Associate Professor Garold Murray holds a PhD in language education from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He has worked with ESL and EFL learners in junior high school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate programs; and language teachers in both pre-service and in-service contexts. In the area of out-of-class learning, he established and managed two self-access centres in Japan, one of which was open to the general public. He has served as convener of the AILA Research Network on Learner Autonomy in Language Learning (2005-2011) and president of the Japan Association of Self-Access Language Learning (2005-2010). His research interests focus on learner autonomy, social learning spaces, narrative inquiry, and complexity theory. In addition to having published widely in the area of learner autonomy and social learning spaces, he is editor of the book The Social Dimensions of Learner Autonomy (2014) and co-editor of the books Identity, Motivation, and Autonomy in Language Learning (2011); Social Spaces for Language Learning: Stories from the L-café (2016); and Space, Place and Autonomy in Language Learning (2018).
Autonomy from a Complexity Perspective: What Can We Learn?
In this presentation I explore what can be learned about learner autonomy by examining it from the perspective of complex dynamic systems theory. In the late 1970s when Henri Holec introduced autonomy to language learning, he defined it as ‘the ability to take charge of one’s learning’. At that time, his definition offered a much-needed focus on individual learners and their potential to take responsibility for all aspects of their learning, from goal setting to assessment. Holec’s model has guided my work in language classrooms and self-access centres for nearly thirty years. However, my focus has gradually shifted from the individual learner working independently towards individual learners working collaboratively. To help me understand the learning I saw happening through social interaction, I first adopted a community of practice perspective (Wenger, 1998). In recent years, this frame of reference has expanded to encompass ecology and complexity thinking. In this presentation, I discuss how adopting complex dynamic systems theory as a theoretical orientation has shaped my views on learner autonomy and Holec’s model.
In order to illustrate my points, I draw on data from three studies I carried out over an eight-year period in a social space for language learning at a Japanese university: an ethnography, a multiple-case study and a narrative inquiry. After describing the learning context, outlining the studies and tracing my evolving theoretical orientation, I discuss what I learned about learner autonomy by analyzing the data from the perspective of complex dynamic systems theory; and, how this informed by teaching practice. Before concluding, I reflect on the wider implications for practice and future research.
Exploiting Freely Available Technology for Out-of-Class Language Learning
Through Internet technology, today’s language learners have easy, out-of-class access to a wide range of free resources. While some learners take advantage of the learning opportunities these provide, others fail to see their potential. Teachers have a crucial role to play in encouraging and facilitating out-of-class learning. This role includes orienting learners to helpful resources and modelling ways of exploiting them. In order to support teachers as they take up this challenge, this workshop aims to enable participants to generate a collection of out-of-class learning activities which make use of readily available resources.
First, I present a pedagogical model that teachers can use to help learners frame, focus and organize their out-of-class learning. Next, working in small groups, participants will be invited to identify Apps and other resources that students use every day. Then, each group will choose one resource and brainstorm ways in which students could use it to improve their language skills. As a second step, participants will explore how students’ out-of-class work with this resource might be linked to classroom activities. Next, we will consider some of the pitfalls associated with the resources and offer suggestions and tips for adopting them for language learning. Finally, groups will share their ideas with others. At the end of the workshop, participants will have a collection of out-of-class language learning activities that they can introduce to their learners, and potentially integrate into their English curriculum.