My personal Nadine George warmup Check out this awesome chat forum where singing instructors discuss the similar breathing habits of highly trained dancers! Breathing Training for i…
Source: Inspiration and Information
My personal Nadine George warmup Check out this awesome chat forum where singing instructors discuss the similar breathing habits of highly trained dancers! Breathing Training for i…
Source: Inspiration and Information
Having completed both observed teaching sessions, having been critically assessed by both peer and tutor and now having the space and time to reflect on the experience, I’m aware of the strain and anxiety inherent simply in the heightened nature of being observed.
My goal of building-up the autonomy the learners display has taken a long and not obstacle-free 15 months. Allowing an outside observer into the studio to comment on the dynamic between learners and myself was stressful. Would this dynamic show the care and attention and thought I’ve given it in that time? Would the learner feel held, supported, or simply doubly ‘watched’ and would they be able to rise to the challenge of continuing to make their own decisions, or would they collapse and need me to lead the lesson, taking us right back to 5 months ago where I dominated the room and made the learning happen?
I found myself imagining that the observed sessions would result in recreations of some of those weeks where my confidence and trust in my ability were truly shaken. I prepared for this bleak and thoroughly negative outcome by honing my open and closed questioning, hoping to lead without demanding, structure without ruling and the experience created a useful reminder of the nature of how it feels to be put under high-stakes pressure.
When an outcome is preciously precarious, no matter how well prepared, how well thought-out, how balanced and careful the approach, the brain and body can easily fall prey to doubts and worries, breathing becomes difficult and the ability to simplify and focus on the task is impaired. Though I discuss this tirelessly with learners with regards to their preparation for characterised sung text, I was reminded of how important these bite-sized repetitions actually are when I had to refocus on delivering sessions that were suddenly ‘high-stakes’ for me.
I decided to focus on the Learning Outcomes for each session
LEARNING OUTCOME 1
DEMONSTRATE AN ENHANCED UNDERSTANDING OF INDIVIDUAL VOCAL PRODUCTION.
DEMONSTRATE AN ABILITY TO DESIGN AN INDIVIDUAL PROGRAMME OF EXERCISES FOR THE FURTHER ENHANCEMENT OF VOCAL DEVELOPMENT.
SHOW AN ABILITY TO REFLECT CRITICALLY ON PERSONAL STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES.
I began the sessions with a very clear introduction to the intentions of the session and quickly engaged the student in some autonomous decision-making around the content that we would be working with. I shouldn’t have doubted their ability to respond, they are clearly a lot more capable of delivering under pressure than I seem to be at the moment, and so they began reflecting on what topic was proposed and decided what they personally would like to work on in terms of repertoire that engaged with the focus of the lesson plan. The observing Tutor noted that
“This reflective process helped the student identify the gaps in their performance and the goals they are working towards as part of their broader learning and performance challenges, as well as firmly placing the student in the centre of their own learning, with you taking on the role of facilitator of learning rather than the more traditional deliverer of teaching. Throughout the session you engaged the student in a series of questions to help them get to the essence of what would improve their performance. You employed open questions when asking the student to explore their experience in more general terms and introduced closed questions where you wanted the student to be very clear about the changes they were making.”
My focus on autonomy and scaffolding learning experiences for learners had, so far, been focused on reducing extraneous talk, refining my ability to ask pertinent and easily digestible questions and committing the learners to an action. Once the balance of power switched from me as ‘lecturer’ and them as ‘passive learner’, which took some convincing and hand-holding for some more than others, to one of
“an environment where the student and I are both practitioners together’’
(Gordon Adams – Lesson Context setting paper 2015)
the results were overwhelmingly positive. The student response is largely engaged simply because they understand what is being asked of them a little more clearly. Assumptions on how, why or for how long things need to be engaged with are dispensed with; I ask them what they have understood about what we have covered, I invite questions that challenge me to redefine everything that felt unclear for them, I ask them to summarise back to me as if I am the learner, then I ask them if they can reproduce what we have done together on their own.
I am much more specific about creating a space for them to tell me what challenges will disrupt that recreation, what will stand in the way of their doing it on their own and how they will effectively deal with those challenges.
Responses to these overly simplified questions were, at first, dismissive and evasive, I think that I seemed patronising and annoyingly interested in committing them to engage, but as the Tutor observing the session said
“the session organically developed along this theme, and you supported the student throughout with enthusiasm, passion and clarity of purpose. It was clear from your exchanges that you had already built a strong level of trust with the student.”
It can seem exhaustingly detailed to constantly repeat what has already been said in a session and most learners have had to adjust to the slower pace of apparent progression in each session, but what they now acknowledge is the ease with which they personally progress individually outside of each session. Singing lessons have had, historically, the feel of an escape from learning. They are a moment of abandon, of play, of non-thought, of expression, sometimes even therapy, but all these things still within the context of learning. I was anxious not to disturb that sense of free experiment by constraining the learners within the confines of some pseudo-corporate commitment pattern, but building relationships of trust has been key to getting them on-board.
It was noted that my Socratic questioning was apparent.
“Through this balance of open and closed questions, you were able to relate the student’s experience to the key techniques and terminology outlined in your lesson plan without making it feel that the session was prescribed in any way. Whilst you appeared to do this with a natural flow and ease, you have clearly put a lot of effort into developing this approach and maintaining the level of responsiveness throughout the session takes a great deal of focus and discipline. At each point where the student tried a new approach, you remained non-judgemental which appeared to help the student to reflect in a genuine way. This pattern of ‘change something – reflect, change something – reflect…’ created a cycle of incremental enhancements in the student’s performance, confidence and knowledge of how subtle physical changes affect not just the voice but importantly the characterisation of the performance.”
“At times where the student asked a question, you provided clear answers but also brought in other questions that they might consider, again shifting the focus from you back to them.” “I particularly thought that the question ‘Did you feel that you lost or gained anything in making that change?’ demonstrated the manner in which you were able to make this an autonomous experience for the student.” “Other effective questioning approaches you employed were to begin a sentence and invite the student to complete it e.g. ‘You want to add a bit of that because…?’ In each case I didn’t get the impression that you were leading the student to the ‘right’ answer but rather towards making a choice about how to continue exploring their learning.”
Tutor feedback drew attention to a shortfall in my lesson plan in the actual level of detail about what occurred in the observed studio sessions. I had initially really struggled to compile a lesson plan document because of the very nature of sessions being so unpredictable and responsive. I hadn’t wanted to expose my teaching as simply reactionary and unplanned, but from a deeper understanding of the benefits of dealing with the reality of what occurs in sessions I now feel more confident in my belief that I work primarily from a carefully synthesised portfolio of approaches, garnered over many years of having working in different art forms.
