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Book review
Learner Autonomy cover

Learner Autonomy
by Ágota Scharle & Anita Szabó

(CUP, 2000)

Review written by Thomas Simon

Learner Autonomy - A guide to developing learner responsibility is a practical approach to this essential area that can get overlooked. Quite a lot of the time we are so busy just getting through the next units in the coursebook that we forget about incorporating autonomy ideas, & then at other times we have students that are resistant to the ideas, feeling that it is up to the teacher to do the work. This book takes a sensible & gradual approach to learner autonomy in the classroom.

Part 1 of the book serves as a good introduction to autonomy. A distinction is made between the responsible learner & the autonomous learner, the first coming before the latter. The why, how & stages in developing learner responsibility then follow. The progression from awareness raising to changing attitude to transferring the roles is the basic overall organisation of the book. A short succinct summary.

Part 2 of the book is the practical. Each activity begins with the level, the main goals, the language focus, preparation & any relevant note. Variations of activities are also given at the end of each activity.

The first section here is 'Raising awareness'; finding out about the students, motivation, learning strategies, community building & self-monitoring. The activities here aim to open 'the learners' eyes to new ways of thinking about their learning'. There are some awareness-raising questionnaires for immediate use, looking at past & present learning practice, as well as activities that ask for the learners to reflect on where they are with their leaning.

The following section is 'Changing attitudes'; motivation, learning strategies, community building & self-monitoring. The activities in this section are an extension of the previous one, the awareness raising, & designed on the premise that an degree of awareness has already been developed.

In both of the two practical sections above there are 'Community building' activities that both build on autonomy & serve to develop the group dynamic.

The last section is 'Transferring roles'. This asks the learner to take on roles in the teaching-learning process. The activities range from asking learners to carry out some of the classroom management tasks to the more teacher knowledge tasks such as correction.

The bibliographies at the end of each section are very useful in following up on the different areas.

All in all, Learner Autonomy is a solid book of activities for the busy teacher. It is clearly written by experienced, practising teachers who have carried out the activities they talk about. Picking this up at regular intervals would allow the activities to be slotted in with the existing syllabus.

Learner Autonomy cover

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