Why is independent learning important?
Independent learning is the process in which a person is acquiring knowledge on their own without any guidance. Such people take responsibility for their own learning without relying on external help. They find and collect information, make decisions about what they will study, and when they complete homework and achieve their learning goals on time. Teachers and educators should encourage their students to be independent learners.
In fact, according to a report titled “What is Independent Learning and What are the Benefits for Students?”, students who can learn independently are more successful in their academic lives. Furthermore, the benefits of independent learning also include higher levels of motivation and confidence. Such students are also aware of their strengths and weaknesses and have higher self-esteem compared to other students not used to independent learning.
How can we help our students to be independent learners?
Teachers can do many things to promote independent learning among students. For example:
1. Allow students to develop a sense of purpose
When your students know why they are learning something and when they care about the subject, they are more likely to be motivated and keener to learn. Tell your students what they will gain if they learn about a certain concept. Learn about your students’ goals and objectives and tell them how the learned material will help them develop independent learning skills.
2. Encourage students to collaborate and cooperate with their peers
When we encourage our students to work with their peers, we teach them how to learn from each other and promote independent learning. When students work and study with their partners, they are also more prone to exploring new concepts and venture into the areas they have not known about. In fact, there is research demonstrating that students are more prone to exploring new ideas when they are working with a peer.
4. Encourage students to set goals
Talk to your students about their goals and help them identify their short-term and long-term goals. Setting goals is another way of promoting independent learning. When students know what their goals are, they will be more motivated and enthusiastic about working towards them. Again, according to the existing research, if people make a list of their goals, they are far more likely to accomplish them compared to those who don’t.
5. Be a facilitator rather than a teacher
Creating an independent learning environment for your students will also help to develop independent learning skills. Provide them with materials, encourage them to discuss, talk less, and listen to your students more. Helping your students discover ideas and concepts on their own through discussions and collective work also promotes independent learning. Offer them advice and support when they need it.
How to make a child study independently
There are many ways in which we can make a child study independently.
Help your child to create their workspace
One way to make a child study independently is to provide an appropriate workspace. It is very important that your child has a designated study space where they can focus on their studying. Such a study place should be well lit and free of distractions. Encourage your child to take charge of this working space and encourage them to keep it tidy and ready for their study sessions.
Encourage your child to manage their time
Another way to make a child study independently is to guide them in time management. Ask them to write down deadlines for their homework and projects beforehand. Teach them how to break up big tasks into smaller digestible tasks and encourage your child to track their completion.
Encourage your child to ask for help when needed
Telling them that there is nothing wrong with asking for help if need be is also another way to make a child study independently. It is ok if a child does not understand some lesson or is struggling with a specific assignment. It is crucial that your child understands that in situations like these, asking for help is also a form of learning. It is also ok for your child to ask for opinions from their peers too.
Teach your child how to deal with distractions
Teaching the ability to reduce or get rid of distractions is another way to make a child study independently. Although it may not be as easy as it sounds, it is important to remind your child that they should put their phones away and turn their computer off while studying. Explain that if they are distracted studying will be very difficult.
Give your child some freedom
Providing children with some freedom is a great way to make a child study independently. Many parents regularly help their children with homework and, as a result, their children develop the habit of having their homework done by their parents. If you are one of those parents, then you should try a different strategy.
Instead of helping your child with homework, place them at a desk nearby and encourage them to start doing tasks themselves. Let them know that they can ask for your help any time but try not to do everything for them or offer too much help. Gradually, your child will get used to it and eventually will be able to accomplish tasks on their own.
Explain to your child that making mistakes is fine
Helping children overcome a fear of making mistakes promotes independent learning. If a child is always trying to avoid making mistakes, then they eventually become dependent on their parent’s or adults’ guidance. They also develop a fear of exploring things themselves and lose their confidence when learning independently. Explain to your child that making mistakes is part and parcel of any learning process. When your child becomes comfortable with making mistakes, they will be more confident when new challenges arise.
Encourage your child to do other things on their own
Encouraging a child’s independence is a great way to promote independent learning. For example, you could ask your children to do things around the house. Be sure to give them clear instructions and explain what they should do in general and allow them to approach the task in their own way.
Activities for students to practice independent learning skills
There are many engaging activities that you can try doing in the classroom to promote independent learning. One of them is called “case studies”. This task is suitable for a small group of students. Provide your students with a real-life case to study – for example, a news article, storytelling and writing, or a short video about a problem. You can also ask students to find a topic that may be of interest to them.
Then provide your students with guidelines for analysis. Give your students some time to do the work. When they are finished, get students to present the fruits of their work to the class. When they are done with their presentations, encourage a class discussion on the topics discussed. For example, you could ask them to discuss the pros and cons of the problem.
Another productive activity for students to promote independent learning is called “debates”. Divide your class into two halves. Give each half of the class a stance on a topic. Then students have around fifteen minutes to think about an argument for their position. When the time is up, each half of the class shares their position as an “opening argument”.
When their opening argument is presented, each side must prepare a response to the argument of their opponents. For this task, you should give both groups approximately ten minutes. Then each half of the class provides their critique of the opponents’ position and each group is then given an opportunity to respond.
Group text reading
Another activity that promotes independent learning is “group text reading”. Find a challenging text and break it up into two paragraph sections. Break up students into groups and give each group of students a section. Give your students some time to read through the passages and discuss their section of the text with their peers.
Then each group presents their text to the class telling the class about what is happening and the key concepts. This is a simple task that helps students practice their communication skills and their ability to exchange ideas without direct intervention on the part of the teacher.
Independent learning skills are life-long skills
It is very important to remember that learning and especially independent learning does not stop when your child graduates from school. Rather, it continues throughout life. If your child has become an independent learner during their school years, then chances are that they will be continuing to be equally independent in the workplace. These are the benefits of independent learning.
Independent workers are valued by employers around the world because such employers are creative, inquisitive, and extremely motivated. They are always aware of the latest trends in their area of work and expertise.
Dr. Russ Gadzhiev obtained his Ph.D. in history and politics from the University of Melbourne. He also holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Dr. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and a proven ability to effectively communicate with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is passionate about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management, and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.