Learner contributions in open and distance language setting

Hurd, Stella and Murphy, Linda (2013). Learner contributions in open and distance language setting. In: Mynard, Jo and Carson, Luke eds. Advising in Language Learning: Dialgue, Tools and Context. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp. 213–230.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315833040


This chapter discusses the contributions learner bring to their language learning in terms of their individual differences with particular reference to the context of Open and Distance Language Learning in the UK.

The first section examines research on individual difference, and discusses a range of cognitive and affective ‘person variables’ (Robinson, 2002), the debates surrounding these classifications in terms of their mutability, how such differences may impact on teaching and learning, and the appropriateness and timing of optimal pedagogical intervention. It emphasises the need to challenge assumptions and to keep an open mind about learner contributions, learner needs and the nature of support and advice.

In the second section we give a brief overview of language learning in an open and distance context, including a summary of the key elements that make up a distance language learning programme and sources of advice and support – online, print-based and in person - that are available to learners. We present some case studies to illustrate the range and diversity of individual difference among adult learners in this particular context, and analyse them in relation to the research and to possible implications for language advising.

In the final section, we challenge the notion that advising always involves a third party and emphasise the role of learners in managing and taking an active role in directing their studies. We also explore the main aspects of the tutor role in open and distance language learning at The Open University UK and in distance learning more generally, in terms of balancing proactive support with respect for learner independence and the fostering of learner autonomy.

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