Become An Autonomous Learner Education Essay

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To become an autonomous learner mean to have the ability of making decisions for ones own learning so learners must have responsibilities in their learning process and they must active in this process instead of being passive. The aim of this study is to determine the role of book reporting on learner autonomy. Different kinds of studies were carried out on learner autonomy but the role of book reporting on the learner autonomy is a new study. The participants are 30 randomly selected volunteers students studying English as second language from a beginner level and they are studying on engineering departments in a state university. Their age range is between 29 and 21 years old. These students were divided into two groups as control group and experimental group, pre-test was given both two groups in the beginning and the data were kept. The experimental group students read five books for ten weeks, they presented the book in front of the class and a post-test was given both groups after ten weeks. The results showed that the book reporting has an important role on learner autonomy.

Key words: Learner autonomy, book reporting, ELT, Turkish university students.

1. Introduction

Reading has an important place for learning a foreign language especially in some countries like Turkey because it is far away from English native-speaking countries and there aren't opportunities to get enough input. For learners to compensate this they need to read books, newspaper, articles because reading is a good way to get enough input. They can learn new vocabularies, phrases, structures, and grammar rules by means of reading. Learners also broaden their ability of understanding and improve their ability of speaking. Especially learners in Turkey don't like reading and they aren't good at speaking as a result. One the most important aims of this study to improve the learners' autonomy by means book reading. They are also making a presentation after reading and they are taking notes during reading for presentation. They improve their confidence or autonomy by this way.

1.2. Research Question

How does book reporting foster learner's autonomy?

1.3. Research Hypothesis

There isn't a relationship between book presentation and learner autonomy.

1.4. The Purpose of the Study

The present study was designed to look for the role of the book reporting on learner autonomy and its result. Different kinds of studies were carried out on learner autonomy; but there isn't enough study for the role of book reporting on the learner autonomy and this study will be a new one in this area. If book reporting is an important instructional variable, the autonomy of learners will increase because they will make a presentation to the class after reading. Another aim of this present study is to make contributions to the studies done on learner autonomy before.

2. Literature Review

Foreign Language Teaching is in a shift through years as a result of new approaches, methods and techniques to find ways to carry out the best learning in English Language Teaching (ELT). Communicative language teaching and learner-centeredness teaching is getting popular instead of teacher-centeredness in English Language Teaching. In teacher-centeredness teacher was in the center of the teachings, he was dominant, and the only source in teaching process. Students were note takers and good listeners of the teacher and lesson. However, the role of the students and teachers have changed dramatically as a result of communicative language teaching and learner-centeredness in language teaching.

Students are in the center of learning instead of teachers, they are responsible for learning and teachers have different responsibilities such as being advisor, facilitator, and guide in learning. The new term "autonomy" emerged as a result of these approaches, methods and techniques in ELT. Autonomy is not a surprising result because students are the center of learning and the teachers lost their dominance so students need some requirements to carry out this responsibility. The autonomy is an indispensible instrument for them.

There are different kinds of definition for this indispensible instrument. Holec published a report for the Council of Europe, first published in 1979, to discuss the responsibilities and the role of learners in the educational system. According to Holec (1981:3), autonomy is the power of handling all the responsibilities in learning. He also clarifies ability and responsibilities under the five subtitles which are important for the implementation of autonomy. They are; deciding the goals, draw the borders of contents and progressions, deciding the methods and techniques for this learning, showing the process of acquisition, and assessing the learning. Henri Holec (1981:3) also defines autonomous learner as the person who has the ability of taking all the decisions related to his or her own learning process.

While looking for definitions of "autonomy" we can find similar or different definitions in addition to Holec's. Dickinson is one of them who gives a similar definition for autonomy. He (1987:11) defines autonomy as the learner is completely responsible for taking all the necessary decisions related with his learning process and carrying out these decisions during the process. He also adds that teacher and institution have no place for an independent autonomy.

From the field of ELT, another significant comes from Little also has a similar definition like Henri Holec and Dickinson. He (1991:4-5) defines autonomy as "a capacity- for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making, and independent action and points out that the concept of autonomy implies that the learner enjoys a high degree of freedom. "

Dam (1995:45) specifies that "a learner qualifies as an autonomous learner when s\he independently chooses aims and purposes and sets goals; chooses materials, methods and tasks; exercises choice and purpose in organizing and carrying out the chosen tasks; and chooses criteria for evaluation." Pemberton (1996: 3) also defines it as the methods to control the learning process.

