How to create an independent learner

Jan. 9, 2016.

Help your child to go it alone  

As technology advances and becomes more accessible in schools, there is an incredible amount of information to gather, absorb and apply.  Learning online may feel foreign to some still but over the last 2 years of Prep School Tutor, there has been a steep rise in children being educated online from the comfort of their own homes.  There is potential for them to have more ownership over their education than ever before and they love that their generation has a slight edge over their parents in terms of the technological side.  They may have to climb a mountain to pass Common Entrance but, panic not parents, they can navigate Skype, social media and YouTube in their sleep. This empowers them and automatically gives them a can-do starting point.  From here, how do we guide them towards being independent learners and encourage them to want to learn for themselves?

A great many children benefit from a prescriptive style of teaching at the outset whereby they are spoon-fed an example or two to get them started with an exercise or task.  After this initiation, the idea is that they launch themselves into completing the activity on their own, whether in class or at home with homework.  The difficulty comes when, as teachers and parents, we give too much away and fail to recognize when to back off and let the children fly solo.  The old theory that they will have to do it on their own in the entrance exam rings true so, once launched, let go.  This way their confidence will soar.

Children love praise and will often seek to please.  Conversely, they can be quickly upset and despondent faced with negative feedback.  The trick is to find the line and preserve their delicate self-esteem.  Firstly, encourage children to dare to try, even if there is a risk of failure and to grasp the nettle when faced with a challenge.  Secondly though, if stuck, nudge them along the way with careful guidance so that, ultimately, the success is theirs and theirs alone.  

Discussion is a powerful tool in encouragement.  Children like to know what the point is and the logic behind a theory.  Talking about why they have to do what they have to do helps them to see the bigger picture and how a topic or new skills fits into their education.  They have the chance to understand more fully and so have more control over what they are doing.

Listening is vital.  If one method of learning does not resonate, listening to other possible ideas for study could be hugely beneficial.  Children have a great many forms of inspiration and respond brilliantly to alternative methods of learning, like using YouTube clips, smart phone apps or simply having their friend explain to them in a different way.

Trust is needed.  Traditional approaches to education are extremely valuable and the foundation on which to build but now children can also go beyond and find new, effective means of education to motivate them into learning more.  Education through the Internet and online study is one thing but also experiencing real life and soaking up stimulating environments will motivate children towards a meaningful and more authentic enthusiasm for study.

Finally, involvement is key.  The children should almost always be working harder than the adult when learning!  Being at the forefront of the process will help them to remain engaged.

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