attitudes towards learning? How to help them become autonomous?

    Encouraging them to:
    -interrupt our explanation to ask about a certain point in that explanation
    -look up for the new words
    -use us as resource, not as a dictionary

    Encourage us to :
    -to tackle their intrinsic motivation
    -guide them to focus on the process of learning rather than the outcome
    -show and teach them how to learn
    -promote collaboration and cooperation through pair and group work
    -provide them the opportunity to self-assess
    -delegate them tasks

    As you can see above, more to do for teachers than for students.Indubitable, teachers are the key to make a positive change in their students , whatever the problem .

    If you would like more , you can read :
    “Learner autonomy: a guide to developing learner responsibility- De Ágota Scharle,Anita Szabó”

  2. Azhar,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Week 7 of the WebSkills course. I think you make a good point when you say that both teachers and students have a responsibility when it comes to learner autonomy. Like you say, both play a vital role in the learning process.

    Expanding on your comment, I would like to suggest that teachers themselves have a responsibility to become self-directed and lifelong learners. If we expect our students to become more autonomous in their learning, we should also expect the same of ourselves! Besides, if we get excited about our own learning, our students will recognize our enthusiasm and the excitement for learning will spread! As I have stated elsewhere, excitement and enthusiasm for learning is contagious!


  3. Azhar it is really fantastic video..Thanks for sharing..