Independent Learning

Independent Learners are excited about learning

Every man who rises above the common level has received two educations: the first from his teachers; the second, more personal and important, from himself.
—  Edward Gibbon

Many people misunderstand the meaning of Independent learning. Some authors believe that when you move from A young man hold his glasses and looks thoughtfulhigh school to college you become an independent learner – because you spend less time with your professor and more time studying on your own. The problem with this is that you are still letting the professor tell you what to learn, when to learn in and how to prove that you learned it by writing a paper and taking tests that will all be evaluated by the professor. There is nothing independent about this.

Seth was homeschooled and his parents encouraged him to become an independent learner. They encouraged him to study subjects he was most interested in and to move at his own pace. When he was younger, he was interested in dinosaurs. This led him to learning about fossils and his parents took him to places where he could find his own fossils. In high school, these interests led him to study Evolution and how DNA studies are now changing the way we understand the relationships between living things.

He is taking a Freshman class in psychology but it does not cover psychological testing. This is a topic Seth has been interested in for some time.Seth is planning to study this topic independently. He will talk to his professor about what books would be helpful. He hopes the professor will actually loan him some books on the subject.

There is another professor who sometimes teaches a graduate class on Psychological Testing. Seth will also talk to him. He hopes that when the professor teaches that class again he will allow Seth to be in the class. Seth doesn’t care about the credit. He just wants to learn more about the subject.

You learn best when you are most actively mentally (and sometimes physically), making your own decisions about what, how, where, and when to learn and using strategies that activate your mind.
—   Ronald Gross in Peak Learning, 1999, p.11

The Difference between
Dependent and Independent Learners

Category:          Dependent Learners                  Independent Learners

What to Learn       Teachers and curriculum define              You choose your topic and how
.                                subject and topics to learn                         much to learn

When to Learn      Teachers decides when to learn               You decide when to learn and
.                                 and time spent on topic                            how long to spend on each topic

How to Learn        Textbooks, assignments, lectures             Develop your strategies and     .                                                                                                        choose resources and activities

Final product       Assigned papesr, Tests, Grades                Design your final product and     .                              and participation lead to grades              evaluate your own progress

Results                 Students are bored and learn little             Students are more highly            .                                                                                                       motivated and learn much more

Many students, of course, fall somewhere in between the two extremes. They may be dependent learners in some classes, or in all their classes at least part of the time, but occasionally act as Independent Learners.

Those who know how to think need no teachers.
— Gandhi

You can be an Independent Learner for the rest of your life:    Lifelong Learning

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