Learner autonomy – teacher autonomy
This paper aims to explore the constructs of learner autonomy and teacher autonomy in the context of classroom-based language teaching: particularly, interrelational considerations that might inform pedagogical decisions. The concept of interrelating – implying affective engagement and connection where the term interacting does not – is central to the present paper’s focus on the interpersonal dynamics of the teacher-learner context, especially in so far as these dynamics might influence a learner’s capacity to be autonomous. In defining learner autonomy and related terms, the paper presents theory emerging from the author’s recent research into teachers’ and learners’ perceptions of learner autonomy and the teacher-learner relationship, which conceives of the traditional teaching-learning context as a Dynamic Interrelational Space. It is argued that developing a learner’s capacity to be autonomous is meaningful only in terms of interrelational dynamics: i.e., that learner autonomy depends upon the capacity of the learner and the teacher to generate and maintain a particular interrelational climate defined in terms of influence or restraint from influence. Factors that might precipitate the breakdown of the teacher-learner relationship, and thus the educative quality of the learning process, are discussed. The paper reviews the implications of the Dynamic Interrelational Space for both the learner’s and teacher’s creating an interrelational climate conducive to the development and maintenance of learner autonomy, and for the teacher’s seeking to generate an interrelational climate conducive to his or her autonomy as a teacher within institutional and bureaucratic constraints. The author’s research shows that, similarly to teachers and learners, teachers and their course coordinators or directors create interrelational climates that are also characterized by changing tensions involving influence and restraint from influence. An appreciation of these dynamics, and of the capacities that appear to underpin the will to empower, can help teachers in ensuring both their learners’ autonomy and their own.