Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Re-negotiating the Basics: Learner Autonomy by Margarita Kosior, Thomas Mantzaris and Zoi Tatsioka - Report

Back to basics. One of the most fundamental things when it comes to teaching is student autonomy. Children strive to be autonomous. Then why do we deprive this opportunity for autonomy from our students? There are trends towards a more student-oriented learning, enclosed in either new methods or modification of older ones with the aim to suit the needs of today’s learners.

Why do we need to encourage our students to be autonomous?
How do we achieve that?
What happens then?

The term “learner autonomy” was coined by Henri Holec back in 1981. Another book referenced in the presentation is Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed because it considered one of the first texts that speaks about student creators.

So, it looks like education is suffering from narration sickness with the student being the patient “object” listening to the narrating “subject,” the teacher.

The previous, traditional approach looked at students as containers to be filled with knowledge, whereas the new approach looks at students as individuals full of skills and competencies and therefore the teacher is not the only source of information anymore.

Moreover, students are being respected more while treated as individuals with detachment not being equal to isolation, but a perfectly sound way of working.

Our students are able and capable to do things, we only need to give them guidance and provide supervision.

There is a lack of motivation and a gap between having the knowledge and applying it.
Autonomous learning bridges the gap while it provides an outlet for creativity. This can be achieved by making connections between real life issues and the taught material, which transitions learning from a teacher-centered model to a student-centered one.

It’s the magic moment of connection and meaning and therefore teachers should facilitate this moment and make it occur by making sure that the objectives of a course reflect students’ needs.

There are plenty of ways this can be achieved:

  • Using technology (e.g. clickers)
  • Using the web (videos, TED talks, tutorials)
  • Oral presentations
  • Peer evaluation
  • Social media and online collaboration platforms
  • Reflective writing / journal writing
  • Debates
  • Self-assessment exercises
  • Personal development
  • E-portfolios

Presenters provided a variety of examples for each of the ways listed above which they have tried in tertiary education, but can be used in other settings too.

By Dimitris Tzouris

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