Apr 5, 2022

How to foster learner autonomy

What is learner autonomy? Children grow up and learn that they can count on the teacher on completing a task.

How to foster learner autonomy

What is learner autonomy? Children grow up and learn that they can count on the teacher on completing a task. It is vital and useful to raise autonomous learners; to acquire the ability to learn by themselves, to take it upon themselves to build on their understanding without depending on the teacher, either for motivation or for easy answers. Primarily, teachers should make efforts to develop learner autonomy and if this becomes the case, then students will not struggle when they leave school. If students do not realize how they can get to be autonomous on their learning from an early age, then they struggle when they are left on their own. And this is most probably the case when they leave for university.

An everyday example is an unknown word which students might have from a given task. Giving students the answer does not really teach them anything. Most of the time, they don’t really even learn the new information that teachers give them there and then. “They are not really interested in “what the English word for x is”, they just need it so that they can move on. They don’t absorb the information or learn it for the future. The reason for this is that there is no effort, no engagement, and no cognitive process.” Students need to understand how essential it is to engage to the actual task and grasp as much information as they can.

An effective and appealing strategy that all teachers might adopt in class from a very low level is to simply tell students to think for themselves. This could at first appear hard to extremely hard, but the reality is many students will instantly ask the teacher the moment they come to something fairly difficult, especially if they have a teacher or school environment that supports such behaviour with quick answers.  Simply giving the responsibility back to the students, might be enough to make them understand that it is not so complicated after all and with just a little thought, they can answer their own question. “This is as simple as asking, “Take another look. Think about it. What do you think x might mean?” or perhaps, “Remember, we learned this before. You already know this.” Teachers can then proceed to offer the relevant stimuli so the learner can reach the answer on their own. This ultimately will raise the students’ sense of accomplishment and will allow them to absorb the information and not merely use it once.

Students, thus, have to develop this skill from a very young age because this becomes part of their learning process as they grow up. They learn to understand from the context and are able to workout on any task efficiently.  It is evident, therefore, that teachers have the power and responsibility to not only teach but cultivate life skills to their learners.

How to foster learner autonomy

Mirella is the owner and director of MCF English Centre and has been teaching English for over five years.