Improving Studentsf Learner Autonomy in Japanese Educational Settings


A Symposium


 Shien Sakai, Chiba University of Commerce;
Yoichi Kiyota, Meisei University;

Akiko Takagi, Osaka Kyoiku University;
Natsue Nakayama, Maebashi Kyoai Gakuen College

The symposium was presented by four speakers. First, Prof. Sakai overviewed the research on the relationship between learner autonomy and English language proficiency of Japanese university students conducted by him and Prof. Takagi. Following him, Prof. Kiyota spoke on how to motivate students to study English. Then, Prof. Takagi talked about teacher autonomy for teachers which should be autonomous when they help their students improve autonomy. Finally, Prof. Nakayama discussed how the mentoring program worked in order to enhance teacher autonomy by looking into the case of Arizona State. Then implications towards Japanese education system through the mentoring program were made.


1. Relationship between learner autonomy and English language proficiency of Japanese learners@@ @@@@@   
Shien Sakai, Chiba University of Commerce

The present study investigates the relationship between learner autonomy and English language proficiency of Japanese students from various universities. Specifically, the following objectives was addressed: If 721 students from 16 universities are divided into three levels according to their score in a vocabulary test, what differences in perceptions regarding responsibility and autonomy do students have among these three groups?

After conducting factor analysis several times, the studentsf features of three groups were obtained. The top students are autonomous learners. The intermediate students are not independent users of English outside the classroom, but can be seen as learners in their classrooms. The poor performers remain dependent learners under teachersf direction.


Under each nationfs educational system, learner autonomy has developed in its own way. However, in the end, various developments will converge on Holecfs definition (1981), for there are many autonomous learners who have been educated in the Japanese educational setting.



2. English Learning Motivation of Japanese University Learners for Developmental Education Related to Self-esteem@ @@@@@@@

Yoichi Kiyota, Meisei University@

In Japan, students who cannot keep up with English lessons in their universities have become a problem. A lot of universities have started to work on English developmental education in order to improve their English ability. However, considering their long-term unsuccessful experiences in English learning, attention should be paid to the problems of learning motivation and attitudes at the same time as improving proficiency. If the learners have been influenced negatively in their self-esteem through long-term English learning at school, it is necessary to design teaching lessons in relation to the learnersf general self-esteem.@

As a result of the investigations, correlation was recognized between English learning motivation factors and self-esteem factors. This suggests that it is necessary to enhance learnersf self-esteem in conducting English developmental education and not merely improve their basic knowledge and skills.



3. How to develop teacher autonomy in EFL context

Akiko Takagi, Osaka Kyoiku University

Clearly, teachers play an important role in promoting learner autonomy, and teacher autonomy seems to be precondition for fostering learner autonomy. However, there is little empirical research on teacher autonomy in EFL context. In order to find out some implication for future study regarding development of teacher autonomy in pre-service and in-service teacher training, I conducted intensive literature review on the definition of teacher autonomy as well as links between teacher and learner autonomy. Defining teacher autonomy is an easy task, but we have to keep in mind that there are at least six dimensions on teacher autonomy as Smith (2003) points out. Especially, fostering capacity for self-directed professional development has a strong impact on developing studentsf learner autonomy and negotiation, critical reflective inquiry, dialogue, and empowerment will be key terms in development of teacher autonomy in teacher education.


4. A Study on Mentoring System at Northern Arizona University and its Implications to Japanese Teacher Education

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Natsue Nakayama, Maebashi Kyoai Gakuen College

There are some researchers who explain the teachersf role is important in promoting studentsf autonomy. However, if a teacher did not have a concept of autonomy or has never received such training, we could easily imagine it would be very difficult for the teacher to lead learners to become autonomous. Then, what would be necessary to promote teacher/leaner autonomy?@@

One answer will be training on meta-cognitive strategy of the teachers. Good mentors would help them learn the abilities more smoothly. However, in Japan, we do not have the concept of how to train mentors.@

This March, we visited Northern Arizona University (NAU) to observe the role of mentor in teacher induction program (TIP). Through the visit we found that (1) TIP includes many aspects to enhance meta-cognitive strategies of the beginning teachers, and (2) the mentor plays an important role in enhancing them. Therefore, the purpose of this presentation is to (1) report about this mentoring system in NAU and (2) to make some implications towards the Japanese teacher education system.