Phill Bennett, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan
Jason Brown, Thompson Rivers University, Canada
Huw Davies, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

Bennett, P. A., Brown, J., &  Davies, H. (2020). Editorial. Relay Journal, 3(2), 146-149. https://doi.org/10.37237/relay/030201

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We pleased to announce the publication of Volume 3, Issue 2 of the Relay Journal. In this issue, we are proud to introduce articles written by authors throughout the spectrum of the educational field such as language teachers, language learners, directors of self-access centres, learning advisors, and more. We also encourage you to not only read the articles published in the Relay Journal but participate in the wider discussion of learner and teacher autonomy by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below the papers you read. Please view the Relay Journal as a dynamic space where you can engage with the authors and other readers.

When we wrote the call for papers for this issue, we had no idea of the extent that learning and teaching would be transformed in 2020 as schools and colleges would be forced to move to emergency remote teaching. However, our intention was to focus on learning that takes place outside the traditional classroom setting. We are all involved in encouraging and monitoring autonomous learning beyond the classroom: Jason has researched service learning in Canada, where students spend some time in the classroom learning about the logistics of community support but also get credit for the work they choose to do in the community; Phill and Huw work as learning advisors in Japan, and help university students to establish goals, implement self-directed study and take charge of their learning. We are therefore happy to include two featured articles focused on learning in a self-access centre and through the medium of email communication, before papers on emergency remote teaching, the pedagogy of fostering autonomy, and student motivation for language learning are showcased.

Self-access learning centres (SALCs) can struggle to capture the attention of busy learners, so Katherine Thornton explores the effect an incentive system had on attracting students, and whether SALC use was maintained once the incentive was removed. While the incentive initially created interest, Thornton’s findings suggest that it undermined long-term intrinsic motivation to participate in the centre’s activities. In the second featured article, Hatice Karaaslan and Gamze Güven-Yalçın detail a series of e-mail exchanges over a seven month period. The correspondence is between an advisee who is being advised as they learn English and the advisor who, through written advising, implements Intentional Reflective Dialogue (IRD) (Kato & Mynard, 2015). This is a valuable paper for anyone who would like to or currently supports learners through text and/or does written advising as well as for those who are interested in IRD and advising in general.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted how languages were taught and learned. In the article by Christian Ludwig, Maria Giovanna Tassinari, Sarah Mercer, Micòl Beseghi, Michelle Tamala, Katja Heim, and Gamze A. Sayram, the authors give a summary of the topics they addressed at the IATEFL Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group webinar event on the challenges of distance learning (see LASIG, n.d.). The authors delineate issues from the classroom in regard to the challenges of distance learning, and deliberate on areas such as ensuring teacher and student wellbeing, fostering student communities, designing and carrying out tasks and projects in online environments, including using social media to promote exchange among learners.

The perspectives column also begins with a focus on the changes in teaching due to COVID-19. Mizuka Tsukamoto gives a teacher’s perspective of adapting to the challenges of emergency remote language instruction. She describes the shift in her role to becoming more of a facilitator, and shares observations of increased interaction with her students via email, and between students in class activities. A contrasting viewpoint is described by an undergraduate student, Keita Kuramitsu, who considers the effectiveness of the support he received from lecturers giving emergency remote courses at a university. He introduces connectivity issues, unrealistic assignment workloads, and vision troubles as problems typically faced by learners. He recommends that educators employ better communication with students, more structured course design, and flexibility.

Also in the perspectives column, Dominique Vola Ambinintsoa reflects on using an advising tool, the Wheel of Language Learning (Yamashita & Kato, 2012), in a meeting with a student. She describes how the tool helped the student to evaluate and begin to take charge of their language learning, and gives some pointers for ways in which advising tools can be used effectively to support language learners.

In the reflective practice column, column editors Fergal Bradley and Kie Yamamoto present a series of papers written by Bryan Buschner, Daniel Hooper, and Ross Sampson who are educators that completed the Research Institute of Learner Autonomy (RILAE) Learning Advisor Education Course 4: Transformation (see RILAE, n.d.). In these papers, the authors discuss their experiences and shifts in mindset as they implemented advising strategies in their teaching practice.

Finally, Magdalena Avila Pardo reports on a two-year longitudinal study of undergraduate students’ motivations for English language learning in Mexico in a research paper. Through the implementation of an array of concepts such as agency in second language acquisition, critical realism, communities of practice, and more, the author uses an ethnographic inquiry methodology guided by critical realism to elucidate learners’ motivations and experiences.

We wish to express thanks to the authors, reviewers, editors, and readers for their efforts in the contributions to the field of learner autonomy research. As mentioned above, our call for papers was for topics related to learning outside of the classroom, and while meditating on this topic it became apparent––thanks to Magdalena Avila Pardo’s paper––that the ability for one to be an autonomous learner outside of the classroom is largely dependent on the structures in which one is situated. With that in mind we argue that future issues of this journal should explore the relationship between structure (see Block, 2015; Elder-Vass, 2008; Avila Paro, 2020) and learner/teacher autonomy. By focusing on structure, we can investigate how shared social norms and ideas influence agency, and thus impact on learner and teacher autonomy (e.g., laws, community, habitus, and so on). Agency tends to be viewed by researchers of language learner autonomy and other applied linguists as an aspect of autonomy, although the relationship between the two concepts and their meanings are understood very differently by scholars of sociology and psychology (Davies, in press). We contend that it is time to look beyond the perception of autonomy and agency as “incommensurable terms” (Benson & Cooker, 2013, p. 184), and begin to look for similarities between our concept of learner autonomy and knowledge from other fields with a view to both learning and sharing more widely. We look forward to further discussion on these pages.


Avila Pardo, M. (2020).  Social Structure, Agency and Second Language Learning. Relay Journal, 3(2).

Benson, P., & Cooker, L. (2013) The applied linguistic individual: Gaining perspective. In P. Benson & L. Cooker (Eds.), The applied linguistic individual. Equinox.

Block, D. (2015). Structure, agency, individualization and the critical realist challenge. In P. Deters, X. Gao, E. R. Miller, & G. Vitanova (Eds.), Theorizing and analyzing agency in second language learning: Interdisciplinary approaches (pp. 17-36). https://doi.org/10.21832/9781783092901-004

Davies, H. (in press). How self-access centre staff conceptualise learner autonomy: An analysis of survey data. 神田外語大学紀要/The Journal of Kanda University of International Studies, 33.

Elder‐Vass, D. (2008). Integrating institutional, relational and embodied structure: An emergentist perspective. The British Journal of Sociology, 59(2), 281-299. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2008.00194.x

Kato, S., & Mynard, J. (2015). Reflective Dialogue. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315739649

LASIG. (n.d.) Past events. Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group (LASIG). https://lasig.iatefl.org/events/past-events/

RILAE. (n.d.) Education. Research Institute for Learner Autonomy Education (RILAE). https://kuis.kandagaigo.ac.jp/rilae/education/

Yamashita, H., & Kato, S. (2012). The Wheel of Language Learning: A tool to facilitate learner awareness, reflection and action. In J. Mynard & L. Carson (Eds.), Advising in language learning: Dialogue, tools and context (pp. 164-169). Longman. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315833040