Cultivation of Minority Language Students’ Autonomous Learning Ability in Regular Institutions of Higher Learning
Гу Я. Cultivation of Minority Language Students’ Autonomous Learning Ability in Regular Institutions of Higher Learning // Молодой ученый. 2015. №24. С. 1128-1131.
The cultivation of university students’ autonomous learning ability is a long-term goal for the foreign language teaching reform. The cultivation of autonomous learning ability has a profound influence on improving their ability of comprehensively using and practice of foreign language, and promoting their successful career. This paper analyzes the current learning status of minority language students in regular institution of higher learning, and makes some proposals for cultivating their autonomous learning ability in aspects of teacher, student and teaching resource, etc.
Keywords: autonomous learning, regular institution of higher learning, minority language teaching, learning model.
Since the idea of “autonomous learning” was put forward and introduced into China, it has caused wide attention in the field of education. Universities began to seek the way for cultivating undergraduate’s autonomous learning ability in combination with their own teaching practice. In addition to making students accept the knowledge taught in class, the teaching task at undergraduate stage should also focus on the interest and need of individual, and emphasize their subjective initiative for effectively selecting learning contents, so as to achieve their best learning goal through actively processing knowledge. At present, it is a mainstream ideology to construct the cultivating model of autonomous learning ability in our national foreign language teaching reform.
As important components of foreign language teaching, there are both similarities and differences between minority language majors and English majors in undergraduate teaching. For university students learning minority language, they already have good ability to analyze and understand problems; therefore, in the process of learning a foreign language from “zero” starting point, it is helpful to improve students’ learning benefit through cultivating their autonomous learning ability of setting learning goals and evaluating learning effect, etc. Meanwhile, taking the cultivation of students’ autonomous learning ability as a long-term teaching goal is of great significance to deepen the reform and innovation of teaching method and teaching model.
1. Formation and development of autonomous learning theory
The concept of autonomous learning was first proposed and introduced into the field of foreign language teaching by Holec (1981). Holec let his students make decisions for their own learning; this teaching model was not teacher-centered, which puts forward a great challenge to the traditional teaching model. He thought the autonomous learning “an ability of learners responsible for their learning” in the process of learning. Dickinson (1995) considered autonomous learning as “a learning attitude and an independent learning ability”. The research on cultivating model of autonomous learning ability can be mainly divided into four stages: (1) build an autonomous learning center and create the best learning environment for learners; (2) introduce the cultivating model of autonomous learning into classroom teaching; (3) emphasize the role of teachers in the process of cultivating learners’ autonomous learning ability; (4) popularize the teaching means of computer and multimedia, and engage in the multimedia-assisted autonomous learning, and the distance education and teaching such as online class, etc.
Since 1990s, domestic scholars also began to show their interest on the autonomous learning theory, introduced related foreign research achievements, and discussed how to domestically develop the cultivation of autonomous learning ability in the field of teaching. The researchers at home and abroad have developed their discussion of the autonomous learning from all aspects such as its definition, influencing factors and anticipated goal, etc., which laid theoretical foundation for cultivating students’ autonomous learning ability in foreign teaching practice. Domestic scholars mainly discussed the feasibility and necessity of cultivating foreign language learners’ autonomous learning ability, commonly by means of questionnaire survey (Chen Xiaoxiang, Xu Jinfen et, al.). The results showed that the autonomous learning ability of Chinese university students in foreign language is generally low, and proved the feasibility and necessity of carrying out autonomous learning for English teaching in higher institutions.
The so-called autonomous learning is, in teaching practice, to play both the leading role of teachers in teaching and the principal role of students in learning. Teachers ask questions and guide students to actively explore, which forms the best cooperation between both parties. It emphasizes the subjective initiative of students in autonomous learning for the purpose of achieving a more effective learning efficiency. Therefore, the key point of cultivating autonomous learning ability is how to play students’ spirit of active participation so as to promote their positive thinking for satisfying their curiosity. Recently, the teaching ideas of cultivating learner’s initiative and learner-centering have been the consensus in foreign language teaching field.
