Independent learning must be the core of the educational system.
Every student in the US spends an average of 20,000 hours in classroom education by the time they reach 18. However, little to no information received during this time is carried over when students transition to college or pursue their respective careers. They often lose all concepts learned to their short-term memory.
A reason behind this is that students rely on their teachers as the principal source of information. This keeps students from assimilating information on their own and applying the concepts for their own growth.
This is what independent learning seeks to transform.
In this article, we aim to uncover what independent learning is and convey essential tips on how you can cultivate it in your child.
What is Independent Learning?
Independent learning is the act of pursuing your own studies, independently, even without the supervision of teachers. This process helps learners take full responsibility for their learning. It trains children to take initiative, make good decisions, and think on their feet without help.
When students adopt independent learning strategies, they become more in control of their time. Where and when they decide to use it, becomes their prerogative. Although, younger children need proper nurturing to develop this skill and guidance to direct their time & attention efficiently. Fostering independent learning can be a strong motivating factor, especially when learners begin to see progress in their academics.
Independent Learning: Why is it important?
Schools are awesome and there's no denying it. Most of the renowned world leaders today attribute where they're at to schools. Why then should we adopt independent learning strategies?
Teachers are the ones that decide what lessons to teach in class. But they are also limited with what the curriculum dictates, which are time and scope-constrained. This becomes the limitation of the educational system.
This may lead to several outcomes:
Students leave the information received as they are without putting in the effort to do more extensive research about it.
Some students might have noticed weaknesses in lessons within certain subject matters. This ultimately motivated them to delve into personal studying on their own time.
Others may have found subjects they are particularly fond of. As a result, they devoted time and energy to study more about it, outside class hours.
The first is an example of teacher-dependent learning. It shows full reliance on a leader to transfer the bulk of information. This is usually evident in the unidirectional system of education.
The last two where students put in the "extra work" are examples of independent learning. They took the initiative in deciding they need to learn and devote more time to the subject. Independent learning banks on personal research, instead of relying on teachers for every bit of information.
Independent learning is important because it essentially teaches students to stand on their feet and embody independence. Kids discover how to learn on their own even when no one guides them. Investing in this process allows learners to develop skills that they may also carry over until college and beyond the academe. This is why independent learning is important.
Independent learning is not limited to academic activities. You can promote this type of learning even to non-academic ventures like sports, music, or other skills. What matters is that learners learn to act on the impulse and motivation to put in the extra hours!
How to cultivate independent learning?
Whether it's for yourself or your child, developing independent learning skills is necessary. We'll talk more about the benefits later!
Here are some tips you can use to encourage independent learning:
Frank Sonnenberg once said:
"Before acting on any recommendation, know the rationale."
The rationale is the principal driver that encourages a scientist to push through with an experiment. Knowing the purpose of why a deed is conducted emphasizes the importance of why it should happen.
Don't take our word for it!
Analyze yourselves. There is a reason behind our every action. In the same way, making children realize the purpose of independent learning encourages them further to commit it.
How do we convey that purpose? Show the kids what they can gain.
Making them understand the whys and how independent learning can be helpful to them may be the key to cultivate the independent learner within.
Exposure to positive learning outlets
There is more to learning than 8-4 classes in schools. You must take advantage of these avenues to expose kids to a wide spectrum of disciplines.
There are more concepts to discover beyond what is written in their textbooks. We have listed three educational sources that may give children the nudge to develop independent learning - to do their research on these vast subject matters.
You might not have realized this, but toys are one of the pillars that make up a kid's childhood. On top of that, the right kind of toys can even be significant in influencing the paths kids take in the future.
But not all toys have the potential to do this.
If you are looking for playthings that initiate independent learning then go for science gadgets. As the name suggests, these toys are specifically designed to impart STEM concepts to kids while encouraging their active participation.
Let us give you an example:
Say, you bought TheSTEMKids Portable Microscope for your kid. Correspondingly, children will use it to magnify and view objects under close scrutiny. With 40X magnification, it does have enough attributes to make that possible.
But here is the clincher.
If your child happened to enjoy using it, which then initiated an interest in microscopy, chances are they will start reading about it. A toy becomes an interest, the interest turns into a hobby, and the hobby shapes their life choices. This opens doors to further possibilities like in their careers.
Microbiology? Chemistry? Geology? Who knows.
This is only one of the many possible scenarios. There are tons of STEM toys to choose from. Select whichever you find appropriate and helpful, then expose them to that.
Not only do toys have the capacity to develop independent learning skills among children. Exposure to educational TV shows may also be a tool to foster this skill.
Different subjects are discussed depending on the TV show and their targetted audience. Usually, kids’ shows focus more on emotions and friendship, which is ideal to shape kids' attitudes.
But what stimulates independent learning is exposure to shows with scientific trivia, history, emerging technology, and whatnot. These shows are usually aimed at older kids.
The amount of information you can get from books is immense. Reading actively exposes kids to various sources of information which makes their research holistic. Reading helps them see perspectives on a particular subject from different angles.
This can help them shape their own interpretations and conclusions - a precursor to independent learning. Not only relying on one's teacher for the bulk of info but putting into consideration many educated standpoints and working their way from there.
Planning and Goal-Setting
"Failing to plan is planning to fail." -Alan Lakein
Every productive venture began with solid planning and the setting of goals. When you introduce kids to goal-setting, they set their target milestones for the short and long term. This poses a challenge and motivates them to learn independently.
Having personal goals, along with knowing the rationale behind them (as we have discussed above), promotes enthusiasm in pursuing the targets. Plus, nothing beats the liberating sense of pride knowing that they accomplished their goals through their effort. With your supervision and guidance, of course.
To-do lists are great places to kickstart independent learning.
Encourage Collaborative Efforts
According to Silva and her team in 2015, working together with peers encourages students to engage more in exploratory behavior.
Independent learning is not about working on your own. Giving learners opportunities to learn from their constituents allow active sharing of information. They both get feedback on their ideas and further refine the learnings.
Explaining a concept to a person that has no shared knowledge on the field is also effective. Getting the message across may mean that you understand the concept in its entirety. Otherwise, studying more on the subject matter is needed.
Moreover, peer involvement may also be a platform to encourage one another amidst all the difficulties faced.
All these are independent learning strategies.
Self-Reflection and Assessment
A part of the independent learning strategies is reflection and assessment. By doing so, you allow the kids to analyze which aspects of their learning are fortified and what areas do they need reinforcement. In other words, which are their strengths and weaknesses.
Monitoring these allows them to redirect their efforts towards the aspect that needs greater focus. Restructuring your plans is sometimes necessary to meet your overall goal.
We have discussed above the whats, whys, and hows of independent learning. But there is no point to dwell on this learning strategy if we don't realize the benefits we can get from them.
Benefits of Independent Learning
There is more to independent learning than excelling in academics. The whole concept of independent learning is about "learning how to learn".
Provided, we can learn from a standard unidirectional system of teaching in schools. But the same mercy and spoon-feeding of information will no longer apply when kids go to college, let alone when they finally step out of the classroom and become professionals.
While they're young, learning how to learn independently can steer them in the right direction especially in a fast-paced, highly skilled, and diverse professional environment. That said, the principles you learn in independent learning are transferrable to the jobs you take, which includes:
Working with little to no supervision
Organization and time management
Setting and meeting your goals and deadlines
Receiving, gathering, and verifying information
Thinking on your feet
Strong speaking, reading, and writing skills
... among others!
When your kids have these soft skills in their arsenal, they are likely to excel and get ahead in their class. But this is only the short-term benefit of independent learning. In the long term, these are skills that are highly valued by employers. Having them enables one to become more efficient and effective.
This is especially important when the profession requires one to learn new skills like navigating through software or the operation of equipment. If they are independent learners, then studying the matter will come off like a breeze.
Prerequisites of Independent Learning
Okay. Now that you've read what independent learning is, how to do it, and the benefits you can get from it, you might already be convinced that you want to try it out or practice this with your kid.
It is tempting. But there are characteristics that one needs to have before one can commit to independent learning. Unless you have these, the assurance that you pull through to the end is unlikely.
To become an independent learner, here are the aspects you need:
Motivation. The keenness to do and achieve something.
Resilience. There will be learning blocks along the way and your resilience is going to keep you powering through those blocks.
Time-management. Your time is your best resource and it is of the essence. Fail to manage your time and you lose valuable assets you could have used for learning.
Children might not have the traits written above to become full-fledged independent learners. This is where parents swoop in.
You should be available to supervise their learning and encourage them continually, to learn independently. Until they foster the attitude and hunger to learn on their own, even with minimal supervision.
Foster Independent Learning Now!
Independent learning transforms the conventional one-way method of teaching by making kids involved in their own education. The involvement of children ensures that the information they learn registers in the long-term which they may access and apply even without teacher supervision.
Kids will have developed the necessary skills to succeed beyond academics, once they achieve this level of independence.
If you are looking for ways to stimulate their independent learning through STEM toys, you may visit our collection.
Time to cultivate your independent learners!