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Autonomous Learning

Autonomous learning, also called student–centred learning relates to the change in focus in the classroom from the teacher to the student or from the teaching to the learning. This is based on a constructivist theory of learning, How Students Learn 4, whereby each individual student constructs their own understanding based on their prior knowledge and current learning experiences (Kember, 1997).

The concept of autonomous learning and what it means for both learners and lecturers is developed in an article by Geraldine O’Neill and Tim McMahon entitled "Student-centered learning: What does it mean for lecturers and students?".  The following table gives examples of some student-centred approaches. 

Student-centred Approaches
A choice of questions in exams or essays
Group discussions
Group work
Reflective writing
Poster design and presentation
Field trips and practicals
Problem-based learning
Peer mentoring
Role play


The "Creative Challenge for Science Students" video from the UCD Teaching and Learning Inspired Learning playlist, illustrates a student-centred approach inspired by problem-based learning.  There is a group-work component which involves reversal of lecturer-student roles.  Students research and develop learning tools for use by their peers.  They talk to each other about the topic, actively engaging with the content instead of rote-learning.    

The "Paper Tower Challenge" video, also from the UCD Teaching and Learning Inspired Learning playlist gives an example of active-learning in first year Engineering.

You may also be interested in Module Design Principle 5: Active Learning

Printable Resources
  • Taylor, P. G. (2000). Changing Expectations: Preparing students for Flexible Learning. The Inter-national Journal of Academic Development 5(2), 107–115.
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