Five habits that boost independent learning!

Kelly Long

Kelly Long is the founder and host of Inspiration 4 Teachers, an educational podcast. A Secondary school teacher of ten years specialising in Business and IT, Kelly is continuously learning and evolving, often via her award-nominated podcast, where she interviews dynamic and inspirational educators in order to share pedagogic empowerment and knowledge.

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Independent learning has many different names - child centred, personalised or self-regulated - but at its core it is the process of shifting responsibility for the learning process from the teacher to the pupil. To achieve this outcome successfully, pupils need to have a deep understanding of their learning, be self-motivated and willing to collaborate with the teacher within the learning environment according to a 2010 white paper presented at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference.

It is widely regarded that by introducing a whole-school supported model of independent learning, test scores can improve. There are said to be benefits that extend to learners with similar commonalities, for example gifted and talented pupils. Self-regulated learning requires a significant amount of self-awareness on behalf of the learner as well as an array of skills and knowledge to help facilitate that process.

But how can you construct a learning environment where pupils thrive and own their learning experience? Developing habits that form part of the learning environment is important to stimulate learner motivation, deepen their understanding and boost collaboration with the teacher. Here are five habits to help boost independent learning.

Habit 1 – Generate curiosity about the learning

This can involve cross-curricular content, a creativity problem-solving event or project-centred learning. Whatever the focus, building curiosity into the learning is scientifically proven to boost learning capabilities.

Habit 2 – Learning needs to be organic

Learning is an organic process; don’t make the learning environment too rigid! Allow your pupils to navigate and take ownership of their learning through peer-to-peer assessment activities, self-discovery, and differentiated learning pathways that provide opportunities for improvement. Learners need to take action using the knowledge and skills they have acquired in order to make mistakes, review and improve upon.

Habit 3 – Build relationships with pupils
Ever heard the quote “My teacher thought I was smarter than I was, so I was” (source unknown)? Pupils will work for you if they believe that you care about them and act accordingly. Healthy relationships with pupils helps to build productive interactions where learning transactions and acquisition of new skills can be exchanged.

Habit 4 – Make the school walls transparent

Invite guest markers into your school to give feedback on your pupils’ work. Parent communities have a fast array of professional expertise so use it to your advantage. Create an audience for your learners’ work using technology such as online blogs, Twitter hashtags or a good old fashioned public exhibition of your pupils’ work. Creating a celebration of your pupils’ work helps to instil a sense of pride and ownership.

Habit 6 – Facilitate feedback in action

Seek to develop a cycle of continuous verbal feedback which drives learning and reflection.  Post-It notes can be your new best friend in the process of facilitating feedback! They can be used on a collaborative level for peer-to-peer and teacher feedback to inform part of the process that reinforces the learning commentary. In addition, they act as a visual reminder for pupils on their personal targets, while experiencing the learning.

Do you foster independent learning? Share your tips below!

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