I have a palette of responses; I mix colours from many different techniques, I apply brush strokes in various styles and ultimately I am working in mixed media, on many differently absorbent surfaces. If this felt unstructured and chaotic when approaching the writing of a lesson plan, it was because, although there are certain key points that need discussion over the three trimesters of a Master’s degree in Musical Theatre I have been uncertain of where to timetable these sessions, depending on the level of an individual’s previous absorption, synthesis and prior knowledge. I have also been firmly of the mind-set that I prefer not to be the brand of singing teacher that decides on a technical or holistic topic for the day and covers it with each and every student, regardless of its efficacy or relevance for the learner.
Previously I had felt anxious about structuring and documenting any one particular session as I wasn’t convinced that I believed topics could be treated as some prescriptive box ticked in curriculum coverage, so while
“it is clear that your teaching context is less rigid and defined than this, [i]n this context you have created an environment where the student can address the challenges they actually face right now with the pieces they are working on” and especially now as the emphasis on autonomy means that the key points are decided on by the learner in consultation with me as their fellow practitioner, it was suggested by the observing Tutor that “[w]hilst it is hard to pre-schedule this experience, you might want to try writing the lesson plan retrospectively to analyse what you actually did in relation to what you said you would in the plan.”
I think it would be useful to write up a lesson plan which describes what I actually did in the session. When I have documented enough of the varied approaches to what is brought into the room, perhaps I will have enough material to publish a book.
Peer feedback from the Voice department saw through the under-evidenced theoretical parts of the lesson plan and past the educational incoherence (in the lack of planning) to the strangely homogeneous nature of what Voice users/lecturers do to elicit response. For me the benefit of peer feedback is that greater working understanding of the actual knowledge-base means that more can be critiqued and commented upon. The last time any peer observation was engaged in, my peer (line manager) was interviewing me for the position I now hold. They weren’t, at that time, my peer, they were my prospective employer and of course now that relationship brings the added worry of the observation being able to either justify or undermine your line manager’s decision to continue giving you work, so I was pleased that my lesson plan delivery, my approach, my focus on autonomy and
“the unfolding of this in practice was extremely evident and clear at all times, resulting in very impressive teaching and highly successful learning. Each identifiable theory was present in your lesson[,] you clearly evidenced a deep understanding of the effectiveness of these theories in practice in a moment; you had complete ownership of these theories and approaches – they belonged utterly and completely to you. [Y]our planning documentation reflected your deep commitment to creating what you considered to be the most appropriate learning environment for this type of learning activity. Your focus on active reflection, positive reinforcement, questioning, guided learning, shared experience, discussion, and more, was wholly appropriate and expertly executed throughout. Every moment in the lesson counted. The relaxed focus was wholly appropriate for the stage of learner (MAMT). The lesson proceeded in what felt like a spontaneous manner, but your level of expertise in the subject specialism is so extraordinarily high, it was clear to me that you were gently guiding the learner towards their next possible moment of understanding.”
I have discovered that within my contract of employment reference is made to the intended on-going peer observation of my work, and I wonder if part of my initial reluctance to allow any peer or tutor observation of my teaching (indeed it was the reason that I withdrew from study when I enrolled on this PgCert course the first time one year ago) comes somewhat from not having had regular observation throughout my tenure. When the time came for this observation to happen this year I was intensely anxious. I felt that I would finally be discovered a fraudulent sham of a teacher and some kind of cretinous charlatan. I didn’t want to be observed. Indeed I feel that being observed changes the very nature of ‘doing’, but I do recognise now the benefit of having done so. I think I can now stop expending energy worrying about whether my practice is ‘up-to-scratch’ or relevant or ‘industry-worthy’. What I can do is focus my energy on delivering easily understandable and ‘easy to replicate’ tasks that build learner confidence so that they feel personal progression. Peer feedback has allowed me to accept that
“[a]t a subject level, the progress the learner made during the session was clear to both parties, understood by both at every step of the way, and instruction given for next time was very clearly focussed (with an invitation to send an interim ‘check-in’ video during the week – an impressive addition, consciously designed to consolidate, extend and enhance learning.)”
Asking learners to email self-recorded video footage and allow tutor follow-up on the tasks set for the week is the greatest implementation of change I can acknowledge through having looked at the current state of my practice. In my journal entries I write that
”with so many scribbled notes each week, and so little time to write them out in full, I have discovered that emailing the learner as quickly as possible after the session actually saves time. Not only does it immediately elicit a response from the learner (still buzzing from all the endorphins released during a singing lesson), they still have the sense of urgency and the drive to engage with whatever we have just collaborated on. They even have time to research and spin off into rich territory that feeds their imagination. They can discover other works that relate to or contrast”
the work that we have just engaged on.
“The longer I leave this email, the more their attention is required elsewhere, the less they feel attached to the learning experience and the further down their list of priorities the task goes. If I fail to send the email altogether, I actually need to put time aside out of the next session to discuss what we have both found and worked on, whereas if the email goes out straightaway, it generates an email conversation over the week that means we are both able to pick it up and put it down at our leisure”.
It’s simple really. I don’t know why I hadn’t tried it before. I think I probably
“resented having to spend such a lot more time working outside of the studio, when I could be driving home to avoid the traffic. Now I find that I send a few before I move onto the next student, I send a few at lunch, I mail quite a few straight after I finish at night, and wait until the traffic has calmed a little, then I’m thinking of all the resources that might help the learner all the way home on the 90 minute commute. It’s brilliant.”
This in turn has made the reflective ability of the learner greater in studio sessions because they already know what they want to bring in, focus on and why. It means that they are taking the reins, but it also means that they are more easy to draw reflection from as it has become a more integrated part of their journey. I’m pleased that this was a success of the observed session and noted in Peer feedback…
“By asking the learner to spontaneously feedback on a task, you as a teacher are demonstrating personal confidence, but also confidence in the learner, empowering
them to appropriately self-reflect and evaluate for themselves. You listened patiently
and intently to the response on every occasion, and used questioning to illicit further
and deeper learning. You guided the learner towards finding for themselves their own
next steps, but of course, the high level of expertise in your subject specialism means
that these questions were very precisely chosen and worded. Feedback was therefore
a balance of learner evaluation, teacher reinforcement of the learner’s feedback, and
teacher feedback. Next steps were very clearly explained and derived from the work
just presented and the evaluative discussion. The lesson was built on the learner’s
response to the work carried out. This was pitched exactly at MA level and was very
impressive. Again, your documentation detailed your aims for this aspect of their
learning experience, and it was clear you knew exactly how to make this happen – you evidenced again your plan to design and deliver a learning activity which ‘fosters an environment where the student and I are both practitioners together.”
Despite the challenges the observed sessions afforded me, and in spite of the change being ‘watched’ causes, I learned to believe more in the delivery of the process I’ve constructed. The Peer and Tutor feedback has highlighted the need to be more theoretically sound and I agree with needing to document that. The greatest learning of this experience, for me, though, has been to believe in what I do and keep building on the trust between the learners and myself. Continuing to ask questions about what they know, how they will manage a task on their own and how they will overcome hurdles that might challenge their ability to reproduce what they have just done with me seems the simplest way to build autonomous adult artists that create their own path.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 460 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.
