Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fostering Learning Autonomy in English for Science: A Collaborative Digital Video Project in a Technology Learning Environment

Fostering Learning Autonomy in English for Science: A Collaborative Digital Video Project in a Technology Learning Environment

The article reports on the syllabus design and implementation of an English for Science and Technology (EST) course at an English-medium university in Hong Kong. The course used video project done by students to realize how to use English. Basically project-based learning and a pedagogy for multiliteracies were combined to produce a strong learner autonomy focus.

In this article, “an autonomous learner” and “learner autonomy” were clearly distinguished. For the former one, student is intrinsically motivated and learns outside the classroom, alone, and with no need for support from the teacher whereas the meanings of learner autonomy was fully explained and expanded. In short it can also develop in the structural learning environment of the classroom and become part of the pedagogical objectives of a language course. In case of a syllabus designed to promote learner autonomy, a student-centred approach is the focus; the teacher can be still active involved in assisting learners; with the development of learner autonomy, the strong collaborative elements will be needed; learners can have choice to be more or less independent at different points in their learning process; and learners can be advised to reflect on their learning and ways to improve it.

The authors adopted a constructionist approach to encourage students to learn in a social context and help them to develop an ability to readily create new knowledge, solve new problems and employ creativity and critical thinking. Especially, in their project on students using video project, the classroom-based pedagogical approach can encourages learner autonomy, the teacher creates opportunities for learners to exercise their capacity for autonomy by providing an environment in which they can negotiate new roles as learners within the “social context” of the classroom setting. While the appropriate learner-autonomy-based pedagogy should be adopted.

The use of technology in language teaching and learning is often assumed to foster learner autonomy by providing learner with easy access to a range of resources, tools and environment for out-of-class learning.

The authors very emphasis on the term “learner autonomy” because it is the key to success. In my opinion, no matter how the video project or technology was employed, the key to successful is on the learner autonomy. It is because learners can overcome the technical problems including mastering the high-tech devices. During the course of project, learners can contribute their efforts on learning languages. The teachers only give their advice on content or ideas. So the learners can complete it themselves. Simply speaking it is learning to learn.

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