Zofia Turek
Ekonomia, Scenariusze

"Organizacja rachunkowości w jednostkach gospodarczych" - scenariusz lekcji z przedmiotu zasady rachunkowości

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The notion of the students' autonomy in acquiring knowledge - an attempt at defining the notion of autonomy

Holec (1989) claims that the main lines of development of the students' autonomy are based on a three-way distinction: self-directed learning, the acquisition of autonomy by the student and the relationships between autonomy and self-directed learning. He defines the term self-directed learning as the way in which the various modalities of the learning programme are determined: i.e. content, methods, objectives, place, time, pace, and evaluation.

According to Holec (1989) the students' responsibility can be analysed in two different ways. First it can be regarded as something static: the student may be responsible for defining every aspect of his learning programme, or for defining some of it, or none. Accepting this responsibility means that the student has to determine the nature of the decision which he then takes. For example, as regards the definition of the content of his learning programme, the student has to choose the kind of content which will help him to attain the objectives he has defined, and which he will in fact include in his learning programme. Knowles (1975) adds that taking on this responsibility is not necessarily something the student does on his own. It can be done together with other students or with outside help. In the latter case, the outside help may be provided directly, by a teacher for example, or indirectly, through materials such as books, recordings or specialised audio-visual aids. Holec (1989) underlines that the student is not helped in undertaking the decision by someone else actually making the decision for him, but makes the decision himself by being shown what it involves. From Knowles (1975) we learn that the student needs to think of all the different sources which are available to him: textbooks and other commercially published materials, his own previous experience of learning or that of other learners he knows, and so on. If necessary, he also needs to discover methods and techniques other than those which he already knows, so that he can adapt his programme to his personal learning situation. He can do this either by asking himself whether there are some activities he has come across when studying non-language subjects which could be transferred to his present situation, or simply by using his imagination. In Holec's (1980) opinion the main result of the student's choosing his own time and place of learning is that it becomes possible to take into account not only the conventional times and places, but many other considerations, such as a journey by car. The most important thing is that the student can choose the most convenient time or place which can more easily contribute to his learning, because it will put him at his ease and make him free from distractions.

Holec (1980) adds that the student can proceed by trial and error, modifying his choices as he goes along, learning from experience, and he will be able to do this without any great inconvenience - provided he carries out regular and frequent evaluations of his learning programme.

As far as the acquisition of autonomy is concerned, Holec (1989) underlines that this is a dynamic process, not a stable condition but something which develops. Wang and Palincsar (1989) try to concentrate on its dynamism describing autonomous students as those who have the capacity for being active and independent in the learning process. They can identify goals and change them to suit their own learning needs and interests. Dickinson (1988) defines autonomy as:

"(...) the situation in which the learner is totally
responsible for all of the decisions concerned
with his learning and the implementation of
those decisions. In full autonomy there is no
involvement of a 'teacher' or an institution". Dickinson (1988: 11)

However, Dickinson further adds that an autonomous student, who no longer requires help from a teacher to organise his learning, does not have to work in isolation. Many autonomous students work with others in their process. The ability to direct one's own learning programme includes a certain number of skills and a certain amount of knowledge, which can be deduced from the description of self-directed learning. Dickinson (1988) informs us that, in general, there are very few students who already possess this knowledge and skill when they set out to learn a language. The ability to execute one's own learning programme is not innate. In the majority of cases, therefore, the learner has to acquire this capacity; he has to learn how to learn, to set off a process which will eventually enable him, if he is successful, to execute his own learning programme. Like every other learning programme, his may vary in length, difficulty, and in its degree of success. The problems this type of learning programme gives rise to are, for most students, connected with the radical change in the student's role and his perception of it. Obviously, the acquisition of new knowledge and skills also involves technical difficulties of all kinds, related to the discovery process which the student has to set in motion if he is to become autonomous and not simply increase his stock of knowledge.

According to Holec (1989) self-direction, which results in autonomous learning, is a skill, an ability, a know-how - in this case, how to realise that capacity. He claims that the logical relationship between self-direction and autonomy is such that doing something implies knowing how to do it, but that the reverse is not always true.

Horowitz (1987) reminds us that it is the student who acquires autonomy. The student is also involved in self-directed learning, therefore it is the student who has to decide whether or not he wants to start or continue self-directed learning of a language. Holec (1989) adds that if a student who is truly autonomous decides to direct the rest of his learning programme himself, he ought to be capable of doing so.


