Posts Tagged ‘autonomy’

call for papers – Spaces for Learning, a symposium proposal for the 17th AILA World Congress of Applied Linguistics

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Spaces for Learning, a symposium proposal for the 17th AILA World Congress of Applied Linguistics, Brisbane, Australia, 10-15 August 2015

Call for Papers
We would like to invite proposals for contributions to the above symposium, Spaces for Learning, a newly developing area of study in relation to the broader field of learner and teacher autonomy.
The call for proposals for individual papers and symposia to the World Congress has just opened, and these have to be submitted to the organisers by April 2013. In order for us to submit our symposium proposal in time, we are asking for abstracts of proposed contributions to the symposium to be sent to us by 28 February 2013. This will enable us to inform you if your paper is to be included in the symposium or not in time for you to submit as an individual if necessary. Proposals should address the issues and questions raised in the following paragraphs.
Autonomous learners and teachers have been described as active agents in their own learning and teaching, who, whilst understanding the constraints which impact on them, empower themselves by finding the “spaces for manoeuvre” (Lamb, 2000), thus avoiding resignation and disaffection. The concept of ‘space’ has thus been referred to in autonomy research in the field of language learning for many years, and indeed it was a specific type of space, namely the self-access centre, which, in the 1970s, stimulated the current interest in learner autonomy.
It is time then to explore further the meaning of space and its relationship to learner autonomy. Spaces are inhabited, experienced and used by individuals and groups, and can be defined as multidimensional (Bourdieu 1985, p. 723). For example, they can be physical spaces, such as a classroom, self-access centre or study, or indeed a public space where people meet socially. They can be virtual spaces, such as a virtual learning environment or social media. They can be personal spaces or shared spaces, spaces for reflection or spaces for communication, formal or informal spaces. Indeed in a number of disciplines such as telecommunications and cyberspace, networks have been conceptualised as spaces (rather than conduits), which suggests that, rather than being simply a means of transmitting information, they are ‘sites of communicative action structured by a range of social relations, including those embedded in the design of the setting’ (Samarajiva & Shields, 1997, p. 536).
Spaces are also dynamic and socially constructed, as they become ‘places’ through ‘placemaking’, a process in which individuals ‘change, appropriate and shape’ space (Parnell & Procter, 2011, p. 79). However, space itself has a role in shaping action. Indeed Giddens (1979) highlights the significance of space, criticising most social theory for neglecting it and seeing it merely as a backdrop to social action, rather than as a significant component of social interactions:
…a setting for interaction. A setting [which] is not just a spatial parameter, and physical environment, in which interaction occurs: it is these elements mobilised as part of the interaction. Features of the setting of interaction, including its spatial and physical aspects…are routinely drawn upon by social actors in the sustaining of communication. (pp. 206-7)
Recent work in the field of education (e.g. Leander & Sheehy, 2004) has similarly considered space as ‘a product and process of socially dynamic relations’ (Leander & Sheehy, 2004, p. 1), the so-called process of ‘socio-spatial dialectic’ (Soja, 1989, pp. 79-83), in which space is both a social product and a force which reflects back on social processes.
Theories of space can thus enable us to understand the interrelationships between learners, learning, and spaces, enabling us to explore questions such as the following:
In which ways can different spaces be conducive to the development of learner autonomy?
How do learners ‘change, appropriate and shape’ the spaces they inhabit in order to turn them into places for learning?
How can the relationships between theories of space and theories of learning (such as constructivism and social constructivism) be conceptualised in order to shed light on the development of learner autonomy in physical and virtual, formal and informal, personal and shared settings?
In which ways can an examination of the concept of space broaden our theoretical understanding of autonomy in language learning?
How might research exploring the relationship of space and autonomy inform language policy and pedagogy?
At this stage we are inviting brief abstracts (150 words) for papers which will facilitate discussion of the above questions. In March we shall contact everyone who has submitted an abstract in order to inform them whether or not they have been included in the symposium proposal.
Abstracts for contributions to the symposium should be submitted to the symposium organisers, Terry Lamb (T.Lamb@sheffield.ac.uk), and Garold Murray (garold.murray@gmail.com), by 28 February 2013.
References:
Bourdieu, P. (1985). The social space and the genesis of groups. Theory and Society 14(6), 723-744.
Giddens, A. (1979). Central Problems in Social Theory. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Lamb, T.E. (2000). Finding a voice: learner autonomy and teacher education in an urban context. In B. Sinclair, I. McGrath & T. Lamb (Eds.), Learner autonomy, teacher autonomy: Future directions (pp. 118-127). Harlow: Addison Wesley Longman.
Leander, K. & Sheehy, M. (Eds.). (2004). Spatializing literacy research and practice. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Parnell, R. & Procter, L. (2011). Flexibility and placemaking for autonomy in learning. Educational and Child Psychology. Special Issue: Optimal environments for learning: The interface of psychology, architectural design and educational practice, 28 (1).
Samarajiva, R. & Shields, P. (1997). Telecommunication networks as social space: Implications for research and policy and an exemplar. Media, Culture and Society, 19, 535-555.
Soja, E.W. (1989). Postmodern geographies: The reassertion of space in critical social theory. London: Verso.

CALL and Learner Autonomy: Affordances and Constraints (pdf)

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Phil Hubbard and I recently published a chapter in this book:
Thomas, M., Reinders, H., Warschauer, M. (Eds.) (2013). Contemporary Computer-Assisted Language Learning. New York: Continuum.

You can read it below or download a pdf here.

CALL and Learner Autonomy: Affordances and Constraints
Hayo Reinders and Philip Hubbard

[A] Summary
The last two decades have seen a growing interest in the role of the individual in the learning process. We are starting to better understand the contributions that learners make to their own learning and the ways in which as educators we can build on this. This is a positive development as the majority of language learning increasingly takes place outside the language classroom. A sizeable body of general education research now exists that identifies the importance of informal learning and the ways in which this can be supported. More research is now appearing on self-directed language learning, but a lot of work remains to be done to identify the best ways to prepare learners for this. Technology has the potential to provide teachers and learners with the necessary support in this process but also in itself poses a number of challenges, especially as the successful use of technology often requires precisely those self-directed learning skills it is intended to help develop as well as presupposing an adequate level of technological proficiency. In this chapter we begin by briefly reviewing the role of learner autonomy in language learning and teaching before outlining the potential affordances offered by technology in its development. Next, we highlight ways in which technology poses constraints on this development and suggest ways in which these can be overcome. We will show that the fields of autonomy and CALL have a potentially symbiotic relationship that has important practical benefits for learning and teaching.

[A] Introduction
Studies in individual differences, motivation and learners’ beliefs (amongst others) point to the importance of increasing our understanding of the contributions learners make to their own learning (Breen, 2001) and the ways in which teachers can prepare learners for and support learners in making these contributions. Technology has often been seen to play an important potential role in this, both for learners to gain more control over the learning process, and for teachers to have more ways to connect with learners both in and outside the classroom. However, in practice there has long been a lack of terminological consistency and clarity and a frequent confusion between objectives (e.g., the development of learner autonomy) and the tools used to achieve them (e.g., the Internet).
A common misconception for many years has been the idea that technology would single-handedly serve the pursuit of autonomy by providing learners with powerful tools that would enable them to control their own learning without the help of a teacher (cf. Levy, 1997). Partly this was the result of early optimism in the field of CALL. The promise of artificial intelligence (AI) in general and Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) in particular was such that overly confident predictions were common about the demise of the language teacher and the empowerment of learners to the point where they would be able to control every aspect of their learning. Although subsequent developments lowered such expectations, a view persisted of technology as providing learners with all the tools they would need to be successful in their learning. In this view, offering learners access to unlimited resources and language input whenever and wherever they want, would be sufficient for learning to somehow take place automatically.
Reality has of course proven to be far more complicated. Although technology undoubtedly does support learners in a myriad of ways, it is also true that without adequate preparation, practice, feedback and support, many learners are unable to make effective use of technology’s affordances, and indeed may suffer from using technology inadequately (for example by overreliance on machine translation).
In this chapter we look at the relationship between the development of learner autonomy and the use of technology through exploring this tension between technology as an affordance and as a constraint.

[A] The Role of Learner Autonomy in Language Learning and Teaching
Language teachers have always tried to find ways to reconcile the collective nature of most teaching environments with the (inevitably) individual aspects of learning. The development of learner autonomy, or learners’ ability to take control over their own learning’ (Holec 1981), has been one way in which teachers have tried to make links with learners at a more individual level, and to connect classroom learning with out-of-class language use. The theoretical and pedagogical rationale for the implementation of more learner-centred approaches to teaching is well developed and goes back many decades. Especially from the 1950s, educational psychology began to place greater emphasis on the role of the individual in the learning process. Humanist approaches considered the learner as an active participant in this process; as someone who actively shapes his or her learning experiences with the purpose of self-development and fulfilment (Atkinson 1993; Stevick 1980). Similarly, constructivism gave central stage to the learner by focusing less on the knowledge to be transmitted, and more on the process of constructing, reorganising and sharing that knowledge. These developments also influenced language education, both through the development of specific teaching methods rooted in these ideas, such as the Silent Way and Suggestopedia (Gattegno, 1963; Lozanov, 1978) and—perhaps more importantly—through a general influence on language teaching toward a greater focus on the learner:

most researchers agree that a major shift is taking place … in education away from the teacher-centred classroom toward a learner-centred system where the learner is in control of the lesson content and the learning process. (Fotos & Browne, 2004, p. 7)

In addition to the educational aspect of autonomy, there is also an important political element. In its original meaning, autonomy encompasses the freedom and ability to make one’s own choices (Winch, 2007). Economic and political obstacles, government policies and tightly prescriptive curricula are some examples of practical impediments to learners exercising their autonomy. Nevertheless, technology can offer ways to overcome such impediments, as we shall see below.
[A] Technology and Learner Autonomy
Technology can play a role in the development of learner autonomy by supporting learners in a number of ways. Free and ubiquitous access to resources for example is one way in which practical and political limitations on autonomy can be overcome. But in order for learners to be able to make use of those resources, they also need to know which resources are the most suitable for them and to have the ability to use them appropriately. Technology can help learners develop this knowledge and the necessary learning skills. This can be done indirectly, for example by giving students access to a learning diary to record their learning experiences and the resources they use. It can also be done by developing learner autonomy directly (although this is less common). For example, there are computer programs designed specifically to help students develop the ability to identify their learning needs, plan their learning and monitor their progress. The ‘My English’ program developed at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) in Thailand, for example, actively encourages students to reflect on their learning and to make decisions based on past performance and future needs (see Reinders & Darasawang, 2011). Students are taken through a needs analysis process, are encouraged to develop an appropriate study plan, are guided in the selection of relevant resources, and are requested to monitor and reflect on their performance. Support is available through peers and online language advisors.
Although such programs are valuable in encouraging students to become more aware of their learning process and their own roles in this, studies into engagement levels with such software show disappointing results. For example, Reinders (2006) reports that many students had received the various prompts and alerts offered by an online support program used at the University of Auckland, but did not have the metacognitive awareness to respond appropriately and as a result often stopped using the software. Reinders concludes that in this case learners should have received more specific training, not only on how to use the software, but also on the skills necessary for self-directed learning.
Related to this, not much is known about the ways in which learners use technology outside the classroom (or indeed how they practise and acquire language in general). A recent special issue of Language Learning & Technology (Reinders & White, 2011) and an edited collection (Benson & Reinders, 2011) are two of only a few publications to specifically look at the use of technology outside the classroom. Both of these collections confirm, amongst others, that many learners do have a desire to shape their learning experiences, and to a certain extent do so, but that they are often not successful in this. As a result, attrition levels are often high, in particular in self-study contexts (Nielson, 2011). Almost all existing studies show the need for extensive preparation, ongoing guidance, and follow-up support to ensure learners are able to make full use of resources given to them (Darasawang & Reinders, 2010; Reinders, 2006; Ulitisky, 2000; Vanijdee, 2003). Another common finding is that greater integration needs to take place between formal and informal education, and the use of teacher- and self-directed learning so that skills and experiences acquired in one domain can be built on and used in the other (Toogood & Pemberton, 2002).

