Solo: Learning Independently

Read the discussion archive here

Click here for a PDF version of the summary, to share with your teaching colleagues, so as to encourage dialogue in the subject of Independent Learning.


The opportunities for Independent Learning within the education system can appear few and far between when there is evidently a narrow curriculum, with schools needing to perform to challenging levels. The priority is to get students through examinations, and achieve high grades. A maverick approach to teaching and learning is frowned upon, unless high grades are achieved.

With such pressures, the time has come to disassociate the idea of independent learning from ‘learning alone’ and working things out for yourself but encourage students to have a standard operating procedure for given tasks without having to be constantly directed. It takes time and patience to develop… and can involve leaving lots of picture clues/prompts around the room to support students. The ultimate desire is to allow students the opportunity of the pursuit, value & engagement around the learning process by pupils-achieved by both personal drive & skills modelled to them across their education. We build it across the lifespan of their time in school in the hope they hone it across the rest of their lives.

Independent learners need to be given a goal and also strategies for reaching that goal – choices, therefore scaffolding and modelling to students so that they can work independently and to the highest standard possible. Part of Independent Learning in Early Years is about learning to work with others, and this needs to be continued in the more formalised classroom setting but depends on the activity, task, outcome and purpose of the learning. Sometimes independent learning needs to be encouraged, sometimes learning as a pair, group or class will develop social skills and awareness. It’s important to show students that we can learn together and from others as well as independently so it’s important to provide varied opportunities to do so.

By developing strategies to encourage independent learning, teachers can start by providing a range of learning resources so pupils can choose where to find the right help, building confidence in learning independently. Also, Q&A, scaffold, model, coach, support, offer opportunities to succeed, break down larger tasks into small independent ones.

Ultimately, it is very important to share the end goal and what successful learning might look like. That is the target. Then give a choice of strategies to get there. Students choose their own – they have the goal, what it looks like to reach it and a choice of strategies – remember, break down larger tasks to small independent ones to lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed. Make initial tasks simple and accessible to build confidence before moving onto more challenging activities. Praise independent skills above outcomes. As a teacher, you should help with strategies. Don’t underestimate the time that might take. But pays off significantly at the end.

Make your students realise that you want them to do well for THEIR future. Provide them with an insight into life beyond exams. Show them that it is them that need to get themselves there, we are just the support!

Summary written by @digicoled, based on the archive above.

Want to learn more about Independent Learning, including strategies, theories and evidential links to metacognition? Click here to explore our exclusive course on the UKEd.Academy site, which provides certified evidence of your professional development progress.

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About @ICTmagic 780 Articles
Martin Burrett is the editor of our popular UKEdMagazine, along with curating resources in the ICTMagic section, and free resources for teachers on UKEd.Directory

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