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Self-directed learning occurs when learners control both the learning objectives and the means of learning. That is, learners engage in self-directed learning by making their own decisions about what and how they are going to learn (Lowry, 1989). When learners take on a self-directed learning project, they gain more than new skills or knowledge. They may also develop motivation, independence, discipline, and confidence (Abdullah, 2001).
Central tenets of self-directed learning include the following:
Before engaging in a self-directed learning project, learners should be able to answer for themselves the following important questions:
The following resources provide information on self-directed learning.
Abdullah, M. H. (2001). Self-directed learning. ERIC Digest. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication.
Lowry, C. M. (1989). Supporting and facilitating self-directed learning. ERIC Digest. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education.
ERIC/CLL is grateful to Dr. John Means of Temple University for his valuable assistance in compiling this Resource Guide Online.
Digests are 1500- to 2000-word brief overviews of specific topics in education.
Language Learning Strategies: An Update
Learning To Learn: Preparing Teachers and Students for Problem-Based Learning
The Role of Metacognition in Second Language Teaching and Learning
Self-Directed Learning: Myths and Realities
Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is an international journal that provides a forum to discuss discoveries in the field of CALL, including computer assisted composition and translation, intelligent tutoring systems, and simulated active learning environments.
The ELT Journal
seeks to bridge the gap between the everyday practical concerns of English
language teaching (ELT) professionals and related disciplines such as
linguistics, psychology, and sociology. Articles are available in full on
the Web. Recent articles about autonomy and language learning include Learner
Initiative in the Language Classroom (Vol. 56, No. 1) and Self-Assessment
in Autonomous Computer-Aided Second Language Writing (Vol. 56, No.
Language Learning & Technology is an online refereed journal that seeks to disseminate research to foreign and second language educators in the United States and around the world on issues related to technology and language education. Topics include computer assisted language learning, autonomous language learning, distance learning, and technology and indigenous languages.
System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics is a quarterly journal that publishes the findings of the applications of educational technology and applied linguistics to problems of foreign language teaching and learning. System regularly publishes articles on self-directed learning, including two special issues: Metacognitive Knowledge and Beliefs in Language Learning (Vol. 27, No. 4) and Autonomy, Self-Direction and Self Access in Language Teaching and Learning: The History of an Idea (Vol. 23, No. 2).
Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. Essex: Pearson Education.
Benson, P., & Voller, P. (Eds.). (1997). Autonomy and independence in language learning. London: Longman.
Brookfield, S. (Ed.). (1985). Self-directed learning: From theory to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Brown, H. D. (1989). A practical guide to language learning: A fifteen-week program of strategies for success. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Brown, H. D. (1991). Breaking the language barrier: Creating your own pathway to success. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
Brown, H.D. (2002). Strategies for success: A practical guide to learning English. Des Moines, IA: Addison Wesley Longman.
Candy, P. C. (1991). Self-direction for lifelong learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cohen, A. D. (1990). Language learning: Insights for learners, teachers, and researchers. Rowley, MA: Newbury.
Cohen, A. D. (1998). Strategies in learning and using a second language. London: Longman.
Dickinson, L. (1987). Self-instruction in language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dufeu, B. (1994). Teaching myself. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ellis, G., & Sinclair, B. (1989). Learning to learn English: A course in learner training. Glasgow: Cambridge University Press.
Fuller, G. E. (1987). How to learn a foreign language. New York: Storm King Press.
Gardner, D., & Miller, L. (1996). Tasks for independent language learning. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
Hammond, M., & Collins, R. (1991). Self-directed learning: Critical practice. London: Kogan Page.
Larson, D. N., & Smalley, W. A. (1972). Becoming bilingual: A guide to language learning. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Marshall, L., & Rowland, F. (1993). A guide to learning independently. Buckingham, England: Open University Press.
Piskurich, G. M. (1993). Self-directed learning: a practical guide to design, development and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Rubin, J., & Thompson, I. (1994). How to be a more successful language learner (2nd ed.). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Stevick, E. W. 1989. Success with foreign languages: Seven who achieved it and what worked for them. New York: Prentice Hall.
Vincent, S. (Ed.). (1999). The
multigrade classroom: A resource handbook for small, rural schools.
Self-directed learning. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional
Wenden, A. (1991). Learner strategies for learner autonomy: Planning and implementing learner training for language learners. Cambridge: Prentice Hall.