[A] The Affordances of CALL for Learner Autonomy
CALL resources offer learners a range of affordances that are undeniable (Godwin-Jones, 2005; Zhao, 2005). Reinders and White (2010) reviewed these affordances and categorised them into two broad groups: those that carry mainly organisational or practical advantages and those that are more pedagogical in nature, as shown in Table 1.

[Insert Table 19.1 here]
Table 19.1 The potential advantages of CALL

Here, we are concerned with the ways in which these affordances are directly relevant for the development of learner autonomy and will now discuss each with this in mind.

[B] Access
At a purely practical level, technology has allowed learners to gain a level of access to resources that was previously impossible. Not only do learners in rural or underprivileged contexts now have better opportunities for access to materials, but because of this they are also less reliant on scarce or unavailable teacher support. Mobile-assisted language learning in particular offers great promise in this regard (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005).

[B] Storage and retrieval
An extension of ‘access’, technology allows for the easy storage and retrieval of learning and teaching materials, as well as learning records, giving insight into learning behaviour, both inside, and potentially, outside the classroom. This extends not only to teachers but also to learners themselves, who can not only find and access resources but also monitor their own usage of those resources.

[B] Sharing and recycling of materials
Pedagogical materials can be easily created, shared and updated, with learners potentially contributing to this process. In relation to the development of learner autonomy, this last point is particularly important as it gives learners control that they lack in more traditional environments.

[B] Cost efficiency
Technology is sometimes said to lower the cost of education by allowing learners to manage more of their own learning, thus relying less on teachers. Technology can reduce the cost of language materials in some cases by providing them in a readily reproducible digital format.

[B] Authenticity
In terms of pedagogical advantages, authenticity is often cited and potentially of major importance in the development of learner autonomy (Benson, 2007), allowing learners to use real-world materials that are relevant to their (and not just their teachers’) individual interests. Discussions of autonomy often emphasise the importance of giving learners access to authentic materials, and the Internet provides a wealth of these for commonly taught languages and increasingly for less commonly taught ones as well.

[B] Interaction
An important tenet of most SLA theories is the importance of opportunities for input and output, provided through interaction. Autonomy researchers have long argued for the importance of providing learners with opportunities to use the language, especially in settings outside formal education (Benson, 2011). Computer-mediated communication through email, chat and social networking sites allows learners to easily connect with other learners, native speakers, and teachers. Tutorial software that offers students feedback on correctness (e.g., pronunciation grading through speech recognition) or input modification (Chapelle, 2001, 2005) (e.g., linked definitions, images, translations, etc.) also provides a level of interactivity that can be beneficial to the learner.

[B] Situated learning
Related to this, situated learning is facilitated by the use of technology, for example through the use of mobile phones that allow access to support tools in real-world settings, and that allow learners to connect with peers or teachers when attempting to use the language. Situated learning can help to blur the boundaries between the classroom and the target language context (Hung, 2002). By setting assignments that require learners to discover language on their own, they are encouraged to take more responsibility for their learning, in socioculturally meaningful contexts.

[B] Multimedia
Technology makes the production and distribution of multimedia resources easier, both for teachers and, increasingly, also for students. Multimedia resources may also give learners more control over the way they access target language input. For example, a movie can be watched with or without subtitles. Individual learner preferences and learning styles can thus be accommodated more easily.

[B] New types of activities
Related to this, technology can also offer new types of activities that are difficult or impossible to replicate otherwise. Drag-and-drop exercises, webquests, microblogging and social networking sites offer opportunities for interactive language practice that can empower students to find authentic materials and interact with them without the constant intervention of teachers.

[B] Non-linearity
Technology allows for content to be displayed dynamically. Hypermedia give students the opportunity to move beyond the boundaries of the materials set by the teacher. It also allows students to easily access background information or support tools.

[B] Feedback
Technology makes the delivery of immediate and personalised feedback easier to accomplish. Natural language processing and parser-based CALL can provide feedback based on participants’ prior language learning progress and their specific needs (Heift & Schulze, 2007), which can help to decrease reliance on the teacher. It also becomes easier to provide feedback in a range of different ways, through auditory, textual, and visual means. At the same time, it becomes easier for students to connect with other learners to obtain peer-feedback, encouraging them to consider alternatives for teacher guidance.

[B] Monitoring and recording of learning behaviour and progress
This is made easier with the help of technology. This not only supports teachers but also learners, who, when given access to this information, can learn to make choices about their learning process based on actual data on their progress. Electronic portfolios are an example of a tool specifically designed to encourage reflection and to support informed decision making.

[B] Control
Several of the affordances discussed above give students a greater degree of control over their learning. At a practical level, CALL materials can be accessed flexibly by students when and where they need to, and be provided with varying levels of support (e.g., with or without a glossary).

[B] Empowerment
At the pedagogical level, many of the above affordances empower learners to make decisions for themselves. By allowing learners to make choices on what materials to access, how to use them, by enabling them to work with other learners, both within and outside the school, and by giving them the data they need to know how they are doing, students are encouraged to become more reflective, more critical, and increasingly responsible for their own learning process (Blin, 1999).

[A] The Constraints of CALL for Learner Autonomy
As noted above, these affordances do not come as a free ride for autonomous learners—if they did, then the mere presence of technology should have been enough to spur a revolution in autonomous learning as it arguably has in listening to music. There are constraints, even potentially negative side effects of technology, when applied to this realm, a number of which we touch on in this section. Let us begin with the assumptions that 1) learners are working with teachers, tutors or other resources (e.g., computer programs) to help them become autonomous and 2) the learners themselves are in fact interested and motivated to become autonomous, and then discuss constraints from this idealized perspective. As with all language learning (and all education for that matter) additional issues will surface in settings where one or both of these assumptions are not met. We briefly review the preceding affordances with respect to constraints, limitations, and challenges to their effective integration into autonomous learning, beginning with the four organizational categories and then continuing with the ten pedagogical ones.

[B] Access
On the surface at least, access is a positive feature, but access has negative potential as well. Mobile learning, for example, is gaining ground for its ‘anytime/anywhere’ access but the mobile experience can be a degraded one due to the limited screen size (for phones, though not tablets) and the often distracting environments in which they are used. For learners to be autonomous, they need to control access and not have that access control them to keep from being constantly interrupted in tasks or being swamped with data that cannot be processed in a way that supports language learning. Rather than relying exclusively on whatever is familiar and convenient, they need to develop knowledge and skills for selecting the best available technology for particular learning objectives.
The question is basically to what extent the practical benefits of technology access extend to the pedagogical level. The simple availability of materials for self-study is not sufficient. Previous studies (for example, Jones, 1993; Reinders & Lewis, 2006) report that such materials frequently lack the necessary support structures, such as clear instructions or even answer keys, and do not explicitly encourage students to reflect on the learning process. Materials not designed for learning purposes will offer even less guidance. Hurd emphasises the importance of preparation for learners to take full advantage for access:

if learners are not trained for autonomy, no amount of surrounding them with resources will foster in them that capacity for active involvement and conscious choice, although it might appear to do so. (Hurd, 1998, pp. 72-73)

[B] Storage and retrieval
In terms of materials, the constraints lie in two areas: 1) initially indexing or tagging content for easy and accurate retrieval and 2) developing the skills in both teachers and learners to locate and sequence that material for learning. Indexing and tagging for language learning functionality can be a time and resource-consuming enterprise—ways need to be found to increase the pool of stored and indexed resources, ideally in a universal format. For the second, at the broad Internet level, this means having advanced skills at searching with Google or other search engines, which many students lack (Duke & Asher, 2012). At a more localized level, it can mean having those skills within a dedicated content or learning management system, such as Blackboard, Moodle or Drupal. Besides materials, learning records may also be stored and retrieved. To do so requires first finding settings in which such records can be gathered and then ensuring that both teachers and learners have the ability to retrieve and interpret them. It is relatively easy to collect data, but data is not the same as knowledge. Both teachers and learners have to develop the skills to identify sources for such data and the means of transforming that data into useful information to support decisions and actions.

[B] Sharing and recycling of materials
Despite its advantages for teaching, the process of distributing and recycling material sets up the potential for problems in creative language production for the learner. We live increasingly in a ‘mix’ culture, where repurposing chunks originally produced by others and synthesizing them into something different is taken as a legitimate form of creation. Learners must become aware of the limitations of this practice for developing and demonstrating language proficiency. Also teachers need to be aware of the limitations in their own materials development.

[B] Cost efficiency
When we think of technology and language learning these days, the Internet and apps for mobile devices come to mind. There is an expectation that everything should be free, or in the case of apps, cost very little. As a result, free material is often preferred by both teachers and learners to other, potentially better, material that carries expenses with it. But there are hidden costs to much of such ‘free’ material, most notably the distraction of advertising on websites, the lack of systematicity (Decoo, 2010), and the limited quality control in much of its production. Additionally, for technology at the institutional level, there are costs for hardware, infrastructure, maintenance, and training, costs that may be difficult for the autonomous learner to absorb away from the institutional setting.

[B] Authenticity
There are at least two issues of authenticity that can have negative consequences for the autonomous learner. One involves the language of social interaction found in online chat and discussion boards. The anonymity and cultural practices of many such settings support forms of discourse differing from what may be the learner’s or the institution’s goals. The second involves the relative level of the material. The plethora of options for commonly taught languages can readily lead learners to content that is authentic but linguistically inaccessible. If material is too far beyond the learner’s level, it is not processed naturally, and thus is not useful for learning (Breen, 1985). In addition, accessing material that is incomprehensible can be demotivating. There is a temptation to rely on translation, especially machine translation, for both comprehension and production. Autonomous learners need to understand the limitations of such practices and identify appropriate material for their level and goals.

[B] Interaction
Interactions mediated by technology may suffer from being either inauthentic, leading to a distorted view of target language use, or authentic, as noted above, but beyond the level of all but the more advanced learners. There are examples of online interactions in authentic settings that have led to apparent successes for autonomous learners, such as Lam’s (2000) case study of an English learner expanding writing proficiency through postings to fan sites. However, unfettered interaction may not support sufficient focus on form, and the lack of systemization (Decoo, 2010), is likely to affect efficiency of learning as well as leave gaps in the acquired language system. There is a need to ensure that autonomous learners understand the forms of interaction that will be most useful for them. Many of the purported benefits of CMC may be limited because a very narrow range of language is used over and over. In synchronous chat in particular, there is not much extension and not much opportunity to focus on accuracy or complexity.

