Creating Supportive Environments for CALL Teacher Autonomy

Creating Supportive Environments for CALL Teacher Autonomy

Renata Chylinski (Monash University, Australia) and Ria Hanewald (La Trobe University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-994-6.ch024
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Abstract

This chapter reports on a study undertaken on the impact of pedagogical and technological innovations in language teaching and language learning, with a special focus on creating online institutional environments to support teachers’ autonomy in computer assisted language learning (CALL). This study took place at MUELC, a self-funded teaching institution that belongs to a network of Australian universities offering English Language Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS). Significant expansion in student enrollments has resulted in programs across four locations with all language teachers involved in CALL delivery. Fostering and supporting teacher autonomy became the key premise for the creation of multifaceted in-house CALL support initiatives, one of them an online portal containing resources for teaching and learning as well as tools for reflection on practice and opportunities for professional development. Language teachers have been building this intranet portal site using the theoretical frameworks of practitioner-based inquiry and organizational change management. The evaluation of this study reflects the duality of the research aims; namely, the features of the developed product and the learning process of the teachers involved. This may be of value to other language institutions embarking on similar online projects.
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Background

There is a large number of acronyms and terms used to describe teaching and learning with new technologies. For this chapter, the term Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) was chosen, as it emphasizes “the whole range of possible roles the computer could play in language learning” (Levy, 1997, p. 82) and because this is the term by which computer-aided instruction is referred to at the language center in question.

The theoretical grounding and literature for this chapter focus on professional development in CALL informed by the fields of second language acquisition, adult learning theories, Information and Communication Technology in Education (ICTE), diffusion of innovation theory, and action research methodology. Figure 1 depicts this chapter’s focus, main knowledge fields, subthemes, and how they intertwine.

Figure 1.

Literature focus, themes, and subthemes and their overlap

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teacher Autonomy: Involvement in and ownership of the change process. It encompasses professional freedom, self-directed professional development, transformation through dialogue, critical reflection, and analysis of the teaching process.

Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL): An approach to language acquisition that utilizes computer technology to assist with the teaching and assessing of material, often including various interactive elements.

Practitioner-Based Inquiry (PBE): Small-scale, applied educational research activity by practitioners in fields such as school teaching, nurse education, and social work to address professional concerns.

Adult Learning Principles: The field of adult learning was pioneered by Malcom Knowles (1913–1997), who theorized that self-concept and motivation to learn, previous experience, readiness to learn, and a problem-centered approach to learning are the main principles.

Second Language Acquisition (SLA): The process by which learners acquire an additional language, often termed the target language. SLA focuses on the language system and learning processes of naturalistic acquisition of language. Stephen Krashen used the term “language acquisition” to differentiate from formal language learning.

Communicative Method/Approach: A way to teach and learn language(s) with the goal of communicative competence. It stemmed from dissatisfaction with previous grammar-based and audiolingual approaches, and focuses on the processes of communication in various sociolinguistic contexts.

English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language (ESL/EFL): These abbreviations are often used interchangeably to describe the science of teaching English to non-native speakers. ESL denotes teaching English to Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) persons in countries where English is dominant, such as Australia, Canada, the UK, or the USA. EFL denotes teaching English to NESBs in countries where English is not the official language.

Teachers of English to speakers of other Languages/Teaching English as a Second or other Language (TESOL): Both interpretations are used for the abbreviation, causing significant confusion. The first refers to the professional associations and their members, whereas the second construct is often used as the umbrella term for ESL and EFL.

Constructivism: Jean Piaget (1896–1980) is credited with the development of this theory whereby learners construct new knowledge from their experiences through processes of accommodation and assimilation. Constructivism describes how learning should happen, and it is often associated with “learning by doing.”

Instructional Design Models: Robert Mills Gagné (1916–2002) is one of the leading theorists in models of instructional design. Models offer structure and meaning to Instructional Design problems by helping negotiate the design task through sequenced components. The context of use determines the value of a particular Instructional Design Model.

Diffusion of Innovations Theory: Everett Rogers (1931–2004) suggested a five-stage model for the diffusion of innovation (Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation, Confirmation) and five types of adopters (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards) in his 1962 book titled Diffusion of Innovation.

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