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Using Digital Technology and Classroom Modifications to Foster Learner Autonomy
This presentation aims to explain the process students go through as they develop greater learner autonomy, as well as certain classroom techniques and modifications that can help them achieve that autonomy. The information in this presentation is based on the researcher’s experience teaching at the Intensive American Language Center (IALC) at Washington State University in the United States, and at Greveskogen Upper Secondary School in Norway. The presenter was part of restructuring and further developing the academic writing program at the IALC, and is currently part of a funded digital classroom project at Greveskogen VGS. Developing learner autonomy can be very challenging, especially among high school EFL/ESL students and those at the college level who are in a hurry to complete an approved language program. Unfortunately, many students have been taught from an early age to focus on an actual grade rather than the learning process and any skills they need to master. This mindset often tends to slow down the process of becoming an autonomous learner. This presentation will demonstrate how focusing on certain learning skills as well as increased student familiarity with digital technology can lead to greater student autonomy. In addition, the presenter will discuss certain changes that can be made to the classroom environment to further speed up the process of becoming an autonomous learner.
Ana Ines Salvi
Exploring criticality development via pedagogy for autonomy, exploratory, practice and arts-informed research methods
As part of a doctoral study I explored what is criticality and what signs of criticality there were in my own autonomous-driven language classroom practice. In this poster presentation I will show to what extent and in what ways a pedagogy for autonomy, the principles of exploratory practice and arts-informed research methods contributed to criticality development in the context of teaching English for academic purposes in the UK. Ultimately, this presentation will expose the synergies between these four frameworks and how they can contribute to each other.
Practitioner research as a way to improve classroom practice
After quite a few years of implementing aspects of a pedagogy for autonomy in my university classroom (e.g. a seating arrangement in groups, peer-reviewing, learner diaries), I feel It is time for another step forward on my autonomy journey with my students. In the small-scale studies I have carried out over the past few years, I have obtained valuable insights into my classroom practice which have confirmed me in my endeavour to encourage my students’ active and reflective involvement in their own learning. I have now decided to delve slightly deeper into the area of my students’ needs and goal-setting practice. I am intending to share with the audience the insights I gained from asking my students to specify in writing their goals, needs, wishes and expectations of the respective course and, at the end of the semester, to have them reflect on how far their set goals have been reached and their expectations fulfilled. By doing this, I am hoping to heighten my students’ awareness of their responsibility for their own learning progress. I will also report on my experience with keeping a teacher diary to complement my students’ voices expressed in their learner diaries.
Logbooks as a tool for practitioner research
A logbook is a fantastic tool for many purposes when talking about language learning. It is a tool that gives teachers a chance to have good relations with their learners and thus via their logbooks to get a good insight into their view of the learning process. I am a teacher of English at the SDE – a vocational school in the south of Denmark. My learners are between 15 and 40 years of age and they study to become electricians, carpenters, mechanics, etc. Using a logbook in my classes is my way of keeping track of the way my learners like to learn and how I, as a teacher researcher, can develop and improve my teaching in connection with the evelopment of learner autonomy. The information I get from the evaluations contribute tremendously to my insight as regards what works and what does not work. My presentation will show examples of students’ evaluations that have proved especially useful: evaluations that illustrate the learners’ diversity as regards their way of learning, their big difference in linguistic competence, and their way of interacting with one another as well as with me.
My Journey as a Researcher: The bee in the beehive
In this poster presentation, I will talk about my journey as a teacher researcher with different hats and discuss the phases I have been through. In the first phase, I will talk about the people who inspired me. Second, I will talk about my life philosophy: The meaning and purpose of life, our calling. Next, I will talk about cycles of challenges that change our perspective and how we look at life and ourselves. Then, I will talk about Knowledge Networks: The bees in the beehive. Baraka, Ubuntu. Maturation: Is there such a thing? Or are we still the curious, observant child, committed to play, discover, spontaneous learners living in the moment? Attitude makes all the difference. New vision: Exploring, understanding, reflecting, developing insight and foresight, mindful thinking and living strategies, getting out of our comfort zones into the world of high-tech synapses. Learner, teacher and researcher autonomy are interconnected in a network of dynamic and complex systems. Learner autonomy starts with building trust, encouraging creativity, collegiality, instilling a sense of purpose and self-direction. The autonomous teacher explores new, natural and organic learning environments to stimulate learners’ affective and cognitive skills. The role of the autonomous researcher is to illustrate new dimensions of language acquisition, improving the overall quality of language learning, teaching and researching experience.
Researching Autonomy and Identity Beyond the Classroom
In this presentation, I will describe an ethnographic research project which explores the development of learner autonomy in an English conversation lounge within a self-access centre at a university near Tokyo. Drawing on observation, interview and survey data, the research sheds light on what the space means to different users and how the space plays a role in the fostering of learner autonomy. Taking an ethnographic approach meant that we are able to investigate the ways in which learners become aware of their shifting identities and their relationships with the space and the people within it. Little research has been done on exploring learner autonomy beyond the classroom and this project has indicated that taking an ethnographic approach is a practical and useful way to investigate learning spaces.
