Extensive Reading

System, Vol. 23, No, 2, pp. 235-243, 1995



Elsevier Science Ltd Printed in Great Britain 0346-251X/95 $9.50 + 0.00


*City University of Hong Kong, "?Universit~de Technologie de Compikgne and IUFM de Picardie
Basic thinking regarding certain aspects of learner autonomy is presented as well as certain cultural traits (such as the Chinese concern with face) which may be an obstacle to the promotion of autonomy, especially in the more traditional organization of some classrooms. The use of large-scale simulation can, however, transform the ordinary classroom into a learning environment that powerfully promotes learner autonomy. A concrete example of how this actually happened is discussed in detail, as are the cultural traits that both hinder and encourage autonomy in such a setting. The conclusion is that it is through concrete actions of taking responsibility that autonomy is learned. THE PATH TO AUTONOMY The pursuit of learning after the completion of a formal course is now generally recognized as a legitimate need and goal in the field of education. "[B]ecause of the complexity and rapidity of change in our highly technological societies", it is important to help our learners "to develop the attitude that learning is a life-long process and to acquire the skills of self-directed learning" (Knowles, 1976: p. 23, cited in Wenden, 1987: p. 9). However, due to the highly complex nature of language and language learning (Dickinson and Carver, 1980), encouraging autonomy in language learners often proves to be a doubly difficult objective. In aiming for such an objective, it is useful to ask the following questions. What is learner autonomy? What kinds of obstacles might be encountered by a teacher in promoting autonomy in a traditional classroom setting? How might these obstacles be overcome? Specifically, how...