Managing Learner Autonomy for Life Long Learning

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Title: Managing Learner Autonomy For Life Long Learning

The concept of learner autonomy has been central to the Council of Europe’s thinking about language teaching and learning since 1979, when Henri Holec wrote Autonomy and foreign language learning (cited here as Holec 1981). Holec began by defining learner autonomy as the “ability to take charge of one’s own learning”, noting that this ability “is not inborn but must be acquired either by ‘natural’ means or (as most often happens) by formal learning, i.e. in a systematic, deliberate way”, and pointing out that “To take charge of one’s learning is to have the responsibility for all the decisions concerning all aspects of this learning. Holec’s report was a contribution to the Council of Europe’s work in adult education, which sought to promote the learner’s freedom “by developing those abilities which will enable him to act more responsibly in running the affairs of the society in which he lives”. When learner autonomy is one of its defining goals, adult education becomes an instrument for arousing an increasing sense of awareness and liberation in man, and, in some cases, an instrument for changing the environment itself. From the idea of man “product of his society”, one moves to the idea of man “producer of his society”. Learner autonomy, in other words, belongs together with the idea that one of the functions of (adult) education is to equip learners to play an active role in participatory democracy. That is why it remains central to the Council of Europe’s educational concerns.

We take our first step towards developing the ability to take charge of our own learning when we accept full responsibility for the learning process, acknowledging that success in learning depends crucially on ourselves rather than on other people. This acceptance of responsibility entails that we set out to learn, “in a systematic, deliberate way” the skills of reflection and analysis that...
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