Autonomy and self-direction from the learner don’t equate to less preparation required of the lecturer. I find that more time is needed, both in and out of the studio, to meet the quickly advancing expectations of progressing learners.
When I began questioning my practice, when I was looking into topics that I felt I would benefit from researching, my initial feelings around autonomy and students’ Independent Learning time were hesitantly cynical. I thought negatively and judgementally about the high level of staff expectation. It seemed that students were given tasks or time to research without an understanding of how to engage productively. I think that I became irritated with how inefficient and counter-productive the structures appeared. I would hear staff joke about setting self-led tasks for any amount of reasons other than intending to support learner independent development. Autonomy seemed to be the principle one trotted out as a lecturer when there hadn’t been enough preparation done, when staff hadn’t planned well enough in advance or when timetabled activities had to be cancelled.
Looking back over this past year of shifting values in my own teaching practice I think that my views are now a little more balanced. I understand better the justifications behind staff (for good or bad) setting time aside (whether planned or not) for learners to engage in self-led tasks. What I still question, though is whether this is the most efficient and beneficial way to introduce autonomy as a subject, a practice, a philosophy or a learning style.
Perhaps this was where my learning deepened the most. I’m not sure if my doubts over setting tasks came as a result of my never once having been set them when I was a student or simply comes as a result of not ever really officially planning ANYTHING. When the students desired more ability to control their voices, wanted more stability or variation or a greater palette of colours to play with my response would always have been ‘go away and play with the sounds that we have experimented with’. Mix, flavour, stir, heat, and blend the ingredients. I now see how vague these suggestions were. I know how to do that not just because I’ve had 40 years with my voice but because it’s part of who I have always been. My childhood, my upbringing, my culture, my relationships, my interaction with others has always had elements of exploration and play attached. I observe all the time. Almost always detached from the actual situation. I can replay conversations, reconfigure facts and imagine new ways of seeing situations because of the way my brain works. Realising that not everyone does this is a recent discovery. I grew up without the ability to record myself with audiovisual equipment. I remember not having even a camera. I watched myself from the outside and took mental pictures instead.
This is is not the way to find genuine responses or truth as an actor but I managed. Observing yourself has a time and a place and allows you some insight technically but I believe should only be used to document, not discover. I had avoided using recording equipment in the studio because of wanting to maintain a learner’s focus on sensations and inner truths, rather than external demonstrations of their body working or how their face or eyes read in a particular moment.
Realising the power of self-observation and its affect on autonomous behaviours in myself I decided to risk using recording equipment only after building good relationships with each learner. This idea came from the paper documenting peer-observation in conservatoire level education in Australia. The level of reflection increases but so can the anxiety. I decided to keep the stress levels low and record small step-like increments to each exercise, rather than full renditions of song or full studio sessions mainly to keep the stakes low at first.
The most effective implementation was installing the recording of excerpts of studio exercises. If my initial hesitation to ask learners to commit to tasks came from a fear that they lacked the ability to recreate sounds effectively I learned that making a video recording of the steps that led to mastering the task removed any confusion in the learner.
Many of the technical figures that make up emotionally communicative sung text require an outside ear to monitor effort level while a learner negotiates their way to mastery. I previously asked students to commit to weekly tasks and often found that they hadn’t taken the time to do them. Much discussion would be had and recommittal to setting aside time to make progress. When tasks were undertaken there seemed little genuine engagement with the exercise. Students seemed cautious or lacked confidence to trust either their own engagement or appeared unconvinced of the efficacy or relevance. Much of that hesitation has been removed by painstakingly building a stronger relationship with learners. Many of their difficulties meeting the demands of individual engaging with exercises between lessons have disappeared simply because I now take much more time explaining the benefits of the exercise, demonstrating the vocal effects for them and then setting time aside while we explore the exercise to make short audio/visual recordings of both the learner and myself participating.
Take for example the technical work we might engage in when concentrating on the tongue. The learner may have limited ability to control the position of the tongue other than in habitual spoken voice use. Setting aside time to look at vowel modification, buccal resonance, placement and resonating chamber can feel overwhelmingly confusing for the learner when their ability to change, control or sense what their tongue is doing is minimal. Video recording the experiments we engage in gives them the opportunity to listen and look back immediately and during the week ahead. When we then observe the video excerpts together there is an increase in their ability to decipher what they have done, what effects it had and how they can reproduce the steps that gained them that effect. Once the steps have been worded in the learners own language (much the same as rewriting the learning outcomes) they have an archive of ingredients, step-by-step recipes and varied ‘meal plans’ by which to create what they want vocally.
When the working vocabulary and physiological understanding of the voice begin to make more sense to the learner (perhaps because exercises have been broken down into component parts, detailed hand-outs have been explained and tasks have been set, learners feel followed up on in midweek emails on the exercises and reflection seems required for the next triage) the level of engagement with increasing their voice control doesn’t seem the only element of their practice to increase.
Learners become eager to continue the progress that they feel individually outside the studio when they return the next week. Studio sessions become not just a time for them to demonstrate their their newly found prowess, detail or difficulty. Learner confidence and sense of ownership over their voice, their learning and their relationship with me and (I discovered) other lecturers also increases. I found this an interesting side effect of increased autonomous behaviours. The learners’ sense of entitlement also sometimes took a step up in intensity.
Increases in a sense of entitlement can challenge and benefit both the learner, the lecturer AND the confidence of both of their processes.
Some studio sessions took on a somewhat challenging tone as learners flexed the powerful muscles of their new sense of progression and entitlement. This felt particularly difficult early in the process of change for me. My teaching practice was changing and their vocal process was evolving so it was challenging to have to meet a bristling energy of confrontation or line of questioning. Some learners began to respond to the sense of there being two equals sharing practice by showing behaviours that I wasn’t quite prepared for. I would like to look at two examples.
This week looking at Opera Quality we will focus on jaw and tongue; I’m keen to keep the vowels naturalistic in his theatre repertoire, but let’s experiment with how he wants to sound in lyric baritone rep. so allow him free use of buccal resonators.
I’m assuming the rep. he’ll bring isn’t tenor, but there is no reason he couldn’t. Ask if he has already or would like to warm-up. Check his upper register in low larynx , try him on fifths ascending on ‘awe’, allow him to describe the most prominent sensation of resonance and work from there. Cycles of 3 getting slowly more vowel-elongated in time toward the top, but ask him about his perception of vowel modification and let him use jaw and tongue and stabilise the sound confidently… Don’t challenge his perception of sound production, work with him and support what he brings.
Keep in mind that the weight of the learning he brings with him may impact on him being open to experiment with new sounds and sensations. Remember that his perception of sound production is the primary focus, continue to ask him for descriptions of placement, tone, effort levels, and tease out what he is aiming for in particulars on each ascension.
If there is sufficient positive reaction, if the warmth in tone, the breath-use and resonance are stable then don’t challenge the vowel dependance but gradually again address the options to rely on rear velar resonance and offer him a few vowels to experiment with.