The AILA Scientific Commission on Learner Autonomy was established in order to develop a methodology of language learning; to stimulate further research in the area of learner strategies, self-directed learning, and self-instruction; and to encourage the development of curricula. Their Web site includes information on the commission’s current projects, a yearly newsletter, and links to autonomous learning sites.
a publisher and distributor of self-instructional, personal development,
educational audiovisual materials. Their products include self-instructional
language courses in 103 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu, and a large selection
of courses and related cultural materials for Native American languages.
They also carry many English as a second/foreign language instructional
Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning, maintained by Phil Benson and hosted by the English Centre of Hong Kong University, is intended to be a resource for language teachers and researchers who are interested in autonomy and independence. The site includes links to organizations and self-access centers and an extensive bibliography on autonomy.
Brigham Young University Independent Study offers university courses in German, Hebrew, and Spanish, and secondary education courses in American Sign Language, Mandarin Chinese, English as a second language, French, German, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish.
The Calico Review offers software reviews of language learning materials.
E.L. Easton Languages Online provides resources for the study of Albanian, Chinese, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Polish, Russian, and Spanish. Also included are links to foreign language bookstores, listservs, and search engines.
for Language Teachers and Learners is a searchable collection of annotated
links useful to language teachers and learners.
LangMedia: The Five College Foreign Language Media Archive provides country-specific video, audio, and still images for use by language learners. Languages featured include Arabic, Croatian, Hindi, Japanese, Portuguese, Thai, and Urdu.
and Culture Center of the School for International Training provides
online culture and language resources, information about language learning
and strategies, a guided self-instruction program, and links to resources
for individual languages.
Language E-thologies is maintained by the Centre for Language Training (CFSL) at the Canadian Foreign Service Institute. The Language E-thologies are links to hundreds of Web sites related to language learning on the Internet that provide practice in listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, as well as additional resources in testing, reference tools, activities, software, and immersion.
Language Learning in Tandem helps language learners find tandem partners to assist in autonomous language learning. Tandem partners help each other learn their respective native language through e-mail, telephone, or other electronic media.
Language Learning Net provides a language course finder as well as links to foreign language organizations, book suppliers, and certification courses.
Language Learning Workshop provides information on how to perform basic language learning tasks, a set of worksheets you can print out and copy for your own use, a system to help you identify and solve language learning problems, a set of learning style instruments to provide insights into how your learning style can affect the way you go about language learning, and online books and essays about language and culture learning.
Meetup is a free service that organizes local gatherings about varied topics. Language learners can find or create groups to meet up with local people who are interested in conversation practice, writing, reading, and discussion in many different languages.
for Language Learning, from SIL International, offers suggestions
for self-directed language learning based on the principles of language
and learning styles and strategies.
The Self-Directed Learning Web Page includes a section on techniques, tools, and resources for the self-directed learner.
Teaching Learners to Be Self-Directed is an online reprint of an article by Gerald Grow that appeared in Adult Education Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, Spring 1991.
The UCLA Language Materials
Project is an online database of teaching and learning materials for
less commonly taught languages throughout the world. Over 4,000 resources
100 languages have been compiled on the site.
The Virtual CALL Library offers links to Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) software available for downloading.
The Learner Independence Special Interest Group of IATEFL hosts a listserv that gives participants an opportunity to share opinions and ideas on learner independence related issues.
TESOL Arabia Learner Independence Special Interest Group List aims to create a network of people interested in issues related to independent learning and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, expertise, knowledge, experiences, and advice.
AUTO-L is an electronic discussion forum that promotes dialogue and exchange
among language teachers and researchers involved in learner autonomy, self-directed
learning, learning strategies, learner development, learner independence,
learner training, and self-access. Requests to be subscribed to the list
removed from it should be sent to Anita
Information on obtaining the documents listed below can be found at the
end of this section or by clicking here. These documents
were identified by searching the ERIC database using the following combination
of ERIC descriptors:
Second Language Learning
Training Learners for Self-Instruction.
Publication Date: 1999
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC05 Plus Postage.
Availability: Grantham Book Services Ltd., Isaac Newton Way, Alma Industrial Park Estate, Grantham, Lincs
NG31 8SD, England (15 British pounds). Tel: 01476-541-080; Fax: 01476-541-061.