[B] Situated learning
Despite the generally positive aspects of situated learning, a key point is for autonomous learners to be able to select the right range of situations for their learning to occur, ideally situations that are readily transferable. The range of situations in online and especially mobile settings can be limited relative to face-to-face language use, an issue common in foreign language vs. second language settings in general (see Stockwell, this issue). Learners may become successful within a given comfortable range, but lack experience with key lexical, grammatical, and discourse elements as well as cultural expectations outside of those settings. On the other hand, as everyday communication and professional and business interactions increasingly move into the digital realm, it is important that the learning tasks and settings reflect such authentic environments. Autonomous learners need to have the knowledge and skills to seek out such tasks and settings, rather than just pedagogically convenient ones, as often occurs when activities connected to print textbook are transferred online.

[B] Multimedia
Combining media can be useful, but multimedia by itself does not guarantee better learning (Mayer, 2005). Multimedia may cause distractions, and the quality of online material is inconsistent. Further, learners may not take appropriate advantage of multimedia when offered. For example, a recent review of research on multimedia glosses for vocabulary learning noted the following: ‘In summary, previous studies have found that L2 vocabulary is remembered better when learners look up picture or video glosses of unfamiliar words in addition to text glosses (translations in L1 or definitions in L2) but that when given the choice, learners tend to prefer and use the simple translations of words’ (Chun, 2011, p. 139). Such disconnects between what has been shown to help learners and what they tend to do on their own need to be resolved for effective autonomous learning.

[B] New types of activities
Useful new activities, such as Webquests for language learning (Godwin-Jones, 2004), are possible in computer settings. However, they may be technology-driven without a suitable pedagogical foundation. Additionally, autonomous learners may be unaware of the range of new activities and unable to discover them on their own. Needed steps include expanding and refining language learning tasks and activities mediated by technology that suit autonomous learning and developing procedures for making teachers and learners aware of their range and relative strengths.

[B] Non-linearity
Along with the positive elements of non-linearity, there are also drawbacks. With few exceptions, both text and audio/video is linear, and textual cohesion can be interrupted by linking within a text to online dictionaries or glossaries to illuminate meaning or to resources that enrich and expand the content. Non-linearity also vastly increases the choices learners can make, and learners need to have the ability to make informed decisions regarding when breaks in linearity lead to more rather than less efficient learning. One common aspect of non-linearity in digital environments is multi-tasking, which, despite the impressions of those engaging in it, is increasingly being shown to reduce rather than enhance efficiency and quality of engagement (e.g., Ophir, Nass & Wagner, 2009). This is another example of a disconnect between many learners’ perceptions and the results of empirical studies.

[B] Feedback
Technology offers the opportunity for feedback, but the overwhelming majority of dedicated programs for language learning offer very limited programmed feedback (Reinders & Lewis, 2006). Exceptions include certain ICALL (intelligent CALL) programs, but as noted in the introduction, these have not met their original promise (see Schulze & Heift, this volume). Feedback from humans is available, but a common approach for autonomous learners is to use volunteer native speakers for this purpose, especially through tandem language exchanges (e.g., livemocha; mylanguageexchange). Feedback from programmed or untrained human sources may include information that is incomprehensible, inaccurate, or irrelevant. In autonomous settings, it is important for learners to become adept at both soliciting and interpreting feedback so that it serves their needs.

[B] Monitoring and recording of learning behaviour and progress
Touched on under the ‘storage and retrieval’ topic above, this affordance is often not available except in commercial learning packages. Even there, the data supplied may be of limited value, often representing only progress through the material or course based on quizzes, but not progress in language use or general proficiency. At the individual level, this is further constrained by a lack of reliable student models: one size fits all often prevails. Electronic portfolios offer an option, but autonomous learners are likely to require additional skills and knowledge to use them effectively. For this affordance to be realized, we need extensive development of learning management systems specific to second languages and more sophisticated ICALL applications, as well as greater learner understanding of how the information from those sources connects to future actions.

[B] Control
Issues of control have been with us since the early days of CALL (Stevens, 1984). Learners first need an understanding of the control options they have for a given device or application, and often they do not have this ability at the required level (Winke & Goertler, 2008). There is arguably a need for ‘technological autonomy’ in both the learners themselves and the teachers who are guiding them toward language learning autonomy. Beyond this core understanding of controls, autonomous learners need an understanding at a more strategic level of when to use specific control options to serve their learning objectives.

[B] Empowerment
Empowerment is closely connected to several of the previous categories, in particular feedback and control. All too often, learners are ‘empowered’ without the preparation to use that power effectively. There is also a clear connection to motivation so that the desire to build on the empowerment affordance of technology is activated and channelled. In a digital world, Dörnyei and Ushioda’s (2009) theory of the ‘L2 self’ may hold promise for understanding and developing motivation for the connected autonomous language learner.

[A] Overcoming Constraints and Challenges for Developing Learner Autonomy
Autonomy is a growth area within language teaching and learning, and we have seen in the first part of this chapter how technology offers an unparalleled set of affordances to support it by connecting learners to one another, teachers, and others as well as to programmed tutorials and rich content. However, we have also seen that there is a great potential to ignore or misappropriate these affordances. The affordances that modern technological devices, applications, and networks create are only opportunities. For autonomous learners and their teachers, at least four promising paths exist for overcoming the constraints and challenges so that those opportunities can be exploited effectively.
First, there is the potential for learner training (Hubbard, 2004). We have argued that what learners do ‘naturally’ with the affordances of technology is often at odds with what is ideal for autonomous language learning. Teachers and developers need to begin by identifying efficient and effective techniques and procedures for using language materials or engaging in language learning tasks and activities mediated by technology. Then they need to find ways to communicate those to learners through training activities. Romeo and Hubbard (2010) suggest that learner training for technology environments should include three types: technical, strategic, and pedagogical. Pedagogical training, which provides a knowledge base for accommodating new technologies and situations overlapping that of teachers themselves, is of particular importance in the development of autonomy. We are still in the early stages of clarifying the scope of learner needs in using technology, but despite the challenges inherent in language learner training (Rees-Miller, 1993), we cannot continue to ignore it.
Second, once we move away from fixed curricula, a potential area of inefficiency and frustration for autonomous learners is that of materials and task selection, especially selection of material that is too challenging to be of much use in promoting language acquisition (see, for example Nation and Waring’s (1997) discussion of vocabulary level needed for text comprehension). There is a need for more information to be provided to autonomous learners in a form accessible to them so that they can make appropriate choices. Hubbard (2011) has suggested expanding the notions of Decoo (2010) regarding systemization so that the content of freely available text, audio and video resources are annotated and tagged in a way that autonomous learners can access material linked to their proficiency level and interest. In parallel to this is the propagation of more online tools like Tom Cobb’s vocabulary profiler (www.lextutor.ca/vp) or various readability applications (e.g., www.read-able.com) that learners can use on their own to approximate levels for materials.
Third, at a time when collaborative learning and online social interaction are both on the upswing, there is the potential for learners to support and scaffold one another through communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). The value of peer interaction in independent learner settings has been noted previously (e.g., Lee 1998), but little work to date has focused on the specifics of the use of technology to support that. This is indeed another of technology’s affordances—community building. Despite the obvious momentum from current social networking sites and ‘cultures-of-use’ (Thorne, 2003), making such collaborations work well for autonomous language learning will likely require the combined efforts of teachers and students, at least at the initial stages.
Finally, there is a need for more technological initiatives within CALL, or borrowed from related disciplines, that specifically target advancing learner autonomy. This includes applications that enhance learners’ metacognitive development and provide support for cognitive, social, and affective strategies (Oxford, 1990) specific to the technology environments. Like their teachers, learners need to be guided to a level of technological autonomy whereby they can embrace and incorporate new devices and applications in the service of language learning. This call is embedded in the TESOL Technology Standards, Learner Standards Goal 3, Standard 5: ‘Language learners recognize the value of technology to support autonomy, lifelong learning, creativity, metacognition, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity’ (Healey et al., 2011, p. 252).
These four areas, combined with the prior discussion of affordances and constraints for technology in support of language learner autonomy, provide an exploratory framework for research and practice in this growing domain. It is clear that technology can play an important role in the development of learner autonomy, but it is up to the language teaching profession to help learners to be able to fully benefit from the affordances it offers.

References
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Blin, F. (1999). CALL and the development of learner autonomy. In R. Debski & M. Levy
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research. Harlow: Longman.
Chapelle, C.A. (2001). Computer applications for second language acquisition: Foundations for teaching, testing, and research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chapelle, C. A. (2005). Interactionist SLA theory in CALL research. In J. Egbert & G. Petrie
(Eds.), Research perspectives on CALL (pp. 45-68). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Chun, D. (2011). CALL technologies for L2 reading post Web 2.0. In N. Arnold & L. Ducate (Eds.), Present and future promises of CALL: From theory and research to new directions in language teaching (pp. 131-169). San Marcos, TX: CALICO.
Darasawang, P., & Reinders, H. (2010). Encouraging autonomy with an online language
support system. CALL-EJ, 11(2). Retrieved from http://callej.org/journal/11- 2/darasawang_reinders.html
Decoo, W. (2010). Systemization in foreign language teaching. London: Routledge.
Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (2009). Motivation, language identities and the L2 self: A theoretical overview. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 1-8). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Duke, L., & Asher, D. (2012). College libraries and student culture: What we now know.
New York: ALA Editions.
Fiori, M. (2005). The development of grammatical competence through synchronous computer-mediated communication. CALICO Journal, 22(3), 567-602.
Fotos, S. S., & Browne, C. (2004). New perspectives on CALL for second language
classroom. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Gattegno, C. (1963). Teaching for languages in schools: The silent way. Reading: Educational Explorers.
Godwin-Jones, R. (2004). Language in action: From Webquests to virtual realities. (Emerging Technologies Column). Language Learning & Technology, 8(3), 9-14.
Godwin-Jones, B. (2005). Emerging technologies. messaging, gaming, peer-to-peer sharing:
Language learning strategies and tools for the millennial generation. Language
Learning & Technology, 9(1), 17-22.
Healey, D., Hanson-Smith, E., Hubbard, P., Ioannou-Georgiou, S., Kessler, G., &Ware, P. (2011). TESOL technology standards: Description, implementation, integration. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
Heift, T., & Schulze, M. (2007). Errors and intelligence in computer-assisted language
learning: Parsers and pedagogues. New York: Routledge.
Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy and foreign language learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Hubbard, P. (2004). Learner training for effective use of CALL. In S. Fotos & C. Browne (Eds.), New perspectives on CALL for second language classrooms (pp. 45-68). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Hubbard, P. (2011). Some practical issues in systemization and autonomy. In M. Simons & J. Colpaert (Eds.), Peer perspectives on systemization. A book review of Wilfried Decoo’s systemization in foreign language teaching. Antwerp: Universiteit Antwerpen.
Hung, D. (2002). Situated cognition and problem-based learning: implications for learning
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?
Table 19.1 The potential advantages of CALL
Organizational advantages Access
Storage and retrieval of learning behaviour records and outcomes
Sharing and recycling of materials
Cost efficiency
Pedagogical advantages Authenticity
Interaction
Situated learning
Multimedia
New types of activities
Non-linearity
Feedback
Monitoring and recording of learning behaviour and progress
Control
Empowerment

Independent Learning proceedings out now

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Get it from www.hkupress.org

Teacher-facilitator roles in language advising (article)

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

This is an older article that was submitted and presented at an autonomy conference. The proceedings ended up never being published, so might as well post it here!

