Independent Learning: A teacher's guide (2023)

What is Independent Learning?

Independent learning is a way or process of learning in which learners have control and ownership of their learning. They regulate, direct, and evaluate their learning and learn due to their actions. The independent learner can make informed choices, set goals, and make decisions about how to fulfil his learning needs. Also, the independent learner takes responsibility for building and performing their learning, monitoring their progress toward accomplishing their learning goals and self-assess the outcomes of the learning process. At Structural Learning, we have a particular interest in equipping disadvantaged students with the skills and techniques to move their learning forward. When children turn into adults, they will have to manage their studies independently. The demands of exams sometimes mean that schools focus their preparation on exam technique instead of the affective skills essential to becoming a lifelong learner.

Owning the right resources is one thing but having educational experiences that nurture these abilities is another paradigm altogether. In this article, we will argue that schools don't have to choose between a progressive or traditional approach to learning. Metacognitive practice including the skills of reflection and exam technique can be embedded into a rich educational experience. Society often sees education in terms of exam success but activities such as 'learning to learn' should be very much built into the day to day school life of a child. We are not talking about separate skills courses but rather incremental steps that are embedded into subjects that lead the student to take more ownership of their education.

(Video) Teaching Strategies Independent Learning Series: Part 1

How can we encourage students to become independent learners?

Below are the tips for encouraging students to become independent learners:

(Video) Teacher Talk: Independent learners in the classroom

  1. Students' Self-monitoring: Self-monitoring relies on two processes of setting objectives and getting feedback from oneself and others. Teachers may encourage their pupils to self-monitor by assisting them in self and peer assessment to check whether the techniques they were using were beneficial for accomplishing learning goals.
  2. Scaffolding to independent learning through Questioning: The main purpose is a shift in responsibility from the educator to the student in a gradual, step-by-step process. The educator must create effective questioning and classroom strategies, ask open-ended, higher-order questions, answer flexibly to pupils’ responses to stimulate deeper understanding, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  3. Offering behaviour models: Teachers can encourage students to model their behaviour. For example, teachers can show how categorising the data can make it easier for the students to remember information.
  4. Communication must be focused on learning: When teachers' communication is focused on learning, it allows students to understand their learning style, become more familiar with the steps of learning and allows them to share their thinking.
  5. Oral or/and written feedback on homework and classwork: It is a good technique to enhance students’ confidence to work independently. Instead of using scores and attainment grades teachers must give grades for the extent of effort.
  6. Giving choices and enabling students to make their learning objectives: This will allow students to take ownership of their learning and they would reflect on their preferences and interests. Also, students will feel empowered and in control of their study habits.
  7. Involve students in lesson planning: When teachers take advice from students, it makes them feel responsible for their learning. Students will involve in their academic studies, they will show more motivation and help teachers in creating a better lesson plan.
  8. Encouraging collaboration: It is suggested to give regular opportunities to the students to work in small group tasks and encourage them to learn from one another and come up with their ideas, rather than looking at the lecture notes for answers.
  9. Encourage students to be reflective: Teachers may give advice for students to keep a ‘learning diary’ for monitoring their progress and keeping track of their action of learning. This will make a student an active learner, increase students' confidence as they look back and allow them to check what they have learnt during the school year.

What are the Benefits of Independent Learning for Students?

Encouraging pupils to be independent learners, not only has great benefits for students themselves, but it's also a low-cost way to boost progress. Main benefits for compulsory school age students include:


  • Increased confidence and motivation;
  • Enhanced academic performance;
  • Countered alienation from peers and fostered social inclusion;
  • More chances for completing differentiated tasks assigned by the teacher;
  • Increased opportunities to be intellectually creative.

What are the steps to help the independent learning process?

Although independent learning is a distinctive and self-regulated learning process, education providers and caretakers can take certain steps to help support the study habits and learning activities. Following are some ways to promote independent learning in a classroom setting:

  • Children must be encouraged to seek information from a wide range of mediums and sources - not just text, but audio and visual resources as well.
  • Setting clear targets will encourage learners to collect valuable information more effectively.
  • Encouraging children to engage in academic reading, not only in learning time but all through the day.
  • Focus on effective time management. Effective time management strategies help in making sure that learning time is not wasted due to distractions.
  • Pre and post-learning conversations will provide a chance to run over with the children all of their struggles, knowledge gaps as well as the procedures they found useful.
  • Providing learning tools across the breadth of subjects.

(Video) Teaching: Your Role during Independent Learning | Teach2030 Workshop

How video reflections can be helpful in independent learning?

It can be challenging for the teachers to support the development of independent learners during physical activity in a classroom. Professor John Hattie states that educators only hear and see 20% of what is the progress of learning in any given lesson, making it hard for educators to understand exactly what must be changed and how to better support their pupils. Through video a lesson and then reflecting on it, teachers may effectively identify the involvement level of compulsory school age students in academic studies, it may allow teachers to analyse - lectures and recognize areas that need improvement. Education providers may use Video reflections to improve their teaching skills, which then help them to develop independent learners and eventually enhance students' learning outcomes.

How much help should be provided to an Independent Learning Child?

While encouraging a learner to learn with more autonomy in learning, it can be a little tricky to maintain a balance, when teachers should offer help and when they must leave the student to try and solve the problem by themselves. For example, there is no problem in helping a doctoral student if he has been stuck on a problem for some time. Teachers' reasoning and explanation in a particular task, will guide the doctoral student's action of learning and how to find the right answer next time.

