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History of Learner Autonomy, Timeline (3): 'Local' Initiatives

Compiled by Richard C. Smith


This is inevitably a partial selection. However, please inform me of any inaccuracies / apparent omissions / desired additions:



[France :] Centre de Recherches et d’Applications Pédagogiques en Langues (CRAPEL) founded at University of Nancy.


[France:] First issue of CRAPEL’s journal Mélanges Pédagogiques


[France:] Death of Yves Châlon (Director of CRAPEL), who had set in motion a series of projects implementing and investigating ‘autonomy’ and ’self-direction’; he was succeeded both as director of CRAPEL and on Council of Europe Committee of Experts by Henri Holec. (Gremmo and Riley 1996: 153).

[France:] ‘The first resource centres and self-access systems were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is not possible to be more precise than that because in some cases they evolved directly from existing language laboratories. One of the first ‘tailor-made’ resource centres was established by CRAPEL. (Gremmo and Riley 1995: 156)

[France] In CRAPEL, establishment of an individualized learning scheme, with objectives decided by student (in discussion with ‘counsellor’ – Caroline Stanchina-Henner - about ‘what do you want to learn?’). She evaluated their learning, but asking also ‘What did you think about it?’. Became aware she was a kind of counsellor / began to realize there was a need to know what it means to be able to self-direct one’s learning. [HH]


[Denmark:] Leni Dam first steps towards developing learner autonomy in foreign language learning and teaching with a group of 14-year-old mixed ability students. It was then labelled ‘Differentiated teaching and learning’. (LD Profile). Actually it was in 1973 that I started [with ‘autonomous learning’] . […] The 73-76 group were my first experiments in reorganizing. (LD)


[Denmark:] “We made a video of the first class of beginners I had – it was the first video we made – called ‘ Beginning English’: It was an experiment; (filmed in?) black and white. What I did then was they did activities of their own choice; there were no posters in the first years” […] “[The Nordic 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. (LD)

[France:] Reform of university studies: new need for all students to learn a foreign language. In order to cope with numbers, CRAPEL extended existing adult self-directed learning ideas to undergraduates. New ‘bibliothèque sonore’ with the money made available. (HH)


[Denmark:] In 1976, as a result of the differentiated teaching and learning possibility that began in 1973, in 1976 in the [national curriculum, there appeared the recommendation that] ‘ as far as possible teachers should see to it that what they do suits individual learners’.(LD)


[Denmark:] In '78 Leni went to Lancaster on one of the experimental courses run by Chris and Mike. [In] '79 she [Leni] had them [Candlin and Breen?] teach a course in Hundige. Preparing tasks for the pupils were was the focus. Leni, Hanne and some other local teachers (Jette, Lena, Birthe(?) ) made a collection and tried it out in their classes. Chris and Mike’s ideas on formulation/interpretation and Mike's constant answer to Leni's questions, 'Ask the children' and the ideas on teaching-learning first set forward in the RELC article (1979) by Breen, Candlin and Waters were an important inspiration (GG).


[Denmark:] In 1980 I started out using the same principles [as used earlier with 73-76 group] with a class of 11-year-old beginners. I called it ‘Experiments in teaching and learning’. Later I took over the term ‘Learner autonomy’ from Henri Holec.” [LD profile]


[Denmark:] We made the first classroom video in 1980 and had it edited by 1982. (GG)

[Denmark:] Leni and Gerd: Workshops with local teachers during the years [… ] from about 82' to '86. (GG)

[Sweden/Norway:] Gerd Gabrielsen spoke at a meeting in Sweden [first met Turid Trebbi there] (GG); invited by the Scandinavian Association of Language Teachers by Hannelore Stensrud (sp.?) of the Oslo Centre of Foreign Languages (TT).

