Creating Independent Students

Being independent means that you can do activities without the need of other people. It can take time to feel like you can successfully complete a task on your own and the same is true in our classrooms – on both sides; for teachers as well as students. We are learning something new by using this style of teaching, if we haven’t done so before, so we too will need the qualities of resilience, perseverance and patience.

It may be challenging to hand the learning process over to the students but if we do it in a measured way, where we facilitate and manage it effectively, it can be a way of teaching and learning which will flourish in your classroom over time.

So how do we actually create independent learners?

Well, it is not something that is going to happen overnight. Creating and developing this way of learning will take time, practise and patience. We need to “train” our students into this way of learning through careful guidance and support, encouraging and nurturing their progress.

As teachers, we need to be facilitators through this way of learning rather than leaders and directors. We need to provide our students with opportunities to learn new things, encounter obstacles and problem solve their way through thus moving towards a successful outcome.

Even better is to explicitly illustrate to students what skills they are actually using as they make their way through this style of learning and how these skills will support them in the future.

When you first approach this way of teaching and learning, it is important to explain to students how it works. Allow them to understand that they have the major role in their own learning and that it is different to what they have perhaps been previously used to. It might be quite scary for everyone to embark on something new, and it is not a bad thing to share your own worries and hesitations with your students. It then may become a tool for success – that everyone is “in it together” and are all working towards a positive outcome.

There are various ways to incorporate independent learning in our classrooms. Tasks could require interaction, co-operation, teamwork, organisation and presentation. Depending on the style of independent learning you choose, different methods may be employed. For example, you may ask students to work in pairs to independently research a topic and deliver their findings as a presentation. You may employ small group work where students need to work through a detailed problem such as in maths but each group member must have a part to play in reaching the final answer.

What is perhaps absolutely key to success in this way of learning is providing students with success criteria. Students need to have clear objectives in order to measure their success or areas of weakness. So, for example it could be: “I have used 3 different sources to research a topic” “I have presented my work clearly and concisely” “I have used my own words”. Obviously, the success criteria will vary based on the task and is individual, but students must have opportunities to measure their own progress and achievement. They need to have the chance to reflect upon their learning in a growth mindset way so they can pursue the way forward independently. They are then being given a chance to own their own learning which is both motivating and inspiring.

For more detailed information and ideas about this way of teaching and learning, please try our new course Developing Students’ Independent Learning Skills on our teach2030 site.

Encourage Independent Learning in your classroom with Teach2030


NEW! Developing Students’ Independent Learning Skills: Part 1

Introduce ways to make your learners more engaged! In this course, we define independent learning and how it differs from whole class learning.


NEW! Developing Students’ Independent Learning Skills: Part 2

In this course, we outline 4 major strategies that can be trialled in the classroom to help students become more independent


Independent Learning Workshop Series

By taking this ownership of learning, we are providing them with the lifelong skills they need for their future work lives.

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