LINGUIST List 27.1633

Thu Apr 07 2016

Review: Applied Ling; General Ling: Jiménez Raya, Vieira (2015)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 03-Sep-2015
From: Jose Aguilar Río <>
Subject: Enhancing Autonomy in Language Education
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Manuel Jiménez Raya
AUTHOR: Flávia Vieira
TITLE: Enhancing Autonomy in Language Education
SUBTITLE: A Case-Based Approach to Teacher and Learner Development
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Second and Foreign Language Education [SSFLE] 9
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Jose Ignacio Aguilar Río, Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris III

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


Enhancing Autonomy in Language Education, by Manuel Jiménez Raya & Flávia Vieira, comes across as a collection of previous writings about autonomy, learner development and teacher education. These writings argue for the appropriateness of case-based approaches in teacher education programmes in order to effectively place the learners and learning at the heart of any teaching endeavour.

The book opens with a somewhat moral, but also committed, preface by Francis W. Tochon, who presents a compelling characterisation of what schooling seems to be in most societies nowadays, and what it could come to be if the necessary means were used to foster the learners' needs and the teachers' education. Tochon insists on principles such as autonomy and reflection, which must be at the centre of any teaching endeavour.

An introduction by the authors comes then. They give their own point of view on key matters such as “teacher education” (Jiménez Raya & Vieira, 2015: 1) and “autonomy” (ibid.), which are effectively central to the whole volume. The authors define themselves within a “critical paradigm” (ibid.: 4). The introductory chapter ends with an outline of the book, and with the authors acknowledging their commitment to a rather engaged and ideological standpoint.

Chapter 1 presents ways to promote autonomy in language education contexts. A rather historical standpoint allows the authors to distinguish between “instruction”, “schooling” and “education”, as well as to situate these endeavours within industrial societies (ibid.: 11). Other concepts and principles, key to the authors' objectives, are discussed, such as “literacy skills” and “critical thinking” (ibid.: 11), “lifelong learning” (ibid.: 13), “content based curricula” (ibid.: 17). These notions allow the authors to introduce the idea of a pedagogy that allows for autonomy – both the learners' and the teachers'.

Chapter 2 discusses ways to develop autonomy in the teacher. First, teaching as a technical practice – as “art”, “craft” and “technology” (ibid.: 39) – and the teacher as a practitioner – an “architect” and “mediator” (ibid.: 40) – are characterised. Previous, and somewhat classic, characterisations of teaching are also reviewed – “effective teaching”, “teaching as complex activity” (ibid.: 42), and “teacher empowerment” (ibid.: 47). Change is presented as a desirable goal able to help develop all actors involved in any teaching situation, but also as a daunting agent, which brings potentially undesired feelings, such as “vulnerability”, “doubt”, “anxiety”, and “fear” (ibid.: 44). Ultimately, change calls for “new behaviours”, which may surface by means of an “apprenticeship of observation” (ibid.). Cases are presented as valid material to bring about change and such apprenticeship (ibid.: 46).

Chapter 3 presents ways to work with cases, as well as possible outcomes of such work. The authors insist on the link between “professional development” and “change” (ibid.: 59). Professional knowledge, which is necessary for the development of a professional identity, is said to be composed of both clinical and field experience (ibid.: 61). Accordingly, cases appear as an appropriate material to “teach the theory” (ibid.) in realistic, representative ways. Teacher knowledge is described as both “interactive” and “speculative” (ibid.: 68).

In Chapter 4, the authors introduce ways for teachers to write cases from their own experiences. Cases may help develop a teacher's professional knowledge by deconstructing it (ibid.: 83), which needs an interpreting agent who provides a mediation. Teacher educators and teacher education may be the agents of such mediation, as far as they allow for “divergent thinking” rather than looking for “consensus” (ibid.: 85). According to the authors, pre- and in-service teachers are not used to evaluating their own teaching, either alone or with the aid of a mentor. Yet, this seems to be an appropriate method to develop teacher knowledge in a complex, critical manner. Chapter 4 concludes with examples of charts that may be used to set up a work of analysis and deconstruction, based on case studies.

