Научная статья на тему 'Strategies to become an autonomous learner'

Strategies to become an autonomous learner Текст научной статьи по специальности «Языкознание и литературоведение»

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Ключевые слова
AUTONOMOUS LEARNER / METACOGNITIVE SKILLS / REFLECTIVE INQUIRY / INFERENCES / CULTURAL REFERENCES / SKIMMING / SCANNING

Аннотация научной статьи по языкознанию и литературоведению, автор научной работы — Sedova-Hotaling Elena

How does one become an autonomous learner? Is there a way to learn how to understand inferences, read between the lines and beyond the text, how to analyze a high-level text? What is the difference between extensive and intensive/reflective reading? What techniques and strategies could help intermediate and advanced students master skills of a reflective reader? Critically reflective inquiry is the most significant part of autonomy in thinking. Will it engage students in learning tasks, will students persevere in the face of difficulties, and how students will handle disappointments and challenges? What strategies could help students retain the material? The article answers these questions; it contains a variety of strategies, which practitioners may use in the classroom and offer their students in order to develop skills of autonomous learners.

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Текст научной работы на тему «Strategies to become an autonomous learner»

More than 40 articles. Contemporary Issues of Linguistics and Translation

УДК (UDC) 372.881.161.1

Elena Y. Sedova-Hotaling, DLI, Monterey, California, USA

СТРАТЕГИЯ ДЛЯ САМОСТОЯТЕЛЬНОГО ИЗУЧЕНИЯ

РУССКОГО ЯЗЫКА

STRATEGIES TO BECOME AN AUTONOMOUS LEARNER

Abstract

How does one become an autonomous learner? Is there a way to learn how to understand inferences, read between the lines and beyond the text, how to analyze a high-level text? What is the difference between extensive and intensive/reflective reading? What techniques and strategies could help intermediate and advanced students master skills of a reflective reader? Critically reflective inquiry is the most significant part of autonomy in thinking. Will it engage students in learning tasks, will students persevere in the face of difficulties, and how students will handle disappointments and challenges? What strategies could help students retain the material? The article answers these questions; it contains a variety of strategies, which practitioners may use in the classroom and offer their students in order to develop skills of autonomous learners.

Keywords: autonomous learner, metacognitive skills, reflective inquiry, inferences, cultural references, skimming, scanning

Introduction

The current recommendations of the European Council for teaching and learning foreign languages emphasize the importance of developing the capacity to guide learning autonomously.

At a practical level, it is a must for us, practitioners, to develop skills that allow students to direct their own learning in order to digest a significant amount of information, to make conscious choices, and get actively involved in the learning process.

Learning is an individual process and students need to feel good about how they approach and engage in learning tasks, whether they are motivated to persevere in the face of difficulties, and how they handle disappointments and challenges. We teach our students how to become independent learners.

Theory

Dealing with adult learners, the teacher should be oriented not only on students' cognitive skills, but at students' metacognitive skills. Metacognition refers to the ability of learners to be aware of and monitor their learning processes. Cognitive skills are those needed to perform a task, whereas metacognitive skills are necessary to understand how it was performed. Successful adult learners employ a range of metacognitive skills, including self-assessment and self-management, and effective teachers of adults attend to the development of these skills. I believe that contemporary information and communication technologies can be exploited as effective means of autonomous learning within a framework of training learners of learning how to learn. The ability to read and reflect independently is essential for learner's autonomy.

Intermediate and advanced students are usually exposed not only to extensive reading/listening but also to intensive, reflective reading/listening. Reading and listening lessons at intermediate and advanced levels are typically designed to concentrate on the use of higherlevel skills. As long as fluent and accurate low-level decoding has been automatized enough, it allows to speed up on the highway for higher-level processing. What does "being reflective" mean? Through reflection on various views through interaction with peers/instructor the autonomous learner constructs system for further development of critical thinking (instead of jumping into assumptions). The student becomes less dependent on the teacher, he or she is self-directed - in Vygotsky's term, "self-regulated, rather than object-regulated" (by the teacher). Critically reflective inquiry is the most significant part of autonomy in thinking. The student learns how to describe and reframe the problem, how to solve it, is able to find the most meaningful actions to take, or is able to find alternatives for a solution to the problem.

Methods

Self-directed learning involves the following steps:

• Identifying needs

• Learner experiences

• Setting goals (Contextually determined, relatively flexible)

• Planning learning (Contextually determined, relatively flexible)

• Selecting resources (Self-selection by learners)

• Selecting learning strategies (Self-selection by learners)

• Practice Implementation (Language use)

• Monitoring progress (Self-monitoring)

• Self-assessment, (Reflection)

We suggest to our students a long list of authentic analytical resources and even more they find themselves. Authentic materials contain numerous inferences and cultural references. As mentioned earlier, along with extensive reading, our students are engaged in intensive/analytical reading. Both require sufficient cultural awareness and cultural references, the ability to read between the lines and beyond the text. Of course, in order to identify automatic inferences and cultural references students have to possess:

• competent working memory

• being an active reader who wants to make sense of the text

• monitoring comprehension and repairing inconsistencies

• a rich vocabulary

• a wide background knowledge.

We suggest the following strategies for working with high level authentic texts:

• choosing controversial materials

Nowadays, we are overwhelmed with such materials, newspaper articles, TV channels, the Internet, magazines, blogs, etc. are great resources. They are perfect for developing reflective independent thinking.

