Developing independent language learning strategies
This chapter begins with a brief examination of the educational and pedagogical theory which supports the development of greater learner autonomy in the languages curriculum. This is followed by a case study of one school in England which has made considerable progress in the implementation of the theory as a means of delivering the new Modern Foreign Language National Curriculum for England and Wales.
Focus on learning
In his book The Nature of Learning, Cullingford (1990:1) makes the statement that ‘what children learn depends on how they learn’. At first glance this claim may appear self-evident to the reader. Further consideration, however, will stimulate reflection on many of the teaching and learning processes which are often taken for granted in the day-to-day planning of language lessons.
The first point to note is the focus given to learning as opposed to teaching. One commonly held view is that a child’s education is determined solely by the direct intervention of the teacher ‘delivering’ the curriculum: learning is a direct outcome of teaching, since anything taught will automatically be learned, provided it has been taught thoroughly enough. A result of this viewpoint is the teacher-centred classroom in which the teacher is busily performing while the pupils ‘listen’ with varying degrees of involvement. For language teachers, who are all too often the only source of the target language in the classroom, the pressure to be teaching actively all the time is felt particularly acutely, with the result that they typically work far harder than their pupils, tending to feel guilty if they are not personally being active in the classroom. In this situation pupils may only be involved superficially, resulting in loss of concentration and a resultant deterioration in behaviour. The conscientious teacher, determined to maintain control of the situation,