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Geoff Ashton

Blogs by Geoff Ashton
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5 Steps To Independent Learning For Your Kids

5 Steps To Independent Learning For Your Kids

A Private Tutor such as myself fills those client-free daylight hours in the garden pruning, planting, weeding, grass cutting and various other tasks requiring more muscle than brain power. I find these simple jobs stress-free and a wonderfully refreshing tonic for the mind. You should try it!

During a particularly glorious gardening afternoon, I questioned myself as to why more home-owners don’t fill their outdoor spaces with slow growing evergreens that change little over the seasons, or indeed don’t just smother the whole lot with gravel or concrete. Some do, the majority don’t. Why not? It was Autumn time. The flowers were going over to coloured berries; leaves were putting on their final show; seed heads spilling their contents everywhere.

A lot of work for a gardener – yet we love it. It’s the change you see. We purposely choose plants according to the often short-lived display they put on. Maybe it’s Autumn leaf colour; perhaps it’s summer flowering; possibly it’s one of the first flowers of Spring, or it has Winter-long coloured berries.

So can we conclude that people like change? Of course not! People hate change. People are strongly resistant to change, so what’s going on?

The truth is, people only accept change when they are the authors of it. Not so when it’s thrust upon them.

 Angry Child

What does this have to do with learning?


Are children are also naturally resistant to change? Is there a part of them that isn’t 100% accepting of being taught new content?

As an experienced teacher, I know this to be true for a proportion of kids I’ve taught. They’re resistant to the degree that they are harming their own ability to learn and widening the knowledge and skills gap between themselves and their peers.


Somehow as teachers (and parents) we have to recognise this in kids we teach, and help them to develop an approach where they see themselves as the authors of their own learning. This is no easy task, especially in a class situation. It’s also likely to be a lengthy process, one that’s difficult to provide an all-encompassing set of guidelines for.


Nevertheless, I’m going to try! Here is one approach to teaching your child a new area, with the ultimate objective of giving your child the feeling of ownership over their learning – i.e. moving them along the path of becoming independent learners.


Here are my 5 steps to independent learning:


  1. Each area of learning needs to planned out carefully, and crucially, the child should be consulted on questions they wish to know the answers to. (These can generally be anticipated!)

  2. Once the child has told you what they know (possibly in a web diagram format) and recorded questions on what they want to find out – they can then be involved in how this is going to be achieved – again a web diagram is ideal for this.

  3. Using this information, a tutor can then go away to ‘fill in the gaps’ to provide an overall outline of activities and learning experiences that will achieve the learning objectives. No great detail is needed at this point.

  4. Using this ‘Long Term Plan’ the child can then help refine it into more detail, with ideas of where they can find answers, activities they could do to consolidate, experiences they could have to demonstrate a real-life application and so on.

  5. The whole point of this exercise is to keep the child involved, rather than merely presenting them with a finished lesson, so that they feel involved, can see how lessons are put together and most importantly, become the authors of their own learning.

These are merely a few ideas of how it could approached, there are many other methods.


Questioning of a child, how they are spoken to or ‘taught’ can also play a big part in whether they feel autonomous. It simply isn’t good enough to set a piece of work and leave them to it – that isn’t independent learning in its most beneficial form, and while it still has merit, it won’t instil the skills needed to become independent.


Once children become used to this approach, they will very quickly show signs of independence.


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