In the repertoire make the same careful decision to allow jaw and tongue depression and vowel modification to be dark. Perhaps suggest mapping out the breaths first, marking them up on score and agree where the thought lengths end, let him think about something other than resonance and then if demonstrating try to imitate the vowel shift but remember not to make the difference to extreme. Let him see/hear that the choices are similar and ultimately up-to-him.
1. Reflect on your thinking, learning, and work today. What were you most proud of?
2. Where did you encounter struggle today, and what did you do to deal with it?
3. What about your thinking, learning, or work today brought you the most satisfaction? Why?
4. What is frustrating you? How do you plan to deal with that frustration?
5. What lessons were learned from failure today?
6. Where did you meet success, and who might benefit most from what you’ve learned along the way? How can you share this with them?
7. What are your next steps? Which of those steps will come easiest? Where will the terrain become rocky? What can you do now to navigate the road ahead with the most success?
8. What made you curious today?
9. How did I help you today? How did I hinder you? What can I do tomorrow to help you more?
10. How did you help the class today? How did you hinder the class today? What can you do tomorrow to help other learners more?
What I would like to cover in my research
What autonomy can be defined as.
What kind of autonomy I believe might be required of or beneficial to learners in a conservatoire environment.
– What kind of autonomy is required, is it apparent/transparent and can/does it effectively influence and allow learners to become artistic leaders?
– Is it reasonably practical to expect Autonomy for learning from undergraduate learners?
– What are the benefits and challenges to staff and student learning within a conservatoire environment?
– How do I currently instil these practices in learners through our curriculum delivery?
What I’ve incorporated in order to introduce autonomous practice
This is because autonomy is seen either (or both) as a means or as an end in education.
I am a black woman. I consider myself lucky that I chose a program that houses other black women, making me not the token for the first time in my experience of higher education. I chose a program that even has black men, and other types of people of color in it. I chose a program that has people in it who fight for the voices of marginalized populations as their daily bread, in and out of what they do for writing or for work.
However, even paradise (which I consider my program to be) has its flaws. I came to the program brimming with enthusiasm, and ready to write. My first fiction workshop made me self-conscious. I was the only black woman in that class. I, coming from a predominantly white institution for undergrad, have been known to carry the weight of race. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want…
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Energy and stimulus are affected and affect each of our responses in learning and social interaction. Harnessing the positives of learning styles can open minds and help deepen the synthesis of knowledge.
Second language acquisition predates institutionalised language learning by many centuries. Even in the modern world millions of individuals con- tinue to learn languages without the aid of formal instruction. Although there is much that we can learn from their efforts, the theory of autonomy in language learning has been essentially concerned with the organisation of formal education. As such, it has a history of approximately four decades. Concept 1.1 The origins of autonomy in language learning The concept of autonomy first entered the field of language teaching through the Council of Europe’s Modern Languages Project, established in 1971. One of the outcomes of this project was the establishment of the Centre de Recherches et d’Applications en Langues (CRAPEL) at the University of Nancy, France, which rapidly became a focal point for research and practice in the field. Yves Châlon, the founder of CRAPEL, is considered by many to be the father of autonomy in language learning. Châlon died at an early age in 1972 and the leadership of CRAPEL was passed to Henri Holec, who remains a prominent figure within the field of autonomy today. A seminar on self-directed learning and autonomy at the University of Cambridge in December 1976, which included contributions from Philip Riley and Caroline Stanchina of CRAPEL, was also an important foundational event in the field (Harding-Esch, 1977). Holec’s (1981) project report to the Council of Europe is a key early document on autonomy in language learning. The journal Mélanges Pédagogiques, pub- lished at CRAPEL, has also played an important role in the dissemination of research on autonomy from 1970 to the present day. Important early papers on autonomy from Mélanges Pédagogiques were distributed internationally in Riley’s (1985) collection on Discourse and learning.
According to Gremmo and Riley (1995), interest in the concept of autonomy within the field of language education was in part a response to ideals and expectations aroused by the political turmoil in Europe in the late 1960s. Holec (1981: 1) began his report to the Council of Europe (Concept 1.1) with a description of the social and ideological context within which ideas of autonomy in learning emerged: The end of the 1960s saw the development in all so-called industrially advanced Western countries of a socio-political tendency characterized by a definition of social progress, no longer in terms of increasing material well-being through an increase in consumer goods and services, but in terms of an improvement in the ‘quality of life’ – an expression that did not become a slogan until some years later – based on the development of a respect for the individual in society. The Council of Europe’s Modern Languages Project aimed to provide adults with opportunities for lifelong learning and the approach developed at CRAPEL was influenced by proposals from the emerging field of adult self-directed learning (Chapter 2.2), which insisted ‘on the need to develop the individual’s freedom by developing those abilities which will enable him to act more responsibly in running the affairs of the society in which he lives’. This connection between education, individual freedom and social responsibility also reflected prevailing views of personal autonomy in European and North American political philosophy at the time. Autonomy, or the capacity to take charge of one’s own learning, was seen as a natural product of the practice of self-directed learning, or learning in which the objectives, progress and evaluation of learning are determined by the learners themselves. Among the key innovations in the CRAPEL approach to the provision of opportunities and support for self-directed language learning were the self-access resource centre and the idea of learner training. In its early days, the theory and practice of autonomy in language learning also enjoyed an uneasy association with ideas of ‘individualisation’ in language instruction. 1.2 Autonomy and self-access The first self-access language learning centres, at CRAPEL (Riley and Zoppis, 1985) and the University of Cambridge (Harding-Esch, 1982), were based on the idea that access to a rich collection of second language materials would offer learners the best opportunity for experimentation with self-directed learning (Quote 1.1). The provision of counselling ser- vices and an emphasis on authentic materials were also important elements in the CRAPEL approach. At CRAPEL, self-access was seen as a means of facilitating self-directed learning. In recent years, however, self-access language learning centres have proliferated to the point where ‘self-access language learning’ is often treated as a synonym for self-directed or autonomous learning. In many institutions, self-access centres have been established without any strong pedagogical rationale and it is often assumed, without any strong justification, for the assumption that self-access work will automatically lead to autonomy. To a lesser extent, the producers of self-instructional and distance learning materials have assumed that autonomy will be one outcome of these modes of learning. One of the important lessons of the spread of self-access over the past three decades, however, is that there is no necessary relationship between self-instruction and the development of autonomy and that, under certain conditions, self-instructional modes of learning may even inhibit autonomy (Chapter 8). Because self-access centres have been enthusiastic consumers of educational technologies, self-access learning has also tended to become synonymous with technology-based learning. Within the field of computer-assisted language learning, especially, autonomy has become an important issue. As in the case of self-access, however, researchers on autonomy emphasise that learners who engage in technology-based learning do not necessarily become more autonomous as a result of their efforts. A great deal depends on the nature of the technology and the use that is made of it (Chapter 9). 