[Sweden:] Rigmor Eriksson’s study of individualised teaching in Sweden, from 1982 to 1987 (RE)


[Finland:] 1984–88 Department of Teacher Training, University of Tampere, Finland + four schools in Tampere: A teaching experiment aiming to develop experiential learning in elementary language education. Intended to follow the language studies of a group of some 150 learners from grade 3 to grade 6 (ages 9 to 12 years). Reported on in Kohonen, V. 1987. Reports from the Department of Teacher Training in Tampere: Towards Experiential Learning of Elementary English 1. Tampere: Tampereen Yliopisto.

[Norway:] SALT (Scandinavian Association of Language Teachers) conference in Bergen. Turid set up a panel at the conference with Leni, Turid, Gerd and others. Rita Gjørven also there.


[Sweden:] Beginning of in-service teacher education in Sweden to introduce teachers to the notion of autonomy, carried out by Rigmor Eriksson and June Miliander. Leni Dam visited once. Influenced some teachers to develop their own autonomy-oriented practices (RE).


[Sweden:] Beginning of ‘Differentiation in the teaching of English’ in-service teacher development project, Sweden (till 1990): Rigmor Eriksson with collaboration of June Miliander. [Jiménez Raya and Vieira, forthcoming]

[Norway:] TT: 11 recommendation points in final report of the committee Rita and Turid were on in Norway regarding 2nd foreign language, one of them to make 2nd FL compulsory. Gerd Gabrielsen was invited to the conference where the report was given. 1988–91: Turid and Rita were encouraged by the Ministry to provide in-service training. Turid arranged financing for Gerd to come to Bergen for 6 months’ sabbatical, where she collaborated with Turid on in-service training. Leni visited Oslo for in-service training (TT)


[Sweden:] Report in Swedish by Rigmor Eriksson on ‘Teacher-guided self-directed learning’, based on the 1988–1990 teacher development project.

[Hong Kong:] Several other universities were setting up self-access centres and we soon began to exchange experiences and ideas. It was at this point that the idea of autonomy began to kick in. In 1991 and 1992, we were privileged to share the practical and theoretical wisdom of Philip Riley, who made two long visits to Hong Kong. Ever so gently, Philip made me aware that there was not much point to self-access without autonomy (Benson 2002/2006)

[Denmark:] Video: Thomsen, Hanne, Gabrielsen, Gerd (Project Director) and Nipper, Aage (Video Coordinator). 1991. New Classroom Practices in Foreign Language Teaching: Cooperative Teaching-Learning: Beginners in the 5th Form. Copenhagen: Danmarks Lærerhøjskole.


[Hong Kong:] Foundation of HASALD (Hong Kong Association of Self-Access Learning and Development) (source: Gardner and Miller 1994: viii)


[Japan:] Foundation of JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching) Learner Development N-SIG (joint coordinators: Naoko Aoki and Richard Smith) (newsletter: Learning Learning). ‘We occasionally arranged local 'get-togethers' of members in people's houses, and bilingualism became a major focus of attention at these gatherings, as well as in our newsletter. Reasons for this focus were that we were trying in the SIG to enhance opportunities for participation by Japanese as well as English-speaking members, and, second, we were also attempting to focus on our own development as language learners. We explored both aspects via ideas such as attempting to reflect back in the other language what a particular speaker had said’. (Barfield & Smith 1999)

[Sweden:] Rigmor Eriksson: successful defence of thesis, partially on evaluation of self-directed learning

[Portugal:] Beginning of Pedagogy for autonomy: A project in professional development and pedagogical experimentation [in-service reflective teacher development towards pedagogy for autonomy through action research], Braga, Portugal (till 1996): F. Vieira, G. Branco, M.A. Moreira.


[Finland:] Beginning of ‘Learner, curriculum and cultural change: OK school development project’, Finland (till 1998): V. Kohonen, P. Kaikkonen. [source: Jiménez Raya and Vieira forthcoming]


[Portugal:] Beginning of ‘Action research as a strategy for reflective student teacher development’ project, Braga, Portugal (has continued till now): F. Vieira, M.A. Moreira, I. Barbosa, M. Paiva, I.S. Fernandes. Pre-service reflective teacher development towards pedagogy for autonomy through action research (Jiménez Raya and Vieira, forthcoming).

