Creating an Autonomous Learning Environment

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Creating a learner autonomous classroom takes time and forethought. Having a comfortable learning environment is not enough. Characteristics of a truly autonomous classroom can range from students having a variety of materials to choose from to having comfortable chairs. Teachers really need to cover all possible angles before trying to create an autonomous class.

In this context, teachers become facilitators and language advisors. Their responsibility is to create a learning environment that provides students with the materials, equipment, tools, guidance, and support they will need in order to successfully develop and carry out their own plan of study. Before the course begins, teachers have to research and assemble learning materials that cater to a wide scope of interests, learning styles, and levels of proficiency, (Murray, 2009).

Below are some suggestions for an autonomous class. Please do not try to follow all suggestions. You might start by asking students to create a learning log and/or setting personal learning goals. Be extremely cognizant of the class’s progress and adjust accordingly.  In creating autonomous learners now, we are creating self-starters for the business world later.

Content Objectives

  • To encourage learner autonomy in language classrooms
  • To collect resources that contribute to the autonomous learner process

Language Objectives

  • To manage a learning log and a study plan with assistance from an instructor
  • To achieve learning goals by revising study plan


Again, please don’t try to do all these suggestions at once. Test a few and see how they work.

  • Create a learner portfolio. This can be as simple as name, age, country, years studying English, proficiency level now, and projected proficiency level at the end of the course.
  • Set goals at the start of the course and assess progress midway through and again at the end of the course.
  • Once students have goals, they should create a study plan. How many hours will they dedicate to any particular goal? When will it be completed? And so on. The study plan should have scheduled check-ins with the instructor to make sure everyone is still on task. (Revisions are always allowed.)
  • Students should keep a learning log to track their progress.
  • Teach mini lessons about how to manage the study plan, keep track of a learning log, and so on. These mini lessons should be no more than 10 minutes.
  • Have a reading corner, a listening corner, a speaking corner, and a writing corner. Provide materials at each station that vary in topic, learning style, and level.
  • Design a classroom that has Wi-Fi, computers, newspapers, magazines, novels, nonfiction books, grammar & reference books, audio recordings, movies, TV, and other media. Students should have access to all items they might need.
  • Allow snacks.


Will vary based on the "tips" chosen.


Multilingualism and Language Skills: language learner strategies, learner autonomy

Learning Theme

Learning to know; life-long learning


Murray, G. (2009). A self-directed learning course. In A. F. V. Smith & G. Strong (Eds.), Adult language learners: Context and innovation (pp. 35-47). Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL).

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