1.3 Autonomy and learner training Like self-access, learner training began life as a mechanism to support self- directed learning (Dickinson and Carver, 1980; Holec, 1980). At CRAPEL, it was argued that in order to carry out effective self-directed learning, adult learners would need to develop skills related to self-management, self- monitoring and self-assessment. Learners who were accustomed to teacher-centred education would also need to be psychologically prepared for more learner-centred modes of learning. According to Holec, teaching learners how to carry out self-directed learning would be counterproduc- tive, since the learning would by definition no longer be self-directed. Instead, learners needed to train themselves (Quote 1.2). Although learners might draw on the support of counsellors, teachers or other learners, the important thing about learner training was that it should be based on the practice of self-directed learning itself. Self-direction was understood as the key to learning languages and to learning how to learn languages. Quote 1.2 Holec on learner training The basic methodology for learner training should be that of discovery; the learner should discover, with or without the help of other learners or teachers, the knowledge and the techniques which he needs as he tries to find the answers to the problems with which he is faced. By proceeding largely by trial and error he trains himself progressively. Holec (1980: 42) As the practice of learner training became more widespread in the 1980s and 1990s it increasingly drew upon insights from research on learning strategies, which aimed to identify the behaviours and strategies used by successful learners and train less successful learners in their use. Although the idea of autonomy did not initially have a strong influence on learner strategies research, Wenden (1991) made the link explicit in the title of her book, Learner Strategies for Learner Autonomy. Like self-access, learner training has also taken on a life of its own in recent years. While most prac- titioners in the field see learner training as leading to greater autonomy, learner training is no longer confined to self-directed learning. Dickinson (1992), for example, views learner training as a resource to help learners to engage more actively in classroom learning, and some of the best learner training materials have been developed for classroom use (Chapter 10). 1.4 Autonomy and individualisation Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, autonomy was closely associated with individualisation, an association evident in the titles of collections that linked the two fields (Altman and James, 1980; Brookes and Grundy, 1988; Geddes and Sturtridge, 1982). Brookes and Grundy (1988: 1), for example,suggested in the introduction to their collection of papers on individualis- ation and autonomy that the two were linked to each other through the idea of learner-centredness: One corollary of learner-centredness is that individualization will assume greater importance, as will the recognition of the autonomy of the learner as the ultimate goal. Individualisation and autonomy overlapped in as much as both were concerned with meeting the needs of individual learners. Self-directed learning as it was practised at CRAPEL was thus in a sense a form of individualisation, in which learners determined their own needs and acted upon them. As the practice of self-access spread, self-access resource centres were also seen as performing important functions in the individu- alisation of learning. Individualisation also took the form of programmed learning – a mode of instruction in which learners were expected to work their way, at their own pace, through materials prepared by teachers. From the outset, researchers at CRAPEL took pains to distinguish self-directed learning from programmed individualised learning on the grounds that the latter left the most important decisions in learning to the teacher rather than to the learner. Holec (1981: 6) also made a distinction between teaching that takes the learner into consideration and learning that is directed by the learners themselves: In a general way the extent to which the learner is taken into consideration forms no criterion for judging the extent to which learning is self-directed: individualization effected by taking into account the learner’s needs, his favourite methods of learning, his level, and so on, leave the learner in the traditional position of dependency and do not allow him to control his learn- ing for himself. Riley (1986) also argued that programmed learning deprived learners of the freedom of choice essential to the development of autonomy (Quote 1.3). Quote 1.3 Riley on autonomy and individualisation Individualisation (‘individualised learning’, ‘individualised instruction’) is, his- torically at least, linked with programmed learning and based on a thoroughly behaviouristic psychology. As it is generally practised, it leaves very little free- dom of choice to the individual learner. Rather it is the teacher who tries to adapt his methodology and materials to the learner, like a doctor writing out a prescription. That is, the majority of the relevant decisions are made for the learner, not by him. It is in fact individualised TEACHING: it aims at the most efficient use of the teacher and at the most effective result, but in terms of what the teacher wants the learner to achieve. Riley (1986: 32) The early association of autonomy with individualisation may also be largely responsible for the widespread criticism that autonomy implies learners studying languages in isolation from teachers and from each other. This criticism was more difficult to counter since it must be acknowledged that, although collaborative programmes for self-directed groups of learners have been designed at CRAPEL and elsewhere, much of the early work in the field of autonomy focused on the learner as an individual with distinct characteristics and needs. In recent years, however, researchers on autonomy have emphasised that the development of autonomy necessarily implies collaboration and interdependence. 1.5 Autonomy and interdependence It is evident in retrospect that the concept of autonomy in language learn- ing had, by the late 1980s, begun to suffer something of a crisis of identity. Holec (1985a) continued to emphasise that autonomy should be used to describe a capacity of the learner, but others began to use it to refer to situations in which learners worked under their own direction outside the conventional language-teaching classroom. Riley and Zoppis (1985: 287), for example, described learners working in a self-access centre as working in ‘semi-autonomy’ or ‘complete autonomy’. Dickinson (1987: 11) defined autonomy as ‘the situation in which the learner is totally responsible for all of the decisions concerned with his learning and the implementation of those decisions’. He also used the term ‘full autonomy’ to describe the situation in which the learner is entirely independent of teachers, institutions or specially prepared materials. Although there is now consensus within the field that autonomy best refers to the capacity to control or take charge of one’s learning, the term ‘autonomous learning’ is still used to refer to the situation of studying without the direct presence of a teacher, especially in the literature on learning beyond the classroom. Researchers on autonomy were aware that in order to develop a capac- ity to take control of their learning, learners needed to be freed from the direction and control of others. At the same time, they were well aware that learners who chose, or were forced by circumstances, to study languages in isolation from teachers and other learners, would not neces- sarily develop this capacity. However, the argument that the opportunity to exercise autonomy through self-directed learning was a necessary pre- condition for the development of autonomy was interpreted by critics as an argument that it was a sufficient condition. Moreover, the theory and practice of autonomy had, in a sense, become framed within the practice of individualised self-directed learning, and was seen by many as being irrelevant to classroom learning. The use of the term independence as a synonym for autonomy by some researchers also led critics to view the field of autonomy as one in which crucial questions concerning the social character of learning are avoided (Concept 1.2). Concept 1.2 Independence, dependence and interdependence A number of researchers, in the United Kingdom and Australia especially, have preferred the term independence to autonomy, creating two terms for what is essentially the same concept. When independence is used as a synonym of autonomy, its opposite is dependence, which implies excessive reliance on the direction of teachers or teaching materials. One problem with the use of this term, however, is that it can also be understood as the opposite of inter- dependence, which implies working together with teachers and other learners towards shared goals. Many researchers would argue that autonomy does imply interdependence. For this reason, the term independence is avoided in this book. The theory and practice of autonomy escaped from this crisis of identity largely through the efforts of practitioners who experimented with the idea of autonomy in classroom settings (Chapter 11). Their work was influenced in part by developing views of the classroom as a ‘social context’ for