Chapter 5 is the final chapter. It presents ways for teacher educators to write cases from teachers' experiences. The authors plead for a hybrid approach in teacher education, which accounts for both narrative and multi-modal cases (ibid.: 119). Ultimately, teaching and teacher education are characterised as moral activities (ibid.: 128), which call for the “competence to engage critically”, as well as for a “strong professional identity” (ibid.: 129).


Jiménez Raya & Vieira's work comes across as a compelling, committed, thoroughly engaged piece of writing. The expected outcome(s) of the teachers' education approach put forward equates better societies, inhabited by positively self-aware individuals, capable to question themselves and be questioned by others without feeling threatened, but also able to go further. This is a fundamentally human, moral and social aim, with which this reviewer could not help but to agree. Plus, such aims seem to coincide with those of the European institutions, namely the Council of Europe (2001). The means put forward in order to attain such aim are the core of this volume. They are of a fundamental didactic nature, and may be subject to some objection.

In effect, for a work that has “autonomy” as probably the most essential concept, this reviewer was surprised to find that the authors do not give explicit evidence of pedagogical artefacts, other than “the class” (ibid.: 3), where autonomy may be developed, encouraged, played out, or be made aware of. Why should a deeply humanistic approach to teacher education, such as the one defended by the authors, only or mainly take place within a heavily traditional context such as “school”? Especially since the authors seem to contest “school” and “schooling” as corrupted educational outcomes originating from industrial societies. In effect, this reviewer was surprised not to come across ways to implement this case-based approach in virtual, multimedia, online environments, where the users' autonomy and creativity may be taken to other dimensions (Abendroth-Timmer & Aguilar Río, 2014). This reviewer did notice the occurrence of “podcasting” (ibid.: 92), yet found that the pedagogical context where this technology was advised, as well as its scope, fell short of what the Web x.0 functionalities allow as far as language teaching and learning are concerned.

Finally, and in spite of the wealth of tables and illustrations presented by the authors, this reviewer failed to figure out how a case-based approach could actually be implemented within a university curriculum language teachers' education. What may be the actual contents and learning objectives? Who should be in charge of constituting such a corpus, what may be the available choices and to what purpose? These are certainly questions that catch the attention of scholars, researchers and (language) teacher educators wherever their location (Muller, David & Crozier, in press). This reviewer believes that scholars from both ends of the Atlantic Ocean have certainly much to gain if they combine their forces.

Jiménez Raya and Vieira's book offers a wealth of information for doctoral candidates and scholars. Ultimately, their work has the merit of presenting an approach to teacher education that truly accounts for the individual, and which addresses the individual's moral dimension.


Abendroth-Timmer, D. & Aguilar Río, J. I. (2014). “Accompagner la formation de futurs enseignants de langue en tandem interculturel médiatisé : la sensibilisation aux fonctions du tutorat.” In Abendroth-Timmer D. y Hennig E.-M., Plurilingualism and multiliteracies: International Research on identity construction in language education. Frankfurt & Main: Peter Lang. pp. 303-16.

Muller, C., David, C. & Crozier, E. (in press). “Des corpus vidéo pour la formation des enseignants de langue”. Les Cahiers de l'Acedle : Recherche en Didactique des Langues.

Raya, M. J. & Vieira, F. (2015). Enhancing autonomy in language education: a case-based approach to teacher and learner development. Boston, MA: De Gruyter Mouton.


Jose Ignacio Aguilar Río is a Senior Lecturer at Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 University in France. He teaches undergraduate and post-graduate courses in education and applied linguistics. His research interests are in classroom interaction, foreign language teacher education and research methodology. He has presented papers at international conferences in Europe. His works have been published in international reviews

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