We feel that promoting learner autonomy is a great way to empower our students. In order to understand what the concept actually means, let us briefly describe a few ideas about mental effort, feeling of happiness and intrinsic motivation.
In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahnemann opens our eyes in many ways. We learn, for example, that people tend to use their fast, instinctive and emotional thinking more than slow thinking because it is easier. Slow thinking is much harder as it requires discipline and mental effort. Slow thinking empowers learning.
Mental effort usually means hard work, but not only. In case we do something significant for us, we are highly likely to feel happiness as well. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it a state of flow. When we’re in that state, nothing else matters. We’re simply willing to work on our task as long as it takes, without any extrinsic rewards. This is what makes learning enjoyable.
Learner autonomy is based on intrinsic motivation. According to David Little, an autonomous learner is a happy learner, who understands the purpose of their learning programme and explicitly accepts responsibility for planning, carrying out and evaluating their learning process. Autonomy makes learning both effective and efficient.