This book presents practical solutions for teaching foreign language learners self instruction, ranging from needs analysis to resourcing, strategy training and monitoring tools. Special emphasis is placed on different ways in which learners can be supported by learning how to analyze their own needs and set their own goals, how to choose the most effective means to reach those goals, and how to monitor their own progress. Chapter titles include the following: "What is a Learner Training Programme?" "Aids for Goal Setting"; "Providing Learning Resources"; "Helping Learners Monitor Their Own Progress"; "The Learners' Response"; "Controlling Standards"; "A Few Questions for Future Development"; "Preferences"; and "Photocopiable Appendices." The references chapter is an annotated list of resources in print and electronic form. (Contains 31 references.) (KFT)
Making Sense of Autonomous Language Learning. English Centre Monograph No. 2.
Benson, Phil; Lor, Winnie
Publication Date: 1998
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC03 Plus Postage.
The monograph emerged from experience with an independent learning program at the English Centre of the University of Hong Kong. Students enrolled in classroom-based English spend part of their study time improving their English in ways they have chosen themselves, with the support of self-access learning facilities and counselors. They were asked to reflect on their experiences and evaluate their progress. The report is presented in three parts. The first introduces the notion of autonomy and explores three
relevant areas of the literature: learner beliefs about language learning; conceptions of learning; and Vygotskyan interpretations of self-direction and inner speech. A model for analyzing learner discourse on language learning in conceptual terms is offered. In part two, the model is applied to the data to analyze the conceptions of language and language learning collectively available to the learners in the study and their readiness for autonomous learning. The third part contains two case studies, in which these conceptions are related to readiness for autonomy within the discourse of individual students. Contains 57
Reading in a Foreign Language: A Self-Access Approach.
Publication Date: 1992
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.
This paper demonstrates how learners can work on problems involved in learning a foreign language on their own through reading strategies and the help of a well-stocked, language resources center. Using this self-access approach and the resources center, the learner can accomplish the goal of learning with only minimal assistance from other learners or a language learning adviser. It is suggested that learning materials be developed for language development as well as for reading skills development. Approaches that
have been found useful for language learning through reading and for reading skills, in particular, are reviewed, such as extensive reading, intensive reading, skimming, scanning, and summarizing. The impact of reading speed on student learning is also discussed. (Contains 22 references.) (NAV)
Expectations and Emergent Beliefs of Self-Instructed Language Learners.
System, v27 n4 p443-57 Dec 1999
Reports findings from a longitudinal study tracking the expectations, shifts in expectations, and emergent beliefs of novice self-instructed language learners. Investigates how learners experienced and articulated their experience in a distance-learning context. Focused on learner-context interface, tolerance for ambiguity, and locus of control. (Author/VWL)
Recent Publications on Autonomy in Language Learning.
ELT Journal, v53 n4 p309-29 Oct 1999
This survey considers recent publications relating to autonomy in language learning. Publications are grouped in three categories: collections of articles about autonomy in language learning and research studies in the field; books intended as practical guides; collections of materials or tasks intended to inspire practitioners of autonomy in language learning. (Author/VWL)
The Use of Self-Instructional Broadcast Materials for Second Language Learning: An Investigation
in the Japanese Context.
System, v27 n3 p309-27 Sep 1999
Clarifies the nature of second-language (L2) self-instruction involving the use of self-instructional broadcast materials, with particular reference to Japan, where such materials are widely used. Analysis of responses to an open-ended questionnaire administered to 138 university students reveals benefits and problems associated with this mode of self-instruction (Author/VWL)
Autonomy and Language Learning in a Simulated Environment.
Murray, Garold L.
System, v27 n3 p295-308 Sep 1999
Computer-assisted language-learning literature points to a need for experimentation with innovative learning structures to realize the full potential of recent technological developments. Reports on a research project that addresses these concerns by exploring the experiences of 23 French second-language learners as they worked independently with an interactive video program. (Author/VWL)
Metacognitive Knowledge and Language Learning.
Wenden, Anita L.
Applied Linguistics, v19 n4 p515-37 Dec 1998
Reviews theoretical and research literature on learner strategies and self-directed language learning, particularly concerning the role of metacognitive knowledge in learning. Argues that too little attention is given to the function of metacognition in language learning. Practical implications for second-language instruction are discussed. (Author/MSE)
Supporting Greater Autonomy in Language Learning.
