The independence of independence, by Sarah Williams – This article originally appeared in Issue 49 of the UKEd Magazine. Click here to view.
Independent learning is something that has to be instilled in a student from the moment they interact with you. Independent learning affords them independence in everything that they do and will do.
Some might think that if the above is promoted far too much then surely there will be no requirement for teachers? I suppose soon everyone will be taken over by robots and we will all grow gills and live under the sea! It is farcical to suggest that students don’t need teachers. Without my teacher telling me how fabulous learning is and how getting an education will open so many doors for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am so proud of what I have achieved considering I was told I was ‘not academic’.
So, why independent learning? Students have to take ownership of everything that they do. The other day a student asked me when I was going to give her a study guide for her to revise from. I was really annoyed if I am honest, I told her that I wouldn’t waste her time and that if she were to be more proactive with her learning in my lessons and take notes and question things for herself then she would not need a study guide. I am confident that I can teach and do it really well and students need to know this about you so that they have the confidence to really be independent of you and not hang off your coattails, so to speak.
A few years ago I piloted a little scheme with some year-eight students whereby they would have to independently find a topic that they were interested in that was linked to the scheme of work and then teach a lesson. They would independently research and they would independently work within their team and independently contribute to the group effort and teach the class about their chosen topic. The results were wonderful and my students were really excited about ‘being the teacher’ that they created a lesson plan, learning resources and even set home study and sanctions! It was lovely to experience and they all achieved a good grade and more importantly, bags and bags of self-confidence and confidence in English as a subject.
Over the years I have threaded independent learning throughout my teaching as I always advocate students ‘doing it for themselves’. They have to don’t they? Surely they know that eventually, they are on their own. It is better to learn to be independent as young as you can be. My own daughter who is two and a half plays independently and her incessant questioning of ‘what’ and ‘why’ is her way of gaining independence and she loves it. She loves pretending and she loves discovering and this is something that needs to be instilled and maintained in all of our students as we can’t be anything more than a voice in their heads when they sit exams and when they go for interviews. Moreover, that ‘voice’ has to be positive and resonate and make them believe that they can do it on their own.
Sarah Williams @SarahLWilliam11 is Head of Key Stage Three at an academy in Birmingham. She is now a published children’s author and has recently spoken at a conference on her project T for Transition and has recently achieved the NPQSL. She is an up and coming writer and is passionate about really good teaching.