Delta Publishing Catalogue

The Autonomy Approach

Language learning in the classroom and beyond

Authors: Brian Morrison, Diego Navarro

ISBN: 9781909783058

Series:Delta Teacher Development Series

The Autonomy Approach presents an important departure from the theoretical discussions which underpin the majority of work on learner autonomy. It introduces a practical perspective to self-directed language learning (teachable-learnable activities rooted in principles of learning), which draws on aspects of study skills and strategies as well as a variety of approaches, namely differentiated, individualised, self-directed, self-access and open-access learning.

With the autonomy approach, emphasis is placed on the support offered to learners within the classroom to help them effectively self-direct their own learning, beyond the classroom.  The authors examine and explain the theory behind metacognitive knowledge and skills (the roots of successful learning-related endeavours), and support this with an extensive sequence of activities for the teacher and the learner to use – to help learners take the development of their language learning into their own hands. The activities in this book aim not to teach a language but rather, are focused on establishing within learners an awareness of the principle components involved in learning an additional language. These activities are meant to encourage learners (and teachers) to share, select and try out new ways of learning and to reflect on the effectiveness of what they have tried. Finally, the activities are suitable for developing a comprehensive self-directed language learning syllabus or for supplementing an existing course.

This book is intended for:

  • Language teachers and learning advisors.
  • Trainers involved in professional development.
  • Materials developers for self-access centres or distance education.
  • Language curriculum designers

The Autonomy Approach contains three distinctive parts which focus in turn on theory, practice and development:

Part A offers a detailed breakdown of the philosophy behind the Autonomy Approach. Clear rationales are established for promoting self-directed language learning, and teachers are invited to reflect on the benefits of having learners take more responsibility for their own learning.

Part B is packed with step-by-step activities to support learners through the development, implementation and modification of an emerging individualised learning plan.

Part C adds an additional layer of knowledge and includes strategies and resources to develop professional practice for language learning facilitators, promoting the idea that we should strive to learn and grow from our own experiences.

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# Name Type Size
# Name ISBN
# Name Type Size
2Introduction B.pdf324.45
3Introduction C.pdf199.35

Brian Morrison

I’m not sure what first drew me to foreign travel, but it was something I dreamed of throughout my school and university days. After graduating in 1991, I worked for a year to save enough to travel for 6 months through Europe, Egypt and India, worked for another year and was all ready to travel for another 6 months before I heard about TEFL. Thinking it through, I realised this could be my ticket to continue travelling AND earn money while living overseas. I had no real inclination to teach or to get to grips with the intricacies of English grammar but the foreign travel I had tasted had whet my appetite for more and so I embarked on a CTEFLA course in early spring 1994, met my first bosses at the annual IATEFL conference that Easter, and was teaching in Hungary by mid-April.

For the rest of the 1990s I developed my repertoire of activities, taught young learners, business people, general English and exam preparation classes in Hungary, Portugal, Macedonia and Equatorial Guinea. Through the range of contexts, the colleagues who shared their best ideas, and the sobering experience of a DTEFLA, I went some way to expanding the activities I had available to me. I owe much to the colleagues I met along the way, and I really benefitted from the professional support and the companionship they offered.

Since 2000, as well as taking an MA in ELT at the University of Reading, I have been working in colleges or universities in the UK and Japan. Throughout this time, I feel I developed different aspects of my professional skills working with international students in the UK, and overseas with students aiming for tertiary study in the UK. Teaching adults General English in the UK was great fun as we negotiated topics and used the environment to develop and share ideas. Working in EAP also focused the minds of the students and me as deadlines loomed and effective use of time in and out of the classroom became crucial to success.

From 2009, I was employed as a learning advisor at Kanda University of International Studies, and this was particularly informative as it led me to re-evaluate what I knew about teaching and learning and re-focus my skills on learning and guiding learners – something that was a greater challenge that I had first presumed. My position also involved some research and so the first time I dedicated some time to actually focussing on analysing outcomes using data from students rather than being led by end-of-term feedback forms, anecdotes and hunches. I have published some of my findings but I was also keen to share the successful activities Diego and I tried. The Autonomy Approach is based on everything we learned during this time as we worked to support learners and encourage them to make more informed choices about their own learning. This book contains everything we wished we had known when we first became actively involved with self-directed language learning and we hope that other teachers will find it as useful as we know we would have.


Diego Navarro

Growing up in a multilingual-multicultural environment after emigrating from Peru to Canada at the age of 5, I was fortunate enough to witness first-hand self-directed language learning in action. My parents and siblings, as well as my friends and their families who shared a similar immigrant experience, all embarked on the adventure of learning a new language in highly eclectic and personal ways. Looking back now, I can’t help but feel that it was this early exposure to the uniqueness of each learner’s journey that helped lay the foundation for my appreciation of and interest in alternative and expansive forms of education, specifically language education.

My next nomadic episode took me from North America to the Far East. Immigrating to Japan at the age of 22, a year after completing a bachelor’s degree in English literature, I once again came in contact with the many different ways in which people – friends, colleagues, and myself included – approach language learning; however this time rather than English, it was Japanese.  There were some who were very much by the book, diligently attending classes, memorising kanji, and taking placement tests to gauge development. Others were more naturalistic, learning almost exclusively from their everyday interactions. Whatever the means, the end almost always seemed to produce what each learner was after; illustrating to me that language learning can be most effective when driven by the needs and interests of the learner.

Japan was also where I got serious about language education as a career. Starting out in conversation schools, I realised that if I wanted to (and I did) advance my professional development, I would have to gain more formal knowledge.  I began by getting a TEFL teaching certificate and soon after completed a Masters in Applied Linguistics through the University of Birmingham. These qualifications allowed me greater mobility in terms of the type of jobs I could get, but more than anything they sparked my passion for research-led pedagogy.  Since then I have worked in various capacities in numerous universities, government ministries, including the ministry of foreign affairs and the cabinet secretariat, publishing houses, and other branches of both the public and private sector. During my last years in Japan, I was keen on adding to my repertoire of professional skills- in other words I was looking for new professional challenges. I found a position at a private liberal arts university that would allow me to stay in education but required me to shift roles and responsibilities, as I would move from teaching to advising. I worked for three and a half years as a language advisor and to be honest I don’t think I have ever learned as much about language learning in such little time. It was in this role that my fascination with an individualised/personalised approach to language education fully took root as I began to explore, through theory and practice, the possibilities that this approach offered. It was also during this time that I learned to fully appreciate the importance of systematically evaluating both learner and language development, rather than assuming it through personal observation.

After 14 years of living, learning, and working in Japan as a teacher and advisor, I am now in Wellington, New Zealand where I find myself once again guided by my attraction to learning. In my formal study as a PhD candidate, I am working with adult learners, investigating the interplay between what I term language learner cognition and their language-related behaviour. My project is examining the development of adult learners in settings beyond the formal language classroom, i.e. a self-directed language learning context. In my work for the university’s English Language Institute, I have continued on as a learning advisor, advising students as well as training incoming advisors. However, soon I will be back in the classroom helping students with their academic English as they prepare to enter undergraduate and graduate study. I am in quite a fortunate situation, as my research allows me to continue to advance my knowledge of self-directed language learning, while my work as an advisor/teacher allows me to put into practice these concepts-the same concepts that support the principles found throughout the Autonomy Approach.