September 2011

Learner Autonomy through ICT in an English Language Curriculum

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Learner Autonomy is basically independence in language learning, which includes willingness for (language) learning on one’s own. Autonomy is defined as:

…the freedom and ability to manage one’s own affairs, which entails the right to make decisions as well. Responsibility may also be understood as being in charge of something, but with the implication that one has to deal with the consequences of one’s own actions. Autonomy and responsibility both require active involvement, and they are apparently very much interrelated. (Scharle & Szabo, 4)

The underlying assumption is that autonomous learners are more likely to succeed than are learners who are passively reliant on their teachers or textbooks to set the destinations and routes in language learning. Hence it is important for language teachers to ‘know’ the learner before attempting to teach them. Learners like to get information in different ways and these different ways are called perceptual styles. A person who receives new information in his/her favorite style will learn better, understand better and remember better. Knowing about perceptual styles will help us understand when we a study/teach and when we organize meetings or give presentations. There are four perceptual styles:

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Making Evaluation Authentic

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* Article first published in Fortell, September 2011 issue.

Background

Thirty-two years of teaching English tells me that one of the only ways of making testing interesting and relevant is by making it an authentic activity and an integral part of the students’ learning programme. This is especially important for teaching and testing at the under-graduate level. Students at this stage have already had twelve years taking formal testing and most have mastered the art of cracking and passing exams without necessarily learning anything valuable or significant. They are oriented to the system well enough to know that memorizing from guidebooks or kunjis is a sure route to success while for the reckless or the adventurous, cheating from slips of papers tucked away into shoes or blouses or attempting to send in proxy candidates are attemptable options. It is against this mindless taking of tests and examinations that I see value in what I wish to share.

The University of Delhi has thankfully made space for Internal Assessment from 2007 with 15 marks being allotted for Project/Seminar, etc. and 5 marks for Assignment (besides 10 marks for Home Exams and 5 marks for Attendance). It is in the space available for Projects and Assignments that I experiment with interactive, learning-oriented evaluation procedures.

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