How to make your child a successful independent self-learner

Leadership, Learning

In our last article, we talked about the education revolution that’s going on, and how the role of the teacher and student are rapidly changing. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the evolution has just gotten a swift kick forward. So, what does this mean for students, teachers and parents?

The future of education is independent self-learning, guided and motivated by teachers. However, this is not as easy to adopt for some students as it may be for others. After all, in Singapore, we are used to having a helping hand almost every step of the way until we reach university. If you ask around, how many parents do their child’s homework with them every night? How many have done the homework for their child? Is this truly the best way to prepare and support your children for an independent, self-sufficient life ahead? 

Seven Strategies for Creating an Independent Learner

In fact, a recent study published in the New York Times found that increased parental involvement hindered their child’s student achievement more than it helped. According to this study, children whose parents were more involved in behaviour such as helping with homework, deciding their subjects or observing their classes, did not benefit academically. Perhaps the most startling was that parents who helped their children with homework, almost never helped to improve their child’s test scores. 

This doesn’t mean parents don’t need to be involved at all, it simply means that parents need to engage with their children in a different way; to help their child become more independent and to create self-learners. Because children without these skills will quickly fall behind as the face of education moves forward and increasingly online. 

In fact, the report, What is Independent Learning and What are the Benefits for Students? (2008), found that the benefits of independent self-learners included:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Increased motivation and confidence
  • Increased chances to be creative and intellectually creative
  • Fostered social inclusion and countered alienation from peers
  • Increased opportunities for completing differentiated tasks, set by the teacher

For these reasons, your child needs to take initiative in their own learning and here are some tips and strategies for how to do that.

Seven Strategies for Raising an Independent Learner

  1. Set a routine
    Many parents may say, “If I leave my child to their own devices, they will daydream and nothing will get done.” However, children with a set routine or time limit have shown more success in school. Instead of doing the work with your child, give them a set time and place within which they need to complete a task. Try and set them short tasks, working with small increments and with short breaks in between. This is the Pomodoro Technique, which has been shown to scientifically improve productivity and effectiveness. However, it is also always a good idea to involve your child in deciding which tasks to complete first and how long they think they will need to complete it. 
  2. Your child can do this; tell them 
    If they have had their hand held their whole life, that in itself could be a mental block. Not just for you but also for your child. Letting your child know that you trust and believe that they have the capability to become an independent learner is important. Allow them to work through their challenges and encourage them to follow through. After all, you will know when they really need you and when it’s time to lend a hand. 
  3. Questions first 
    The first step to your child taking initiative in their learning to make them the decision makers. Ask your child what they would like help in and how they would like you to help. For example, “Would you like me to help you study for your test?” or “Do you want me to help you solve these questions or would you prefer that I just be here for support in case you get frustrated?”
  4. Nothing worth doing is easy
    We are proud when our children do well and bring home ‘As’, but rewarding a child for a result, puts a focus on the end rather than the journey. This can mean that, when a child gets stuck or frustrated, they look for shortcuts to that result, including getting you to do their homework instead. Encourage progress, the process, and their effort. When we reward our children for the action, they take rather than the results they achieve, they are more likely to do it again and again — and have faith in themselves. Remind your child that it is ok to make a mistake because no one gets anywhere without some struggle. This way, when your child hits a block, they have the necessary skills to innovate and adapt to find a different solution. 
  5. Create independence
    Creating opportunities for your child to take initiative or make decisions, regardless of the consequences can make them more independent and self-reliant. They will learn how to problem solve, take responsibility and even accountability. For little kids, let them pick out their own clothes (even if they don’t match) or water the plants.
  6. Give them a space 
    We all have a space where we do our best work. Whether that’s a quiet room, a sunny spot or a well-stocked stationary table, work with your child to create a space where they feel good and, in the mood, to work. But it’s not just about a physical space. Child/Teen development specialists have suggested that creative exploration is a known path to problem-solving. This means your kids need the freedom to work or solve a problem in their own way, even if it’s the longer way. 
  7. Involve the teacher
    If you find that your child has hit a truly difficult problem, encourage them to ask their teacher for help first rather than you. This allows you, as the parent, to remain the supporter, and they learn how easy and important it is for self-motivated learners to be able to ask for help. By asking for help and asking questions, your child also learns how to ask higher order questions, which is required to promote problem-solving, thinking and encourages a deeper understanding of the topic. 

If your child has always had you by their side, it can be a hard transition. Gradually implement these strategies and create the independent mindset in your child. Most importantly, be firm. If your child won’t try to work independently or is fussing over something that they can do quite easily, encourage them. Let them know that you have confidence in their ability to do it by themselves but you won’t do it for them. It can be hard to say ‘no’, but it will all be worthwhile when your child becomes more confident, independent, and self-reliant. 

At the Agape School of Education (ASOE), our teachers are trained and ready to guide your child through their language journey. We employ strategies that encourage independent learning, such as:

  • Asking open-ended questions to encourage discourse and deeper thinking;
  • Teaching students to categorize information for easy recall;
  • Focusing on communication that is related to their individual learning style; and
  • Involving our students in their own learning and the development of their personal language goals. 

For more articles on smart language strategies, guides or tips to keep in touch with a language, visit the ASOE Blog where we post new educational articles every week!



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