Roles in language advising and fostering autonomy: a journal study

Hayo Reinders, Keiko Sakui, & Motoko Akakura
The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Abstract
The trend towards a more learner-centred approach in language teaching has resulted in both changes in classroom teaching as well as in new forms of supporting learning, such as through self-access and language advising. The role of the advisor or facilitator working in such contexts is significantly different from that of the classroom teacher and requires a somewhat different set of skills. This study attempts to describe the experiences of novice language advisors in a self-access centre in a tertiary institution in New Zealand. Specifically the current article attempts to illustrate the role of the language advisor in promoting autonomy in students. Three themes emerged from the advisors’ journal data: advisors’ roles, students’ perceived needs and traits, and the students’ perceptions of learner autonomy.

Supporting language learning
Options for language learning are now increasingly offered in contexts other than the traditional classroom (Lamb & Reinders forthcoming, Reinders 2004). Self-access centres, language advisory services, and computer-based alternatives (e.g. distance education, tandem learning) are becoming more and more widely available. They are offered in response to the growing and increasingly diverse student body, the greater need for flexibility in learning, and also in response to changes in (language) education which give a greater role to the learner. Preparing learners for this role is now frequently seen as the responsibility of the language professional. However, not all language teachers are experienced in doing this, or in working in contexts other than the classroom. De los Angeles Clemente (2001) for example found that in one university in Oaxaca, Mexico, teachers who were asked to work in the self-access centre without proper preparation and training, developed a dislike of the work, and a disbelief in the potential of independent learning. In addition, they felt anxious about their new roles. Clearly the process of moving from classroom teaching to language support can be a daunting one. In this article we describe this process on the basis of the experiences of two novice language advisors.

Methodology
This article reports journal entries of two of the authors who started working as language advisors in a university self-access centres. Keiko and Motoko are both experienced language teachers; Keiko has taught English and Japanese as a second language for many years and Motoko has taught Japanese, Chinese, and English as foreign languages. The role of language advisor, however, was new to both of them.

Their advisory work was part of a language support programmeme for which the self-access centre had been awarded funding by the New Zealand Ministry of Education. The programmeme was designed to assist both undergraduate and postgraduate students with English as an additional language through regular meetings with a language advisor over a period of approximately three months. The aims of the programmeme were to a) develop participants’ English, and b) develop skills for independent learning and foster autonomy. The meetings worked through a number of steps such as needs analysis, planning, monitoring, and assessment (loosely based on Stickler (2001), with gradually less support from the advisor, to encourage students to take control over the process. The purpose of the programmeme and the process and format of the advisory sessions were explained during the first meeting.

Participants were selected after completing a diagnostic assessment for reading, listening, and writing skills. Those found to be at the lowest levels were recommended to seek intensive language support (e.g. language courses), and those at the middle bands were invited to join the self-access programmeme (those achieving in the highest bands were deemed to have a sufficient level of English to cope at University level). Although students in the middle bands were strongly encouraged to join the programmeme, participation was voluntary and done in addition to regular courses. Participants who completed a sufficient amount of work and attended a reasonable number of meetings were given a certificate of completion. A total of 105 students participated and 62 of them completed the programmeme.

As mentioned earlier, the language advisors agreed to keep a journal for the three months of the programmeme in order to record and make sense of their roles, experiences and expectations. No specific format or frequency was chosen; it was entirely up to the advisors. By the end of three months, Keiko had produced around eleven A4 pages of single spaced entries and Motoko around seven. The journals were not shared until after the completion of the programmeme at which time both read their own and each other’s texts, and coded and categorised them using a process suggested by Manning & Cullum-Swan (1994) and Riesmann (1993). They then discussed the results in terms of the different themes emerging from the data.

Results
Three main themes emerged from the journal data and analyses. They are: 1) the advisors’ roles, 2) students’ perceived needs and traits, and 3) the students’ perceptions of learner autonomy.

1) Advisors’ roles
The first theme revealed by the analysis of the advisors’ journal entries is that of the different roles the advisors attempted to play in their work. They used several metaphors to describe these diverse and complex roles, including those of cheerleaders, fellow travelers, counselors, ghosts, and factory workers.

The first metaphor ‘cheerleaders’ was used because both of the advisors thought that encouraging and motivating students was one of the most important roles during the advisory sessions. There were many students who lacked confidence in their language abilities and who needed a constant reminder that their language was not as poor as they thought and that through hard work they would improve. Keiko wrote:

While we went through a list of resources, Edwardo asked whether he could use the ‘advanced level’ materials. I said sure he could-he said he was happy to hear it. He had thought, “he felt like a garbage” because of the low mark he got for the DELNA [the diagnostic assessment given to students prior to the programmeme; see above]. I think it is important for us to encourage students because they go through ups and downs in the learning process.

Another perceived role was that of fellow traveler. During the sessions, some students wanted to know why and in what ways the advisors themselves had learned English. Also the students seemed to like to hear about the learning strategies the advisors themselves had used as students.

Many students ask me how I studied English. So I often end up telling
my life history!, especially what types of difficulties I have faced, how I
tried to overcome them, and difficulties and advantages of being non-native
speakers in English speaking countries. Students seem to like to hear these
stories. (Keiko).

The third role, that of counselor, is similar to the previous two roles in the way that it involves giving advice and sharing experiences. It differs in that students can benefit from sorting out their own problems and setting their own goals by simply talking to
a third person, a counselor figure.

Just talking things to a third person (must) clear the mind (for the students) and helps to focus on ‘what’s most important’. Anyway, it is good to be thanked, and to be helpful to others even in such a little way. (Motoko).

Another metaphor that emerged from the journal entries was that of a ‘ghost’. Having to continuously encourage participation and often follow-up on missed appointments felt like having to ‘haunt’ the students. There were two main reasons for assuming this role. One was the advisors’ conviction that a few sessions only would not help students enough in developing their language or independent learning skills. The other reason was a political one. At the end of the three month programme, the results of the programme had to be reported to the Ministry of Education and its success would be measures in part by the number of students who had enrolled in and completed the programmeme.

The first student for this morning did not show up. Was 9 am too early for the student? Is it the rain? I’ll see if there is any contact from him, no, I’ll email him… On Monday there was another ‘cancellation-without-notice’. We need to decide what to do with these impromptu cancellations. (Motoko).

Finally, the fifth metaphor reflects the advisors’ demanding schedule, especially at the beginning of the programmeme when a large number of students came to sign up. The metaphor of a ‘factory assembly worker’ is used to illustrate the feeling that the flow of students never seemed to stop, as if the advisors were working in a factory. This metaphor also reflects the feelings that although the advisory sessions needed to be individualised for each student, the necessity of having to deal with many students required developing some ‘formulae’ to deal with the large numbers.

Students keep coming!!! We have been seeing students without a break. Today I worked 6 hours, and I saw nearly 10 students. It is very intense work – listening to students, identifying their language problems, trying to give some advice, etc. I’m exhausted, to be honest. I’m relieved that sometimes some students cancel their appointments – then I know I can take a short break. (Keiko).

As these different roles suggest, the advisors faced multiple tasks and goals in their work, and felt the need to juggle between the roles as they struggled with the paradox of promoting autonomous learning through what sometimes appeared to be controlling the students, especially under time pressure.

2) Perceived students’ needs and traits
Another theme which emerged from the journal entries were perceived students’ needs and traits.

Quite a lot of students feel ‘insecure’, ‘intimidated’ and ‘not confident’ about their speaking abilities. I had thought university students would be more concerned with their literacy skills (which is true), but surprisingly many students come and claim their aural/oral skills need to improve. Some say they do not have opportunities to speak in English and also they are denied the opportunities to speak. (Keiko).

Motoko gradually discovers the importance of pre-existing motivation and goals that the students bring to the sessions and how they are necessary for the students to take advantage of the advisory sessions:

Maybe there has to be an underlying willingness in the student for self-study to ‘work’. (Motoko).

Some of these traits and pre-dispositions are positive abilities that the students themselves are not aware of, but others are negative, such as poor management skills.

It is remarkable how much students actually DO HAVE the ability to decide on their own course of study when they are given the opportunity. I have to believe in the students. (Motoko).

Almost all students slacken off from their own commitments…Students are here because they have not reached a certain level of academic English. These students may require more assistance in managing their studies at this stage. (Motoko).

3) Language advisors’ perceptions of autonomous learning
The third theme is the advisors’ perceptions of autonomous learning. Both language advisors acknowledged the importance of fostering learner autonomy and tried to connect the educational goals of the advisory sessions with the students. Motoko went through a process in which she tried to make sense of what learner autonomy means in her work setting. She first thought that learner autonomy means ensuring that students have good learning habits at the beginning of the programme.

This practice (3 month programme) is all about making a good HABIT for the students. A GOOD STUDY HABIT. (Motoko).

Then she started to have doubts about this, realising the difficulty of pursuing learner autonomy while in actual fact, the act of promoting it to the students entailed a control which appeared quite opposite to autonomy.

My trust for their self-autonomy wavers… it seems. Well, even I have times when I cannot stick with my own study plans. Human nature? But still, learner autonomy… this idea should be presented clearly to the students. (Motoko).

Some students enrolling in this programme with the ‘promise of a free language
programmeme’ seem to discover a slight twist (i.e. being different from a conventional ‘language classroom’). My gut instinct tells me that those who decide not to continue feel wronged by their expectations and don’t want to continue. Of course, I have been putting
my best face forward in ‘promoting’ this programme, believing that it will do them good… so some students have continued coming in… (Motoko).

In comparing advisory sessions to teaching, Motoko began to see that language advisors need to step back and help students take their own centre stage in learning. Motoko equates ‘taking centre stage’ with reaching a stage of autonomy.

In a classroom situation, I tended to be obsessed with ‘teaching’. We know that no one can educate another person, that all of us must educate ourselves, and that a teacher’s role is that of a helper in this process. The question is “How can we help best?” As language advisors, we do get to do the helping, and only the helping (i.e. no teaching). We follow the progress of the students as they grapple with specific academic English
challenges without having to ‘obsess’ about teaching them. This is like standing back and letting the students take ‘centre-stage’, offering cues only when asked for. In self-access learning, reaching this stage seems to be the proof that students have become ‘autonomous learners’. (Motoko).

Keiko constantly struggled to try to make sense of what learner autonomy means in specific contexts like a self-access centre. She does not deny the importance of autonomy for any successful learning in theory, however, she realised that students’ life and learning are always pushed by tests and assignments, and felt that trying to advocate the independent and autonomous learning seemed “out of context” in such students’ lives.

What is the connection between students’ coming to advisory sessions and developing learner autonomy? I’ve been struggling to understand it myself and also define learner autonomy situated in the self access centre. Most students are being “pushed”-attending classes, completing assignments, taking the exams and meeting the deadlines. I’m sure the concept of “autonomy” is very alien to students. Are we helping them to foster autonomy or is there a huge gap between what they are encouraged to do here in the
self-access centre and the rest of campus? (Keiko).

Discussion and conclusion
The results show that the language advisors considered helping learners develop learner autonomy in a self-access centre as a rewarding and enjoyable experience but at the same time as confusing and challenging. This complexity is illustrated by the fact that the advisors in this study perceived themselves as playing multiple roles in the advisory sessions.

As Dickinson argues, autonomy can be divided into ‘an attitude towards learning and a capacity for independent learning’ (1995, p.166). The language advisors’ perceived roles reflect their attempts to accomplish these two separate goals. In order to foster the first (an attitude towards learning), they assume the roles of cheerleader and counselor, thinking that the students need constant encouragement, positive reinforcement and empathy so that they will take charge of their own learning and develop a positive attitude towards autonomous learning.