Dickinson (1995) states clearly that a common theme in justifications for autonomy is that autonomous students become more highly motivated and that autonomy leads to better, more effective work. This happens because an active, independent attitude to learning and personal involvement in decision making enhances motivation to learn and, consequently, increases learning effectiveness. This link between autonomy and motivation, according to Knowles, rests on the fact that:

"(...) there is convincing evidence that people who
take the initiative in learning (proactive learners)
learn more things and learn better than do people
who sit at the feet of teachers, passively waiting to
be taught (reactive learners) (...). They enter into
learning more purposefully and with greater
motivation." Knowles (1975: 14)

De Charms (1984) adds that motivation can be increased through encouraging students to exert peronal control over their learning and to take responsibility for it. Tudor also presents his opinion writing that:

"The basic idea is that learning activities will be
more relevant if it is the students, as opposed
to the teacher, who decide on the conceptual
and linguistic content of these activities. It also
assumes that students' involvement and motivation
will be greater if they can decide how activities are
structured." Tudor (1993:22)

Little (1991) agrees with such statements, writing that because the student sets the agenda, learning should be more focused and purposeful, and thus more effective both immediately and in the longer term. Scrivener sums this up by stating that:

"(...) people learn more by doing things themselves
rather than by being told about them." Scrivener (1994: 4)

Palincsar and Wang (1989) suggest that motivation to learn and learning effectiveness can be increased in students who take responsibility for their own learning, who understand and accept that their learning success is a result of effort, and that failure can be overtaken with greater effort and better use of strategies. Wenden (1991) claims that autonomous students are definitely willing to take on the responsibility for their learning because they see themselves as having a crucial role in their foreign language learning. Deci and Ryan (1985) also approach this problem, noting that motivation tends to be higher in students who are interested in the learning task and the learning outcomes for their own sake rather than for rewards which result from success. Wenden (1991) states that autonomous students derive energy and motivation from the knowledge of their errors and continue to work even harder.

All of these theorists and researchers provide us with justifications for the promotion of autonomy among foreign language students. They persuade us that learning success and enhanced motivation are conditional on students taking responsibility for their own learning. It is only then that they are able to control their own learning and perceive that their learning successes or failures are to be attributed to their own efforts and strategies rather than to factors outside their control.

However, Holec (1989) makes us aware that if the choice between self-directed learning and other types of learning is to be a real one for the student, it is also necessary to ensure that all these types of learning are on an even footing. In the short term, this means avoiding preference of any kind, implicit or explicit, for any particular type or types. Doing so would bias the student's choice: he would choose the 'better' type without really thinking about it, or would feel somehow guilty for having chosen the second-best. Hence, it is necessary to provide conditions in which the student has a free choice. The same problem is encountered when dealing with the development of autonomy.


1. Abe, D. and Gremmo, M. 1989. Teaching learning: redefining the teacher's role, in Riley, P. (ed.). Discourse and Learning. New York: Longman.
2. Allwright, R.L. 1982. Perceiving and pursuing learners' needs, in Geddes, M. and Sturtridge, G. (eds.). Individualization. Modern English Publications.
3. De Charms. 1984. Motivation enhancement in educational settings, in Ames, C. and Ames, R.E. (eds.). Motivation in Education vol. 1. New York: New York Academic Press.
4. Deci, E.L. and Ryan, R.M. 1985. Intrinsic motivation and self determination, in Human Behaviour. New York: Plenum Press.
5. Dickinson, L. 1988. Self-instruction in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge Ubiversity Press.
6. Dickinson, L. 1995. Autonomy and motivation. A literature review, in System 23/2. Oxford: Pergamon.
7. Holec, H. 1980. Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
8. Holec, H. 1989. On autonomy: some elementary concepts, in Riley, P. (ed.) Discourse and learning. New York: Longman.
9. Horowitz, E.K. 1987. The learner as a manager, in Rubin, J. and Wenden, A. (eds.). Learner Strategies in Language Learning. Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall.
10. Knowles, M. 1975. Self-directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers. Chicago: Association Press.
11. Little, D. 1991. Autonomy: Definitions, Issues and Problems. Dublin: Authentic.
12. Palincsar, A.S. and Wang, M.C. 1989. Teaching students to assume an active role in their learning, in Reynolds, M.C. (ed.). Knowledge Base for the Beginning Teacher. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
13. Scrivener, J. 1994. Learning Teaching. Oxford: Heinemann.
14. Tough, A. 1979. The Adults'Learning Projects: A Fresh Approach to Theory and Practice in Adult Learning. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
15. Tudor, I. 1993. Teacher roles in the learner-centred classroom, in ELT Journal, 47/1.
16. Wenden, A. 1991. Learner Strategies for Learner Autonomy. Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall International.

Opracowanie: Aldona Turek

Zgłoś błąd    Wyświetleń: 1867

Uwaga! Wszystkie materiały opublikowane na stronach są chronione prawem autorskim, publikowanie bez pisemnej zgody firmy Edgard zabronione.


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