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Home Study Skills FE General How can we encourage students to be independent learners?

How can we encourage students to be independent learners?

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Research Taster
FE General – Study skills 1

Independent evidence
Engaging students with learning material is more beneficial for learning than providing students with prepared learning material in the form of hand-outs. Evidence suggests that helping students develop their own note-taking skills through using mind maps, for example, is an effective way of encouraging them to be independent learners, although there are other approaches too. What is important is that tutors help students develop a method that suits them i.

Your evidence
Ask your students how they engage with new material you present to them during classes. Do they expect to learn by direct reading of the texts? Do they copy down notes you make on the board? Or do they rely on written hand-outs of key points you prepare for them?
Are there any examples of students making their own notes, drawing concept maps or diagrams or other similar strategies in order to make sense of the material before them? What do your students find helpful? You could use the above questions as discussion topics or even as a mini questionnaire.  What do their responses tell you about how independent your students are as learners and the ways in which you might engage them more deeply? 

Putting the evidence to work
Once you have explored with your students the extent to which they are already engaging or could engage in managing their own learning, you can plan ways to support them in using strategies that require them to take more control of learning materials and processes. You could encourage them to use the following well-established study skills which help students make connections between ideas:

• picking out the relevant points and filling in details afterwards
• developing their own shorthand
• numbering any handouts issued with a corresponding number in the relevant place in their notes
• making a ‘spray’, which involves quickly jotting down all their ideas and then linking them up
• visual and pattern notes using flow diagrams, 'concept maps' or ‘spider diagrams’
• using highlighters, post-its and colour coding

If your students are unsure about getting started it may be a good idea to model the approach for them. Which methods did your students find most helpful?

i Find out more about helping students to become independent learners at:

The second issue of Inside Evidence has an article on helping students to learn for themselves

Last Updated ( Friday, 14 November 2008 10:34 )