Katja Heim, Stephan Gabel
Action Research in Preservice Teacher Education: A step towards autonomy?
As a part of their Master of Education studies, our students have to spend their second term on placement in school, during which they gain some first practical teaching experiences, and in which it is mandatory for them to carry out research on foreign language classroom practices. These projects normally take the form of action research (AR) at the presenters' institutions, so that we encourage the trainees to identify their own educational needs, to devise teaching units that further develop their teaching skills, and to explore and evaluate their practical successes (or lack of them). The poster will highlight the potential of using forms of AR in pre-service teacher education, concentrating on the nature(s) of Teacher Research that our students undertake, on the problems they encounter during their projects, on the support structures that we as lecturers provide and on their acceptance of AR as evidenced by course evaluations and their written reports. As quite a number of the students’ projects aim at further involving learners, we will also present evidence indicating that AR assists student teachers in developing their capacity to support Learner Autonomy in their future work places.
"Mindful listerns and artful inquirers" -
how to be both in practising and researching learner autonomy through stories
I have been working with and through stories in learner autonomy for more than a decade. The ethical demands of researching and telling educational stories have had me put myself under the microscope: in my latest inquiries I have used auto-ethnography as a method (e.g. Karlsson, 2017). Inspired by Malcolm Reed and Jane Speedy (2011) I want to critically explore my ways of inquiring into and depicting the lived and told stories from my landscape of research and practice, language counselling in higher education. I will tell the writing story behind three narrative pieces I have recently (co)written. I will reflect on the tensions and concerns in my inquiries: my double role as counsellor/researcher and working in the border country between education and therapy.
An Enquiry into EFL and Online Community Platforms in Secondary Schools
I am a first year EdD student with the Open University. I have been a secondary school English teacher in Italy now for 30 years and before that I taught EFL in England for a brief period. Over the years I have constantly experimented with new teaching methods to motivate my students and have tried to keep up-to -date with technology and theories. I have come to a point where I need to understand and look at my practice in a new way. In Italy, schools are encouraged to participate in collaborative projects such as Erasmus and eTwinning and it is the latter which informs my research enquiry today. ETwinning is a free educational platform designed for collaborating with other European schools and teachers. When used properly, it is an undeniable asset to teachers of any subject and for numerous reasons; one of the most important is the learning of EFL. Students and teachers collaborate online using EFL as a tool for mediation. My research enquiry involves Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) to understand what is happening in an eTwinning project and to see how far it helps the learning of EFL.
Critical moments - a personal search for the missing links in the development of learner autonomy
The poster illustrates a number of interventions aimed at enabling the development of learner autonomy, and the things learnt and carried forward by the presenter. Each of the interventions was seen as action research with feedback the initiatives sought from participants. The beginning was resources in Self Access, and later Independent Learning Centres, and how they can be structured to include the learner. This progressed into the creation of Study Focus Groups focussing on affective strategies for failing students. An ILC workshop procedure aimed at enabling greater student engagement and motivation was developed and implemented. Learner Support Handbooks to link class work with LA were a further development. A greater focus on Teacher Autonomy as an essential aspect of the development of LA informed the creation of a community of practice for teachers working in the ILC. The increasing acceptance of social media in education enabled the successful implementation of closed class Facebook pages, to support student learning. Facebook pages for teachers were more problematic. Perhaps the final link in the process of developing LA, is to build autonomous practices into curriculum and syllabus so that the use of English, student control and reflection are included systematically throughout. A current digital renewal of syllabus allows refocussing of lessons to include autonomous approaches meaningfully and explicitly. The presenter feels that a judicious blending of curriculum, and teacher and student activities may close the gaps in the development of LA.
Micòl Beseghi, Greta Bertolotti
Using technology to enhance teacher and learner autonomy: collaborative approach
The important connection between learner and teacher autonomy has been emphasised in recent research (Dam 2003, Little 1995, Sinclair et al 2000). This presentation describes an on-going project aimed at enhancing autonomy in language teaching and learning by fostering collaboration between teachers and students in higher education. The project is based on the assumption that both student and teacher autonomy can be encouraged by promoting a collaborative and multimodal environment where students do not only take more control of their learning but also share their learning experience and act as tutors/teachers to their peers. In this collaborative and interactive context, by using a variety of technological tools such as e-learning platforms, online diaries and social media, teachers and students help each other and reflect on the learning process.
Nouf Ahmed Alhejaily
An Investigation of Learner Autonomy as Perceived by Female Teachers and Students of English as a Foreign Language in Saudi Secondary Schools
Learner autonomy is one of the key areas that catch researchers’ attention in the field of language learning. Although a significant body of research investigates learner autonomy in university contexts, little work has been done in secondary school context, especially the Arabic context (e.g. AlGhazali, 2011; Al-shaqsi, 2009) and none in Saudi context. Therefore, the current study was carried out to investigate EFL female teachers’ and students’ perceptions about learner autonomy in Saudi secondary school context. It also compared their perceptions to identify any potential mismatch between them. A mixed methodological design is adopted to collect both qualitative and quantitive data. Semi-structured interview conducted first then a context-specific questionnaire was designed based on the result of qualitative data. It is hoped that this study helps to identify how teachers and students define and practice learner autonomy, and the factors that influence such perceptions particularly in secondary school Saudi context.
