In conjunction with the release of the white paper, The Learning Independence Continuum, we’ll be posting a series of blogs on the concept of developing independent learners. This first post provides an overview and the remaining posts will each focus on one of the stages of the continuum:
We spend lots of time thinking about how to motivate learners, engage them in their learning, build self-efficacy, promote ownership for learning and foster independence as separate efforts. What may not be clear are the relationships among these learner characteristics and the power they hold to create highly proficient, consistently motivated learners. Consequently, we can find ourselves focusing on each characteristic in isolation, hoping that somehow they will lead to learners that are persistent, independent problem-solvers.
Instead, the white paper argues that each of these elements should be addressed strategically to build upon one another. The ultimate outcome that we seek are learners who can work independently, are able to drive their own learning, and want to learn out of curiosity – similar to the concept of “freelance” learners discussed in this blog by Ginger Lewman. Much literature and focus (dollars and programs) concentrate on building engaged learners – while this is important, we posit that efforts should go beyond engagement to nurturing independence in learners. We believe there is a continuum that builds from motivation to independence and we provide strategies around each of these elements. Parallel to building these characteristics is another continuum regarding who drives learning and activities – the educator or the learner. Early stages of learning, particularly involving inexperienced and immature learners, generally need to be more educator-driven/designed to motivate, engage and support learners. On the other end of the spectrum, activities that nurture independence in more experienced and mature learners will generally be driven more by the learners themselves. In personalized learning environments, learning activities will fall all along this continuum – at times it’s more important for the educator to drive the work, at others, the learner will take the driver’s seat. However, in order for this to happen, all of the characteristics along the continuum should be developed and nurtured in each learner.