Tributes to Naoko Aoki

July 25, 2018 at 7:50 pm 6 comments

We believe that friends and colleagues from the learner autonomy community worldwide may wish to share their memories of Naoko so please contribute with your stories at the end of this Condolences page.

Tributes to Naoko Aoki


Naoko Aoki, a former convener of the AILA Scientific Commission on Learner Autonomy, passed away in Kobe, Japan, on 8th July 2018. Naoko was appointed Professor in the Graduate School of Letters, Osaka University, in April 2004, where she worked with pre-service and in-service teachers of Japanese as a second language (JSL). Naoko began practising and writing about learner autonomy after the “Taking Control” conference in Hong Kong in 1994 and completed her PhD in 2003 at Trinity College Dublin on “Learner autonomy, teacher autonomy and the process of becoming a pro-autonomy teacher: Theoretical perspectives and life stories of six teachers of Japanese as a second language.” She was a co-convener of AILA’s Learner Autonomy Research Network from 2011 to 2014, and, earlier, the founding co-coordinator of the Japan Association for Language Teaching’s (JALT) Learner Development SIG in 1994. Naoko had a great impact on changing perspectives about learning and teaching Japanese through promoting qualitative research in the context of JSL education. Her main research interests were second language learner autonomy (both Japanese language education-related and foreign language education-related), teacher education, and narrative.

Naoko was very well-known for her work in the field of learner autonomy and is sorely missed by many in our community. Her contribution to the autonomous language learning community was immense. In many different ways, over many years, she played a leading role in the learner autonomy field, and generously, but with great modesty and professional dignity helped many teachers, students and colleagues from around the world. Many of us have personal experience of her inspiring and creative ways of including autonomous learning in her teaching.

Naoko travelled and worked with researchers all over the world, always with the students’ best interests in her mind. Naoko published extensively in both English and Japanese. Some of her publications include:

Aoki, N. (Ed.). (2016).『ことばと文字』第6号 学習者オートノミー実践報告特集。日本のローマ字社 Kotoba to Moji (Words and Letters) Special issue of learner autonomy practice. Tokyo: Nihon no Romaji-sha.

Aoki, N. (2013). Learner autonomy for personal autonomy. In Dofs, K. & Hobbs, M. (Eds.) ILA Selections 2012 (pp. 165-167). Independent Learning Association.

Aoki, N. (2013).『外国語学習アドバイジング』(Language advising: Designing your personal learning plan with advice from expert). Kindle book.

Course, S., Lamb, T. & Aoki, N. (2013). Promoting teacher/learner autonomy and improving praxis. In Barfield, A. & Alvarado, N. D. (Eds.), Autonomy in Language Learning: Stories of Practice (pp. 140-149). Canterbury: IATEFL.

Aoki, N. (2012). Can-do statements for advisors. In C. Ludwig & J. Mynard (Eds.), Autonomy in language learning: Advising in action (pp. 154-163). Canterbury, UK: IATEFL.

Aoki, N. (2011). Teacher stories to improve theories of learner/teacher autonomy. In C. J. Everhard & J. Mynard with R. Smith (Eds.), Autonomy in language learning: Opening a can of worms (pp. 33-36). Canterbury: IATEFL.

Aoki, N. & Nakata, Y. (Eds.). (2011). Gakushuusha autonomy: Nihongo kyooiku to gaikokugo kyooiku no mirai no tame ni. Tokyo: Hitsuji Shobo.

Aoki, N. and Osaka University Students (2010) A community of practice as a space for collaborative student teacher autonomy. In O’Rourke, B. & Carson, L. (Eds.), Language learner autonomy: Policy, curriculum, classroom (pp. 63-79). Bern: Peter Lang.

Aoki, N. (2010). Gakushuusha autonomy gairon (An introduction to learner autonomy). In Nakajima, A. & Kito, Y. (Eds.), Tout change! CECRL et autonomie de l’apprenant (pp. 61-77). Association des Ensegnatnts de japoneas en France.

Aoki, N. (2010). Gakushuusha autonomy, jikoshudoogata gakushuu, Nihongo Portfolio, advising, self-access. Nihongo Kyooiku Tsuushin 38. The Japan Foundation.

