Learner autonomy or how to achieve a high level of interest in learning

How to develop learner autonomy in an English classroom?

How to develop learner autonomy in an English classroom?


  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

There is a constant challenge for educators to keep their students engaged in the learning process, which requires more and more creativity. One of the ways to achieve a high level of interest is by boosting learners’ autonomy.

What exactly is learner autonomy?

It is a concept that outlines a student’s ability to take charge of their learning journey. This means providing learners with all the necessary skills and tools to help them choose their way of studying.

Are there any advantages of autonomous learning?

A systematic approach to solving problems in studying

When a learner faces problematic bits of information, it requires searching and choosing the correct data to find the answers. A student who is constantly taught to work with eligible sources of information becomes quite autonomous in their further learning journey.

Higher level of engagement

When learners take more responsibility for their results, they naturally become more interested and focused. Thus, it leads them to more engagement and provides a more dynamic experience compared to the one during a teacher-led studying process.

Increased encouragement

Autonomous learning promotes self-directed development by enabling learners to take charge of their education. This approach allows learners to customize their learning experiences according to their personal needs and preferences, accommodating their unique learning styles and interests.

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How can learner autonomy be achieved?

Discuss your students' preferences

Communication always leads to a better understanding of your students’ needs and makes them believe that their input in the program of the course is valuable. By simply discussing learners’ preferences and points they would like to work on more, you can improve their outcomes and a general level of class engagement.

It could be done with the help of surveys, polls, open-class or break-out rooms discussions (online), or group discussions (offline) with the further reporting of general ideas in an open class.


It is crucial to persuade your learners that consistent goal-setting and self-assessment are effective strategies that will help them feel their self-efficacy and boost their confidence in their ability to achieve goals.

You could go with the ‘can-do’ statements. Here your learners need to think about what they already ‘can do’, still ‘need to do’ and ‘want to learn’. This works as an effective tool for prioritizing their further tasks.

Providing various forms of content

When preparing for lessons, aim to use different forms of presenting material. It doesn’t have to be juggling with all available online applications and programs but several reliable multimedia tools would come in handy (Jamboard, Miro, Kahoot, etc.)

Different animations, infographics, videos, and podcasts could be successfully utilized for practising skills or language presentation. 

Don’t forget to ask your students about their preferences after you familiarize them with different ways of material presentation.

How to maintain discipline and interest of students?

Give options

Adjusting lessons and learning programs to your students’ needs and abilities is a must and should be always kept in mind. For example, learners could be provided with multiple ways of assessment, such as writing an essay or taking a quiz. At the same time, you could introduce a topic for the next lesson and ask your learners’ to find information about it (it’s up to them to decide if they read news, listen to podcasts, etc.). The next class should start with a discussion. This is how knowledge could be applied to real life.

Create an online learning environment

It could be some group chat on any social media where the students from one group could share their ideas, questions, materials, jokes, memes, etc. It is essential to make your contribution as a teacher as well by constant support and sharing useful and relatable content. Don’t forget to set the rule that forbids any other language except the one you are learning.

Teach learners to take risks

Language barrier and other difficulties while learning often comes because of fear of making mistakes. Thus, it is quite important to explain that mistakes are natural and we cannot avoid them. 

Delayed correction of your students’ mistakes at the end of the lesson gives an opportunity to identify and correct mistakes in groups, individually or in an open class and, what’s more important, does not point out the student who made the mistake.

Retakes also work well for those who are willing to work on their mistakes and improve. By allowing learners to reshape their ideas in essays or retake the whole exam, we provide a safe learning environment and focus on the learner’s achievements, not grades.

The learner autonomy concept could be applied to different learning environments, boost your learners’ engagement, and shape independence in students. Test the advice above to see how it works.

Article authors & editors
  • Alina Fastovets

    Alina Fastovets


    CELTA-certified teacher of General English



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