Reflective practitioner research on social language learning in an autonomous learning setting

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This paper examines social learning in the context of a university English course based on the principles of learner autonomy. This is achieved through a research approach to practice, employing ideas from autoethnography (Choi, 2017), Exploratory Practice (Allwright & Hanks, 2009) and reflective practice (Moon, 2005).

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This paper examines how social learning manifests itself in an autonomous language learning context – a university English course founded on and grounded in the principles of learner autonomy. On this course, students define, carry out and evaluate (Holec, 1981) a programme of work in order to fulfil their foreign-language degree requirement. The main pedagogical support they receive is through language advising sessions and informal learning groups led by teachers and/or peers. My role as a advisor/teacher on the course affords an insider perspective into students’ attitudes to and understandings of learning as a social phenomenon, as well as the steps they take and challenges they face in realizing them. Carrying out this research is ultimately a means of engaging and communicating with my students and learning how to better support their language development. Using ideas from autoethnography (Choi, 2017), Exploratory Practice (Allwright & Hanks, 2009) and reflective practice (Moon, 2005), I explore the social learning aspects of students’ courses and my own responses to them. The methods used to record and reflect on these include freewriting after advising and teaching sessions and questionnaires used primarily pedagogically as reflection tasks. The approach involves using reflective writing as a ‘method of inquiry’ (Richardson & St. Pierre, 2005), both for my students’ language learning and my professional development.

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University of Helsinki

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