Kjisik, F., Voller, P., Aoki, N. & Nakata, Y. (Eds.). (2009). Mapping the terrain of learner autonomy: Learning environments, learning communities and identities. Tampere: Tampere University Press.

Aoki, N. (2009). Where learner autonomy could fail a second language user: Three-level analysis of social context. In Mapping the terrain of learner autonomy: Learning environments, learning communities and identities (pp. 236-261). Tampere: Tampere University Press.

Aoki, N. with Kobayashi, H. (2009). Defending stories and sharing one: Towards a narrative understanding of teacher autonomy. In Pemberton, R., Toogood, S. & Barfield, A. (Eds.), Maintaining Control: Autonomy and Language Learning (pp. 199-216). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Aoki, N. (2008c). Nihongo o manabu hitotachi no autonomy o mamoru tame ni (Defending autonomy of learners of Japanese). Nihongo Kyouiku, 138, 33-42.

Aoki, N. (2008b). Toojisha no iibun kara shuppatsu suru curriculum (A curriculum based on what learners claim). In Communica Institute (Ed.), Seikatsusha to shite no gaikokujin no tame no module gata curriculum no kaihatsu to gakushuu tuuru no sakusei (Developing corriculum modules and learning tools for for foreigners living in Japan) (pp. 111-126).

Aoki, N. (2008a). Teacher stories to improve theories of learner/teacher autonomy. Independence, 43, 15-17.

Aoki, N. (2008). Gakushuusha autonomy o sodateru kyoushi no yakuwari (Teachers’ roles to develop learner autonomy). Eigo Kyouiku (The English Teachers’ Magazine), 56(12), 10-13.

Aoki, N. (2006). Kyoshi ni totte no sei no shitsu (Qualty of life for teachers). In Nihongo Kyoiku Gakkai (Ed.). 2006 Nendo Shuki Taikai Yokoshu (2006 Autumn Conference Preceedings).
(Download PowerPoint file here)

Aoki, N. (2006). Kyoushi autonomy (Teacher autonomy). In K. Haruhara & S. Yokomizo (Eds.). Nihongo Kyoushi no Seichou to Jikokenshuu (Development and Self-Training for Teachers of Japanese) (pp. 138-157). Tokyo: Bonjinsha.

Aoki, N. (2006). Teacher autonomy, commitment to the profession, and teacher’s personal autonomy. In L.B. Wolff & J.L.V. Batista (Eds.). The Canarian Conference on Developing Autonomy in the Classroom: Each Piece of the Puzzle Enriches Us All (CD ROM). Canarias: Gobierno de Canarias.

Aoki, N. (2005). Jiritsu gakushuu (Autonomous learning). In Shinban Nihongo Kyouiku Jiten (Dictionary of Japanese Language Education, New Edition) (pp. 773-775). Tokyo: Taishuukan Shoten.

Aoki, N. (2003). Expanding space for reflection and collaboration. In A. Barfield & M. Nix (Eds.). Learner and Teacher Autonomy in Japan 1: Autonomy You Ask! Tokyo: Learner Development Special Interest Group of the Japan Association of Language Teachers.

Aoki, N. with Y. Hamakawa (2003). Asserting our culture: teacher autonomy from a feminist perspective. In D. Palfreyman & R.C. Smith (Eds.). Learner Autonomy across Cultures: Language Education Perspectives (pp. 240-253). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Aoki, N. (2002). Aspects of teacher autonomy: capacity, freedom, and responsibility. In P. Benson & S. Toogood (Eds.) Learner Autonomy 7: Challenges to Research and Practice (pp. 110-124). Dublin: Authentik.

Aoki, N. (2002). Teachers’ conversation with partial autobiographies. Hong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7(2), 152-168.

Aoki, N. (2001). Kyooshi no yakuwari (Teacher’s roles). In N. Aoki, A. Ozaki, & S. Toki (Eds.). Nihongo Kyooikugaku o Manabu Hito no tame ni (For Students of JSL Pedagogy) (pp.184-199). Kyoto: Sekaishisoosha.

Aoki, N. (2001). The institutional and psychological context of learner autonomy. The AILA Review, 15, 82-90.

