Learner autonomy, a popular buzzword in educational circles, is also a learning process – both for educators and students. Educators need to practice how and when to delegate learning to the individual student; learners need to learn how to be independent, to make choices as to what, when and how they learn. Sometimes in this process there is silence. Not the engaged quiet of teachers being observers or facilitators in the classroom, but the silence of discomfort, of confusion in expectations and assumptions from the learners in regard to the role of the teacher and vice versa.
Learning autonomy may be regarded as empowerment; the power of questioning, the power of self-determination and also, active participation. However, with these freedoms comes social responsibility – a delicate, alien concept still in many places of the world.
Perhaps educators need to practice more transparency as a means to encourage learner autonomy. This transparency is a form of negotiation with learners; for example, explaining why a certain task is chosen in class and not another. Another example would be giving learners the choice of choosing what task they will do for homework. This opens the path to a more participative learning attitude on the part of the learner, where the learner does make choices, does have some power over what he/she chooses to learn.
It is when individuals are more critically aware of choices ,become active participants in their learning processes,are more confident in self-determination, that there is more hope for change. For positive, constructive change.
“The teacher must learn about (and from) the student so that knowledge can be constructed in ways that are meaningful to the student. The teachers must become learners and the learners must become teachers.”
Learning from the learners is also part of 21st century learning. Not a new concept, but one that is more urgent than ever, so that those who we educate may make more informed choices and be better prepared for the changes that await them.
When classroom lights are switched off, what do your learners desire to learn?