CFP: Fostering Learner and Teacher Autonomy in Educational Practices: Languages and Beyond

Francis Hult francis.hult at
Tue Apr 20 21:42:45 UTC 2010


Fostering Learner and Teacher Autonomy in Educational Practices: Languages and Beyond


International bilingual conference in English and French

6th & 7th January 2011, Mumbai, India


Target audience

Researchers, scholars, decision and policy makers, language teachers, teacher trainers, students of - but not restricted to - languages, applied linguistics, education, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, technology. 



Socio-economic and cultural changes, academic mobility, and the challenge of effectively using digital technologies are leading the education worlds to witness a shift from the notion of the learner to that of the learner-user-actor, from instruction to participation, from teacher-centred education to self-directed learning and self-instruction. The goals of postmodern education can thus be redefined in terms of autonomising the learner, learning to learn, being capable of life-long learning, and allowing differentiated access to knowledge (e.g. learners with special needs). In simpler terms, a thrust on autonomy is in the calling in education.


In language learning today, autonomy is also a key concept. It has increasing importance in language curricula at all levels of learning across the world, driven by changes in the socio-political, socio-economic, socio-cultural and pedagogical domains. The influential Common European Framework of Reference for Languages of the Council of Europe, amongst others, emphasises autonomy through self-/peer-assessment and the setting of learning objectives by learners themselves. In the same vein, the advent of digital technologies, social media and e-learning has had an impact on the ways in which language teaching and learning occurs. Computer-mediated learning, the role of the internet, of self-learning sites, and different modes of learning - distance learning, blended learning etc. - all have the potential to directly or indirectly nurture changes in learning processes. 


In this changing landscape, traditional learning and teaching techniques are being deconstructed. Not only does the learner find her/himself challenged in 'new' learning environments, but so does the teacher. The latter needs to review her/his methodology and attitudes, in order to enable and guide the learner to assume responsibility of her/his learning, to find her/his place in this 'new order' and come to terms with it. Thus to a certain extent, learner autonomy imperatively implies teacher autonomy and vice versa. Teacher practices and perceptions need to be in synchrony with this changing scenario in education. And so do teacher training initiatives. While much has been written about learner autonomy the world over, teacher autonomy has remained in the wings. It would therefore be worthwhile to take a closer look at the concept of autonomy from these multiple angles.


A few words about the context of the conference, India, are due here. Autonomy is not a foreign word. The Indian heritage on learning and education that was evident in the ancient gurukula system (regardless of its weaknesses), and thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi, Aurobindo, Tagore and J. Krishnamurthy, did pay attention to autonomy, even if not explicitly. As such, it would be interesting to examine what parallels and universal values can be drawn between Indian thinkers and "Western" thinkers. In today's India we often hear of autonomy in terms of institutional autonomy as often prescribed in official documents. Yet the psycho-cognitive processes that are an integral part of self-learning and of learner responsibility deserve attention. Therefore, what principles drive educational policies and thoughts in India in relation to autonomy? And what about other contexts?


While the conference is devoted to the notion of autonomy in language learning and teaching (LLT), we are equally keen on studying autonomy in other disciplines and sectors (vocational education, learners with special needs, technological streams, non formal education, life-long learning etc.). An interdisciplinary dialogue between philosophy, psychology, sociology, education, and technology also seems inevitable. The pedagogical processes and principles that underline autonomy, the socio-cultural factors and discourses that shape it, are all part of the scope of this conference. 

We invite papers that primarily deal with any of the following sub-themes.


1.    Towards a pedagogy of autonomy

 What is the nature of autonomy? What pedagogies can we rely on to achieve the dual objective of successfully learning a language and/or a discipline and learning to learn? What tools can we make effective use of? What techniques and strategies do such pedagogies give us to understand the process of autonomisation in a better way? This section invites papers that reflect upon types of pedagogy in use, those that foster autonomy and those that don't, with respect to specific contexts in which they are functional. Proposals may also put forward criticisms of a 'wild' inclusion of autonomy. The role of accountability in autonomy-fostering learning also needs to be analysed. Reflections upon these issues, as well as innovative and alternative pedagogies fostering autonomy are invited, especially in challenging, and complex situations. 


