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Learner Autonomy in Language Learning: Defining the Field and Effecting Change


Sara Cotterall and David A. Crabbe

This book is a collection of papers that explores the notion of learner autonomy and the problem of helping language learners to manage their learning effectively. The first part of the book deals with issues of definition: what is the cognitive base for autonomous learning behaviour and how is this mediated by social and cultural expectations of a learner's role? The second part reports on experiences of working with learners and with teachers to promote learner autonomy. In working with learners, the focus is on language learning strategies and how strategic learning might be developed through strategy training, materials design, reflection and counselling. In working with teachers, the focus is on bringing about change in traditional perspectives on the roles of learners and teachers within education systems.


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Part I: Defining the Field 1


Part I Defining the Field This page intentionally left blank DEFINING THE FIELD INTRODUCTION David Crabbe We have at one time all been learners in a formal education system. Within that system, we played our role as learners in the same classroom drama as teachers played their role as teachers. The exact nature of the roles varied according to context and the personalities involved but it is not difficult to suggest some universals in those roles. The core responsibility of a teacher in formal education has always been to present, to explain, to encourage, to set standards and to assess. The core responsibility of the learner has always been to seek and display understanding and skill, to apply knowledge, to achieve standards. These respective core responsibilities are almost part of the definition of a learner and a teacher and one cannot imagine them being seriously challenged. In recent times, however, there has been a serious challenge, not so much to the core responsibilities listed above, as to the degree of control the learner might have in deciding how the responsibilities are performed and to what purposes. This is a challenge to the role relationship between learners and teachers. There have always been individual teachers in different societies who have challenged traditional interpretations of learner roles, but the challenge is currently something that might be described as a 'movement': an attempt by an international group of educationists to examine the relative roles of teachers and learners. The questioning of learner and...

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