Independent Learning Strategies Video

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  • 0:01 Independent Learning…
  • 1:31 Key Factors
  • 2:25 Strategies
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

Learn about strategies teachers can use to help their students build independent learning skills. Included are the foundations of a good independent learning lesson and some examples of activities teachers can easily implement.

Independent Learning Strategies

Every class is made up of a conglomeration of learning types and styles. Teachers are faced with a multitude of students, each of whom has a different preference for how to experience the class's material. How then is a teacher supposed to create a lesson that meets the needs of 30 or more unique and individual learners? One excellent strategy is to develop independent learning activities for students and allow them to take charge of their own education.

Independent learning is a broad term, and there is a fair amount of debate as to an exact definition. For the purposes of this lesson, we'll say that independent learning is a self-guided process to expand knowledge and skills.

Also, let's set a few boundaries for independent learning. First, it does not have to take place outside of a classroom or involve zero teacher intervention. Independent learning can and does frequently occur inside a classroom with teacher oversight. Second, independent learning can involve multiple students engaging with one another. In fact, research has proven this to be an ideal methodology for independent learning. Finally, when students are working independently, we don't mean that the teacher is off on a coffee break. Independent learning shifts the responsibility for the learning process onto the student. The teacher's role is changed from imparting facts to supporting the student as they work to discover the facts on their own.

Key Factors

When designing and implementing independent learning in the classroom there are three key factors.

  1. It is vital that activities are linked to standards-based curricula and purposefully designed. A teacher can't just break up students into groups and let them try to work independently. Instead, there needs to be careful planning to ensure students will be guided and supported in meeting curricular standards.
  2. Activities need to have some method of accountability for the students. This applies to in-class and home-based independent learning. Teacher and parental supervision are excellent, but peer-checking can also work as well as having students document in a journal when and what they worked on.
  3. Independent learning activities need to be properly organized and managed. Anyone who has worked in a class full of screaming rambunctious children knows the value of proper planning and organization.


So, now that we know what factors are necessary for high-quality independent learning we will run down some of the top methods teachers can employ to help their students. Some of these strategies are fairly easy to adapt a traditional lesson to, while others require a great deal of planning.

Cooperative Learning

This strategy may very well be the simplest methodology to implement at a moment's notice. There are a number of different ways cooperative learning works, but in its simplest form, the teacher steps back and allows the students, working together, to try and figure out solutions to a problem presented to them. Not only does this foster independent learning, but it can also help children work on their social skills. Many of the other strategies listed can be done cooperatively, as well.


Staging a debate between students on two sides of an issue is an excellent way to get them to think critically about concepts. The teacher should provide a structure and guidance while allowing the students to conduct their own research and formulate their own arguments. It is vital to explain to students the format and techniques of a debate first so they don't resort to name calling or other ad hominem methods.


Allowing students to use their imagination is a great way to help some abstract concepts sink in and let their critical thinking skills flourish. Depending on the age of the students, role-playing can be improvisational or scripted. Simulating activities can help the lesson jump off the page for many students who otherwise are uninterested.

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