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Higher Education and Second Language Learning

Promoting Self-Directed Learning in New Technological and Educational Contexts

Edited By Rosario Hernandez and Paul Rankin

This volume explores the challenges involved in facilitating student learning of second languages at university level. Easy access to information and communication technologies inside and outside the classroom, alongside an increasing tendency for students to play an active role in shaping their own learning, are having a significant impact on second language learning and teaching in the twenty-first century. Although several recent publications have focused on technologies in education and student-centred learning, there has been very little previous research into how second languages are learnt within universities. This book aims to support teachers of second languages in higher education by setting out practical ideas that can be implemented in everyday contexts, as well as ensuring that pedagogical practice is underpinned by relevant theoretical frameworks.
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2 Dealing with ‘Educational Baggage’ in the Language Classroom: Developing Autonomy among International Students



2  Dealing with ‘Educational Baggage’ in the Language Classroom: Developing Autonomy among International Students

Internationalization, student mobility and language learning

Internationalization is an important feature of today’s higher education (HE) landscape with student mobility central to this process. Increasing numbers of students are engaging in education in a country other than their own, encouraged by initiatives such as the Erasmus / Socrates exchange programme. Many partake in foreign language courses at host institutions. This may include learning the language of the host country or one that is used elsewhere, for example, learning English or Spanish in Ireland.

International students enrolled on language courses in Irish HE institutions are often expected to take more responsibility for their language learning than may have been the case in their home institution(s), i.e. to develop a higher degree of learner autonomy. Learner autonomy, which entered the field of foreign language education in the 1970s and has been highly influential ever since, can be defined as ‘the ability to take charge of one’s own learning’ (Holec 1981: 3). Tools such as the European Language Portfolio (ELP) and the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) (2001) have played an important role in promoting the concept in the European context. However, bearing in mind that ‘approaches to knowledge, learning and assessment can be highly culture-specific’ (Brown and Joughin 2007: 58), learning a foreign language in a host institution in which learner autonomy is...

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