The first five days
Establishing expectations for facilitating learner autonomy
Facilitating lifelong language learning amongst students is a frequently mentioned goal of many language teachers. Teachers want their students to fall in love with the cultures and languages they have dedicated their lives to studying. However, igniting the spark for learning beyond the classroom can be a real challenge. In the current educational culture where motivation for learning is too often focused on extrinsic motivations like passing tests and making good grades, how do teachers redirect students toward intrinsic motivations like a love for learning? Research into various fields of study have provided evidence that it typically takes at least ten years of concerted effort to master most skills. From this premise it stands to reason that in order for language learners to reach higher levels of language proficiency, there is a need to promote learner autonomy that extends learning beyond the language classes students take in schools. Facilitating learner autonomy requires a reconceptualization of the way language classes are structured. Building upon goal theories, task-based language learning, and deep reflection within a transparent learning framework can help to provide students with the skills to continue learning beyond the classroom. This framework can set students on a more self-directed path toward language learning that is both intrinsically motivating and engaging. Throughout my own research and practice I have begun to develop a process to facilitate this type of learning environment for my students. In this paper, I share my own successes and challenges as I spent the first five days of a semester establishing expectations for facilitating learner autonomy.