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Learner and Teacher Autonomy in Higher Education: Perspectives from Modern Language Teaching

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Edited By Manuel Jiménez Raya, José Javier Martos Ramos and Maria Giovanna Tassinari

This volume seeks to foster the development of teacher and learner autonomy in language learning in higher education. It pools the insights and experiences of a group of international researchers who present their reflections and research on different aspects of autonomy and related issues. Although autonomy is acknowledged as one of the main goals of education, in higher education the need for accountability and standardisation of learning outcomes may constitute external limitations to its development. In order to overcome teaching traditions and mainstream academic culture, teachers may need to reorient themselves and face the challenge of a substantial change involving their own and their learners’ beliefs, their practice and their role in the institution.

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Educational Applications and Autonomy: The Perspective of Students (José Javier Martos Ramos)

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José Javier Martos Ramos

(University of Seville, Spain)

Educational Applications and Autonomy: The Perspective of Students1

1.    Introduction

Since the late 70s, the concept of autonomy has been gradually implemented in the field of second language (L2) learning. The work of Holec (1981), Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning, published under the auspices of the Council of Europe, forged a path consistent with the linguistic standards of the time. Holec (1981: 3), in his work dedicated to adult education, defines autonomy as “the ability to take charge of one’s own learning” in all its phases: “determining objectives; defining contents and progressions; selecting methods and techniques to be used; monitoring the procedure of acquisition properly speaking; and evaluating what has been acquired”. Little (1991: 4) also considers that the practice of autonomous learning is a matter of the relationship of the learner with the learning process and content, and that it depends on the capacity “for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making and independent action”. Both definitions propose a model of self-directed or autonomous learning, as opposed to focusing solely on teacher-centred learning, which tends to foster passive learners.

In light of these premises, numerous studies have addressed the different types of roles and scenarios in which autonomous learning processes take place: learner autonomy (Little, 1991; Benson & Voller, 1997; Dam, 1995; Nunan, 1988; Karlsson, Kjisik & Nordlund, 1997; Legenhausen, 1999), teacher autonomy (Thavenius, 1999; Jiménez Raya, Lamb &...

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