learning and communication (Breen, 1986; Breen and Candlin, 1980) and the idea that autonomy could be developed by a shift in relationships of power and control within the classroom. Some of the most influential work in this area was carried out by Leni Dam and her colleagues in Danish secondary schools, where autonomy developed through negotiation of curriculum and classroom tasks (Dam, 1995). This work, which developed out of a collaborative in-service teacher education project with the University of Lancaster (Breen et al., 1989), had a considerable influence on later innovations, prompting a shift in the focus of research towards classroom practice and teachers’ own autonomy. One of the most challenging developments in the theory of auton- omy in the 1990s was the idea that autonomy implies interdependence. Kohonen (1992: 19) argued the point forcefully: Personal decisions are necessarily made with respect to social and moral norms, traditions and expectations. Autonomy thus includes the notion of interdependence, that is being responsible for one’s own conduct in the social context: being able to cooperate with others and solve conflicts in constructive ways. Collaborative decision making within cooperative learning groups was thus a key feature of Kohonen’s ‘experiential’ model for the development of autonomy. Little (1996: 211) also argued that collaboration is essential to the development of autonomy as a psychological capacity, stating that ‘the development of a capacity for reflection and analysis, central to the development of learner autonomy, depends on the development and internalization of a capacity to participate fully and critically in social inter- actions’. Such statements provided a corrective to the earlier emphasis on the individual working outside the classroom. They also provided a focus for research and practice on the reform of the conventional classroom to support the development of autonomy (see also Breen, 2001; Kohonen et al., 2000). Quote 1.4 Little on teacher autonomy . . . since learning arises from interaction and interaction is characterized by interdependence, the development of autonomy in learners presupposes the development of autonomy in teachers. Little (1995: 175) The idea of interdependence in the classroom was also developed through work on teacher autonomy (see Chapter 13). In this work, the interdependence at issue is between learners and teachers and some have gone so far as to suggest that the development of learner autonomy is dependent on teacher autonomy (Quote 1.4). Although a strong case can be made for this argument in classroom contexts, the implication that the development of learner autonomy presupposes classroom learning remains problematic. There is also the difficulty of separating learner–teacher interdependence from learner dependence upon teachers. Nevertheless, current interest in the idea of teacher autonomy reflects the degree to which learner autonomy is now viewed as a socially and institutionally contextualised construct. In place of a simplistic dichotomy between autonomous learning and instructed learning, we now have a more complex view of autonomy as the outcome of a range of education processes. This view involves greater attention to classroom learning and teacher education. At the same time, there has been continued attention to out-of-class and out-of-school settings, especially self-access, distance learning and technology-based learning (Chapters 8 and 9). Within a broadly social understanding of learner autonomy, there has also been renewed interest in learner individuality in qualitative investigations of the long-term development of autonomy in individual language learning careers (Benson and Nunan, 2002, 2005; Kalaja, Barcelos and Menezes, 2008). In the course of its evolution, the concept of autonomy has become part of the mainstream of research and practice within the field of language edu- cation. This is in part due to the reported success of numerous projects associated with autonomy and the efforts of those who have advocated autonomy as a goal of education. However, it would be a mistake to assume that autonomy has entered the mainstream of language education inde- pendently of social and economic factors that have made language educators and funding authorities more open to the practices associated with it (Concept 1.3). Concept 1.3 Autonomy in policy and practice As part of its collaborative work on autonomy in language learning, the EuroPAL project has published data on autonomy in the education and language education policies of seven European countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, England, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden (Miliander and Trebbi, 2008). Policies in all seven countries were supportive of autonomy, with Norway having the mostly strongly articulated policies on paper. An extract from the Norwegian National Common Core Curriculum for primary and secondary schools reads: Education shall provide learners with the capability to take charge of themselves and their lives, as well as with the vigour and will to stand by others. [Education] must teach the young to look ahead and train their ability to make sound choices, allow each individual to learn by observing the practical consequences of his or her choices, and foster means and manners, which facilitate the achievement of the results they aim at. The young must gradually shoulder more responsibility for the planning and achievement of their own education – and they must take responsibility for their own conduct and behaviour. (Cited in Trebbi, 2008b: 42) An extract from the French as a second foreign language curriculum for lower secondary reads: The learning task will enable pupils to discover and explore the language, to use it right from the start, and through their own use of it gradually systematize their discoveries and try out their knowledge of the language. The pupils’ evaluation of their own texts, and of the actual work process, helps them gain insight into their own language learning. (Cited in Trebbi, 2008b: 45) But Trebbi, who has been involved in projects on autonomy in northern Europe since the 1980s, also cites extracts from a Council of Europe Experts’ Report on language education policy in Norway, which indicate that progress towards learner autonomy has been limited, with many teachers adhering to traditional ways of teaching languages. She suggests that this is partly due to ambiguities within the policy: for example, in addition to stating that pupils should ‘build up their knowledge, generate their skills and evolve their attitudes largely by themselves’, the Core Curriculum states that ‘the course of study must identify what the learners should be familiar with, in what order and at which level’. She also notes a ‘double-binding strategy’, in which learners are expected to take responsibility for their learning regardless of whether the activities are self-directed or teacher-directed (p. 49). In spite of these limitations, Trebbi points out that many schools are experimenting with new ways of grouping students, flexible timetables, new subject content, independent study time, learning-to-learn schemes, portfolio-based assess- ment, and counselling. The more complex view of autonomy that now characterises the field reflects the range of contexts in which it is now discussed and applied. This in turn reflects the development of a much wider interest in the idea of autonomy in language education. The number of publications on autonomy in language learning appearing since the turn of the century is an indicator of the growth of autonomy as a specialised field of inquiry. The inclusion of sections on autonomy in more general guides to language teaching, on the other hand, is a sign of a somewhat more diffuse interest in autonomy within the field (Cameron, 2001; Harmer, 2001; Hedge, 2000). In these works learner autonomy is presented less as a specialised educational con- cept, and more as an idea that is likely to form part of language teachers’ conceptual toolkit. Research on autonomy in the field of language educa- tion has no doubt contributed to language teachers’ knowledge of the concept and its applications, but Cameron’s account of the relevance of autonomy to young learners (Quote 1.5) points to a broader sense of autonomy as a ‘good thing’ that comes from outside this field. Cameron also touches upon a widespread feeling that, in spite of being a ‘good thing’, autonomy may also be imposed on language learners by the realities of a changing world. Teachers may also feel that they are often presented with the problem of making autonomy work in settings to which it is not always transparently relevant. Quote 1.5 Lynne Cameron on autonomy and young learners It is commonly recognised in today’s world that autonomous and self-regulated learners will be at an advantage in continuing to learn and adjust throughout their lives as technology and information develop rapidly and continuously. Learner autonomy then is ‘a good thing’ and to be encouraged, but how realistic is this in classes of five year olds? My own view is that we tend to underestimate the potential for self-regulation in our children, seeing them too often as blank sheets to be written on, empty vessels to be filled, or wild and in need of taming since learning arises from interaction and