Aoki, N. (1999). Affect and the role of teacher in the development of learner autonomy. In J. Arnold (Ed.) Affect in Language Learning (pp.142-154). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Aoki, N. (1998). Examining definitions of learner autonomy. Handai Nihongo Kenkyuu (Osaka University Japanese Language Research), 10.

Aoki, N. & Smith, R.C. (1999). Learner autonomy in cultural context: the case of Japan. In S. Cotterall & D. Crabbe (Eds.) Learner Autonomy in Language Learning: Defining the Field and Effecting Change (pp. 19-28). Frankfurt am Main: Lang.

Remember to contribute with your stories below. 


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AILA 2020 ReNLA symposium in Groningen

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hayo Reinders  |  July 26, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    As a small example of Naoko’s generosity, she served on the editorial board of Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching for 12 years, from the first issue until now. Always happy to share and to contribute to the community, always willing to review papers or help out in some other way, she will be sorely missed.

  • 2. bloggiovi  |  July 31, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    I learned a lot from Naoko. I was inspired by her papers and research, in particular her chapter on “Affect and the role of teacher in the development of learner autonomy”, which showed me a way how to start investigate emotions and feelings in learner autonomy and how to take into account my role as a teacher in the autonomy classroom.
    Her “Can-do statements for advisors” (2012) are still the basis for my training for language advising.
    I met her in person only a couple of times, last time in Helsinki, at the Nordic Workshop on Autonomy (August 2016). I was surprised by her kindness, her interest in each one and in our stories, by her modesty when I first told her how precious her work was for me. Her committment to research and education are an example for me.
    Arigato, thank you, Naokosan!

  • 3. Sara Cottera  |  August 1, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Like others, I was deeply shocked to hear of Naoko’s passing. In a way, I felt she would always be there, guiding developments in the field in Japan, with her influence stretching beyond.

    I first met Naoko at the AILA Congress in Jyvaskyla, Finland IN 1996. I was very new to the field then, and was encouraged by Naoko’s warmth and inclusiveness. She made me feel like a member of the community even at that early stage. Of course she contributed hugely to the field with her own research and that of her students as she continued to introduce people to the community and support their efforts.She will be sadly missed.

    May she rest in peace.


  • 4. dofsk19  |  August 6, 2018 at 3:27 am

    Yes, me too miss Naoko… I had the opportunity to work with her and her students in 2012 as they came to New Zealand to participate in the 2012 ILA conference in Wellington. She wanted to set up a tandem project with an institution in New Zealand so they came to our institution, Ara Institute of Canterbury (former CPIT), and joined us for three days. Naoko and her students contributed to Ara in many ways; they held lessons in the Japanese degree programme, participated in the self-access learning sessions, and Naoko held an unforgettable PD session with all language teachers at the institution, called “Small things go a long way: Developing learner autonomy in your learners”. Through this lesson, she conveyed the idea that enabling autonomous learning in the classroom does not have to be complicated and onerous; doing small things that you can do, is better than doing nothing. Naoko was also the one who shoulder-tapped me for the convenor role in the AILA ReNLA. This was at the AILA Congress in Brisbane, 2014, after Naoko, Sarah Mercer, and I had worked together on the suggestions for resources for researchers new to the AL field, on our AILA website, in which she contributed immensely to our progress. She also invited me to stay with her in her apartment when I was travelling in Japan once. I was very well looked after, we enjoyed talking at the shared evening and morning meals, and she took time to show me her university. She even engaged both students and friends to be with me when she had to work. All a great experience of hospitality and friendship.
    Rest in Peace Naoko

  • 5. fiplv  |  August 20, 2018 at 11:34 am

    I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Naoko’s passing. I had to good fortune to meet her on many occasions and she always brightened the day. A serious and innovative scholar, committed and generous with her time, she was also a warm and funny human being who was great company. I shall miss the opportunities to meet her again at events around the world. She made a lasting impression on people who met her and she will not be forgotten.
    I thank you, Naoko, for the times we shared.

  • 6. fiplv  |  August 20, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I sent the message from the wrong account, but Naoko it was from me, Terry x


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