Pablo Fernando Marchisio, Ana Laura Barbosa
Enhancing Learner Autonomy through Creativity and Digital Story-telling
Teachers of English as a foreign language often wonder how to engage students so that they become independent, active and creative users of the target language who are able to design a final product with a purpose. According to Bloom’s taxonomy, creation and design are the highest forms of cognitive involvement, and in the field of applied linguistics, this concept can be translated as oral or written production or output in communicative situations. This poster presentation examines the practical application of a digital story-telling assignment in high school settings and how information was collected to do action research about it to improve future implementations. The original task was a final assignment of a project following the premise of learning by doing and integrating the different language skills. In the process, students were required to read and listen to short stories, explore linguistic aspects and then turn it into a script to be acted out and filmed. This cooperative learning task implied many 21st century abilities such as collaboration, creativity, social and emotional skills and effective use of digital tools to create a media presentation. All in all, this poster presentation gives an overview of the task and the implications for teacher research.
Technology for first generation learners
This paper shows the impact of technology in 40 residential tribal schools in Telangana in India. The project life is very short with less than 6 months but is ambitious and expects at least 2-5% improvement in listening and speaking skills of its beneficiaries (learners of grades VI- VIII). It is also ambitious for various other reasons. It expects this result with minimal teacher training, from learners with no exposure to English whatsoever, and with a handful of field team to observe classroom proceedings in the selected schools and, most importantly, intends to develop learner autonomy. This project specially interests me as I am keen to understand classroom dynamics with technology interventions and the improved rate of learning, especially the first generation learners. It also interests me as this intervention does not replace the traditional class room teaching (which the teachers are used to) but complements it. Thirdly, the content in the tablet aligns to the General English curriculum and content given in the text book. The learners were provided tablets with content on listening, speaking, grammar and vocabulary. The teachers were orientated to use the tablets along with their regular classes. The learning outcomes, primarily listening and speaking, of learners of middle school (grades 6-8) will be measured against set parameters at all the 3 stages of the project -the baseline, midline and end line. The main objective of the intervention with the tablet was to give learners an exposure to the language in the most natural and neutral contexts and accents. Considering that these schools are in remote areas, and the majority of the teachers are neither proficient in the language nor ELT graduates, it was necessary that the tablet had recordings for the listening tasks given in the text book. The tablet also had been programmed to record exceptional performers and those that needed additional support and remediation. The first presupposition of the intervention is that the learners will learn faster with continuous feedback on their performance as the teacher is not equipped or capable of such immediate feedback. It is also envisaged that the teacher will be in a better position to monitor students’ progress and support the ones that may need help while the activity is going on. The third presupposition is that the tablet will motivate and sustain interest in language learning as the tasks are in the form of games and activities. The paper would provide evidence and data to improve and improvise in the extended project as this is a pilot project.
Classroom and Assessment research through the lens of Exploratory Practice - Courage to Think outside the Box about Autonomy
Having completed two research studies using the principles of Exploratory Practice (one in learner development in democratic competencies and the other in the use of pop quizzes as part of an assessment schedule in EFL language learning), I would like to share my experiences of how Exploratory Practice has helped me to transform my approach to autonomy while teaching on an EFL program at a higher education institution in Northern Cyprus. During the research studies, I have been pleasantly surprised by the outcomes of what can occur when the concept of learner and teacher autonomy is supported and actively developed. I will conclude with some insights into how Exploratory Practice can be implemented easily and effectively in order for others to investigate their own puzzles especially in the areas of autonomy for learners, educators and research-practitioners in higher education.
One year later: Students' visualization of 'independent-mindedness' in the 12 university classroom
Over the past two decades, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Sports, Science, Culture and Technology has proposed several action plans for curricular reform which state that upon graduation from tertiary institutions, students should be able to function effectively, in English, in an international setting. Each year, there has been an increased emphasis on “independent-minded learning” at the tertiary level, with varying levels of success. This study examines if students, after one year of tertiary education, could reflect on their current situation, visualize changes in their development and consider what it meant to be “independent minded” in their approach to learning. An Independent Learning Scale (ILS) was introduced to students as a horizontal line drawn across the whiteboard, with the numbers one to five evenly interspaced along the line. The number one represented a learner dependent on teacher instruction, while the number five represented a proactive, independent learner. Students were asked to first choose the number which they felt best represented their perception of themselves as an independent learner. They were asked to write the reasons why they had chosen the particular number and then place it next to the number on the board. This exercise worked as a great visualization tool for students to understand what it meant to be an independent-minded learner. ILS data showed students’ perceptions at each of the five levels. Interpretation of the findings indicated that learners were indeed capable of reflecting on learning, but felt they needed training in how to learn in order to become more ‘independent-minded’.