At the same time, the advisors try to foster the second (a capacity for independent learning). This of course includes specific advice on what language learning materials to use, what language strategies to explore, and how to manage their learning, set goals and monitor their own progress. Also, in playing the role of ‘experienced learner’, the advisors tried to share their own personal learning experiences so that students could expand their capacity for independent learning

The present study also showed that the advisors’ roles were manifold and developed as time went on. Both Keiko and Motoko attempted to make sense of what they could provide to their students through the advisory sessions. When students were able to ‘take centre stage’ in their language learning with less and less help and follow-up from the advisors, it was understood that they had reached a certain ability for autonomous learning. However, initially, the advisors’ perceived roles were more those of a factory worker and ghost, roles that are more controlling and seemingly paradoxical in relation to the development of learner autonomy.

Another theme this study highlights is that the language advisors are aware of many external factors (Benson, 2001) affecting them. These include their own work situations as well as their students’ lives. Some of these factors help to foster learner autonomy, and at times, some others work against it. In other words, helping learners become more autonomous does not occur in a vacuum, as the advisors as well as the students are influenced in many ways, from many sides. For example, the advisors occasionally felt that they needed to act like a ghost to ‘haunt’ some students into continuing with the programmeme. This satisfied both a pedagogical as well as a ‘political’ goal (completion rates would be assessed by the funding agency). Clearly, educational and external factors impinge on an advisor’s work.

Also the unique learning environment provided by a self-access centre influenced both the advisors and the students. Students are under a lot of pressure from exams and assignments. An autonomous learning style can be successful in such examination-led educational environments (Gremmo & Riley, 1995). However, the practicalities of being a student with a busy schedule at times seemed to make the self-study promoted in this programmeme rather idealistic. One of the students said, ‘I understand that autonomy is important and all that. But when I have two things to do, writing an assignment and coming to a self-access centre when I don’t have much time, I always need to finish the assignment, rather than coming to the advisory session’. In theory, few people will argue against autonomous learning, and the need to develop strategies for independent learning. However, the advisors and students both felt the difficulty of converting theory into practice. In assuming multiple roles, the advisors recognised the bigger picture surrounding students’ lives on campus, and tried to progressively fit and understand independent learning into that particular context.

In order to ensure autonomous learning, many theorists and practitioners try to
promote systems in which students are ‘pushed’ to participate in autonomous language learning activities. This can take a variety of forms such as for example through including self-access modules into established language courses (Pemberton, 2003). In this case, practitioners are imposing autonomous learning practices, and providing the students ‘less’ choice in the process of developing autonomy. The students do not have any choice but to go to a self-access centre in order to pass a course. Similarly, in the current study, the advisors needed to play the role of a ghost to ‘push’ the students to engage in autonomous learning. This is where the advisors felt the strongest ambivalence and contradiction in reconciling theory and practice. As a consequence, the advisors’ faith in autonomous learning wavered at times.

The issue of students’ readiness for this type of ‘pushed’ autonomy was seen by the advisors as crucially connected with that of the relationship between motivation and autonomy. Whether autonomy leads to motivation or whether motivation leads to autonomy is often discussed in the literature (Dickinson, 1995; Spratt, Humphreys & Chan, 2002). As these authors argue, the question is not uni-directional in terms of
which influences which, but to when and what extent motivation influences autonomy
and vice versa. Within the limited scope of this study it was clear that some type of motivation and readiness were a necessary quality for students in order to take advantage of the programmeme. The advisors realised the importance of acknowledging and building on these attitudes and abilities to encourage an increasing ability on the part of the students to expand on them independently.

The profession of language advisor is still a relatively new addition to the field of language teaching and learning. Small studies such as the one described here can contribute to our understanding of practical issues surrounding the development of skills for language advising and more broadly, facilitating learning (as opposed to direct teaching). They can also help us understand how those who go through such a process view themselves and their roles as well as how their views on autonomy and independence in learning develop over time. If the comments recorded by the advisors in their journals are anything to go by, it is a fascinating process indeed.

References
de los Angeles Clemente, M. (2001). Teachers’ attitudes within a self-directed language learning scheme. System: 29, 45-67.

Aoki, N. (1999). Affect and the role of teachers in the development of learner
autonomy. Arnold, J. (ed.) Affect in language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning.
Harlow: Longman.

Dickinson, L. (1995). Autonomy and motivation – a literature review. System, 23(2), 165-174.

Dingle, S. & McKenzie, P. (2001). Establishing a language-learning advisory
service. Mozzon-McPherson, M. & Vismans, R. (eds.) Beyond language teaching towards language advising. London: CILT.

Lamb, T. & Reinders, H. (forthcoming). Learner independence in language teaching: a concept of change. In: Cunningham, D. (ed.).

Manning, P. & Cullum-Swan, B. (1994). Narrative, content, and scientific analysis. N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (eds). Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 463-477.

Pemberton, R. (2003). Keynote paper presented at the Independent Learning Organisation Conference, Melbourne.

Reinders, H. (2004). Key issues in language support. Keynote paper presented at the 7th ELT conference, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.

Riessman, C.K. (1993). Narrative analysis. (Qualitative Research Methods Series, Vol. 30). Newbury Park: Sage.

Spratt, M., Humphreys, G., & Chan, V. (2002). Autonomy and motivation: Which
comes first? Language Teaching Research, 6/3, 245-266.

Stickler, U. (2001). Using counselling skills for language advising’. Mozzon-McPherson, M. & Vismans, R. (eds.) Beyond language teaching towards language advising. London: CILT.

CFP: IATEFL publication on autonomy

Monday, June 18th, 2012

From the editors:

We are pleased to inform you about the Call for papers for a new Iatefl publication on learner autonomy entitled “Developing learner autonomy in foreign language learning: getting learners actively involved”, which I am editing together with Carmel Mary Coonan from the University of Venice (Italy). The volume will focus on how we might best develop learner autonomy in our classrooms, focusing on the different aspects connected to this theme.

The collection of papers starts from some reflections which occurred during our Lasig one-day international conference, which took place in Venice last September.

Papers by Leni Dam, David Little, Lienhard Legenhausen, Anna U. Chamot and other scholars in the field will be included in the publication.

The current call aims to add further theoretical and practical papers relating learner autonomy to our collection. The book will be part of the Lasig “Autonomy in Language Learning” series, both in print and e-book version, to be published within 2012 – mid 2013. Submissions have to be in English.

Papers from researchers, teachers, teacher trainers and learning advisors are welcome. Papers must be previously unpublished and cover one of the aspects below:

– research studies / practical experiences in the field of learner autonomy and related concepts (motivation, learner awareness, self-reflection, evaluation and use of tools like portfolios, journals, logbooks and so on)

– descriptions of courses for the development of learner autonomy.

Different points of view as well as both theoretical and more practical experiences will intersect in the book, in order to provide a new resource for reflecting on learner autonomy and related topics, raising issues for researchers and trying to propose some potential solutions for teachers.

If you are interested, the deadline for FULL PAPERS is 30th June 2012. Please find attached some style guidelines to follow when writing your paper.

New article online: The theory and practice of technology in materials development and task design

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

This article was published a couple of years ago in ‘Materials in ELT: Theory and Practice’ by Nigel Harwodd. You can read it below or download it here.

The theory and practice of technology in materials development & task design

Hayo Reinders and Cynthia White

Summary

Technology nowadays plays a prominent role in the development of language learning materials, both as a tool in support of their creation and as a means of delivering content. Increasingly, technology is also used to support the individual’s language learning process and to extend language learning opportunities outside the classroom. The development of materials is still largely a practitioner-led practice, not always clearly informed by theories of learning (Chapelle 2001). In this chapter we aim to firstly identify the distinctive features of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) materials versus traditional non-CALL materials, and how these features affect their development. Theoretical principles for task design in CALL are reviewed followed by examples of current practice in CALL materials development discussed from a practical, pedagogical, and a theoretical perspective. We conclude by identifying a number of issues that are likely to affect future developments in this area.

Introduction

A decade ago Tomlinson’s (1998) edited collection entitled ‘Materials Development in Language Teaching’ made little reference to the contribution of computers, apart from a discussion of corpus data and concordances and Alan Maley’s observation that we stand on the threshold of a new generation of computerised materials for language teaching. The absence of a focus on computer-assisted language learning (CALL) materials in that collection was remarked on (see for example Johnson 1999; Levy & Stockwell 2006), as an indicator of the divide between CALL and the wider field of language teaching. In the decade since Tomlinson’s book, opportunities for language learning and teaching have been further transformed by the rapid development of a wide range of technology-mediated resources, materials, tasks and learning environments. The place of these developments in the field of language teaching has been the subject of debate. Coleman (2005), for example, argues that current research and practice in CALL has the potential to enhance our understanding of language learning and teaching, but that it remains in a relatively marginal position. Chapelle (2001) maintains that anyone concerned with language teaching in the 21st century ‘needs to grasp the nature of the unique technology-mediated tasks learners can engage in’ (p. 2). The key challenge according to Gruba (2004) is to think of ways to construct tasks to make effective use of the vast computer networks available, noting that earlier attempts to migrate classroom-based tasks to online environments have not always been successful, largely due to a poor understanding of task design within the affordances of the new environments. And Levy and Stockwell (2006) propose that CALL can bring important insights such as understanding the language teacher’s role as a designer in CALL, not only of materials but of whole learning environments. While innovations in technology and practice have clearly outstripped theory development in technology-mediated language teaching (White 2006), but important contributions have been made to the development of principles for the design of CALL materials which we review in this chapter. But first we need to define what is meant by CALL materials, and explore the central notion of design in technology-mediated language teaching.

Technology, Materials and Design in Language Teaching
CALL materials – that is artefacts produced for language teaching (Levy and Stockwell 2006) – can be taken to include tasks, websites, software, courseware, online courses and virtual learning environments. So clearly language teaching materials conceptualised in this way may include rather more than may be the case for materials conceptualised in face-to-face classroom settings. However, Levy and Stockwell identify earlier precedents for this view, drawing on the work of Breen, Candlin and Waters (1979) who distinguish between content materials as sources of information and data and process materials which act as frameworks within which learners can use their communicative abilities. CALL products then encompass both content and process dimensions of materials. While CALL materials can be seen as sharing many of the features of non-CALL materials, they also have a number of unique features largely due to the materiality of the medium. We review these features in the next section, but first consider the concept of design.

The centrality of design to the theory and practice of CALL identified by Levy (1997, 1999, 2002) has emerged as a recurrent theme in the literature on technology-mediated language teaching (Salaberry 2001, Gonzalez-Lloret 2003, Gruba 2004, Yutdhana 2005, Wang 2006, Hampel 2006, Rosell-Aguilar 2005). Levy and Stockwell note that design – including for example, materials design, screen design, task design and software design – ‘enters into the discourse of CALL in many forms and at a variety of levels, from the scale of an institution down to the level of an exercise’ (p. 10). Furthermore, the design process is extremely complex, endeavouring to draw on elements of theory, research and practice in an optimal way given the affordances of particular technologies and the opportunities and constraints of individual contexts, not the least of which are the needs and resources of teachers and learners. As such, design procedures and practices have been closely examined.