2. Main problems of minority language university students in learning
As a teacher in Japanese major, through the long-term teaching practice, questionnaire and after-class interview, etc., I found some problems for minority language students in regular institution of higher learning, which influence the cultivation of their autonomous learning ability.
The first problem is their high dependence on teachers. Currently, most minority language students in higher institutions haven’t got rid of the learning model in high school. Although quality-oriented education has been gradually implemented in middle and high schools, there are hardly any research and attempt on autonomous learning ability. The learning manner of students is to passively accept knowledge taught by teachers due to the cruelty of university entrance examination. After entering university, the minority language teaching starts from letter writing and pronunciation, it causes their dependence on teachers. They hope teachers can arrange exercises, “weekly exam” and “monthly exam” in the teaching process, as well as much unified exercises and explanation before language level examination. The teaching model of “zero” starting point is mainly an “accepting” stage in pronunciation and primary grammar courses of the first year. The completion of task and passive acceptance of grammar and sentence pattern gradually shapes “lazy” students and makes them lose the initiative of actively exploring. This pure and blind method of accepting teaching content and teachers’ viewpoint significantly limits the learning itself and is not good for students to play their learning potential of extensibility and criticalness, which will eventually affect students’ knowledge construction and their formation of academic view.
Second, students have no goals and planning in the process of learning. After entering university, a current common problem for them is that they have no integrating plan on their four-year’s learning and the orientation after graduation. After the nervous high school life, many freshmen begin to relax themselves and are lack of enough initiative to seek and extend, and also haven’t clear plan to arrange their learning. Especially for the students of weak learning and self-discipline ability, facing the colorful life, they can’t learn in a scientific and effective way. In addition, some students don’t know and even can’t do self-evaluation and self-diagnostics, which fundamentally cause that they are unable to adjust their learning methods and improve their learning effect. Consequently, some students are mediocre in their four-year’s university life with general learning effect of professional knowledge.
Third, the cognitive abilities of students are varied. Language research scholar Sakaien divides the cognitive ability of students into three types: average type, analysis type and memory type. After middle and high schools’ learning, although minority language students in university learn a foreign language from the “zero” starting point, they already have certain ability of analyzing and understanding. Their study in senior grades gives priority to the cultivation of overall language proficiency instead of the instruction of sentence pattern and grammar, that is, to the emphasis on their comprehensive ability of listening, speaking, reading, writing and translating. Generally speaking, students with a strong interest in minority language and a balancing ability development are always excellent in comprehensive ability, especially the practical application ability, and in listening, speaking as well as grasping an article as a whole. Students of the memory type always remember words and fixed sentence pattern firmly and learn seriously, but make lots of mistakes in the exam with flexible question patterns. It shows their weakness in the comprehensive application ability, and that some even have problems in pronunciation and oral expression. Therefore, the traditional teaching model of knowledge instruction in class will cause some students losing their interest in learning minority language, because of the difference between individuals, which will result in the polarization in class after entering higher grades.
3. Countermeasures for cultivating students’ autonomous learning ability
3.1 Changing teacher’s teaching idea and promoting the professional teaching reform
Autonomous learning is not equivalent to the self-study without teacher’s participation. In the process of cultivating students’ autonomous learning ability, teachers need to change their teaching ideas and teaching role in class. Their function is changed from of purely infusing knowledge to answering questions, guiding students to explore and imparting the learning strategy to them; their role is changed from the knowledge instructor into the organizer, guider and coordinator of classroom activities. In traditional foreign language teaching class, teachers are the center of teaching activities; while in class of advocating students’ autonomous learning, teachers should regard students as the teaching subject and promote the full play of their subjective initiative, so as to help them understand their own learning status and recognize their own learning responsibility. Meanwhile, teachers should also help students master the necessary skills and knowledge for autonomous learning and provide opportunities for them to practice autonomous learning. Teachers are responsible for providing enough material and designing a variety of teaching activities for students.
