Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Independence does not ‘just happen’. It is a culture in the classroom and it is structured. It is encouraging failure and questioning. It is the pupils working harder than the teacher, or, at least, being encouraged to. It will not happen overnight and takes as much planning as a didactic, teacher led lesson.

Below are a series of points and ideas that can help you to develop a culture of independent and co-dependent learning in your classroom.

To develop independence:

Say less. Step back and allow the pupils to fail. Making mistakes is acceptable and normal, and nobody should fear it.

It is more of a style than a resource. It must be built up over time. This could be during the development of skills or knowledge, leading to a time when the pupils can approach the work without you. Let them go, don’t fear losing control.

Constantly expect independence. Questioning is vital – both your questions, and, perhaps more importantly, the pupil’s questioning. Encourage difficult questions. Challenge their ideas.

Use focused group work to refine skills and develop co-dependence. Encourage them to ask each other before they ask you.

Frame your lessons differently. Use questions instead of objectives. Expect them to interrogate and analyse the outcomes so that they fully engage with them. Never have them copy anything blindly. Make them think from the moment they enter your room.

Plan for independence. Build up a range of techniques that they can use for a certain type of task. Differentiate so it is accessible. Allow some range of choice, where appropriate, so that tasks can be completed independently. Set work in the zone of proximal development – it must be attainable, but challenging. Assessment will help you plan effectively for this.
In summary – step back, say less, challenge more, encourage failure, encourage difficult questions. Make them think