K. Rokoszewska

Jan Dlugosz University (POLAND)
The aim of developing learner autonomy is to equip learners with knowledge, skills and strategies thanks to which they will be able to think independently, solve problems, take responsibility for their own learning and function effectively in the society in the future by adjusting themselves to changes which take place in the dynamically developing world. The development of learner autonomy is a long process which should be initiated at primary school. The process of learning how to learn involves different activities which aim at the development of metacognitive awareness and learning strategies. Metacognitive awareness, i.e. the awareness of the learning process and oneself as the learner, has a positive influence on learning results.
In teaching young learners, metacognitive awareness is said to consist of language awareness, social awareness, cognitive awareness and cultural awareness. The aim of developing language awareness is to foster children’s curiosity about language so that they ask questions about language which in turn lead to some understanding of language in general and of the first and second languages in particular. The concept of social awareness is based on the main premise of the socio-cultural theory according to which higher cognitive functions are internalized on the basis of social interaction. Developing social awareness entails teaching children to interact and cooperate with others while developing positive attitudes to working together. The development of cognitive awareness aims at helping young learners understand why and how they learn foreign languages at school. Finally, fostering cultural awareness involves fostering tolerance and positive attitudes to target language users and their culture while moving away from mono-cultural perspectives. It is important to add that research indicates that even young learners possess some metacognitive knowledge which can be further developed. Classroom practice also shows that children can understand and use information which refers to classroom procedures as well as share their learning experiences provided that the teacher is able to encourage them to do so by asking proper questions.
The aim of the present paper is to discuss the role of autonomy in the child’s general development and in learning foreign languages. Hence, the paper first presents the main theories of the child’s cognitive, emotional and social development in relation to this notion and then concepts, like metacognitive awareness, learning strategies with techniques for their development and the model of learning how to learn a foreign language at primary school.