• discussing a title

A title is a story's first impression. Titles are extremely important. A title creates anticipation and expectation or, perhaps, disinterest. Often the title is what will determine whether or not someone reads a story. "Горячая зима" (Hot Winter) title in the "Politics" rubric sounds controversial, it is unlikely about weather forecast. The "Доллару требуется лекарь" (Dollar needs a doctor) title obviously contains some implications and will lead to a discussion.

• generating associations around a topic

A discussion before the reading on its topics builds background knowledge to aid in the comprehensibility of the text. Ask questions: What is the general topic? What is my prior knowledge of the topic? What is the main issue?

• prediction and contextualization:

Working on predictive and contextualizing skills means that students practice working out the answer by considering the hints and clues in the text in the light of their own knowledge and experience.

• skimming and scanning

Skimming and scanning are reading techniques that use keywords to move quickly through the text. Skimming is reading rapidly in order to get a general overview of the material. Scanning is used in order to find specific facts, quickly gather the most important information or 'gist'.

• inferencing

Development of inferring, is the bedrock of comprehension and inferential thinking and means practicing the creation of a personal and unique meaning from the text. Choosing the right texts is crucial for developing inferential thinking, because very explicit texts provide just a few opportunities for inferences to be made. The ability to use two or more pieces of information from a text in order to arrive at a third piece of information that is implicit. It involves combining information from the text and relevant background knowledge. Inferences may be causal, drawn during reading, or drawn after reading, etc.

• activating background knowledge

Background knowledge is an organized schemata which leads us to expect or predict aspects in our interpretation of discourse by matching what we hear with what we already

know. Bartlett, whose use of the term schema has been applied to the research on second language listening argued that our memory aggregates experience into "schemata" (1967, pp. 201-202, in Madden, 1997) and applies them in a manner similar to imagination. A discussion before the reading on its topics builds background knowledge and the comprehensibility of the text as well as giving the teacher an idea of where students' background knowledge needs to be developed more.

• summarizing texts

Individually, learners read the texts and summarize the key points. Learners may present their summary in their blogs or orally, which may lead to an open discussion of the content of the text. This strategy encourages learners to read for themselves, extract key points and try to make sense of their reading without relying solely on input and explanation from the facilitator. Only where a lack of understanding persists, should the facilitator provide clarification.

• creating learner-generated quizzes

Effective autonomous learning requires the ability to review, consolidate and build on what has been learnt. Compiling and answering learner-generated quizzes provide such opportunities to increase learners' understanding of the course content. This strategy prompts learners to consider what they have learnt, what they still need to learn. We do it not for grades, but for retention of the material.

• teaching it to a teacher

Emotions that are stimulated when students have an opportunity to teach what they've recently learned may create greater knowledge and memory. When teachers tell their students before a lesson that they will need to prepare to teach what they learn, pupils tend to work harder to understand the material, search for the main points, organize and apply knowledge more effectively, and score higher on tests. Researchers call these findings "the protégé effect."

Conclusion

It is useful for learners to be aware of how they approach given tasks. This awareness can enable learners to make choices about the methods and techniques they use in their learning. This strategy strengthens the capacity for autonomy. Learners may want to write a brief reflection on how they approached the task in a form of blogs. The role of the teacher is to help them become more aware of their own needs, interests, preferences, internalizations, values, goals and aspirations, and encourage student's self-monitoring.

In the classroom environment, it is very important for students to vocalize their understanding, thoughts, judgements, or beliefs on each authentic passage they read or listen to. Why? Because everything they get perceptively should be transformed from passive/perceptive comprehension/memory into expressive memory. This technique is crucial for retention and assimilation of the material. The author's favorite moment in the classroom is when, by the end of the lesson, students teach it to the teacher. Students admit that this is the best way for retention of the material, and they do not get home assignments, because the most part of the given material has been done at the lesson.

Teaching is not a craft, it is an art. Don't be a mentor in the classroom, be a navigator.

References:

1. J. S. Boston (2010). Pre-task syntactic priming and focused task design . ELT Journal, Volume 64, Issue 2.

2. Boyer, E. (1987). Transformative Learning - University of Edinburgh. Retrieved from: http://slidegur.com/doc/304801/transformative-learning—university-of-edinburgh

3. A.Halim Sykes. Four Strategies for Promoting and Developing Learner Autonomy in Blended Learning Contexts. Teaching and Learning Centre, SIM University

4. Anne Kispal. Effective Teaching of Inference Skills for Reading. Literature Review. National Foundation for Educational Research

5. Imel, Susan. (2002) Metacognitive Skills for Adult Learning. Trends and Issues Alert. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED469264

6. K. Vogeley. A. Roepstorf. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Cell Press. Vol 13, # 12. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccp033

Information about the author:

Elena Sedova-Hotaling (Monterey, California) - Associate Professor of Russian at Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California. To DLI, Elena brought over 30 years of experience teaching foreign languages and exceptional expertise in educational principles, methods and techniques. Elena Sedova-Hotaling is the recipient of several teaching awards for her professionalism and ability to highlight talent and encourage student for improvedproficiency results. She received her Master's in Education from Moscow , Russia. She is PhD Candidate at Capella University, USA, specializing in methods of SLA. Elena Sedova-Hotaling is the author of the "Russian Stylistics " textbookfor DLI as well as 5 Modules for the Russian Basic Course, she has numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals

Address: Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California (400 Gigling Road, CE DTRA

#1156, Seaside, CA 93955, USA)

Home address:

300 Glenwood Circle, Apt 258

Monterey, CA 93940

USA

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