Great list of the characteristics of an autonomous learner by Jenny here. I may have to dig deeper into our research findings to reflect some of those listed. Would some of them be interwoven with each others? Being proactive would also be showing initiative, and that may be related to intrinsic motivation (plus extrinsic motivation) etc. So, would a concept map linking of these attributes (with some cause and effect) help? Autonomy could also be based on personal taste, which could be translated and interpreted differently when one takes up a particular role. For a learner who is also an educator, being autonomous in learning could be in conflict with the autonomy in teaching, as wearing a teaching hat does assume certain responsibility that is beyond a typical learner would embrace.
This David Little’s paper on Learner Autonomy
Holec began by defining learner autonomy as the “ability to take charge of one’s own learning”, noting that this ability “is not inborn but must be acquired either by ‘natural’ means or (as most often happens) by formal learning.
Implications of this definition of learner autonomy
We take our first step towards developing the ability to take charge of our own learning when we accept full responsibility for the learning process, acknowledging that success in learning depends crucially on ourselves rather than on other people. This acceptance of responsibility entails that we set out to learn, “in a systematic, deliberate way” (Holec 1981, p.3), the skills of reflection and analysis that enable us to plan, monitor and evaluate our learning.
So, there are lots of assumptions here, where responsibility could be one of the keys for learner autonomy – so the learner could take charge of learning. Would this also require an understanding of the skills necessary to determine what a successful learning means? This may relate to the goals and plan set by the learner in order to achieve personal learning. Are the goals set by the learners in alignment with the education in a school or HE setting?
In What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered? Dimitrios Thanasoulas explains that:
On a general note, the term autonomy has come to be used in at least five ways (see Benson & Voller, 1997: 2):
- for situations in which learners study entirely on their own;
- for a set of skills which can be learned and applied in self-directed learning;
- for an inborn capacity which is suppressed by institutional education;
- for the exercise of learners’ responsibility for their own learning;
- for the right of learners to determine the direction of their own learning.
It is noteworthy that autonomy can be thought of in terms of a departure from education as a social process, as well as in terms of redistribution of power attending the construction of knowledge and the roles of the participants in the learning process.
So, I think learning with learner autonomy could be quite distinct from the formal education pathway where educational goals are normally pre-set by the institutions rather than the learners. Would learner autonomy be more relevant for more independent and self-directed learners who are seeking alternative learning pathways, especially when such learners are learning through social media or learning networks which are not directly linked to educational institutions?
To be continued.