Encouraging Learner Autonomy

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One of the best things teachers can do for their students is to help them learn to help themselves.  To promote learner autonomy, we need to build students’ self-confidence and give them strategies for teaching themselves.  Some of the ways we can do this include the following.

  1. Self-reflection
    1. Provide worksheets or questionnaires asking students to consider their past learning, their current skill levels, their weak points and their strengths.
    2. Discuss different learning styles and help students determine how they learn best.
  2. Goal setting (works well in conjunction with self-reflection!)
    1. Encourage students to write down specific goals and specific tactics to achieve these goals, for example, adding 15 new words to a word bank every week, reading three articles in the newspaper every day or writing a short journal entry every night.
    2. Revisit these goals periodically throughout the term to allow students to assess their progress and adjust or add to their goals.
  3. Student-led activities
    1. Give students structured opportunities to create activities for each other. For example, they could write small quizzes or cloze activities, prepare conversation questions, or come up with educational games.
    2. Ask students, in small groups or pairs, to present information to the class. They might summarize articles, take up homework on the board, make posters, or give short presentations reviewing information studied in class.
  4. Self and peer editing
    1. Create checklists for students to follow when editing their own or others’ work (specific and well thought out checklists or worksheets are useful here – given free reign, my experience has been that students will find many mistakes that don’t exist and confuse each other).
    2. Provide the rubrics you use for assessments and encourage students to assess their own work using this, prior to your assessment.
    3. Provide an error-log for students’ use that will help them discover the patterns in their writing, such as their common grammar or structural mistakes
  5. Providing choice
    1. Give students some control over how time is used. For example, “We have a half hour at the end of the class on Friday, would you like to review this or this?”
    2. Allow students to tell you what kind of activities they prefer; for example, the class could decide through a vote whether they would like to practice a concept through a discussion or a written activity, or perhaps space for both ways of learning could be provided in the classroom and each student could choose.
    3. Provide some choice in assessment activities. This could range from a choice in topics to a choice in type of assessment.

All of these methods require thought and organizing on the part of the teacher, and, as with most everything, work best when scaffolded.  Over time and with encouragement, students could learn to be more independent and to take more ownership over the learning process, providing greater opportunity to be successful in the future.

Do you have other tactics for helping students increase their independence? What has been your experience implementing strategies like these in the classroom? Please share with us in the comments!


QR Code Treasure Hunt anyone?

Recently, I tried a campus familiarization activity with my students.  In the past terms, students sat at their desks and looked at a map to identify services and their associated locations on a worksheet.  Throughout the term students asked me, or each other, where different campus resources were located. It was obvious that they did not take in the campus resources information.

My challenge was to improve this learning activity.  Reaching into my technology bag of tricks, I was looking for a technology that would improve this learning task.  Continue reading


Journaling – a Means to Enhance Research Writing

I did not know that I was a researcher until I did academic research for the first time. Like many fellow teachers, just hearing the word research used to make me cringe. It might be the vast implications that research entails that put teachers off, myself included. After all, we all do our own research on a daily basis, whether it is preparing for class, looking up or creating new material, providing feedback, etc. We need to give ourselves more credit, for we all do research, an argument supported by Parsons, Hewson, Adrian, and Day (2013), who claim that “research is less rocket science than carefully planned, rigorously attended activity” (p. 5). Continue reading


Don’t Just Think It: Blog It!

Blog Blogging Social Media Social Networking Online Concept
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Have you read this blog and thought hmm I wish they’d write about [insert relevant topic here] or read a post and thought I have another strategy for that? Maybe you’ve seen the emails over the years and thought that’d be neat, but I don’t know… Well, why not make this the year you take on a new adventure, come on board, and lead the conversation! Continue reading


I Came, I Saw, I Had to Teach Verb Tense

Grunge background with old watch. Time concept. Retro clocks on the wall. Old antique clock on aged red brick wall background. Vintage clocks.
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I’ll put it out there, I’m a grammar geek! I love it, honest. Growing up, I learned a lot of languages, and I loved the days when we would create verb charts for conjugation or parse sentences. I’m also a very visual person, so as soon as the teacher would write a new verb on the board, I whipped out my pencil case and started picking out my pencil crayons and ruler. I was like a language archeologist categorizing, sorting, and analyzing, and I find that this has helped me when approaching verbs with students. Continue reading


Using Facebook Groups for CLB Listening and Speaking Competency I – Interacting with Others

As a LINC Home Study Instructor, my classes are all individual and the students’ levels range from CLB 4-7. I found it difficult to address CLB “Interacting with Others” for speaking and listening – particularly:

  • Opening and maintaining a conversation
  • Using a range of small talk phrases
  • Nonverbal communication
  • turn taking
  • adding supporting comments etc.

I noticed that a significant part of my own small talk revolved around common posts on social media with Facebook being the most common. Continue reading


Philosophical and Historical Mindedness: A New Teaching Philosophy of Innovation and Care

An Enlightening Experience

Wood block education word over backboard school. Education word formed by educational wood block. Education word concept for background.
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It is really complicated to explain in words the satisfaction I feel and the changes that have occurred during my studies for my Professional Master of Education both on a personal and professional level. The overall experience was enlightening for me. My sister has recently asked me what the most meaningful parts of this process were for me. This is a complex question, for there were so many aspects worth mentioning; for instance, Continue reading


2017 in Review

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Dear TESL ON blog readers,

We wish you all a Happy Holiday and a well deserved time of rest and relaxation, as the clock winds down for year 2017.  And on that note, below is a recap of the blogs for 2017 – in case you missed something. It’s a good time to catch up on your blog reading. 🙂

Continue reading


“Be the Star” – Making Videos for Your Classroom

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“I’m just going to find a video quickly online!” I’ve said to myself many times, clearly delusional.  A “quick” online hunt for material to use in class often becomes a lengthy goose chase.  It’s hard to find just the right thing, at the right level, on the right subject when searching the vast reaches of the World Wide Web.  The better option?  To make it myself. Sometimes this can seem intimidating though, especially if videography is a medium one is not used to working in.

Considering that fact, below is my summary of a video presentation my business partner, Larissa Conley, and I made for this year’s TESL Ontario Conference explaining how to make your own videos for classroom use.  Continue reading


Teachers’ Beliefs about Teaching and Learning (English)

We all have our own beliefs about teaching and learning English. Sometimes these beliefs are explicit, and we can articulate them. Other times, these beliefs are more implicit. We may not be aware of them and we may not be able to articulate them, but they are still there.

Professionally, we have beliefs about many things, including our students, the effectiveness of various pedagogical practices, the nature of knowledge itself, and even our capabilities as teachers (i.e. self-efficacy).   Continue reading