Friday, February 17, 2012

Strategies for Developing Independent Learners

If one were to Google "Developing Independent Learners", 2,450,000 results appear today, with the potential for even more in the future. Obviously this is an important topic in education and a goal of many schools. Since I teach computer classes, where the possible scenarios of what can happen on a computer are endless, I have found a couple of main areas that help my students become independent learners. One of our first grade teachers implements two of these strategies in his classroom and they are by far my most independent learners.

The first strategy is when a student asks a question, to respond back with "What have you already tried?" This strategy requires the student to problem solve as you are no longer going to quickly give them an answer. The second strategy is asking the students "Where can you find that answer?" By putting the responsibility back on them to find the answer, you have removed the cycle of the student always relying on the teacher for their learning. However, as a teacher, you need to make sure you have provided the students with the resources needed to find the answer. Possibilities include books, posters on the wall, directions on a piece of paper or the computer and other students. While I don't like to encourage too much reliance on other students as this shifts the responsibility off the student, it has been a proven resource. Diligent monitoring of the student's habits and timely intervention helps curb too much reliance on others. 

As a teacher, I also need to have routines in place so that students know what to do in certain situations (when they are done, when they are waiting for me) so that they stay focused on what they are doing.These strategies work in any grade. In my 8th grade class, the students don't like it, but I always ask them if they have read the directions when they ask me how to do something. If they have and are still confused, I follow up with "What have you tried so far?" and they we walk through it together. When they are done, I ask them what they should do and redirect them if needed. There are many other well-thought strategies to developing independent learners, but these are some of my go-tos.


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