A number of principled theoretical approaches to design have been proposed in CALL and are reviewed later in the chapter but the challenge remains one of closing the distance and bridging the gap between theory and practice. The nature of the gap and the relationship between theory and practice of design in CALL is also the subject of much debate. Levy (1997) argues that requiring CALL instructional design to be theory-driven is unnecessarily restrictive, noting too that many of the theories suggested for CALL have been created and applied in non-CALL contexts; rather, what matters is the fit between the capabilities of technology and the demands of the learning objective. Following Richards and Rodgers (1986) it is argued that the design of pedagogical activities may begin at any of their three levels: theoretical approach, pedagogical design, or teaching procedure. More recently, Hampel (2006) has applied the framework to computer-mediated communication (CMC) and online tasks, presenting a non-linear, non-hierarchical three-level model for task development in virtual classrooms, represented in Lamy and Hampel (2007: 71) as follows:

Approach Scrutinising theoretical frameworks and concepts for their ability to inform task design appropriately (e.g. ensuring that cognitive theories inform conversation-based tasks or that community building concepts inform simulation tasks).

Design Examining the triangular relationship between task type, tutor or student role and the affordances of the medium based on its materiality. For example… what can we say about the effectiveness of tasks designed for audiographic versus videoconferencing environments?

Procedure Thinking about how tasks can be orchestrated in the virtual classroom in order to foster interaction between learners and improve their communicative competence; taking account of research to ensure more frequent participation, release more control to the students, enable collaborative work and a problem-solving approach, and negotiate certain pitfalls (e.g. issues of power online).

The model is intended to represent dynamic, iterative processes of design and implementation, with each stage exerting an influence on the development and progression of other stages, and cyclical relationships between the stages. A key point here is that design and development processes for technology in language teaching have diverse points of departure, with a broad concern for the relationship between theory, research – including teacher research – and practice, and include matching the affordances of the technologies with the complexities of the teaching context in a pedagogically optimal way.

The distinctive features of CALL materials
CALL materials are similar in many ways to traditional materials in that they function as tools in aiding the development of L2 acquisition and are therefore subject to the same pedagogical affordances and constraints. Nonetheless, CALL materials do have certain features which allow educators to draw on potential affordances and deal with constraints in different ways. Many discussions of new software or CALL in general point out advantages of their use. Summarising some of these in relation to ‘new’ technologies such as peer-to-peer networking, gaming and messaging, Godwin-Jones (2005) suggests that CALL materials 1) help develop computer literacy (which some have pointed out creates a circular argument), 2) help develop communicative skills, 3) help with community building, 4) identity creation, 5) collaborative learning, and 6) mentoring. Although none of these are specific to language learning per se, they help facilitate using and learning the social aspects of language or aid learning indirectly.

Zhao (2005) suggests several advantages that are more directly related to language learning and teaching. According to Zhao, CALL materials help by 1) enhancing access efficiency through digital multimedia technologies, 2) enhancing authenticity using video and the internet, 3) enhancing comprehensibility through learner control and multimedia annotations, 4) providing opportunities for communication (through interactions with the computer and through interactions with remote audiences through the computer), 5) by providing feedback, 6) by offering computer-based grammar checkers and spell checkers, 7) through automatic speech recognition technology, and 8) tracking and analysing student errors and behaviours. Although this list combines technical (e.g. ‘speech recognition’) and pedagogical advantages (e.g. ‘authenticity’), it is clear that there is a broad range of potential areas where CALL materials can make a contribution. Below we offer an alternative selection, divided into organisational and pedagogical advantages.

Organisational advantages of CALL materials

Access
CALL materials can be offered to learners independent of time and place. This is a frequently cited advantage especially in relation to internet-based materials. For materials developers this means opportunities to provide materials to learners for use outside the classroom and to learners who are otherwise unable to attend classes. Although this has offered many practical opportunities, it is not yet clear what the effects of access to materials are on second language acquisition. Recent studies have especially shown the importance of support where learners access materials without the direct intervention of a teacher, whether in a self-access context (Reinders 2005; Ulitsky 2000), or in distance education (Hampel 2006; Wang 2007; White 2006). Without such support, learners tend to use fewer or inefficient learning strategies, motivation levels tend to be low, and dropout rates high.

Recent studies in Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) offer a similar picture. Thornton and Houser (2005; see also Levy & Kennedy 2005) offered a vocabulary learning programme based on principles of distributed learning. Text messages were used to present vocabulary items along with regular options for review. They found that the participants in their study did not necessarily access materials more often than when they did not have mobile access. At this point it is not yet clear what the effects of ‘anytime/anywhere’ material access are on second language behaviour and acquisition.

Storage and retrieval of learning behaviour records and outcomes
Learner progress and test results can be stored electronically (and potentially automatically) and retrieved at any time, which is not only an organisational benefit for teachers and administrators but also potentially a pedagogical benefit for students. And recently considerable progress has been made in the area of automatic essay scoring and evaluation (see for example Warschauer & Ware, 2006).

Sharing and recycling of materials
CALL materials can easily be shared and updated. For materials developers, learning objects that meet certain international standards such as the shareable courseware object reference model (SCORM; http://www.adlnet.gov/scorm/index.aspx), are interoperable and can reduce development time as they can be employed in different contexts. Changes to online resources are immediately available to users and learners can thus be given new materials without having to return to class.

Cost efficiency
CALL materials are sometimes said to result in cost reduction, for example by providing learners with electronic instead of print materials or by having students study independently rather than with a teacher. However, the provision of hardware and software and their maintenance has proven costly. Also, as mentioned above, learners need considerable guidance and a reduction in staffing has not always proven possible. In future, mobile-assisted language learning may reduce the need to provide dedicated facilities and thus reduce associated costs. Text messaging, for example, is already being used as a cost-effective way to bypass unavailable or unreliable infrastructure in developing countries to deliver education (cf. www.kiwanja.net). Increasing interoperability of technologies and the use of open source technologies and content may also make it possible to reduce the overall costs of developing language learning materials.

Pedagogical advantages of CALL materials

Authenticity
There are two parts to this potential advantage: CALL materials aid in the development of more authentic materials (computer-based or not) by allowing the selection of content based on actual language use. Examples are the application of corpora in the creation of dictionaries and to inform the selection of content for textbooks. In addition, corpora are being used with learners in the language classroom, amongst others, to promote learning by discovery and as a type of consciousness-raising activity (cf. Aston, Bernardini and Stewart 2004).

The second advantage is said to be that CALL materials resemble the types of resources especially younger learners use in everyday life. The use of educational games is an example of ways in which materials developers have attempted to mimic learners’ out-of-class activities. Computer games have been shown to be potentially beneficial to learning and literacy development. Gee (2003) identified 36 learning principles in the games he investigated. An example of these is the ‘active, critical learning principle’. This stipulates that ‘all aspects of the learning environment (including the ways in which the semiotic domain is designed and presented) are set up to encourage active and critical, not passive, learning.’ In other words, computer games engage learners and get them involved in the tasks at hand. A second principle is the ‘regime of competence principle’ where ‘the learner gets ample opportunity to operate within, but at the outer edge of, his or her resources, so that at those points things are felt as challenging but not “undoable.” Despite their potential, early attempts at designing games for language learning have not been entirely successful. One reason for this is that developers have not yet adapted to the (open and interactive) characteristics of the game environment but instead have attempted to copy existing content into a game (Prensky 2001).

Perhaps more important is the claim that the use of computers can help learners engage in inherently more authentic forms of language use, for example through a language exchange, where two or more students with different language backgrounds communicate in each language for some of the time, or through a webquest, where learners have to interact with authentic materials. This claim raises similar questions as with traditional materials: what is our definition of ‘authentic’? Are authentic materials always necessarily better than non-authentic materials? And if the answer is no, then what would be the ideal balance? Claims that CALL materials are ‘authentic’ are only useful to the extent that this concept is operationalised and has been shown to be beneficial to learning.

Interaction
A major advantage of CALL materials is said to be that they facilitate interaction and language use. Chapelle (2005) refers to ‘interaction’ as ‘any two-way exchanges’. This can be between two people, or between a person and the computer, as well as within the person’s mind.

Swain’s output hypothesis (2005) claims that by producing the language, learners can become aware of gaps in their interlanguage, and others (e.g. N. Ellis 1996) have argued that language production can act as a form of practice, thereby strengthening existing connections in the mind. Sociocultural theory emphasises the importance of interaction in a meaningful context (Lantolf 2000) and various popular CALL programmes aim to create this context and opportunities for language use through email or chat communication, or through language exchanges between learners (where a learner with a specific L1 is partnered with someone who wants to learn that language as a second language). Some researchers, however, have pointed out that the comprehensible input from the interaction alone is not sufficient to result in the development of accuracy and that some type of attention to form is necessary. In computer-mediated communication (CMC), materials and instructions would thus have to include some direction as to what learners are expected to do and what aspects of the language they are required to use.

The accompanying instructions can affect whether the interaction focuses predominantly on meaning, on form, or on both. In a study of the effects of peer-feedback in online communication, Ware & O’Dowd (2008) assigned students to either an e-tutoring group (where they were asked to correct their partners’ mistakes), or an e-partnering group (where they were not asked to do so). Even though participants in the e-tutoring group provided more corrections, it was clear that many participants were not well-equipped to provide feedback:

We speculate that, from a student’s perspective, online exchanges are likely “forward-oriented” toward the next message containing new information, unlike, perhaps, teacher-directed class assignments that can be iterative products that are revised multiple times for accuracy (and a grade). Therefore, we would suggest that teachers structure carefully sequenced tasks so that they build on the previous interaction. (p. 54)

Situated learning
Above, mention has already been made of the importance of providing learners with the opportunity to use the language in a socioculturally meaningful context. Mobile technologies may make it easier to provide materials and support tailored to a particular situation. Ogata & Yano (2004), for example, developed a system that used PDAs to provide information on which Japanese forms of address to use in which situations. As participants moved from room (situation) to room, and from interlocutor (more status) to interlocutor (less status), the information changed. Developing materials for such situations requires knowledge of the entire domain (participants, situations, language used) and may be prove to very challenging, unless learners can actively tap into a larger database or access support from teachers when faced with difficulties in using the language. A more open-ended and somewhat less ambitious approach was used by Reinders (2007b, Reinders & Lewis forthcoming) who created exercises for use on Ipods and gave students tasks to complete for which they had to go out, talk to people, find and share information, and answer questions. The ability to have access to guidance and support, to record progress (using a microphone plugged into the Ipod), and to complete real-world activities with other learners, seemed to have a positive effect on students’ motivation and their ability to speak. However, more research is needed to investigate how situated language learning can be structured and its effects on language acquisition.

Multimedia
The ability to integrate different modes of presentation is an improvement over traditional materials. Different modalities have been shown to result in vastly different processing on the part of the learner (Leow 1995) and the ability for the teacher to ‘repackage’ materials to emphasise one modality over the other can be of benefit. Learners too, can choose on the basis of their preferences or to request more help (for example by turning on or off the subtitles on a DVD). The ability to use multimedia thus results in an enriched learning environment. Simulations are an example of a multimodal environment that have the potential to mimic real-world processes. In practice, however, CALL simulations have been built on very specific domains and are therefore limited in scope. This is largely because of technical challenges.

New types of activities
CALL materials can include activities that are difficult or impossible to achieve using other learning materials, such as moving objects across the screen (matching), recording one’s voice etc. Of course, the effects of each of these activity types needs to be investigated for what it aims to measure or teach, and this has not always been the case.

