The Role of the Teacher During Independent Learning

When we talk about independent learning we might automatically think that the student takes control, the student leads and the student progress – which are some of the outcomes we desire from this style of teaching.

However, the teacher role cannot be underestimated and as the leader in the classroom, you play a key role in facilitating and guiding your learners towards success.

The first job of the teacher is to explain this method of learning to students. Some may never have experienced an independent approach to their learning and, just as much as the teacher, may feel insecure or a bit disconcerted.

As leaders we need to nurture our students into this way of learning, as we are ultimately equipping them with life skills – not just a self-contained method of working. Through explaining this way of learning, we take the first steps into experimenting and trying out this style.

It may also be a good idea to model what independent learning looks like – this could be done through an array of pictures or even in the form of a role play between yourself and a confident student. You could act out how independent learning could take place.

Obviously, there are many approaches to this style of learning – it may consist of individual independent learning, pair work or group work. This is where the teacher role is important. When planning a lesson, it could be an opportunity to practise with your students how to perform in this way. It is YOUR decision how to structure the task to fit the style of learning.

When you have made a decision as to which approach you are going to take, this is then followed by further decisions in how to move forward. Will you organise the pairs or groups or will you allow your students to decide who they would like to work with?

As their teacher, it is very likely that you will have a good idea about your students’ personalities, ability, educational needs and any other relevant aspects that ought to be considered. Would it be wise to group less able students with more able to complement and support each other with a variety of skills? Would it be effective if a small group consisted of confident characters along with less confident to balance out the outcomes?

Over time, you will become more experienced and practised at making those choices when you see which decisions have the most success – for you and your students.

Following task and groupings, comes roles. It is important to ensure that all members of groups or pairs are participating in the learning. Some may see this style of learning as an opportunity to sit back and let others take on the lion’s share of the task, which is unfair and imbalanced. Again, the role of the teacher is significant here. You may allocate certain tasks or roles to certain members of the group based on the prior knowledge you have of your students.

It is also important to inform the students of success criteria – what they need to achieve, what their objectives are and what successful outcomes may look like.

Once students are underway with their tasks you still have a key role to play – you need to monitor and supervise by circulating the room, ensuring all are participating. Perhaps guidance or explanation may be required.

It is also your responsibility to maintain the environment; group tasks may incur a lot of noise in the classroom – which is natural and ok, but too much and students may lose focus. You need to have signs or control measures to keep students on task. Perhaps you will raise a hand in the air; perhaps you may use a countdown method. It must be a method that student recognise and have been exposed to with you previously.

Therefore the role of the teacher during independent learning is extremely important. You are in control of the learning ultimately. We are just handing the style of learning to our students in a measured way, developing their skills and best practise while you facilitate and manage a new way of teaching and learning.

Best of luck and please share any thoughts or experiences you have regarding this style of learning.

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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