The Learner Autonomy Dilemma


It is a dilemma faced by many teachers in all sorts of scenarios: “I want my student to become more autonomous and develop more learning and coping strategies, but I don’t want to lose my best student.” Or more frankly, “If I coach my student to learn more autonomously, aren’t I doing myself out of a job?” This is especially the case for freelance teachers.


Even if a student is going to have lessons with you for years and years into the future, you will not always be there when language is needed or texts are not comprehended. This means it is our responsibility as teachers to not only help learners learn the language but also help prepare them for life outside the classroom or Skype lesson.


There are a multitude of strategies to help learners become more autonomous: from teaching them how to recognise and use a good dictionary through to building up a bank of realistic language practice resources for all four skills. There are many articles, books and teaching special interest groups (SIGs) dedicated to the development of learner autonomy.* Consider what suits your learner best and add some training to your lessons where suitable. Your learners may appreciate it so much, that they keep coming back for more.

*Learner autonomy resources

ELTJ article

OUP Blog

Learner Autonomy Book

IATEFL Learner Autonomy SIG