Littlewood (1999) offers two different kinds of autonomy such as reactive and proactive autonomy in language learning process. Learners totally participate in the learning process such as deciding the goals, selecting the techniques, and assessing in proactive autonomy. Learners have the opportunities to make up their mind for sources freely to reach their aims in reactive autonomy.

After defining the learner autonomy, discussing the role of autonomy in English Language Teaching will beneficial. Importance of autonomy will be illustrated with a Chinese proverb such as:

"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.

Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime."

This Chinese proverb shows that in modern educational system learners should be more active, they should control the learning process and they should take responsibilities of their own learning. Littlewood (1999) claims that each student should be autonomous learner in modern education system. (Nunan, 2000) also describes the autonomous learners as having the ability to take the decision of their need, to join in the management, and to select the materials and exercises in this process.

Autonomy has been very important in English Language Teaching as a result of innovations especially over the last 30 years in communicative language teaching and learner-centered approaches as mentioned before. Because the learner is in the center of learning, autonomy has become indispensible instrument for the learner of language. So autonomy was applied to the learning process to help the learners for their responsibilities of their own learning. It has become an important area to study in ELT.

Several studies conducted on Learner Autonomy and Prompting Autonomy in Reading Classroom. These studies were made in Turkish context and EFL Context. Studies conducted in Turkish Context are; "An Evaluation of German Student Teachers Within the Context of Learner Autonomy" (Uslu, 2012), "The Contribution of the European Language Portfolio to Autonomy in Reading Skills" (Göksu&Genç, 2010), "Autonomous Language Learning: Turkish tertiary students' behaviors"(Tok, 2010), "Promoting Learner Autonomy through Activities at Gazi University Preparatory School" (Balçıkanlı, 2006), "Learner Autonomy and Language Learning Portfolios: A Study on the Development of Reading and Vocabulary" (Ä°ÅŸler, 2005). Studies conducted in EFL Context are; "Portfolio Assessment: A Tool for Self-directed Learning at Post-secondary Level" (Mahdavinia& Ahmadi, 2010), "Egyptian Students' Readiness for Autonomous Language Learning"(Hozeyn, 2010), "Prompting Learner Autonomy in a Reading Classroom" (Matsubara&Lehtinen, 2007).

Uslu, 2012 conducted a study on learner autonomy in German Language Teaching department at Dicle University. It was descriptive study, 150 randomly selected students joined it, and a likert type questionnaire was used in his study. He also interviewed with students to collect the data. According to the results of the study, the students learn better in teacher-based classrooms. They didn't have any practice in group work and research papers. They couldn't achieve something by themselves. In short, they didn't have learner autonomy.

Another study was conducted by Göksu & Genç, (2010) on the learner autonomy in Turkish High School learners of English. The results were positive contrast to Uslu's study. A questionnaire and self-assessment checklists were used and the participants were studying in a private high school in Erzurum. There were male and female students in the group but gender was not a variable. According to results of this study, the English Language Portfolios make an important contribution to autonomy in reading skills.

Another study was conducted by Tok, (2010) in an English preparatory programme at Zirve University in Turkey to look for autonomous English language learning activities among the students in an English preparatory programme. The study looked for whether activities have differences according to motivation level, proficiency level or gender of the students. He collected the data by means of Learner Autonomy Questionnaire. The results revealed that most of the students were busy with autonomous activities when they are in the class and outside the class; there isn't big differences in autonomous activities between men and women, but women are more interested in autonomous activities. Motivated and high motivated students were also more interested in autonomous activities.

Balçıkanlı, (2006) also conducted another important study to support learner autonomy by means of activities at Gazi University and he had positive results for learner autonomy. Learner Autonomy Questionnaire was used to collect data from control and experimental groups. According to the results of this study, experimental group students were more successful than control group and they indicated more autonomy than control group.

Ä°ÅŸler, (2005) also conducted an important study. An experimental study was done, and the aim of the study was to familiarize the term of learner autonomy, an autonomous implementation, portfolio in language learning, and to look for the effects of portfolio on Turkish 11th English learners' intensive reading skills and vocabulary development. According to the results of his study, a big difference was seen in both groups. Portfolio group had a higher score then control group and experimental group with portfolio was better on intensive reading skills and vocabulary development. In short, portfolio has an important effect on autonomy.

