Many experienced teachers have observed that children will almost always strive to achieve the expectations one puts out for them. This means that they possess considerable scope for developing independent learning skills. Be it primary school or secondary schools, parents and teachers can both inspire the progress of self-directed learning in children.
Independent learning skills are very advantageous, which is why some of the best international schools in Singapore teach students to be in control of their learning. Students can carry this trait with them through secondary school, their professional lives and beyond. Since we encourage independence as a society, preparing kids for the same is essential. Whatever we believe they can achieve or can’t attain becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is applicable universally. All you need to do is get rid of this attitude and tell students things like, “I believe in you.” “You can do this!’ “You are capable.”
Children pick up on teachers’ encouragement or reluctance through their tone, body language, and how they address the group. Children will step down to demoralization and live up to a challenge, so as teachers and parents, we must be aware of this power and use it to empower kids rather than focus on their limitations. When we treat one group better than the other, each group will begin to realise the difference and believe that they are better or not as good. To help children develop independent learning skills, you need to keep reiterating the fact that they are more than capable – and not just verbally – in your actions, body language and mannerisms.
Ways to Help Students Become More Independent Learners
Reserve the answer
The fantastic Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” and applying this to teaching is the first step toward making kids independent learners. Getting the correct answer is not the goal, but how children address the question and the techniques and thinking patterns they adopt to reach an answer is the actual learning. All you need to do is withhold the answer and let them figure it out. Give them the required tools like suggesting websites, recommending some study material or pointing in the right direction – but just not the answer. Real independent learning happens when they struggle, fail and still go back to looking for the correct answer.
Assign groups tactically
Classmates tend to inspire each other when working together. Each student will possess some unique skills that others in the group can learn from. Depending on the task, create the right groups. Put some students who have a better grasp of the subject with the weaker ones; shy and confident, opinionated and reserved; hard-working and laid-back – a good mix of students will induce the encouragement needed to get them all thinking. Take a walk around the class, observe what the groups are up to, and motivate them to guide each other. Don’t spoon-feed the answer and ensure that no single student in a group is doing all the hard work.
Change the learning mindset of students & teach the children to learn from failure
Often kids constrict themselves and are afraid to think freely and explore new ideas because they fear they will fail. To help students develop strong independent learning, you need to teach them to view failure as an opportunity to learn. Students will never be able to learn independently if they are too afraid to try in the first place. Tell them inspiring stories and share real-life stories of people who have failed and risen even better than before. Once they realise failure is not inherently wrong, they will think independently and innovatively.
Praising hard work and persistence
Hard work and perseverance can help your students excel, so it is crucial to commend a student who is making that extra effort and striving to improve. This will make the student proud and help them become an improved independent learner. Moreover, students who have been appreciated for putting in hard work are less likely to give up when work gets more challenging.
Give children responsibility and make them accountable
Give your students the freedom to set their own goals and involve them in the lesson planning. When you ask pupils for feedback on the lesson, they feel you value their opinion and have a say in what lessons are being taught. This will boost their learning as they have given inputs that have been incorporated into the class lessons. When they set their own goals, they will keep reflecting on them and be responsible for achieving those. This sense of empowerment and accountability will be vital to making them, independent learners.
Minimise one-way lessons and instead ask questions to catalyse independent learning skills
Modern tea techniques are what separates the best international schools in Singapore from the rest. Traditional teaching is more one way where the teacher stands in front of the class and delivers a lecture. As teachers, you should keep this to a minimum. Instead, focus on individual or group activities, debates and discussions to encourage students to be more independent. Academic responsibility needs touching be shared between you and your students. It can be attained by asking open-ended questions and answering students’ queries in ways that boost their independent thinking. They will also develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of the lessons being taught.
- Everyone has a distinct learning style – help students find their ways of learning. Be someone they look up to and emulate.
- Provide feedback on projects and assignments rather than simply grading them.
- Encourage children to be reflective by writing down their achievements in a ‘learning diary. At the end of the year, they will see how far along they have come.
- Help children develop their standards for quality. They should see where they stand regarding quality, accuracy, completeness and relevance.
Lastly, always be open with your students. Discuss what independence means to them – their ideas may differ significantly from yours. At the end of the lessons, ask them if they felt independent during the class – did they have enough freedom to speak, learn and reflect on the lessons being taught? The idea is not to spoon feed but to hand hold and guide so their minds can run free.
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