How technology promotes autonomous learning
– To explore how technology promotes autonomous learning.
– To investigate EFL university students’ perceptions of the use of technology to promote learner autonomy.
– To examine the challenges inhibiting student autonomous learning when using technology.
– How does technology promote autonomous learning among university students?
– What are students’ perceptions of autonomous learning using technology?
– What are the challenges inhibiting autonomous learning when using technology?
Learner autonomy is often defined as learners’ ability to take control of their own learning (Holec, 1981). However, the development of learner autonomy is widely varied depending on teachers’ roles and overall classroom environment. In other words, if teachers have different knowledge or perspectives regarding learner autonomy or different abilities to implement a system rich in student choice and self-directedness, the impact on learner autonomy would be different. Beliefs are ‘mental constructions of experience’ that guide a person’s behavior (Sigel, 1985). Such beliefs are formed either through personal experiences or influences from other people (Wenden, 1991).
Then, depending on the belief systems, teachers may or may not provide a climate that promotes learner autonomy. Therefore, there is a pressing need to ascertain language teacher beliefs about learner autonomy. In response, this paper seeks to examine a comprehensive view of English teachers on learner autonomy in language classrooms, focusing on how teachers’ beliefs about learner autonomy affect their expectations of learner’s involvement in the language classroom.
The Use of Technology and Learner Autonomy
Learners can control their learning processes as much as possible and can become quite independent of teachers when they work with computers. Jones (2001) states that teachers play a great role in developing learner autonomy in Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL). For example, students formulate their tasks independently without teachers’ detailed instruction (Toyoda, 2001) and they often reflect on their and their interlocutors’ responses through Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) (Shield, Weininger & Davies, 1999).
According to Kohonen (2001), making choices about learning contents and processes, reflecting on their learning process and being aware of their achievements and discovering new needs are the essential parts of developing learner autonomy. In a word, to develop learner autonomy, it is crucial for learners to have opportunities to reflect on what they have done and how they achieve their personal learning goals.
CMC is a good way for them to reflect on their learning processes. In addition, the continuous interaction between teachers and learners will also provide teachers with opportunities to reflect on their own teaching and to be aware of what is in their students’ minds. Writing journals or diaries can also be used for this purpose (Carroll, 1994). Learners can easily keep a record of their individual reflections on their learning experiences in a computer.
Technology has often been used for repetitive practice for language learning with authentic audio and video texts. The practice of pronunciation, spelling, and grammar are popular examples of using technology as a tool for language learning. Research that examines the perspectives of teachers often investigates the impact of using technology broadly on language learning rather than focusing on aspects of learner autonomy. In addition, few studies employed quantitative measures to statistically triangulate qualitatively discovered teachers’ beliefs; in order to fully capture the various perceptions of teachers about learner autonomy, especially with the issue of using technology to promote it.
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