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Lizzy Tanguay (Aston University)

Learning to learn: encouraging learner autonomy using data driven learning with ACORN


It is generally considered that the active role of the learner is a crucial factor for success in second language learning (Lightbown and Spada 2001:28). Many researchers have found that a learner will retain a greater knowledge of a linguistic form or principle they have worked out for themselves than one that is taught to them, as ‘self-discovered’ information is processed more deeply (Nunan 2001:196). To allow learners to become active explorers of language and make such ‘discoveries’, corpus linguists have long advocated data driven learning – an approach which uses a corpus or an electronic database of language as a powerful tool for investigating language. There has however, also been much scepticism about the use of corpora as a tool for language learning. While critics argue that results of corpus explorations need to be interpreted by the teacher, leading to time-consuming preparation and little actual independent exploration of language data by students (reported in Krishnamurthy and Kosem 2007:358), the full potential of corpora as an independent learning tool has yet to be investigated.
This presentation reports an on-going study seeking to identify whether introducing a data-driven approach to learning through the use of an academic corpus such as ACORN (The Aston Corpus Network) can encourage learner autonomy and independent language learning. The presentation outlines the study and gives an example training session with a group of learners in the Centre for English Language and Communication at Aston, as well as providing some initial results of the study.

Krishnamurthy, R. and Kosem, I. (2007). "Issues in creating a corpus for EAP pedagogy and research." Journal of English for Academic Purposes 6(4): 356-373.
Lightbown, P. M. and Spada, N. (2001). Factors affecting second language learning. English language teaching in its social context. in Candlin C. N., and Mercer, N. (eds). London, Routledge: pp. 28-44.
Nunan, D. (2001). Teaching Grammar in Context. English language teaching in its social context : a reader. Candlin, C. N. and Mercer, N. (eds). London, Routledge in association with Macquarie University and the Open University: xiv, 352 p.

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