From the “learner-centered” teaching idea, teachers should attach importance to selecting learning material and developing learning task, and encouraging students to develop their independent and cooperative spirit. In students-centered classroom teaching, teachers use the heuristic, discussion and research teaching methods to develop single, double and group activities. By these ways, students can grasp the thinking methods of analysis, inference and judgment by participating in classroom activities, so as to gradually form their ability of independently solving problems. In extracurricular learning, students should consciously learn to make decision of and arrange their learning, recognize and manage themselves, and effectively use their extracurricular and autonomous learning time.
In professional construction, an attempt on professional teaching reform should be developed to discuss new teaching methods, optimize the ratio of theoretical and practical courses, and build rational assessment system, so as to realize an assumption that can not only stimulate students’ learning initiative, but also evaluate their learning effect in a scientific and objective way. Meanwhile, teachers should be able to find students’ problems existing in the process of learning and provide guidance for their next learning stage.
3.2 Arousing student’s learning interest and promoting their autonomous learning
The selection of minority language majors is generally based on students’ personal interest or consideration for employment. Taking Japanese and Korean as examples, most of the students have access to the anime, TV plays, and Japanese and Korean popular culture before entering university, which becomes their initial motivation for major selection. Students always show great learning passion at the beginning of the entrance due to the entirely difference among minority languages and English. Therefore, teachers should pay attention to the cultivation of their interest, especially in the introduction stage of the first year, in combination with their psychological development features by using the means of network and multimedia, etc. and the forms of foreign language restatement and description, etc. to arouse their learning interest. By these ways, not only can students finish their learning task, but also their interest can be aroused. Teachers can effectively facilitate the change and optimization of students’ learning styles in accordance with the requirements of courses and the students’ features. At the same time, students should also enhance their learning interest cultivation by starting from knowing and learning a foreign language to realize their deeper understanding of a foreign country, so as to develop a habit of actively seeking and learning related knowledge.
3.3 Making full use of various teaching resources
A lot of foreign and domestic learning resources from the network can be used as the auxiliary material for language teaching. Rich network resources provide a relative open learning environment for students. Teachers can select the practical and interesting foreign language teaching material corresponding to the teaching content to let students autonomously practice their learning activities such as listening, speaking, writing and text study, etc. in order to stimulate their autonomous learning enthusiasm. They can also arrange the cultural activities such as singing, public speaking and dramatic performance, etc. outside the classroom to find and develop students’ various ability so as to strengthen their language competence.
3.4 Cultivating student’s ability of self-supervision, -control and -evaluation
At present, many university students are lack of the consciousness of self-supervision, -control and -evaluation. Teachers should guide students to build their goals for foreign language learning in combination with their own situation, and direct them to select the best learning manner. Students should autonomously set their learning goals and choose their learning material to cultivate their skills for independently exploring knowledge. Teachers should play their guiding role to help students make proper and effective learning plan according to their own situation, and periodically supervise their implementation of the learning plan. Students can find their own problems in learning through periodical self-evaluation, mutual evaluation among group members and teacher’s assessment, and solve them timely.
The autonomous learning ability of university students has a direct influence on the learning process and results of minority language students. Therefore, teachers need to continuously explore in their teaching practice to create the best environment of autonomous learning for students and cultivate their autonomous learning ability, resulting from which students can actually grasp a foreign language skill through their conscious and autonomous learning. The cultivation of autonomous learning ability is not only the exploration to the minority foreign language teaching reform, but also an effective path for improving students’ practical ability and a demand for training applied talents.
This paper is the preliminary achievement of the “Twelfth Five-Year” social science research project “Investigation and Research on Foreign Language Major Undergraduate’s Autonomous Learning Ability in Regular Institutions of Higher Learning” (the Education Department of Jilin Province JiJiaoKeWenHeZi 【2014】No. 302) of the Education Department of Jilin Province.
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