A C E – Autonomous, Challenge, Engagement

A C E – Autonomous, Challenge, Engagement


Blog 1 – Autonomous


I was pondering on whether to use the word independent or the word autonomous. Both create quite effective mnemonics, ICE or ACE, and was trying to work out if one was better than the other or were they completely interchangeable. As I had my laptop open at the time of thinking I could Google both words and various dictionary type websites told me that they were synonyms. Autonomous won mainly because I don’t tend to use autonomous too often but I frequently use independent.

I was thinking about what the main features of an outstanding teacher were, and, indeed, are their main features or is it something else. I came to the conclusion that main features of the teacher was not going to do the job. What mattered was that the teacher created learners and situations where learners could act independently, autonomously, in their learning.

What do we mean by autonomous learners? What does a lesson look like with autonomous learning?

One feature would be that the learners were actively learning and the teacher was not actively teaching the whole class. Teachers often find this difficult to do. Sometimes there is a school expectation/culture that teachers need to be seen to be working hard in lessons. Until that changes it will be difficult to get autonomous learners. I don’t mean that teachers should be inactive while students are engaged in their own learning but that teachers are doing things other than directly teaching.

For example, the teacher could be standing in the corner of the classroom, somewhere at the back is often good for this, observing the learning. If I entered that room then I would hope to see a focussed teacher who is thinking about the effectiveness of the planned learning. Perhaps I would see him (when I use him I also include her) spending some time near to a group of students listening to the conversations. He would be reflecting on how deeply the students were learning much more than just checking that they were “on-task”! (On-task is a rather pointless use of the skills of a qualified teacher). Compliance checking is a low level, displacement activity that teachers should not need to be engaged in for more than a few moments in any lesson. Having listened, and probably not allowing students to ask him any questions, (they would know he was assessing and so is not to be disturbed in this thinking), he would be considering if any intervention were needed. The balance would be to not intervene. We often do not trust our learners enough. If that is the case then our interventions, well meant as they are, confirm that they *need* us in order that they can learn. This clearly acts against our students being autonomous learners.

Lots more to say but I guess you might have some views.

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