External factors involve the creation of a strong relationship between teachers and students and the establishment of an ‘enabling environment’ in which ICT can be an important element. Internal factors are the skills that individual students have to acquire. These include cognitive skills such as focusing of memory and attention and problem-solving, metacognitive skills associated with an understanding of how learning occurs, and affective skills related to feelings and emotions.
The benefits of independent learning for students:
- improved academic performance;
- increased motivation and confidence;
- greater student awareness of their limitations and their ability to manage them;
- enabling teachers to provide differentiated tasks for students;
- and fostering social inclusion by countering alienation.
Implications for teachers:
- Moving from whole-class directive teaching to more of a coaching approach is a key step in fostering independent learning. Start in a small way by adapting a part of a topic and convert it into a problem students can tackle for themselves.
- Being familiar with students’ learning cognitive and metagcognitive skills – features of thinking skill approaches. Devise simple activities you can build into lessons that help students acquire thinking skills, such as classifying, comparing and suggesting hypotheses.
- Assessment for learning has a key part to play in developing attitudes to learning which are helpful for students when they monitor their own work. Create opportunities for students to engage in peer and self-review in order to begin the process of prompting students to take responsibility for their own learning.
- Implications for School Leaders:
A whole-school approach to independent learning not only helps individual teachers, but begins to create new attitudes to independent learning among students. Devise a strategy for all classes to follow for some of the lessons i.e. students working in pairs and later as individuals.
Importance of feedback from others is a key part of students taking responsibility for their own learning. In order to help students become familiar with feedback, it would be helpful to adopt it as a policy for all classes as an addition or alternative to grade marking.
Being familiar with elements of independent learning such as thinking skills, planning and self-evaluation will help to make independent learning work.