[Norway:] Turid was invited to be in charge of curriculum for 2nd language; asked Rita to take part; the curriculum itself was proposed beginning 1996. Responsibility for one’s own learning had a big part.

[Japan:] Strategies for learner autonomy conference, Shizuoka, Japan. ‘There was a balance between Japanese and English presentations, with bilingual abstracts, and a final 'bringing it all together' session which allowed space for participants' evaluations and sharing of reflections on the spot, via individual comments displayed as posters (on which anyone could write a response), and group discussion.’ (Barfield and Smith 1999)


[Japan:] 18 May. 'Teacher/Learner Development Action Workshops at Meiji University, Tokyo.


[Ireland:] Beginning of Learner Autonomy Project, Dublin, Ireland (till 2001) : D. Little, J. Ridley, E. Ushioda. In-service teacher development for promoting communicative proficiency through an autonomy-based approach. [Jiménez Raya and Vieira, forthcoming]

[Denmark:] Video: Birte Hjermind and Jette Lenz: We talked about what we are good at (BH)


[Japan:] Leni Dam and David Little visit Japan for JALT conference, for ‘four corners tour’ and joint plenary.

[Poland:] November. Foundation of IATEFL Poland Learner Independence [later, Teacher Development and Autonomous Learning] SIG (coordinator: David French). The idea for the SIG was conceived in Kraków in May of 1998 at the IATEFL Learner Independence SIG conference Focus on Learning Rather than Teaching and was born in November of the same year in Wrocław (source: French, in newsletter no. 1) at the IATEFL Poland annual conference.

[Denmark:] Video: Leni Dam and Jette Lentz (1998), It is up to yourself if you want to learn, DLH.


[Poland:] In September 1999 [t]he Educational Reform was introduced . The Reform set the ground for change. The learner now clearly becomes the centre of the educational process’ The INSETT PROJECT – a national in-service teacher training programme for teachers of English [–] responded to the needs. [Themes of the programme reflected] ‘the values of teacher and learner autonomy’. (source: Hanna Kijowska, ‘ Is Poland Ready for Autonomy?: Providing teacher training for teacher and learner autonomy in Poland’, SIG newsletter, no. 11 (April 2004).


[Kosovo:] 2000-2002: Leni Dam involved in a long-term project for headmasters and primary school teachers in Kosovo as regards the pedagogic implementation of self-esteem as well as awareness of learning in schools entitled ‘Democracy in teaching and learning’. (LD profile)


[Portugal:] 11–14 March, 2001. 1st Conference of the Working Group – Pedagogy for Autonomy (GT-PA), Universiy of Minho, Braga, Portugal. Proceedings published as Vieira, Moreira, Barbosa and Paiva (2002).

[Japan:] JALT CUE Conference 2001, Tokyo, on ‘Developing Autonomy’ (Proceedings published as Mackenzie and McCafferty 2002).


[Japan:] 1st JALT Learner Development SIG Anthology retreat, October, Kobe YMCA on Mount Rokko (org. Hugh Nicoll, Steve Brown, Miyuki Usuki)


[Portugal:] May. 2nd Conference of of the Working Group – Pedagogy for Autonomy (GT-PA), University of Minho, Braga, Portugal.

[Poland:] IATEFL LI SIG Cieszyn conference (source: newsletter, no. 11 (April 2004) ‘Just Us In Cieszyn’, Enyedi Ágnes): ‘There were no publishers, no language schools, no exhibitors or language experts selling their products, their courses or their trips. As David French, the organiser of this event put it “the ELT supermarket” was not there. Just us.’ […]


[Sweden/Denmark:] Leni Dam awarded honorary doctorate at Karlstad University, Sweden. (RE)


[Portugal:] 29–31 May. 3rd Conference of the of the Working Group – Pedagogy for Autonomy (GT-PA), University of Minho, Braga, Portugal: ‘ Pedagogy for autonomy: constructing a re(ide)alistic practice’.

RS 2/9/06