interaction is characterized by interdependence, the development of autonomy in learners presupposes the development of autonomy in teachers. Cameron (2001: 235) Much of this book is concerned with evidence that autonomy can be made to work in a variety of settings. In this section, however, I want to look briefly at five aspects of the broader contexts of educational and social change that have both favoured the spread of interest in autonomy and problematised its role in the theory and practice of language teaching and learning: the changing landscape of language teaching and learning, the globalisation of educational policy, changing assumptions about the nature of work and competence, the rise of self-improvement culture, and chang- ing conceptions of social and personal identity. Allwright (1988: 35) summed up the view of many in the late 1980s, when he wrote that autonomy was ‘associated with a radical restructuring of pedagogy, a restructuring that involves the rejection of the traditional classroom and the introduction of wholly new ways of working’. In retro- spect, however, we can see that, for reasons having relatively little to do with those who were advocating autonomy, the restructuring of language pedagogy around innovations such as self-access, distance learning, infor- mation technology and blended learning were already underway in the late 1980s and have only gathered pace since. The impetus behind these pro- cesses has come both from the exponential growth since the early 1960s in the number of language learners, especially English language learners, worldwide and a global trend towards the reduction of per capita costs of language education. It is not only economies of scale that have made inno- vations associated with autonomy attractive to governments and institu- tions, however, but also the diversity that has accompanied growth in student numbers. As education providers find it increasingly difficult to predict the needs of the heterogeneous populations of students under their charge, it makes good sense to offer students choices and a degree of inde- pendence. Where more traditional approaches prevail, as they do in many primary and secondary school systems around the world, there is often an underlying, if questionable, assumption of a homogeneous student body and a common purpose for language learning. Recent reviews of language education policy in East Asia, however, also show how increased English language provision in schools has been accompanied by a shift towards communicative and task-based approaches to classroom learning and the use of self-access and CALL facilities (Ho, 2004; Nunan, 2003). In these respects, language teaching is possibly a step ahead of other sub- ject areas, but in recent years broader education policies have also begun to favour experiments in autonomy in certain respects. The well-documented tendency towards the globalisation of educational policy, leading to increa- singly homogeneous national policies, has been an important factor in this (Block and Cameron, 2002; Mundy, 2005; Wiseman and Baker, 2005). Within the framework of globalised policy, the development of the indi- vidual has become a central concern. According to Mundy (2005: 8), edu- cational convergence in the late twentieth century ‘helped produce a world culture that embedded such common ideas and institutions as citizenship, equality, individualism and progress in territorially defined nation–states’. Wiseman and Baker (2005: 8) note how this has largely been a process of exporting Western assumptions to other parts of the world. Driven by the economic principle that the education of individuals can influence national economic growth and has contributed significantly to the economic develop- ment of nations, the Western ‘myth of the individual’ as the source of value and change has come to provide the model framework for schooling around the world. The extent to which principles of learner autonomy have been built into language education policy has been less well-documented, although data has now been published on seven European countries (Miliander and Trebbi, 2008) (Concept 1.3) and policy initiatives have been described in China (Shao and Wu, 2007), Thailand (Akaranithi and Punlay, 2007) and Japan (Head, 2006). On the evidence of these reports, national policies favouring student-centred language learning are to be found in many parts of the world. Such policies create a favourable climate of discourse for experiments in autonomy, but such experiments can also be discouraged by economic assumptions about the costs of education and the nature of teaching, which have led to increased workloads and a nar- rowing of focus of teachers’ work to the delivery of mandated curricula and assessment of students’ work (Lamb, 2008; Smith, 2006). As Ecclestone (2002) notes in the context of vocational education, poli- cies favouring autonomy are often driven by the view that investment in the education of individuals offers the best chance of economic survival for nations ‘at risk’ from the forces of globalisation. This reasoning, however, is also linked to broader views of the nature of work and competency in so- called ‘post-industrial’ or ‘new capitalist’ economies. The new capitalism, it is argued, is primarily based on services and knowledge work and, in the face of rapid technological change, generic skills, flexibility and the ability to learn how to learn are at a premium. Gee (2004) describes the kinds of individuals favoured by the new capitalism as ‘shape-shifting portfolio people’, who must constantly be ready to rearrange their portfolios of skills, experiences, and achievements creatively in order to define themselves as competent and worthy (Quote 1.6). This image will, no doubt, resonate with anyone who works in a post-industrial economy, and perhaps especially so with language teachers, who are now not only surrounded by discourses on the qualities of graduates that are preferred by new capitalist employers, but are required to manifest these qualities in their increasingly insecure professional lives. Again these changes have created favourable climates of discourse for experiments in autonomy, while also creating the risk that such experiments will be seen as harnessing educational goals to newly conceptualised needs of employers. Quote 1.6 Gee on shape-shifting portfolio people Shape-shifting portfolio people are people who see themselves in entrepreneurial terms. That is, they see themselves as free agents in charge of their own selves as if those selves were projects or businesses. They believe they must manage their own risky trajectories through building up a variety of skills, experiences, and achievements in terms of which they can define themselves as successful now and worthy of more success later. Their set of skills, experiences, and achieve- ments, at any one time, constitutes their portfolio. However, they must also stand ready and able to rearrange these skills, experiences, and achievements creatively (that is, to shape-shift into different identities) in order to define themselves anew (as competent and worthy) for changed circumstances. Gee (2004: 105) The idea of the self as ‘project’ is also prevalent within the self- improvement culture that has now begun to invade so many aspects of every- day life in post-industrial societies. For Cameron (2002) self-improvement culture comprises a range of practices and text-types, including self-help and popular psychology books, and ‘confessional’ TV shows on which people talk out their experiences, problems and feelings in public (Quote 1.7). To these we might add practices and text-types concerned with personal health and safety, diet and physical fitness, beauty and bodily improve- ment, body decoration and modification, and mental well-being. Informal adult foreign language learning, at evening classes or using broadcast media, can also be considered part of this self-improvement culture, especi- ally where there is an intention to use foreign language for work or travel, but also where it is seen simply as a form of personal development. Cameron, however, focuses more on the general importance of ‘com- munication skills’ within self-improvement culture – an importance that reflects their role as a recognised qualification for employment in new capitalist economies. Quote 1.7 Deborah Cameron on self-improvement culture What I am calling ‘self-improvement culture’ comprises a range of practices and text-types focusing on the individual and her or his relationships with others, and particularly on the problems of modern personal life. Among the most accessible expressions of this culture are self-help and popular psychology books, and broadcast talk shows of the ‘confessional’ type where people talk about their experiences, problems and feelings, sometimes receiving advice from an expert (a therapist, counsellor or psychologist). Large numbers of people are at least occasional consumers of this kind of material, and it is so ubiquitous in contemporary popular culture that it is difficult for anyone to remain entirely unfamiliar with it. (Cameron, 2002: 74) Lastly, a somewhat different kind of concern with the self has been documented in recent interdisciplinary research on global mobility and identity that has problematised the traditional view that identities are fixed by circumstances