A similar Portfolio Assessment study was conducted in EFL Context by and similar results were taken Mahdavinia& Ahmadi, (2010). The data were collected by means of reflective essays, group and individual interviews, and colleague observations. Results showed that a self-directed system was better than traditional system, and self-assessment by means of portfolios had a positive effect on learners' language learning in a stress free place.

Hozeyn, (2010) conducted another study on Learner Autonomy. The data were collected by means of questionnaire, the participants were Arabic students, and their mother tongue was Arabic. As a result, this study wasn't extensive, and therefore, cannot be applied to ESP learners in other teaching context and disciplines. Furthers study is necessary with different first languages, different backgrounds, and cultural differences.

Matsubara&Lehtinen, (2007) conducted an important another study on "Prompting Learner Autonomy in a Reading Classroom." The questionnaire was used to collect data. The results claimed that autonomy could be improved by giving responsibilities to the learners and providing true guidance to their own learning. It also claimed that a time period was necessary for autonomy and different kinds of stages also were requirement to prompt the autonomy in reading courses.

Study conducted in extensive reading context for learner autonomy is; "Autonomy across the English Curriculum through Extensive Reading" (Imrie, 2007). It was done in Tokai University in Japan and the aim was to show that how extensive reading by means of library can reinforce students autonomy. According to results of this study, students practicing extensive reading by means of library graded readers became an autonomous learner because they picked their own books at their proficiency level outside the class and they took some responsibility for themselves without following an planned class programme.

In the lights the of literature that I have mentioned above that there isn't enough study on the role of book reporting on learner autonomy. My specific aim is to make contribution to this area and search of the role of book reporting on learner autonomy which wasn't studied before. And I also look for the positive and negative effects of book reporting on learner autonomy.

3. Methodology

3.1. Participants

30 students studying English as second language and volunteers from a beginner level and they are studying engineering departments such Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Electronics Engineering. Apart from engineering departments there is also Management Undergraduate Program. They are young adult male learners of English at a state university and they were selected randomly. The age range is between 19 and 21 years old. The participants were divided into two groups as control and experimental group.

3.2. Instrumentation

Questionnaire and observation was used to collect data. The questionnaire, which had items adapted from a study conducted at Gazi University, Promoting Learner Autonomy Through Activities at Gazi University Preparatory School. The autonomy questionnaire was used in the beginning and at the end of the ten weeks period. It contained statements and used a five-point likert scale with the following choices: (5) Strongly Agree, (4) Agree, (3) Partly Agree , (2) Strongly Disagree, (1) Disagree. And each item in the questionnaire was given in Turkish not to have understanding problems. First of all a pre-test was given both control group and experimental group and the results were kept. After the pre-test control group didn't make presentation but the experimental group made presentation of their books after reading. The experimental group read five books from pre-intermediate to elementary levels and the post-test was given both of the groups after ten weeks and the results were compared. The SPSS was used to compare the results.

3.3. Procedures

This study was conducted in a state university by the teachers of English with beginner level students for ten weeks and the study was conducted according to research plan designed in the beginning of the study so any kind of changes didn't occur during the study. Randomly selected 30 volunteer students were divided into two groups as control group and experimental group and the pre-test was applied to the groups and the data were kept. Books were chosen by experimental group students from the school library according to their proficiency level and book summary presentations were made in three or five minutes at the end of the each second week by experimental group students. The presentations were made in front of the class and the presenter answered listeners' question after each presentation.

The presenter mentioned about the main characters of the book, theme of the book, and the summarized the book with his own words. In this time control group continued their daily activities and didn't make any presentation. The post-test applied to groups at the end of the ten weeks and the results were compared by means of SPSS. Students were observed during this period by the teachers of the classes and some notes were also taken about students performance.

4. Results

First of all, the participants' answers for the pre-test and the post-test were compared using SPSS (Table 1).

Table 1. Pre-Tests of Control and Experimental Groups

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Q5

Q6

Q7

Q8

Q9

Mean

(Control Group)

1,6000

1,5333

1,7333

2,7333

2,4667

2,2667

1,6667

1,3333

2,2667

Mean (Experimental Group)

1,5333

1,4000

1,6667

2,6667

2,4000

2,2000

1,7333

1,4667

2,4667

When the means of statements were observed there weren't big differences between them. Because in the beginning there wasn't any treatment for each group and the results were expected but the results changed at the end of the ten weeks. The means of experimental group were higher than control group means. It is showed in Table 2.

Table 2. Post-Tests of Control and Experimental Groups

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Q5

Q6

Q7

Q8

Q9

Mean (Control Group)

1,4667

1,6000

1,4667

2,7333

2,4000

2,1333

1,6000

1,4667

2,2000

Mean (Experimental Group)

3,2667

3,0667

3,8667

3,3333

3,2667

2,4667

3,1333

2,2000

3,2667These results were taken at the end of ten weeks and there are great differences between the means of each questionnaire. These great differences can be explained as a natural result of the book reporting because participants read five books during this period and they made presentations after each book. The results pointed out that book reporting has positive effect on learner autonomy. As it observed in Table 1, there weren't big difference between the means but great differences were observed in Table 2. In short, the book reporting has effect on learner autonomy.

Apart from questionnaire, the participants were observed during each session and some notes were taken. Participants were the same in the beginning so there wasn't a big difference in class performance until the presentations. The experimental group students felt more autonomous after each presentation and they were more active than the others. Because they got self-confidence as a result of presentation and they achieved something difficult for them. Maybe they might not talk about any subject in Turkish before these presentations; but they did this in English after the presentations. In the beginning of the period they worried about the presentation because they didn't make a presentation like this before but especially after the second presentation they started to feel relaxed. They had also some positive attitudes in English such as being more active in the English lesson, participating in the class discussions, and having fluency in their speaking skills.

4.1. Discussion

The results clearly show that the book reporting has an important role on learner autonomy. It is also surprising to note that students became more successful in the lessons after presentations. In Turkish culture reading doesn't have a place, they like watching instead of reading and they have a poor speaking skill as a result. This can be also seen between the students and they were believed to the necessity of reading to learn a second language in the beginning of the study. And then reading and presentations were asked, they read the book carefully and detailed not to have problems during presentation in front of the class. When they witnessed what they could do they had self-confidence as a result so the results came out like this. In this study the role of book reporting on learner autonomy was studied and positive results were gained at the end. It might be possible to get positive result if the role of movie presentation were studied in a different research. Because students like watching English movie in the lessons or outside the lessons. Similar results may be taken for this study.

5. Conclusions

This study was conducted with 30 beginner level students studying at engineering departments in a Turkish state university. The role of book reporting on learner autonomy was investigated and both qualitative and quantitative results of the study indicated that the book presentation has an important role on learner autonomy and it has contributions to autonomy of the learners. Because they read English books on their own, and presented the summary of the books in front of the class. The majority of the students also had positive attitudes towards the English lesson after the presentations. In short, the autonomy of participants improved and the book reporting has positive influence on learner autonomy.

5.1. Limitations and Suggestions for Further Research

This research was done in state university with a small sample and the participants were too busy. Because they were studying in engineer departments and they had to carry out some responsibilities at the same time so they didn't have enough time for reading but the results were positive. It can be inferred from the results that book reporting is important for learner autonomy. This study can be done with a large sample in primary schools, high schools, and private universities. The better results may be taken by means of large samples. The gender difference may be studied and the results may be compared in terms of gender.

References

Dam, L., (1995). Learner Autonomy: From Theory to Classroom Practice [M]. Dublin: Authentic.

Dickinson, Leslie (1987). Self-Instruction in Language Learning, Cambridge University Press.

Holec, Henri (1981). Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning. Oxford: OUP.

Little, David (1991). Learner Autonomy 1: Definitions, Issues and Problems, Dublin, Trinity College: Authentic Language Learning Resources Ltd.

Littlewood , W.T. (1999). Defining and developing autonomy in East Asian Contex. Applied Linguistics 20 (1), 71-92.

Pemberton, H.D. et al.(1996). Taking Control: Autonomy in Language Learning[M]. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Nunan, D. (2000). Autonomy in language learning. Paper presented at the ASOCOPI 2000 Conference, Cartagena, Colombia.

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Learner Autonomy Questionnaire

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