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Independent Learning

Independent Learning An Article exploring independence and independent thinking & learning. Includes a possible connection between independence and happiness; pupil criteria for independent learning and a challenge to schools in how they develop independence. 

The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence. Denis Waitley

Independence is happiness. Susan B. Anthony

What is independent learning?

This is a Free Sample Resource
Categories: Article, Skills-Based Learning, Educators, Any Subject

Tags: Happiness Independent Learning
Is Independence Happiness?
In 2003, psychologist Martin Seligman published “Authentic Happiness” and proposed an equation for it: H = S + C + V.

Happiness equates to your Set Point (genetic predisposition to happiness) plus your Circumstances (health, wealth, education, environment) plus your Voluntary choices (lifestyle, mindset, attitude, rational responses). His research suggests that C has only 10% impact on H. S and V contribute the rest in equal parts. This implies that you can alter your level of happiness within certain boundaries but that the pursuit of traditional emblems of success (money, ownership, power, promotion) has far less impact than expected.

What if we simply replace H with I (Independence): I = S + C + V. Does it make sense to have a genetic predisposition towards independence, to think and act for ourselves? Can we choose to be more independent by altering our attitude or mindset? And do the circumstances in which we find ourselves affect our ability to be independent? I think they do but rather than just equating independence with happiness it’s interesting to propose that the nature of happiness is a way of thinking about independence. i.e.: it’s a concept that is changeable within boundaries and less dependent on circumstances than expected.

Defining Independence
The dictionary definitions of independence designate its meaning through negation: “not influenced by…not controlled by….not under the jurisdiction of…”. It’s passive. Independence, at least in schools, is active. Try working with this list - Independent thinkers and learners:

 o Are self-motivated to think, grow and learn
 o Make personal decisions often after seeking advice
 o Initiate action both proactively and reactively
 o Have self-confidence and self-belief
 o Take personal responsibility

It’s a working list but I’d be more than happy if my pupils were developing in each of those areas.

Creating Independent Thinkers and Learners
I work in many different educational settings. Over the years I’ve noticed where the more independent learners are. Where do you think that is? Let me tell you. Our most independent learners today can be found in Reception classes and on undergraduate courses; i.e.: at either end of the formal educational pathway. 5-year olds choose where to learn and what to learn. They manage their coats, resources, sandwiches, fruit and playtimes. University students have to do the same. But for most it’s a hasty relearning because, sadly, in the intervening years since they too were hanging their coats on tiny pegs, independence, rather than being encouraged and nurtured, has been lost. The exam spoon has fed them, they’ve followed the rules of engagement, they’ve been dutifully processed by the curriculum machine, rather than lobbing a spanner at it to find out what happens.

September 2012's teaching tips, thinking tool and ThinkSheet provide you with many straightforward ways to get pupils thinking about independence and to help them develop the skills and attitudes of independent learning.

Related Resources:

Independent Learning


iThinking Powerpoint

PSHE Think Sheet - Independence

Tips for Independent Learning


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