ELT Journal, v52 n4 p282-90 1998
Describes the implementation of a self-directed learning program for tertiary students in Hong Kong and evaluates its outcomes using data from the students and the teacher. The article raises issues concerning the provision of support for such learning and discusses the implications for future work in the field. (Author/JL)
Self-Instruction and Success: A Learner-Profile Study.
Jones, Francis R.
Applied Linguistics, v19 n3 p378-406 Sep 1998
Interviews with adults experienced in foreign language self-instruction generated profiles of language experience at learner and self-instructed language-token levels. Results showed separations between languages with and without self-instruction. The most effective learning route was starting with classwork. Ab initio self-instruction produced low command and high dropout. Sense of success was based on self-image. L1-L2 cognacy had little effect on achievement. (SM)
Language Awareness and the Autonomous Language Learner.
Language Awareness, v6 n2&3 p93-104 1997
Presents a language-awareness (LA) perspective on the concept of autonomy in second-language learning. The article distinguishes between two kinds of LA, examines child development and the role played by metalinguistic knowledge and literacy in first-language acquisition and examines the role played by both kinds of LA in second-language pedagogy. (19 references) (Author/CK)
"Autonomy": An Anatomy and a Framework.
System, v24 n4 p427-35 Dec 1996
Examines the components constituting autonomy in second language learning. The article focuses on helping students make and execute choices in the domains of communication, learning, and their personal life. These components form the basis of a conceptual framework for coordinating strategies to help learners develop autonomy. (24 references) (Author/CK)
Self-Directed Learning Contracts to Individualize Language Learning in the Classroom.
McGarrell, Hedy M.
Foreign Language Annals, v29 n3 p495-508 Aut 1996
Discusses the form and use of learning contracts in second- language teaching and learning. It is suggested that learning contracts are an ideal means to offer language learners greater opportunities to work toward, and achieve, individual goals. (Author/JL)
Enhancing Metacognition in Self-Directed Language Learning.
Victori, Mia; Lockhart, Walter
System, v23 n2 p223-34 May 1995
Highlights the unifying role of metacognition in all levels of learner training. The article argues that one of the premises of any self-directed program should be that of enhancing students' metacognition to prepare them for their own learning autonomy. This paper describes an application of this principle including two examples of its use by counselors. (30 references) (Author/CK)
Autonomy, Self-Direction, and Self Access in Language Teaching and Learning: The History of an
Gremmo, Marie-Jose; Riley, Philip
System, v23 n2 p151-64 May 1995
Identifies the ideas influencing the rise of autonomy and self-direction in educational milieus. Also discussed are the background of minority rights movements, shifts in educational philosophy, reactions against behaviorism, and wider access to education. Research into learning strategies has contributed directly to these changes. (73 references) (Author/CK)
Learning an Alien Lexicon: A Teach-Yourself Case Study.
Jones, Francis R.
Second Language Research, v11 n2 p95-111 Jun 1995
This article uses diary data to examine a British learner's self-study experience of Hungarian, with reference to lexis. From this learner's experience, it is suggested that building a working lexicon is the single most important task facing the learner. (40 references) (MDM)
The Sound of One Hand Clapping: How to Succeed in Independent Language Learning.
Rowsell, Lorna V.; Libben, Gary
Canadian Modern Language Review, v50 n4 p668-87 Jun 1994
Describes the self-reported strategies of 30 adults who were independent language learners for a period of 6 months and kept diaries of their language learning experiences. High achievers showed significantly more instances of communication-making and context-making activities, treating language as a medium of communication rather than as a subject to be learned. (MDM)
The full text of most materials in the ERIC database with an "ED" followed by six digits is available through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) in microfiche, online, or in paper copy. Approximately 80% of ERIC documents from 1993 to the present are available for online ordering and electronic delivery through the EDRS Web site. You can read ERIC documents on microfiche for free at many libraries with monthly subscriptions or specialized collections. To find an ERIC center near you, contact our User Services staff.
The full text of journal articles may be available from one or more of the following sources:
To obtain journals that do not permit reprints and are not available from your library, write directly to the publisher. Addresses of publishers are listed in the front of each issue of Current Index to Journals in Education and can now be accessed online through the CIJE Source Journal Index.
If you would like additional information about this or any topic related to language education or linguistics, contact our User Services Staff.
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