Part 1: Review of the literature on autonomy
Autonomy in language learning
It is now a decade since the publication of five key books that have contributed to popularisation of the concept(s) of independence and autonomy in language learning: they dealt with self-instruction (Dickinson, 1987), learner strategies (Wenden and Rubin, 1987), applications of autonomy (Brookes and Grundy, 1988; and Holec, 1988), and the learner-centred curriculum (Nunan, 1988a). After something of a lull in the early 1990s we have recently seen edited collections on independence and/or autonomy (a special issue of System 23/2, 1995; Broady and Kenning, 1996; Pemberton, Li, Or and Pierson, 1996; Benson and Voller, 1997a), on self-access learning (Gardner and Miller, 1994, 1999), and a book-length treatment of learner-centredness in language education (Tudor, 1996). Like authentic, communicative and student-centred, the concept of autonomy ‘has rapidly achieved a moral status backed by dominant beliefs in liberal progressive education’ (Pennycook, 1997c: 39).
The terms independence and autonomy are broad and elastic -and indeed often seem to overlap (cf. Brookes and Grundy, 1988). In this chapter I will be using the single term autonomy to cover both. The autonomy literature now embraces learning and communication strategies, self-directed learning, self-access centres, learner-centredness and collaborative learning. However, the concerns of those writing about learner autonomy can seem rather narrow from the perspective of someone teaching EAP students in a second language context.