During the pandemic, one concern for teachers is to make sure that students complete their tasks in 'self-study' time, without teachers' supervision. Developing a sense of independence not only position students to achieve success in a traditional classroom setting but also does while learning online. Students, who are independent learners have been more successful in the shift to distance learning. In short, independent learning is a crucial skill to develop because it promotes intellectual curiosity and creativity. The students should be active rather than passive students. Independent learners do not wait to be told what they must do, they take ownership of their learning. This naturally develops flexibility for learners with different cognitive levels and learning styles. Also, it enables students to focus on the all-inclusive process of learning, and not just concentrate on learning a single skill at a time. By supporting students to learn independently, teachers are preparing them for future success as life-long learners.

(Video) How to become an independent online teacher


What is independent learning method in teaching? ›

With independent learning, students do their own research and ask questions, rather than relying solely on the materials that their teacher or instructor hands them. They also take ownership of their educational path by setting their own goals and monitoring their progress.

What are the 7 characteristics of independent learners? ›

It should encourage the following characteristics: curiosity, passion, inspiration, discernment, self-motivation, self-examination, accountability, critical thinking and persistence. It should develop the ability of the pupil to know when they need support.

What were the key elements of independent learning? ›

Key Elements of Individualised Learning
  • Research of effective teaching techniques. ...
  • Relevant student data. ...
  • Knowledge of the curriculum. ...
  • Learning delivered at a timely pace. ...
  • Mapping student progress. ...
  • Goals are identified by the student. ...
  • Available tools can be tailored to individual needs. ...
  • Continuous conversational feedback.

What is independent study guide? ›

Independent study is a form of educational activity undertaken by an individual student with little to no supervision. A student and their professor will generally agree upon a topic for the student to research with minimal instruction and guidance from the professor for an agreed upon number of academic credits.

What skills are needed for independent learning? ›

Independent or self-directed learning is an important skill, whether you plan to continue your studies after school or college or enter the world of work...
These include:
  • Motivation.
  • Independence.
  • Initiative.
  • Time management.
  • Organisation and multi-tasking.
  • Strong reading and writing skills.

What are independent learning skills examples? ›

Specific skills might include the ability to:
  • complete set tasks without adult intervention for increasing periods of time.
  • preview or skim materials before reading them in detail. ...
  • accurately decode and understand written instructions and text.
  • summarise the main points of the task.
May 14, 2013

What is an example of independent learning? ›

Learners learning at their own pace using ICT or VLEs. Completing homework, extension work or coursework assignments.

How do I make my own study guide? ›

How to make a study guide.
  1. Organize your notes. Sort through the information you already have, and arrange it in a way that makes sense for you. ...
  2. Create a summary. After reviewing all your notes, create a summary sheet that synthesizes the information into a few sentences. ...
  3. Build an outline.

How do you structure an independent study? ›

How Do You Plan Your Independent Study?
  1. Secure a "Yes" From the Instructor You Want to Work With. Connect with your instructor early by email or in person during office hours to discuss the content, readings, syllabus, and written work that will be evaluated.
  2. Write a Proposal or Study Plan. ...
  3. Secure Written Approval.
Sep 1, 2021

What is the main purpose of a study guide? ›

The purpose of a study guide is to help you synthesize and summarize the information. You might think of your study guide as a mini outline. It is especially useful for difficult or complex concepts or subject areas. The primary advantage of a study guide is that it reduces the amount of information to be learned.

What are the challenges of independent learning? ›

The challenge with independent learning is getting to know what each student needs and is seeking, and making sure that resources and guidance are available to each student in a way that meets their needs.

What are 3 characteristics of students who tend to be successful in the independent study program? ›

The school recognizes that successful independent study pupils have the motivation, commitment, organizational skills, and academic skills necessary to work independently.

How do you identify an independent student? ›

For the 2022–23 award year, an independent student is one of the following:
  1. born before Jan. 1, 1999.
  2. married.
  3. a graduate or professional student.
  4. a veteran.
  5. a member of the armed forces.
  6. an orphan.
  7. a ward of the court.
  8. someone with legal dependents other than a spouse.

What are the 7 types of learners? ›

What are the 7 different learning styles and do they work?
  • visual.
  • kinaesthetic.
  • aural.
  • social.
  • solitary.
  • verbal.
  • logical.
Jul 1, 2021

What are the 4 teaching styles? ›

4 Elementary Teaching Styles
  • Instructor-Focused Teaching. Instructor-focused teaching—the approach to education that involves a central figure guiding the learning experience—is probably the most well-known teaching style. ...
  • Student-Focused Teaching. ...
  • Student-Led Teaching. ...
  • Collaboration-Driven Teaching.
Nov 18, 2022

What learning style is most effective? ›

This is known as the “meshing hypothesis” [12]. In the unimodal learning style category, we found that the most preferred mode was the kinaesthetic one, followed by the visual, auditory and the read-write ones.

What are the 4 main learning styles? ›

There are 4 predominant learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinaesthetic. While most of us may have some general idea about how we learn best, often it comes as a surprise when we discover what our predominant learning style is.


1. Teachers TV: Independent Learning: KS1 Maths
2. Developing Independent Learners: Guiding Students to Be More Resourceful
3. Teaching Strategies Independent Learning Series: Part 2
(The Highly Effective Teacher)
4. 5 Key Decisions for Teaching English Online Independently (Platform to Independence)
(Online Teacher Dude)
5. Where are these 3 Independent Teachers 6 Months after Launching?
(Online Teacher Dude)
6. Teaching Strategies Independent Learning Series: Part 5
(The Highly Effective Teacher)
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