Feedback
Immediate feedback is possible, dependent on the user’s input and a whole range of other factors (past input, timing). Different forms of feedback are possible, such as those using sound, movement, text etc or a combination of them. Also, it is possible to implement forms of feedback such as modeling, coaching and scaffolding that are hard or impossible to implement in traditional learning environments. Natural language processing and parser-based CALL can potentially provide feedback based on participants’ prior language learning progress and their specific needs (Heift and Schulze 2007).

Non-linearity
A long-recognised benefit of hypermedia is its ability to display information non-linearly and for students to access information as and how they want to, rather than in a predetermined sequence. This is a benefit only insofar as students know how to find the information they need and have strategies to learn with hypermedia. Of course, and first and foremost, this is also only an advantage insofar as the quality of linked resources is sufficiently high.

Monitoring and recording of learning behaviour and progress
CALL programmes can record and monitor learners’ behaviour and progress and dynamically alter input, or make suggestions to the learner. They can also compare learners’ progress with their own goals and other learners’ (Reinders 2007b). The records can be made accessible to the student to encourage reflection on the learning process. Part of the rationale behind initiatives such as the European Union’s e-portfolio project, that encourage the keeping of personal records to support ongoing study and planning, is to develop learners’ metacognitive awareness and to engage their metacognitive strategies. Metacognitive awareness helps learners to prioritise their learning and helps learners select the most appropriate study plan and learning strategies. This, in turn, gives learners a sense of control over their learning and may help them to self-motivate (Ushioda 1996). Metacognitive strategies also help learners develop autonomy by allowing them to self-monitor and self-assess. In practice, however, it has proven to be particularly difficult to encourage learners to keep records or to plan their learning. Reinders (2006) found, for example, that many learners did not respond to computer prompts to create or revise learning plans and concluded that more training and staff intervention was necessary.

Control
As an extension of monitoring, learners potentially have more control over how they use CALL materials as they can often be accessed randomly or adapted to suit individual needs in level of difficulty of the input or in the amount of support available (e.g. with or without glossaries, spell checkers, etc).

Empowerment
An important benefit of the characteristics of CALL materials discussed above is that together they have the potential to empower learners by offering easier access to materials, greater control to learners, and more opportunities for the development of metacognitive skills and learner autonomy (cf. Shetzer & Warschauer 2000). At the same time, people have worried about the ‘digital divide’ or the potential for new technologies to leave disadvantaged groups even further behind. On the other hand, people (including we) have argued that technology can actually help close that gap and numerous examples exist of the technology bringing access to resources and opportunities that before did not exist, especially in the area of mobile technology (see also Warschauer 2004).

Conclusion
Many differences exist between CALL and traditional materials, however, the above brief review makes it clear that whether or not these differences translate into improved learning and teaching depends entirely on how the technology is implemented. It is also clear from the above that considerably more research is needed to establish how the differences impact (or not) our learners and how we can best take advantage of this. In the remainder of the chapter we look at two sets of theoretical principles for task design in CALL and then describe two approaches to the design of CALL materials, one in distance language teaching, the other is self-access.

CALL in theory

A recurrent theme in CALL is the need for more explicit links between materials development and SLA theory. Here we review two influential frameworks of principles for task design proposed by Chapelle (2001) and Doughty and Long (2003). Drawing on interactionist second language acquisition theory, the aim of Chapelle’s (2001) framework of criteria for CALL task appropriateness is to provide ‘ideal cognitive and social affective conditions for instructed SLA’ (p. 45). The first of these criteria, language learning potential, and arguably the most critical, is based on general processes for SLA, referring to the degree to which the task promotes focus on form; it is this focus which distinguishes language learning activities from an opportunity purely for language use. The requirement for focus on form is closely aligned to the requirement for meaning focus, referring to the need for learners’ attention to be directed towards the meaning of the language required to complete the task: both focus on form and meaning focus need to be present in the completion of a meaning-focused task. The importance of the individual learner is captured in the criteria of learner fit, including characteristics which need to be considered in designing CALL activities such as learning style, age and willingness to communicate. Authenticity in CALL as discussed above is based around the links between classroom and real-world language use, centring on texts and tasks that learners can find relevant in their language use beyond the classroom. Positive impact refers to effects beyond language learning potential including engaging learners’ interest and the development of literacy skills, learner autonomy and metacognitive awareness, for example. The final criterion practicality is an important one in that CALL activities should not impose too much of a burden on teachers and learners in terms of accessibility and use; the resourcing of CALL is a key dimension to this criteria.
Permission requested 22-4

(Chapelle 2001, p.55)

Another example of such an explicit formulation of design principles is offered by Doughty and Long (2003) based on cognitive and interactionist SLA theory. Specifically ten methodological principles of task-based learning are proposed:

1. Use tasks, not texts, as the unit of analysis.
2. Promote learning by doing.
3. Elaborate input (do not simplify, do not rely solely on “authentic” texts).
4. Provide rich (not impoverished) input.
5. Encourage inductive (chunk) learning.
6. Focus on form.
7. Provide negative feedback.
8. Respect “learner syllabi”/developmental processes.
9. Promote cooperative/collaborative learning.
10. Individualize instruction (according to communicative needs and psycholinguistically). (p. 52)

Distance foreign language learning is the specific technology-mediated context Doughty and Long have in mind, and much of their discussion is based around the constraints of that context. For example they identify the practicalities of developing an understanding of learners, and emerging learner needs in the distance context as key issues in adopting a task-based approach in distance language learning. Doughty and Long’s work informs many of the most significant contributions to task design in distance foreign language teaching including research on task design for desktop videoconferencing (Wang 2006) and for audiographic conferencing (Hampel 2006, Rosell-Aguilar 2006). The relative weight given to theoretical and practical issues is interesting in Doughty and Long’s framework: Chapelle (2005) comments that the guidelines for instructional materials given by Doughty and Long rely strongly on a theoretical view of how language is acquired through interaction and that this is ‘a defensible course of action for materials development’ (p. 57). From another perspective, referring to Doughty and Long’s contribution, White (2006) argues that there remains an important gap in the research literature, since no one has yet extended and elaborated such a synthesis, putting it into practice not only for course design but for sustained course delivery, and then identifying implications for theory, research and practice.

Doughty & Long’s design principles
Permission requested 22-4

CALL in practice
In the next section we discuss two projects in terms of their unique CALL features and the theoretical/pedagogical considerations reviewed above. The first project concerns a distance education environment, the second an online self-access programme.

Task Design in Online Distance Foreign Language Teaching
The challenges in materials design for the distance context have been well documented (see for example White 2003), including the fact that the teacher-designer is at times distant from the learners and the sites of learning. One result of this challenge has been that a number of researcher-practitioners have articulated rich accounts of the design processes they have undertaken. Here we explore one such account and relate it to our previous discussion.

Regine Hampel’s (2006) exploration of task design centres on the fact that while the computer medium in terms of its materiality differs from the kinds of resources generally used in face-to-face language learning settings, the field has been slow to appreciate and accommodate the particular features of technology-mediated learning environments, with reliance on transferring face-to-face tasks to the new settings. In the process of ‘rethinking task design’ Hampel explores how tasks can be devised appropriate for a multimodal virtual environment. A fascinating contribution of the research is the sustained comparison between task design and task implementation with different groups of learners and different tutors – that is exploring what happens to tasks in audiographic conferencing.

The learning environment named Lyceum was developed by the Open University UK, and is an Internet-based application which allows learners to interact synchronously using a range of modes: the modes include audio, writing and graphics, and the environment includes a voicebox, whiteboard, a concept map, a document facility and text chat. The key point is that while multimodal environments offer seemingly similar modes of communication to those of conventional classrooms, they have very different affordances which in turn impacts on how the environment, and tasks, are used by learners. (For a detailed description of audiographic environments see Hampel and Baber (2003).)

In discussing task development Hampel draws on the three-level approach discussed earlier, with approach, design and procedure stages, noting that the approach influences not just the design and implementation stages, but also that the evaluation during implementation feeds back into how the approach is understood in online environments. The theoretical approaches Hampel draws on are primarily interactionist SLA theory, sociocultural theory, and theories of medium, mode and affordances, all of which are needed to understand and inform the design of sociocollaborative tasks in multimodal environments.

The tasks designed by Hampel aim to address one of the key challenges of the distance learning context, that is providing opportunities for learners to develop the kinds of real-time interactive competence that is required to use language in interpersonal social processes (Kötter, 2001; White 2003). They have been designed to be part of online tutorials, and are just one learning source within the course. Hampel notes that the tasks ‘show a number of criteria which Chapelle […] has summarized for CALL and CMC’ (p. 113); she does not indicate whether the criteria were used implicitly or explicitly at different stages of the development process. What is clear, however, is that learner fit is critical for distance students in a technology-mediated mode, and that, addressing Doughty and Long’s concerns, detailed, practical knowledge of learners was drawn on in identifying the kinds of experiences they were likely to bring to tasks which would facilitate interaction and participation. Beneficial focus on form and meaning focus were also considered, as was authenticity, focusing on current issues in German-speaking countries using predominantly authentic texts. Hampel notes that while the scenarios and participant roles were not of themselves authentic they simulated authenticity and the authentic texts were seen as having a positive impact – another of Chapelle’s features – on student interest. Practicality, in terms of having resources to support the CALL activities was a key concern as learners were mostly located in their home environments, and careful planning – including online socialization – were directed at supporting this aspect of the process. Finally, and critically, positive impact was central to the tutorial tasks as learner motivation is often vulnerable at key points in distance learning processes and opportunities for interaction and support have been found to impact very positively on persistence and progression. Below are the sequences of activities available in Lyceum, including the online resources used and the skills practised:

Table 2: Outline of tasks
Steps Sequence Activity Resources Skills
1 In advance of tutorial (voluntary) Reading preparation document (tutorial summary) Course website Reading
2 In advance of tutorial (voluntary) Preparatory activity: finding information about the topic Course materials; WWW (via selected links on course website) Reading;
processing information from different sources
3 Tutorial (plenary) Sound check; warm-up activity Lyceum (audio, images, text) Listening; speaking
4 Tutorial (plenary) Introduction of the topic through brainstorming or preliminary discussion; instructions for group work (e.g. allocation of roles) Lyceum (audio, images, text) Listening; speaking
5 Tutorial (group work) Preparation for final activity (e.g. preparing roles, arguments, presentation or written text) Lyceum (audio, images, text) Summarizing information; negotiating positions; collaboration; preparing presentation or discussion
6 Tutorial (plenary) Final activity (e.g. discussion, presentation) Lyceum (audio, images, text) Taking part in presentation or discussion
7 After plenary Feedback on task, error correction Lyceum or email Reflection on learning
8 After the tutorial (voluntary) Additional group activity: expanding the task Lyceum and/or email Writing; collaboration
Hampel 2006: 114. Permission granted

The second part of Hampel’s study moves from theory and design to implementation, identifying significant differences between tasks as conceptualised and tasks as realised. Firstly Hampel notes how tutors adapted the tasks largely for practical reasons such as student numbers fluctuating, for unforeseen issues of learner fit, particularly in terms of learner needs and interests, and finally because of timing, with different stages of tasks taking much longer than anticipated. While positive impact was carefully considered at the design phase Hampel notes that not all students found the tasks engaging or motivating: in some cases this was due to the actions of peers who were linguistically or technologically more proficient, in other cases it was due to the lack of assessment awarded to this part of the course, pointing to wider issues of curricular articulation for technology-mediated tasks (White 2006). In addition the complexity of the multimodal environment was found, certainly in the initial stages, to overwhelm some students, having a somewhat inhibiting effect on communication, as did the absence of visual cues. Thus the mediating role of what can be broadly defined as learner interpretation of tasks (Batstone 2005) was key to understanding task enactment in synchronous online environments. Hampel concludes by underlining the importance of context-dependent features noted by Chapelle (2003) which must be taken account of in designing and implementing tasks: in this case the materiality of the multimodal environment and the ways in which learners and teachers responded to those features had a dramatic effect on what happens to tasks in audiographic conferencing.

An online self-access environment
In a rather different project carried out at the University of Auckland, the development of an online self-access environment (called ELSAC, or English Language Self-Access Centre) was initiated as a response to the large numbers of students needing English support. Studies done at the University estimated as many as 10,000 students could be in need of improving, especially, their academic English skills. The online self-access environment was designed as a practical solution to supporting this many students from all different backgrounds and faculties, and also as a way to foster learner autonomy and to allow students to develop skills to continue improving their English on their own (see Schwienhorst 2003, 2007, for a discussion of the relationship between autonomy and CALL). In terms of the unique features of CALL materials discussed above, especially the organisational advantages of anytime/anywhere access, the automatic storage and retrieval of learner records, and the hopes of cost efficiency were important drivers. Pedagogically speaking, the key aim was to offer students control and empower them, through allowing non-linear access to a wide range of multimedia resources to cater for a wide range of learner differences, and to offer feedback and support through the monitoring of learning behaviour and progress.

To this end, the online environment was developed consisting of two elements: 1) a large database of electronic resources (shown above), some commercially published, some developed in-house, to cater to all learner needs and interests, and 2) several tools to support the students’ learning process. Examples of the latter included a needs analysis, a learning plan, a learning record, and learning strategies worksheets. In addition to these tools there were several mechanisms that monitored student learning and gave feedback at key points in the learning process. An example of these was a process for comparing students’ needs (as identified in their needs analysis) with their learning plans and their actual learning. It was not uncommon, for example, for students to establish, say, writing expository essays as one of the priority skills for improvement, but then to continue using grammar resources. At this point the computer would prompt the students to revise their plans and/or materials use.

Studies into the effects of these tools and mechanisms on student learning (Reinders 2006, 2007a) made a number of interesting findings. In general, both questionnaires and interviews showed that students were extremely satisfied with the programme. Usage records showed that many students had accessed the resources and had done so frequently and over longer periods of time. Many students reported using more resources and more often than they normally did or would have without the programme; in this sense the programme’s access features were a clear advantage. Staff too were satisfied in that they could look up students’ progress and did not have to spend much time on administration; an advantage of the automatic storage and retrieval of learners’ work. However, SQL queries (queries of information stored in the records of a SQL database) of 1,200 student database records collected over one year gave a somewhat less positive picture. Despite numerous suggestions, many students did not complete their initial needs analysis and very few updated their learning plans as a result. Similarly, the prompts made by the computer were seldom heeded; when participants had set their minds on learning with particular materials or in a particular way, it was clearly difficult to encourage them to change.

The results of these studies were interpreted as showing a need for more learner training and more staff support. Students obviously needed more information about the rationale behind the programme and how to respond to its prompts. As a result of these studies, additional support structures were put in place. These included language advisory sessions where students met face-to-face with a language advisor to discuss their learning needs and progress. Although the advisors made extensive use of the electronic records of the programme, obviously the cost-efficiency factor of the software has turned out to be lower than expected. In addition, a range of workshops was implemented to help students develop independent learning skills.

Taking the above findings into account, a more recent incarnation of ELSAC was developed for King Mongkut University of Technology in Bangkok, called My English. Developed in a similar context (albeit in an EFL setting) and for similar reasons, this differed from the above programme in the inclusion of additional support mechanisms so as for students to contact staff more easily to get help, as well as several elements to encourage communication in English, such as chatrooms and online communication activities.
Hayo owns copyright.
[INSERT ‘MY ENGLISH’ SCREENSHOT HERE: SEE ARTWORK FILE]

As with ELSAC, the programme is a shell for teachers to place language learning materials in, and so its main intended advantages are at the level of the learning process (containing both process and content materials) rather than individual tasks. Nonetheless, the inclusion of interaction-oriented modules is in line with Doughty & Long’s recommendations. An important difference between ELSAC and My English is that the latter is not designed to be mainly used by students independently, but rather as an integral part of and complement to the existing language courses; the aim is to encourage ongoing study during and after those courses finish. In this way it is hoped that over time students engage in more language use and are exposed to more input than without such support programmes.

Conclusion

In the preceding sections we have tried to identify some of the features that make CALL materials unique and have discussed relevant theories and pedagogical approaches. Next, we have reviewed several examples of CALL materials and programmes. Although it is paramount to consider language learning materials from a pedagogical perspective it is important to remember that, even more so than with non-CALL materials, issues of practicality play an important role. Organisational and practical advantages offered by the use of technology can sometimes be sufficient reason to adopt a new technology, even outweighing any pedagogic advantages. Among the many important questions arising during the process of the development of CALL materials, a key one is how to reconceptualise language tasks in ways that enable us to provide the best opportunities for language learning. And a key way to meet this challenge suggested by Gruba (2004) can be found in our collective attempts to define tasks, write them and try them out with students; equally importantly there is a need to strengthen the links between theory, research and practice, and to acknowledge that the divide between CALL and non-CALL materials is disappearing. We hope that this will lead to a new understanding of materials development.

Discussion Questions and Tasks

Reflection
1. Look at how CALL materials are defined in this chapter – how does it relate to the way you think about language teaching materials?

2. Think about a CALL program that you have used. Which of the benefits in table 1 do you think it offers? Are there any missing from the table that you would add?

3. How useful is the idea of the role of a language teacher as designer? What are some of the strengths and the limitations of this as a perspective on what language teachers do?

4. Think about a teaching context you are familiar with. Which organisational and pedagogical advantages of CALL materials are the most evident?

5. What do you think can be the effect of providing students with non-linear access to CALL materials?

6. Can you identify the kinds of differences that may take occur between task design and task implementation in the kinds of synchronous online environments described by Hampel (2006)?

Evaluation
7. Look at some CALL materials in terms of Breen et al.’s (1979) distinction between content materials and process materials. Do you find this distinction helpful? How would you evaluate materials in terms of content and in terms of process?

Adaptation/Design
8. Choose a set of language teaching materials designed to fit a particular learning need. How would you need to adapt them to take account of the opportunities and constraints of a particular technology-mediated environment and pedagogical context?

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special issue of SiSAL on ‘advising for autonomy’

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

I’d like to announce the publication of a Special Issue of the Studies in Self-Access Learning (SiSAL) Journal, which is devoted to articles emerging from the recent IATEFL one-day conference, Advising for Language Learner Autonomy.

Featuring articles on learner metacognition, self-assessment and evaluation of self-directed learning, advising discourse and language policies, professional development for advisors, peer-advising, and micro-counselling, we hope it will be of interest to those involved in learning advising/counselling, self access and learner autonomy in general.

Please find the issue here: http://sisaljournal.org/issues/

We are now accepting contributions for the June 2012 issue, for which the deadline is April 30th. This is a general issue that welcomes submissions on topics related to self-access learning. Please refer to the SiSAL website for details of submission categories and guidelines.

Best wishes

Katherine Thornton (Co-editor of the Special Issue)

Teacher Training for Differentiation and Autonomy – seminars

Monday, March 26th, 2012

From Terry Lamb:

Together with Turid Trebbi I am planning a one-week seminar to be held at Les Brunets in France. Many of you will have heard of these regular seminars, which enable a small group of people to come together and explore specific issues related to language learning and teaching in a pleasant environment. These are not like other seminars, in that they take place in a private house, where participants are able to spend their days together and engage not only in in-depth discussion and workshops, but also to learn something about the local culture and environment.

The seminar will be held from 15th to 22nd August 2012, and this year the focus will be

Teacher Training for Differentiation and Autonomy

The aims of the seminar are:

To enhance our understanding of a differentiated languages classroom
To help teachers to meet the needs of individual students
To explore ways of supporting teachers in the organisation of a differentiated languages classroom
To provide an opportunity for discussion about how a pedagogy for autonomy supports differentiation in language learning

The target audience is teachers and teacher trainers in schools, colleges and higher education institutions such as universities, as well as academics and research students involved in researching in the above areas.

Sessions will explore how those involved in training teachers of any languages, either in schools, in universities or other higher education institutions, or in training organisations and teacher associations, can enable pre- or in-service teachers to develop pedagogical approaches to facilitating learning.

Issues will include:

q Strategies to support language teachers’ professional learning and development needs;

q supporting teacher autonomy (e.g. through supervision, collaboration, portfolios and action research);

q approaches to meeting individual language learning needs in classrooms;

q encouraging learner autonomy, engagement and motivation;

If you want to learn more about the programme, please contact me (T.Lamb@sheffield.ac.uk) or Turid (turid.trebbi@if.uib.no) for further information. (I didn’t want to attach documents here, but details of fees and accommodation and a draft programme are available on request.) It will also be possible to incorporate individual interests and contributions within this overall topic, as we hope that everyone will learn from everyone else in Les Brunets.

call for papers – IATEFL issue on autonomy

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

We are pleased to inform you about the Call for papers for a new Iatefl publication on learner autonomy entitled “Developing learner autonomy in foreign language learning: getting learners actively involved”, which I am editing together with Carmel Mary Coonan from the University of Venice (Italy). The volume will focus on how we might best develop learner autonomy in our classrooms, focusing on the different aspects connected to this theme.

The collection of papers starts from some reflections which occurred during our Lasig one-day international conference, which took place in Venice last September.

Papers by Leni Dam, David Little, Lienhard Legenhausen, Anna U. Chamot and other scholars in the field will be included in the publication.

The current call aims to add further theoretical and practical papers relating learner autonomy to our collection. The book will be part of the Lasig “Autonomy in Language Learning” series, both in print and e-book version, to be published within 2012 – mid 2013. Submissions have to be in English.

Papers from researchers, teachers, teacher trainers and learning advisors are welcome. Papers must be previously unpublished and cover one of the aspects below:

– research studies / practical experiences in the field of learner autonomy and related concepts (motivation, learner awareness, self-reflection, evaluation and use of tools like portfolios, journals, logbooks and so on)

– descriptions of courses for the development of learner autonomy.

Different points of view as well as both theoretical and more practical experiences will intersect in the book, in order to provide a new resource for reflecting on learner autonomy and related topics, raising issues for researchers and trying to propose some potential solutions for teachers.

If you are interested, the deadline for FULL PAPERS is 30th June 2012. Please find attached some style guidelines to follow when writing your paper.

Autonomy conference Graz

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

IATEFL in conjunction with the treffpunkt sprachen- Zentrum für Sprache, Plurilingualismus und Fachdidaktik – at the University of Graz, Austria.

The two-day event will host a series of workshops and four plenaries on the theme ‘The Answer is Learner Autonomy’. The plenary speakers are:
David Little, Trinity College, Dublin
Leni Dam, LASIG coordinator, Denmark
Lienhard Legenhausen, University of Münster, Germany
Ema Ushioda, University of Warwick, UK
For further details, please see: http://graz2012.wordpress.com/