From kindergarten to graduate school, educators are encouraged to consider taking on the role of a monitoring, group facilitator during learning activities, thereby allowing students to give support to each other and share their ideas on a collaborative basis.
Although this kind of differentiated instruction promotes positive interactions and works well for most classroom investigations, many students respond to a more self-directed approach to learning and usually thrive when working on projects individually. To accommodate all of our students, independent learning experiences can be easily integrated into most classroom activities.
As clearly stated by the Professional Teaching Standards, in Engaging Students in Learning, we are to encourage “students to initiate their own learning, describe their own learning process [and] examine and evaluate their own work.”
When considering projects, we could view independent learning as an undertaking planned and initiated by students, providing a unique opportunity to recognize their interests, readiness, and learning profiles. Although students may select the materials and learning formats, it is subject to teacher approval, including the date of project completion.
There are many advantages to recognizing and fostering independent learning. Students will be able to:
- Assume greater responsibility for planning, organizing and executing learning goals and objectives.
- Design learning goals and evaluation criteria cooperatively with their teacher.
- Create an interrelationship of several academic areas into one study project, including observation and/or field experiences.
- Take the opportunity for one-on-one feedback and consultation with their teacher.
- Take advantage of web-based activities, accessible anywhere, anytime.
- Conform to standards-aligned curriculum.
- Enhance the possibility of portfolio development.
For high school students, learning independently has been used substantially to satisfy educational needs and obligations. Typical uses of this strategy are as follows:
- Core courses in all curriculum areas;
- Special or low-enrollment courses for which a school cannot provide staff;
- Courses needed for college entrance;
- Elective courses to meet the needs of students;
- Courses offering a wide range of interests;
- Basic courses for special needs students; and
- Advanced courses for accelerated students.
It is also one of the main reasons for the widespread popularity of online educational services such as those offered by Teachers Network. Educators and administrators appreciate the teacher-student communication built into online courses.
Though there are many variations of this learning style, the common features often include: teacher voice feedback to student questions; the ability to view and compare dialogue with other students engaged in the same project; grade calculation and recordkeeping; and, a multiplicity of other convenient uses associated with discovering lifelong learning online.
Essentially, for our students and for ourselves, there will always be a place for pursuing our goals independently with pride, accountability, and a feeling of ownership.
References: Engaging and Supporting Students in Learning. The Professional Teaching Standards, New Teacher Center at The University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004.
California Department. of Education – Educational Options
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