Independent Learning Strategies

An overview of the way independent learning strategies can be introduced into a school's educational strategies

INDEPENDENT LEARNING STRATEGIES facilitate parts of a differentiated curriculum.. Emphasis is placed on student negotiation and modification of tasks, and on students pursuing these tasks with greater independence.

This can be achieved by

  • preparing in advance options for the students to select as part of a unit's work (with options set at variable levels, involving different skills and appealing to different learning styles),
  • encouraging students to choose the option they felt was most relevant - with this involving teacher input to facilitate student awareness of the match between the options and the student's talents and needs,
  • encouraging students to suggest and pursue variations to the suggested options if they can present them as viable options to the teacher,
  • encouraging students to work in groups if appropriate to the task (and, where this is done, encouraging cooperative group skills),
  • encouraging students to seek out appropriate resources independently, and
  • encouraging students to seek out and utilise working environments conducive to the task (for example, the "recital performance" based task involved moving outside and the analytic discussion based option involved moving to another room or an "independent learning centre" - see below).

Independent learning strategies can be utilised with appropriate students in primaryor elementary schools as well as those in high schools.

Fostering students' independence in shaping their learning empowers them and increases the motivation and enthusiasm they bring to the process and to individual tasks. They become engaged in and responsible for their own education and this flows through to the way they view life as a whole.

Independent Learning Centres

An "independent learning centre" is a flexible space with appropriate resources where students can pursue independent projects or learning. Key elements of an "independent learning centre" (ILC) are:

  • a space for one or more groups or individuals to work in relative harmony (at higher discussion/noise levels than a library),
  • suitable furnishings and resources (tables, computers, sound equipment, lock-away spaces, etc) to encourage flexible and relatively spontaneous use,
  • a coordinator to handle ILC "bookings" and overall management,
  • a teacher roster (perhaps at half teacher loading, supplemented by appropriate parent volunteers) to allow for necessary supervision and, where appropriate, assistance - the coordinator may try to link students using the ILC with ILC rostered teachers and parents with appropriate skills (particularly with interdisciplinary projects), and
  • an understanding amongst the teaching staff that the ILC is there as a resource area for individuals or groups to flow into - this may develop over time.

Independent Learning Centres and other independent learning strategies can be utilised in primary as well as high schools.

References

© David Farmer 31 January 1996 - This piece was adapted from text I wrote for an educational video/booklet package Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom