Sunday, February 26, 2012

Learner autonomy vs teacher autonomy

This week I read articles related to learner autonomy like Thanasoulas' article http://iteslj.org/Articles/Thanasoulas-Autonomy.html  and Samuel Sheu's one http://coyote.miyazaki-mu.ac.jp/learnerdev/LLE/8.1/sheuE.html which I found most informative. However, I gave more thought on the interconnections between teacher and learner autonomy thanks to the conversation of Richard Smith with Andy Barfield found on  http://coyote.miyazaki-mu.ac.jp/learnerdev/LLE/8.1/smithE.html and secondly due to the position I hold, that of a headteacher. Convinced that learner autonomy is by far the most important goal for a school, my main concern now is to find ways to encourage teacher autonomy, given that it goes hand in hand with learner autonomy.  
One needs to consider which aspects of the teaching context are objectively against any teacher autonomy and to what extent and secondly to examine the degree to which teachers are willing to abandon these otherwise strict guidelines in terms of curriculum, preselected books and teaching material, time and type of assessment. To my mind, there are opportunities for a teacher to design, make decisions, use alternative resources without having to account for or putting their professional name at risk. I always believed that the set of rules or guidelines given my the ministry are only indicative of what students need to learn. At no point is there a hint by the law that a teacher is unauthorised to use any material or reorganise the content in a way that better meets the learners' needs. What really matters is the learning outcome, and to me, the strict guidelines can be seen not as a recipe but they are given to ensure that all teachers do at least more or less the same things in all schools throughout the country. By no means does it imply that teachers who feel confident and are capable to move forward are obliged to go by the book. I suppose the system is designed to safeguard the learners from the small percentage of teachers who are not highly qualified in terms of pedagogy __and the system "knows"  how teachers enter this professional sector. Besides the system seeks equilibrium and thus tries to be based on the big number of the average teachers and thus ignores or swallows the small percentage of pioneers. But these two marginal minorities make the difference. Isn't it about time to help the weak teachers and give ground to the gifted ones?

Another aspect of this big issue is the teachers'  reasoning for what they do, what they would like to do and they don't and so on and so forth. One should be able to distinguish the real obstacles from the alibis for doing nothing more that the minimum. Lots of excuses for not integrating technology into the lessons, for example. However, with only one computer a teacher can do wonders. They can totally transform their lessons and not only grasp their students' attention but keep that vivid  throughout a whole teaching period. My colleagues in this course suggested beautiful ideas. Ky, for instance, uses this site www.howjsay.com to improve students' pronunciation,   Luisa used just one video clip  My Cubicle in multiple ways and thus taught vocabulary, critical thinking, listening and writing.  And the list is much longer than this.

I 'm borrowing  John Wooden's quote as cited in Robert's post to end this reflective post:

"Don't let what you can't do, stop what you can do".

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marina,

    I have to thank you once again for raising a very interesting point in this week’s discussion: teacher autonomy. It really makes me think harder about my role as both a teacher and an administrator. As a teacher, in order to promote autonomous learning, I need to be empowered and should have the freedom to do things that I deem appropriate in my classes, while being an administrator, I should enforce flexible policies where teachers can develop their own ideas and use their creativity to enhance the quality of teaching through the promotion of autonomous learning.

    See you again very soon in week 8.