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Chronology of the Nordic Workshops on Developing Autonomous Learning

Compiled by Richard C. Smith

[in note form at present]

[main sources: TT, LD, and Reports of the Workshops; please inform me of any inaccuracies / omissions / suggested additions:]

mid-1970s onwards

‘[The Workshops] were a natural continuation from what we did with Gerd with ‘Beginning English’. Gerd was involved, was my inservice teacher trainer – it must have been 75 or 76. She heard about what I was doing in the classroom. […] Probably we did a[nother] video recording that was never used. Then we went to Lancaster. There were Council of Europe things going on. Piepho, Christophe [Edelhoff?]’. (LD)


Probably it was in 84 that all this happened. Gerd said ‘I think it would be a good idea to have a workshop’ in 86.” (LD)

In 1984 we had a workshop in Køge within the Candlin, Edelhof, Piepho series of
workshops. Leni was to present her work, and because by then her classroom work had
developed to encompass all factors of the Holec definition (1980) we decided
to use that within this International/European context. (GG 24/8/06)

‘My advice would be to begin your account [in Copenhagen, 2006] with the Nordic Workshops. That's when our [Leni’s and Gerd’s ?] focus on autonomy begins, and you would avoid the [mistake of] writing on the Candlin, Piepho, Edelhof workshops. They were a private venture as were our [Nordic?] workshops, and had nothing to do, institutionally, with the Council of Europe work. They later were very influential in that context, of course, at the time they were rather in opposition to it. Also quite a number of later influential people took part, Legutke, Joe Shiels, Kohonen, Little, and others. We owe them, but broke away because at the '84 workshop there was quite some upset, and we felt at the time that confining ourselves to the Nordic context was easier. Huttunen had begun working at her doctoral thesis (1986), Kohonen wrote extensively and was interested. Rigmor had visited Leni, and we had Swedish perticipants to our wokshops, in Norway people had worked and reported their work along similar lines. So we did not invent everything.’ (GG 26/8/06)

“The idea of starting a series of Nordic Workshops on autonomous learning in the FL classroom first came to us in 1984, at one of a series of international workshops on communicative curricula [“Communicative Curricula in Modern Languages” instituted by C.N. Candlin, C. Edelhof and H.-E. Piepho, according to Introduction to Trebbi 1990] held that year in Copenhagen, where we represented one of the first groups attempting to work systematically on autonomous learning in a general school context [, some of us realized [there] that it might be worthwhile to organize a separate workshop focusing on the development of autonomous learning in a school context. The intention was to bring together teachers, teacher trainers and research workers to discuss, on the basis of classroom experience, the notion of learner autonomy in language learning and conditions for promoting it, to suggest kinds of research needed to elucidate and concretise the various aspects of learner autonomy, and to share experiences and concepts in order to establish a network of inter-nordic cooperation for the dissemination of ideas and research-based innovation (Introduction to Trebbi 1990)]. The interest shown at that workshop [1984, Copenhagen] in what we were doing and in the approach we had developed was encouraging. It was our feeling, however, that at that precise moment in history the conditions for discussing with others our experience as based on practical work in the classroom and on grassroot-level dissemination, might be most easily found in the Scandinavian countries. Thus the idea of the Nordic workshops.

What we hoped to achieve was to establish a broader common basis of experience and ideas before taking the discussion into a wider and more culturally diverse context.” (Gabrielsen, G. ‘Basic concepts and current issues’, in Trebbi (ed.) 1990; above extract, p. 3)

“The concept we started out with was in the reports on the front page. [The concept was] people invited are those who are active in developing learner autonomy. Not just for people to come and think ‘this is quite nice’. People interested in continuing things, ordinary teachers. That’s an element that the Workshops haven’t lived up to – at the last few conferences there were very few practising teachers, I’d like to return to that. To more interaction rather than just presenting: seeing what we can gain from each other, whether we need researchers to come in. There’ s too little combination of the two.” (LD)


1) September 18-21, Køge, Denmark (org. Gerd Gabrielsen (Danmarks Lærerhøjskole) and Leni Dam (Karlslunde skole)) [details from title of report and from TT, ed. 1990]

Report published as Gabrielsen, G. (ed.). 1987. Report: Developing Autonomous Learning in the FL Classroom, Køge, September 18-21 1986. Copenhagen: Danmarks Lærerhøjskole. (source for title: Trebbi 1990; date from PB biblio.)

‘In the introduction to the first workshop, I described our original intention as that of bringing together teachers, teacher educators and research workers to review and discuss classroom experience and to

discuss the notion of learner autonomy in language learning, its theoretical, practical and philosophical foundations

discuss conditions for promoting learner autonomy and critical awareness

suggest kinds of research needed to eluc[i]date and concretise the various aspects of learner autonomy

discuss testing procedures to measure communicative skills within the framework of learner autonomy

share experiences and concepts on an international basis and establish a network of inter-nordic cooperation’

(Gabrielsen, 1997, Introduction to Gabrielsen, ed., 1997)

Participants were from Nordic countries, plus a few from the Netherlands and Austria. People that Gerd knew through Council of Europe work, plus teachers in Denmark. Candlin and Breen were also there (LD).


