Language learner autonomy

In language learning, autonomy is seen as an attribute of language learners, a capacity to take responsibility for one's learning in the field of language learning (Holec, 1981), or an ability to self-direct one's learning without the supervision of a teacher: that is, to make one's own decisions regarding all the actions to be undertaken for language learning. Little (2000) added to that definition the idea that learner's autonomy demands specific psychological abilities, such as capacity for detachment, critical reflection, decision making and independent action. Recently, in an attempt to reconcile Holec's and Little's now classic views of learner autonomy, Menezes explained that 'Autonomous learners take advantage of the linguistic affordances in their environment and act by engaging themselves in second language social practices. They also reflect about their learning and use effective learning strategies' (2011, p. 63). Currently, autonomy is being reconceptualised under other learner-focused constructs such as self-directed learning, self-regulated learning, self-determination, self-motivation, agency and identity. The common point between these notions is the focus on the self.

This ability to take charge of one's learning, however, is not always innate in individuals, who exhibit different degrees of autonomy. Autonomy can be considered either as an individual psychological matter or as a sociopolitical factor in the learner's environment (Benson, 1996). In other words, autonomy is a personality trait or the result of the politico-educational policies of a given country. We believe that autonomy, in the field of language education, combines the two factors because an individual develops his/her autonomous capacity within the context of specific school systems.

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