* Learner & teacher beliefs on autonomous learning 

Learner and teacher beliefs on autonomy affect the learning-teaching process. The way knowledge is imparted and received, the kind of pedagogies used and appreciated, the importance given to learner/teacher responsibility, are in a way related to learner/teacher beliefs.


* Constraints of the instructional context

Some learning-teaching contexts are more favourable to a pedagogy of autonomy than others. What constraints restrict autonomy? What conditions support autonomy? And is it possible to rise above the limitations to create a situation for autonomy-based learning? The role of policy makers, decision makers is in that sense of vital importance. Official documents (curricula, language learning policies, textbooks and e.g. the European Framework and its local interpretation, or in the Indian context, the "5 year Plans, National Curriculum Framework"), can be analysed in this section in order to delineate different interpretations and constructions of autonomy in different contexts. Comparative studies within and across countries can also be presented.


2.    Relationship between actors 

 Moving from the teacher-centered learning to learner-centered learning, necessarily implies a renewed educational relationship (Bruner, Rogers) that does away with domination and relies on meaningful interaction (Vigotsky, Lewin). What type of mediation would be ideal for an enhanced teacher-learner relationship? Can we look at the teacher as a guide, mentor and/or mediator? Analysis of existing learning environments, their historical perspectives, and the feasibility of integrating dynamic, socio-constructivist approaches in tune with their respective contexts, are some of the topics of this sub-theme. The role and nature of teacher training in developing and fostering autonomous practices is also vital and invites attention.


3.    Digital technologies and autonomous e-learning

In the era of social media, digital technologies and e-learning, the increase in alternative knowledge systems, course formats and learner support, where does autonomy stand? In some contexts, technology is often viewed as a substitute for the "traditional" way of imparting knowledge, rather than a new tool with fresh propensities. Is autonomy a prerequisite for ICT? Does ICT create a path for autonomy-based learning? How and under what conditions? Also, does it allow teachers to build up their own autonomous competences (e.g. get away from textbooks, allow students to interact with the outside world, make language learning and teaching more "authentic")? Critical reviews of the current use of e-learning tools in relation to autonomous learning can be proposed.


4.    Interculturality, multilingualism and autonomy

All learning is a means of getting face to face with the Other, especially, language learning and multilingualism. Encounters with "Otherness" can contribute to learning to get to know one's own diverse selves and thus to develop autonomy. This however does not happen automatically. How can one create learning systems that aim at developing intercultural and multilingual competences that go beyond "grammars of cultures" and oversimplifying the Other? Learning systems that lead to reflexivity, respect of multiple identities, and reaching out to the other (Cf. Abdallah-Pretceille, Amartya Sen)? How can one become capable of co-constructing a relationship with a 'foreigner' in one or several languages? What autonomous strategies can help achieve this? Contexts of mobility (academic/student mobility, vocational training, etc.) and autonomous language and intercultural learning can be considered in this section.


SUBMITTING AN ABSTRACT (deadline: 15.5.2010)

Submitting an abstract takes place through: 


PS: we also accept proposals for symposia!


Submissions of a 250-300-word abstract in English or French are invited in any of the above sub-themes with clear indication of the sub-theme under which the abstract falls. The abstracts should be based on established results and/or theoretical reflections and ongoing research. Abstracts should include the following details as well (when applicable).


* the name, institution, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of each author; 

*  the title of the abstract

* objectives or purposes; 

* perspective(s) or theoretical framework; 

* methods, techniques, or modes of inquiry; 

* data sources; 

*  (results and/or conclusions/point of view)


For colloquia, please follow the same instructions and include a 200-word asbtract presenting the gist of the symposium.


Abstracts will be reviewed by the scientific committee for originality, significance, clarity and academic rigour. Links with theory must be explicit. Authors are requested to submit their papers before the conference (15.11.2010 ). Please follow the APA formatting, cf.


Articles should contain between 5000-6000 words (bibliography included) and be sent to mumbai2011 at A publication of the proceedings by an international publishing company, with blind refereed status, will follow the conference.


NB: only papers written by authors who attended the conference will be considered for publication. 



Dates of conference     :       6 & 7 Jan 2011 

Deadline for abstracts  :      1st June 2010

Intimation to authors    :       20 June 2010  

Deadline for receiving

Full articles                      :     15 November 2010



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