2) 1987, Helsinki, Finland (org. Viljo Kohonen, University of Tampere) [details from Trebbi ed., 1990]

No Proceedings issued (TT)


3) 1989, August, Bergen, Norway (org. Turid Trebbi)

Trebbi, T. (ed.). 1990. Third Nordic Workshop on Developing Autonomous Learning in the FL Classroom. Bergen: Institutt for pratisk pedagogikk, University of Bergen.

List of participants (pp. 117-119) shows 23 participants, from 6 countries: Denmark (6), Ireland (2), The Netherlands (1), Norway (8), Spain (1), Sweden (5). [notably, none from Finland]

David Little (and Joe Sheils) came for first time (TT). The ‘Bergen definition’ was arrived at in small (relatively experienced) group of participants.(TT)


4) 1991, 29 August – 1 September, Karlstad, Sweden (org. Rigmor Eriksson)

Miliander, J., ed. (1995) Fourth Nordic Conference on Developing Autonomous Learning in the Foreign Language Classroom. Proceedings of a conference at Ransäter, Sweden, 29 August - 1 September, 1991. Högskolan I Karlstad. [source: PB bibliography]

‘The 1991 workshop in Sweden in particular widened the scope of the workshops, bringng in more participants from other European countries than the three previous workshops’ (Gabrielsen 1997, Introduction to Gabrielsen, ed., 1997).

Widening participation due to Leni starting to travel ‘for’ learner autonomy. ‘Whenever I was invited to a group of teachers there was a new connection [which fed into the Nordic workshop ‘membership’?]. That’s why the Spanish, then the Polish, then the Far East. The first invitation I got was from Isabel Serrano who’d been to Lancaster. She heard my name there, and she invited me. After then there were quite a number of people in Spain [involved?]. Quite a big group of Nordic people, funnily not from Iceland: Viljo Kohonen, Turid, Rigmor were key persons.’ (LD)


5) 1995, 24-27 August, Copenhagen (org. Leni Dam)

Gabrielsen, G., ed. (1997) Fifth Nordic Conference on Developing Autonomous Learning in the Foreign Language Classroom, Danmarks Lærerhøjskole, Copenhagen, August 24-27, 1995. Copenhagen: Danmarks Lærerhøjskole.

‘This time we had participants from all over the world, Japan, Hong Kong, places we never even dreamed of when the whole thing started’ (Gabrielsen 1997, Introduction to Gabrielsen, ed., 1997).

List of participants (pp. 68-74) shows 36 participants, from 13 countries: Australia (2), Austria (2), Denmark (6), Finland (1), France (1), Germany (3), Hong Kong (2), Ireland (2), Japan (2), Norway (6), Poland (1), Spain (2), Sweden (6).


6) 1997, 3-6 September, Barcelona (org. Ramon Ribé)

Ribé, R., ed. (n.d. [2000]) Developing Learner Autonomy in Foreign Language Learning, Barcelona: University of Barcelona.

52 participants according to list on p. [237]


7) 2000, 7-9 September, Helsinki, Finland (org. Felicity Kjisik, Leena Karlsson, Joan Nordlund)

Karlsson, L., Kjisik, F. & Nordlund, J., eds. (n.d. [2000?]) All Together Now: Papers from the 7th Nordic Conference and Workshop on Autonomous Language Learning, Helsinki, September 2000, Helsinki: University of Helsinki Language Centre.

50 participants, according to list on p. 228.


8) 2003, 26 February – 1 March, Tenerife, Spain (org. Leslie Bobb-Wolff, José Luis Vera Batista)

Bobb-Wolff, L. and Vera Batista, J.L. (eds), (2006), The Canarian Conference on Developing Autonomy in the Classroom: Each Piece of the Puzzle Enriches Us All. Book and CD-ROM. La Laguna: Consejería de Educacíon, Cultura y Deportes del Gobierno de Canarias.

List of participants (Book, pp. 65-66) shows 55 participants, from 13 countries: Denmark (3), Estonia (1), Finland (7), France (2), Germany (1), Hong Kong (1), Japan (1), Norway (7), Poland (3), Portugal (4), Spain (16), Sweden (7), United Kingdom (2).


9) 9th Nordic Conference on Developing Learner Autonomy in Language Learning and Teaching: Status and Ways Ahead after Twenty Years, 2006, 31 August – 2 September, Copenhagen (org. Leni Dam)

Initial list of participants (circulated by Leni prior to the workshop) shows 37 participants, from 12 countries: Denmark (8), Norway (5), Sweden (5), Spain (4), the UK (4), Poland (3), Japan (2), Switzerland (2), Finland (1), Germany (1), Ireland (1), Hong Kong (1). Of these 8 had participated in the 1989 Bergen conference, and 16 in the 1995 Copenhagen conference

RS, 29/8/06