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What is autonomous learning?

Crome, Keith J. and Farrar, Ruth and O'Connor, Patrick (2009) What is autonomous learning? Discourse: learning and teaching in philosophical and religious studies, 9 (1). 111 – 126. ISSN 2040-3674

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Abstract

This article has its origin in a project sponsored by the Subject Centre for Philosophy and Religious Studies (PRS) in 2008 that set out to examine the experience of tutors and first year undergraduate students at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) with regard to autonomous learning.1 As a result of our initial background research, and the research for the project itself, which consisted of a series of questionnaires and interviews with philosophy students and staff at MMU, we came to think of autonomous learning—by which we mean the capacity to think for oneself—as an acquired habit. Since habitual activities are often regarded as thoughtless and unintelligent— activities that are mindlessly repeated—such a definition might seem, at best, paradoxical. However, once it is accepted that habits are not necessarily unintelligent, we feel that there are good grounds to understand autonomous learning as an acquired habit. In what follows we develop that understanding and its implications in the hope that further reflection and discussion about this issue will be stimulated. We believe the issue to be of some significance firstly because of the role of autonomous learning in Higher Education (HE), and also because of several factors related to the transformation of HE itself, and we intend to begin by making some remarks about both.

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