of birth and upbringing (Bauman, 2004; Giddens, 1991; Hannerz, 1996). Often described as ‘post-structuralist’, this research argues that processes of mobility and displacement associated with globalisation are obliging individuals to take more and more responsibility for the con- struction of their own identities, albeit under certain social and cultural constraints. It has also been argued that self-narratives play an important role in this new ‘identity work’: our identities are increasingly framed within the stories that we tell about our lives (Giddens, 1991). For individuals who learn and use a second language, this kind of identity work may be especially important. Engagement with a second language inevitably destabilises first language identities and provokes reconstruction of the individual’s sense of self to accommodate the fact of learning and using a second language. It has also been observed that sustained experiences of language learning involving mobility can enhance the individuality of the learner’s sense of identity (Benson, Chik and Lim, 2003). The idea that language learning involves identity work has begun to play an increasingly important role in language education research, especially in post-structuralist studies in which language identities are viewed as multiple, fragmented and dynamic (Block, 2007; Norton, 2000). From this perspective, autonomy, or an ongoing sense of being in control of one’s own identity to some degree, could be viewed as the glue that holds identities together. Straub, Zielke and Werbik (2005), for example, have adopted this point of view, arguing that autonomy is not grounded in substantive pre-existing identities, but in identities that become individualised over time through self-thematisation and self-narrative (Chapter 2.4.1). To sum up, developments in the landscape of language education, educational policy and broader economic and cultural environments have converged in recent years to create a climate that favours a growth of interest in autonomy in language learning. While it would seem churlish for advocates of autonomy not to welcome this growth of interest, it has nevertheless been viewed as somewhat problematic, in part, because autonomy no longer seems to be an incontrovertibly ‘good thing’ in edu- cation (Hand, 2006; Olssen, 2005). 1.7 The two faces of autonomy Early experiments in self-directed learning and autonomy drew sustenance from the social and ideological changes of their times. Gremmo and Riley (1995) suggest that the rise of autonomy corresponded to an ideological shift away from consumerism and materialism towards an emphasis on the meaning and value of personal experience, quality of life, personal freedom and minority rights. In higher education, the notion of ‘student power’ was current (Cockburn and Blackburn, 1970), and radically student-centred educational reforms were being proposed by Freire (1970), Illich (1971), Rogers (1969) and others. Advocates of autonomy who come from this countercultural tradition are, therefore, liable to be somewhat sceptical of the ways that learner autonomy is now represented in educational and social discourse, not so much because these are diluted representations, but more because of a sense that the idea of autonomy is being coopted to pro- posals that fail to problematise the idea of education as a means to prepare students for the world of work. The problem that research needs to address is, perhaps, the inherent ambiguity in the assumption that autonomy in learning is a good thing for all concerned. Have economic, social and educational systems across the world really changed to such an extent that we need no longer think of autonomy in terms of a shift in the balance of power towards learners? Have the interests of students, educational systems and employers in the new capitalist economies really converged to such an extent that we no longer need to tease out pedagogies that serve the interests of students from pedagogies that produce the kinds of graduates that employers are deemed to require? Concept 1.4 Autonomy and employability In an important contribution to the literature on educational reform in England, Bentley (1998) directly links ‘active learning’ and ‘learning beyond the classroom’ to concerns about the ‘employability’ of young people. Bentley shows how ‘the role of education in developing employability has gradually come into focus, and educationalists and employers have moved towards each other, building closer partnerships, developing a common language, and seeking ways to achieve shared goals’ (p. 99). One of the major obstacles to reform, he argues, is the ‘separation of different perspectives on the same problem, and the lack of communication and mutual understanding between schools, parents, employers and pupils over a set of goals which are common to all’ (p. 106). While Bentley favours greater learner autonomy, his assump- tion of a common set of interests among educational stakeholders appears to undermine the principle of learners making key decisions about their learn- ing, rather than following what schools, parents and employers deem to be their best interests. While schools clearly have a broad responsibility to prepare students for future employment, the risk in arguments for autonomy in learning based on employability is that it will become difficult to conceptualise the educational value of autonomy in anything other than economic terms (Concept 1.4). Broader social visions of education contributing to the for- mation of democratic communities of self-determined individuals are also liable to be erased in favour of a much narrower vision of the harnessing of educational goals to the requirements of employers. Addressing these concerns does not necessarily imply an explicitly oppositional approach to language education. It does imply, however, that concerns about the goals of education should not be divorced from the practice of teaching and learning. Fostering autonomy requires, above all, a focus on the learners’ perspectives in regard to goals and processes. As Holec (1985a: 182) argues: Providing yourself with the means to undertake your own learning pro- gramme presupposes that, at the very least, you think it is possible to be both ‘producer’ and ‘consumer’ of such a programme. This runs counter to the usual attitudes of members of our modern consumer society; indeed for the individual it means withdrawing from it to some extent, since the usual pro- cedure for acquiring ‘goods’ (in this case competence in a foreign language) is not a creative one. Although the idea of autonomy in learning currently appears to be in har- mony with the needs of new capitalist economies and with other social and cultural trends, it does not arise from them, nor is it dependent upon them. Fostering learner autonomy remains a matter of allowing the interests of learners to emerge and take priority, rather than one of meeting the
The development of both the inclination and ability to self-assess is important so that students can monitor progress, identify strengths and weaknesses, recognize good work and develop professional judgement (Boud, Cohen, & Sampson, 1999; Claxton, 1999; Hattie, 2009; Sadler, 2005). The importance of preparing graduates for a diverse portfolio career has also been addressed in recent research (e.g., Burt & Mills, 2005; Johnson & Homan, 2003; Lebler, 2007a, 2007b, 2008). It is argued by some that conservatoires can do this by offering skills development and learning experiences that are ‘musically inclusive and likely to produce multi-skilled and adaptable graduates who are self-monitoring and self-directing in their learning, able to function across a range of activities that can constitute portfolio career ’ (Lebler, 2007b, p. 206). In other recent research, Carey (2008) suggests that while the master/apprentice- based model of learning might appear familiar and attractive to many students, it could have long-term negative consequences for the student as learner, possibly restricting the development of skills which may enable students to connect with different contexts and changing cultural values (Carey, 2004; Daniel, 2005; Renshaw, 2002).
When we talk about “teaching to the self,” we are talking about connecting with the unique being of each one of your students. To do that, however, one must first understand what the self is. To understand the concept of the self, imagine someone gives you a gray-colored box filled with puzzle pieces. You open the box, and your go-to solution of separating flat edges from the jagged becomes defeating, for no flat edges exist in the box. Stranded with no picture of what the puzzle is supposed to look like and no flat edges to construct a frame, you may feel lost as to how to move forward. Yet, this is precisely what we ask of our [learner]s. We ask them to build an identity without fully discussing with them what identity is or what it is supposed to look like. We don’t let them see the picture on the box. We ask them to apply information to a seemingly vacuous concept. We also often fail to help them to build the framework of the puzzle, the fundamentals of themselves. We rarely delve deep into discussions of their values, morals, goals, dreams, feelings, and thought processes—all of which help them be better students and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives.