LEARNER AUTONOMY: FROM DREAM TO REALITY (by Greta Bertolotti)

Being a member of LASIG is a source of motivation and inspiration for my teaching, and I am really glad to be a part of it.

My first experience with LASIG was at the conference in Hannover (September 2013): here I had the opportunity to hear the inspiring words of Leni Dam and David Little, which I had until then only read in their books, and to meet Maria Giovanna Tassinari, whose ideas are so much in line with my working and teaching methods. I also remember a remarkable speech by Steven Scott-Brewer on motivation and the inner-game, which really made me think about my learning and teaching style.

 

 

The following year at the LASIG conference in Istanbul (May 2014) I gave a talk on learner autonomy and the role of emotions and I remember having an inspiring conversation with Leni Dam and Jo Mynard, who encouraged me to keep researching in this field and to promote autonomy among my students. The chance to visit other universities, to speak with colleagues from all over the world and to see how they work is the most enriching professional update one can ask for.

This year, after a long – but happy – break, due to maternity leave, I attended the 2018 IATEFL Conference and LASIG preconference in Brighton, which I found once again really motivating and inspiring for both my work and my research on teacher and learner autonomy.

 

 

In my experience as a language advisor at the Language Centre of the University of Parma, in fact, the concept of autonomy has always been a key note. I usually do not teach in a traditional language class, but I run study groups of 15/20 students who lack confidence in their language learning abilities and need guidance. Working with small groups of students (with me as teacher, but also as advisor and helper), enhances a unique sense of belonging, which is perhaps the most fascinating part of my job.

My aim is not only to provide knowledge and skills, but also to foster students’ self-esteem and motivation, to reduce their anxiety and to create the premises for a good group climate, thus enabling them to engage in their own learning.

What has been particularly interesting for me is to observe how the students gain more self-awareness during the semester and change their attitude towards the language and their learning skills: they are encouraged to reflect on their own learning and self-evaluate their outcomes, in a way that traditional university lessons do not allow.

I think that collaboration among students – learning with and from each other – is a fundamental aspect of learner autonomy. Many students have told me that coming into contact with other peers experiencing similar difficulties and problems was very useful and encouraging.

 

 

In this context, students help each other and become friends. They go to the cinema to watch films in the original language, they exchange books and materials and they even spend free time together, which helps to foster a sense of group belonging in the language classroom.

I am glad to be able to create a learning environment that enables students not only to reach positive results in their academic studies, but above all to raise more self-awareness and motivation in language learning.

 

 

Bio

Greta Bertolotti is a member of the IATEFL and LASIG. She works as a Language Advisor at the Language Centre at the University of Parma, Italy, where she also organizes and teaches English courses for university students.

 

Contribute to the post

Thank you Greta for contributing to the blog!

We’d like to encourage the readers to share their own thoughts and/or experience.

Here are some questions that might help your reflection:

  • Do you have any examples of non-traditional classroom teaching in your own cultural context?
  • What role does collaboration have in your students’ learning and/or classroom environment?
  • What role do emotions have in your students’ learning?

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