IATEFL Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group online symposium

Supporting teacher and learner agency

December 12, 2020 / 9-12 UK time

You can find slides and references from the event here.

LASIG’s 2020 online symposium highlighted autonomy-related projects from around the world. With a special focus on supporting agency of both teachers and learners, the symposium explored their roles in the classroom and beyond and how agency is developed. Presenters told about research and practice in the field of learner autonomy, and to gave some hands-on ideas. In addition to the plenary by Phil Benson, there was a series of talks and a workshop, all illustrating how learner autonomy is implemented in different institutional and cultural settings.

Our plenary was held by Phil Benson
Plenary title: Language learning and space: Agency and the mapping out of learning environments
Plenary abstract: We are increasingly thinking of language learning in a global context as a matter of multiple diversities: diversities of learner biography, background and target languages, purposes, and settings for learning in and out of the classroom. This presentation suggests that the common thread within these multiple diversities is that of agentive learners mapping out individual language learning environments within the spaces in which they live, work, study and play. The question raised by this view is whether we should begin to think of agency more in terms of learners uses of space. 

Our workshop was held by Ulla Fürstenberg
Workshop title: We make the path by walking: creating space for small-scale student-led tasks
Workshop abstract: Sharing responsibility with our learners and occasionally handing over control of a task to them makes for more engaging, meaningful lessons. In this workshop, we will explore some student-lead learning sequences for vocabulary work and speaking skills. All of the tasks in this workshop are small-scale so that they can easily be integrated into existing lesson plans without too much preparation. Given the current importance of online teaching and learning, we will also discuss how the tasks can be adapted to both in-person and online teaching situations.

Our presenters wereBob Morrison, Kerstin Dofs, and Jiřina Karasová

Bob Morrison
Presentation title: Considering reflection and learners’ perceptions of guided written reflection
Abstract: Reflection is central to theories of experiential learning, self-directed learning and language learner autonomy. However, as with autonomy, reflection has been interpreted in many ways. We will consider features of effective reflection identified in various fields and which may suit our various contexts. I will then describe an academic discussion skills course which incorporated on-going written reflective learner-teacher dialogues. Colleagues’ initial scepticism about learners’ willingness to integrate reflective writing into a speaking course prompted my investigation into the learners’ perceptions. The results of this will be shared at the end of this presentation.

Kerstin Dofs
Presentation title: Autonomous language learning support: A life-long process
Abstract: This presentation covers the current state of autonomous learning initiatives and practice at Ara Institute of Canterbury in New Zealand. It will cover my life-long experiences of autonomous learning, how the work has changed, and how research enabled informed decisions regarding the LSAC. In the centre we work to enable students to take ownership of their own learning by helping them plan and giving them tools for learning English. Also covered in this presentation is the role of the LSAC Learning Facilitators; how they can best support students’ life-long language learning without taking over the responsibility for students’ learning.

Jiřina Karasová
Presentation title: Teachers’ effective communication skills: Supporting learner autonomy
Abstract: Students’ feelings, needs, and emotions are important when developing learner autonomy.  This presentation shows how effective communication creates safe learning environment, supports language learner autonomy and encourages learners’ independence. Participants are provided with some specific tips for effective communication skills to be used in their classrooms to foster learner autonomy.

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels