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Top tips for encouraging children and young people to become independent learners

Provide the child or young person with opportunities to self-monitor:

  • Establish goals and receive feedback from others and from the child or young person.
  • Set goals depending on the child or young person’s strengths and weaknesses.  Reflecting on their performance will help them become more aware of their strengths, weaknesses and the progress they are making.  Recognition of progress will help build confidence and motivation.
  • Develop use of self and peer assessment to see whether the strategies they were using were effective for achieving learning goals.
  • Encourage the child or young person to take responsibility for and be involved in their own learning.
  • Encourage collaboration – give the child or young person regular opportunities to complete quality, small group tasks. Encourage them to learn from each other and develop their own ideas, rather than always looking to the teacher for answers.

Use questioning as scaffolding to independent learning:

  • Gradual, step-by-step transfer of responsibility from the teacher to the child or young person.
  • Ask high order, open-ended questions. Respond flexibly to the child or young person’s responses to promote thinking, problem-solving skills and deeper understanding. Please see the Education Endowment Foundation ‘Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning’ guidance report for further ideas.

Develop communication that includes language focused on learning:

  • This helps the child or young person to become more aware of the steps involved in learning, to understand their own learning style and helps share thinking.

Make learning accessible: 

Consider using Rosenshine’s principles of instructions, a set of 10 key findings:

  • Begin the lesson with a review of previous learning.
  • Present new material in small steps.
  • Ask a large number of questions (and to all children or young people).
  • Provide models and worked examples.
  • Practice using the new material.
  • Check for understanding frequently and correct errors.
  • Obtain a high success rate.
  • Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.
  • Encourage independent practice.
  • Plan monthly and weekly reviews.

Praise the effort instead of the result by using positive reinforcement – If the focus is on the learning journey and not only on the destination, a love of learning will develop alongside an understanding that mistakes are a necessary part of being successful.

Promote a growth mindset:  For some children and young people the sense of success might not be their ordinary experience.  They might anticipate failure instead of being successful, especially if they compare themselves with others.  Use the language of ‘yet’ this may encourage children and young people to learn from their mistakes and become resilient, be able to persevere and hungry for knowledge.

Make learning goals clear so that the children and young people can see what they are aiming for.  They will also be able to assess whether they’ve achieved it afterwards or not.

Last updated 2 October 2020

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