How to Promote Independent Learning in the Primary Classroom
Allowing students to take ownership and initiative in their learning gives them the confidence needed to succeed as lifelong learners. Creating independent learners requires a structured classroom with clear expectations, routines and procedures. The teacher must create an atmosphere where children feel confident as learners, secure enough in their environment to take risks and comfortable enough with routines to work independently and help others. Children in the primary classroom can actually handle a lot of responsibility if they are explicitly taught what to do and when to do it.
What is independent learning and what are the benefits for students? – paper
Bill Meyer, Naomi Haywood, Darshan Sachdev and Sally Faraday (2008) London: Department for Children, Schools and Families Research Report 051.
How is independent learning viewed by teachers?
‘Independent Learning’ is often linked with other approaches to learning such as ‘personalisation’, ‘student-centred learning’ and ‘ownership’ of learning. Discussion of independent learning frequently arises in the context of important issues such as student-teacher roles and relationships, and the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in learning.
The aim of this literature review was to identify reliable, robust and relevant research to provide a detailed picture of independent learning and its possible impact on students. The review found a number of different terms to describe independent learning, the most common reflecting the idea of ‘self-regulated learning’. The review highlighted some evidence of benefits to students particularly in the form of improved motivation and better management of their learning. The authors of the review emphasised that independent learning does not merely involve students working alone and stressed the important role teachers can play in enabling and supporting independent learning.
Read in full here:
Promoting Independent Learning In The Primary Classroom
Wiliams, J. (2003) Buckingham: Open University Press.
From birth, human beings are striving to make sense of the world. They learn through interaction, modelling first hand experience and independent action. Most children arrive at school with the notion that being independent and having the desire to take responsibility has been seen, in their homes, as a good thing. However, what often happens is that responsibility may be denied them in school and further bids for independence are viewed as negative behaviour. This book argues that independence in the classroom should be seen as beneficial for learners and also for teachers. Jill Williams makes a compelling case for a climate in which decision making is valued, where children are enabled to solve problems and where children and adults respect each others point of view, arguing that this will be a climate in which independence flourishes. In turn the benefits in terms of teaching and learning will be apparent for both the children and the teachers.
Extract taken from Foreword by Professor Bill Lucas
This book is expansive in its conception of education of the desired outcomes of a child’s school days. It is a serious corrective to a risk-adverse world, carefully explaining why it possible to do potentially dangerous things in a character, values and skill-forming way. It takes learning out of the classroom into the real world where it belongs without compromising the necessary disciplinary progress that students need to make – West Rise is an outstanding school for both Ofsted and for someone with my values. It reconnects children to the natural world when too many of them have lost any link with the seed to seed cycle, with care for creatures and with the awe that landscapes like this can inspire. It is an awesome laboratory for the development of character and capability.
Above all Playing with Fire is, for me, about trust. Trust children to set up and run an art studio. Trust parents that they will let you take risks. Trust teachers to let go. Trust us all that we need help from those who understand animals and wetlands and archaeology if we are to be real lifelong learners. Trust your luck that when the water buffalo get out, the village will understand. Trust that there are great Ofsted inspectors who see through the ordinary. Trust that not all health and safety people are the problem. And trust that, fortified by this book, you can play with fire in your own backyard.
There is a growing consensus in Britain that
virtues such as honesty, self-control, fairness,
gratitude and respect, which contribute to
good moral character, are part of the solution
to many of the challenges facing society today.
Research suggests that children and adults
live and learn better with good moral character
and that moral integrity can also have a positive
impact on performance in schools, professions,
In this report we assess the evidence on the long-run associations between social and emotional skills in childhood and adult outcomes. We report findings from an extensive literature review, and from our own new research.
There are three key elements:
(i) A literature review of evidence relating to the relationship between social and emotional skills in childhood and adult outcomes;
(ii) New analysis of the British Cohort Study about these relationships across a wide range of outcomes, including a particular focus on the role of social and emotional skills in transmitting ‘top job’ status between parents and their children;
(iii) New, preliminary analysis of how the gaps in some of the skills assessed in (ii) are emerging in children in the UK born around the millennium.
Preview of article published in The Times Educational Supplement by Al McConville (Deputy Head Academic, Bedales) on the purpose of education…
“The way we define education is deeply flawed. Childhood is not a commodity to be invested in an unspecified future….We have to view students as fully fledged people with a rich range of potential, not just future economic players.”
“Nearly everything about our school system was developed to support the ideals of the industrial workplace…What it did not require was individuals who could think for themselves. It was not always so. The three Rs, which became and have remained the cornerstone of educational policy, were in pre-Victorian times not reading, writing and arithmetic but reading, wroughting and arithmetic…The value of art, craft and creativity was downgraded to develop bureaucracies around mechanised processes.”
Quoting expansively Charles Darwin, Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby), Aristotle, philosopher Josef Pieper, Plato, poet and theorist Matthew Arnold, Sir Ken Robinson, John Cridland (Confederation of British Industry), the Warwick Commission, and Bill Lucas (champion of ‘Expansive Education’), Al describes a curriculum that has shifted in focus to an increasingly tight core, dominated by the outcomes of an ever narrower assessment regime. He suggests society should seize the opportunity of a new term of government to ask ourselves if this is what we want, and if not, what education should really be for.
The full article can be seen in the TES (8/5/15, pages 24-28) or online (subscription required).
Can you teach it? Should you teach it? Should it be part of the school curriculum? The ‘it’ in question is character, or grit, or resilience or all three and more, and it’s been a big talking point this week. Michael Gove believes his school reforms would help develop it; Tristram Hunt argues that it should be a taught part of the curriculum while an all Party Parliamentary Group is behind a Report published this week on future policy. It’s not a new issue of course but seems to have resurfaced as debate continues about whether the current curriculum reforms tilt learning too far away from what are often regarded as essential personal skills and politicians battle it out for the soul of education. So what is true grit and where’s it best developed?
What is meant by grit/resilience in an education setting?
It’s generally easier to recognise than define and most attempts at codification tend to reflect what comes under the heading of ‘soft skills.’ Click on preferred soft or personal skills on recruitment websites and you generally get a list that comprises the following: effective communication; problem solving; team player; flexibility; creative thinking; confidence; and being able to accept feedback and act on it.
These tally pretty closely with the seven acknowledged employability skills that the CBI has been promoting for some time although theirs include Business and Customer Awareness and Application of IT and of Numeracy along with self-management, team working and communications.
Similar lists can be found in most employer surveys and are pretty much staple diet in vocational programmes these days but the MPs’ Report this week, published with the think tank Centre Forum and the independent Character Counts centre, focuses more on the “personal resilience and emotive wellbeing” side of personal development. Their research suggests four key ‘character capabilities’ namely: application; self-direction; self-control; and empathy, with a strong nod towards a range of other characteristics such as self-efficacy and the ability to defer gratification, generally reflected in the terms ‘mental toughness’ and ‘grit.’
An interesting aspect of this is the development of wellbeing, the subject of recent Reports from both Young Minds and Barnardos and increasingly recognised in schools as an important contributor to learning success and component of personal or character development.