Learning Outcomes

This package aims to help you have a better understanding of language learning and yourself as a language learner.

By the end of this package, you will

Language Learning and Independent Learning

1. Features of language learning

Learning a foreign language is a complex skill. Just like learning to play piano, you have to practice it every day or a few times a week if you want to play it well. Similarly, if you want to improve the fluency, accuracy and complexity of your target language, you have to spend time on it and be dedicated to it.

For example, around 300 hours of full-time study at a rate of 18 hours or more a week is needed to lift an average student’s overall IELTS band score from 5.5 to 6.0. Students need longer than 300 hours of full-time study to move from 6.0 to 6.5, or from 6.5 to 7.0.

As for the individual language skills, such as listening, reading, writing and speaking, students can improve their results of the listening test more quickly than other skills while the reading test is likely to show the lowest speed of improvement.

- Adapted from Cornelsen Verlag (2006)

Therefore it can be very difficult to raise your band score just by taking an English course. You need to increase the number of hours you are studying the language and the amount of time you are exposed to it. To really see an improvement, you need to plan to invest a certain number of hours on the specific areas that you need to improve and work independently on those areas.

2. Independent learning

Studying in university is very different from studying in school. For example, you might have more choices about what to learn, more decisions to make, and a more flexible schedule to manage. You will have to take more responsibility for your own learning. Therefore, good learning habits, learning strategies and time management will help you succeed in your university life. Independent learning is essential and crucial not only to your language learning, but also to studying successfully in university no matter what subjects you take.

But what does independent learning mean? And why is it so important for university students?

Activity 1

Understanding Independent Learning

Watch the following video and complete the questions below by clicking on radio to the most suitable answer.

Video 1 - Independent Learning

Video ©Nottingham Trent University (youtube.com)
Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir8MZJkddIA

The transcript of the video:

(Find out more here: http://www.ntu.ac.uk/starting_at_ntu/)

"In this film, we're going to look at independent learning -- what it is, how to do it and why it's important. So first of all, what does independent learning mean for a university student?

Independent learning makes a huge part of the university student experience, it's not timetabled in, so you have to organise it yourself, but it's just you going out doing extra research outside of your lectures, outside of your seminars, to try and understand more about the subjects you're studying.

All students have a lot more time that is not timetabled, that isn't structured in that way, and it's not time off. In some respects the time that you're not in lectures or in labs or in the studio is the most important time because that is where you are really making it count. You are taking charge of the way in which you learn, and to some extent, what you learn.

Why is independent learning important?

To expand your knowledge, you have come to university to kind of be an expert in certain areas. The best way to do that is: they tell you certain bits of information and then you go out and find more, you read journals you read text books and you get a better understanding of what they're talking about. You get better discussions in your seminars if you do that extra reading.

Independent learning is an important skill not just for students but for work and for life, so if I hadn't developed my ability to do independent learning, I couldn't do the job I do now, it's absolutely fundamental.

It can help change your perception, if you thought one way and someone throws out another idea it can completely change your view point on your subject, and make you want to do more reading about what they have obviously been reading.

What sorts of things does independent learning involve doing?

Whatever way best suits you, some people go to the library by themselves, print off journals and stuff.

You can get a group study room out and get a group of you in there talking about the subject. Some of you could read some journals and others read another then talk about key points.

It doesn't mean being by yourself. You're finding out other peoples viewpoints as well, getting their understanding so you have a better understanding of the subject.

You have got to think about your subject when you are outside the classroom, live it, be it and the best advice I would say is, find a group of like-minded people on your course, persuade them to create some sort of study group where you just talk about stuff over coffee. Then when you do come to those bits of the course where you're struggling a bit they will help you, they will be your lifeline, they'll support you and they can be... well friends for life basically.

Independent learning is at the heart of the university experience. If you get it right, it can be really rewarding."

Hide The transcript


1. CORRECT: b.


  • a. Incorrect. Independent learning is not timetabled.
  • c. Incorrect. What can be taught in classes is very limited. You need to explore more after class.
  • d. Incorrect. It is not necessary that you have to work alone. You may form a study group with your classmates or friends to facilitate more effective and efficient learning.
2. CORRECT: d.


As mentioned in the video, “independent learning is at the heart of the university experience. If you get it right, it can be really rewarding”. Learning is a journey of discovery at university and independent learning will help you enjoy the journey and achieve your learning targets.

Your General Learning Personality

There are many factors that could impact on your learning, such as attitude, motivation, learning habits and learning styles.

Are you aware of how you learn? Do you think you could learn in a more effective or efficient way?

How much do you know about your own learning personality?

Activity 2


( Reprinted with permission from the BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/keyskills/extra/module1/4.shtml )

Learning Styles

As people learn and do things in different ways, methods that might be effective for one person, might not be good at all for another. The Visual, Auditory, and Kinaesthetic/Tactile (VAKT) model is one way of identifying different types of learners.

Activity 3

Learner Styles

Watch the video about learning styles and match the explanations with the types of learners by dragging the words in the box and dropping them in the appropriate gaps in the definition.

Video 2 - Learning styles

Video ©Simon Nottm (youtube.com)
Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooqvgcY5VKU


  1. Kinaesthetic Learners learn through moving, doing and touching
  2. Auditory Learners learn through listening
  3. Visual Learners learn through seeing

The VAKT model emphasizes the sensory receivers (e.g. seeing, hearing, feeling) that an individual uses to process new information and attempts to create a personalised scale of preference


Activity 4

Activity 5

Strategies for different learners

Watch the following video and complete the questions below by dragging the learning strategies in the box and dropping them in the table under the different learner types.

Video 3 - Learning styles

Video ©John Hayes (youtube.com)
Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX0teReijUk


Visual Learners Auditory Learners Kinaesthetic Learners

Drawing diagrams

Mind mapping

Rewriting teachers’ notes in your own words

Flash cards

Taping lectures for review later

Reading things out loud for yourself

Tutoring other students to reinforce knowledge

Participating in classroom discussions

Underlining or highlighting your texts/notes in different colours

Repeating answers or reviewing while you are jogging or walking

Creating practice tests for yourself


Understanding Yourself as a Language Learner

So far we have looked at independent learning and learning in general but how does all of this apply to language learning?

Are you a good language learner?

Below is a list of the characteristics of good language learners suggested by Kemp Mill Elementary School (2013). Please read the list carefully and do the following activities:

Activity 6

Characteristics of Good Language Learners


  1. - 7)
  2. - 8)
  3. - 5)
  4. - 1)
  5. - 6)
  6. - 2)
  7. - 4)
  8. - 3)


Activity 7

Becoming A Good Language Learner

Read the items in Activity 6 again. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which statements describe your own situation? Why?

  • What is your next target to achieve to become a better language learner? How?


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