Our new Ontario report card has created an even bigger emphasis on the Learning Skills. Self-reliance is a key component of these Learning Skills. When I taught primary students, I spent a lot of time modelling and guiding students to become more independent learners. Fast forward 11 years, and I now teach Grade 6. I thought that junior/intermediate students would be naturally more self-reliant learners. I figured that many of them would be eager to problem solve, and less likely to look for teacher support for all of the answers. I was wrong though. Many older students struggle with this independence in learning. Since September, this has been a huge focus for me and for our class, and I’m definitely seeing the difference in the students now. They know that I don’t have all of the answers. With questioning techniques and collaboration opportunities, I get students to think of new ways to solve problems that do not involve just relying on me.
Students have learned the value in checking online and in classroom resources (i.e., books and articles) for possible solutions. They have realized the value of talking to their peers to problem solve together. After modelling making mistakes myself and showing students that they are being assessed on the process and not just on the final product, I see more of them taking risks and trying again. They don’t get frustrated. They persevere. So today, when a group of older students from another class, came into the classroom to ask how to retrieve some saved files from yesterday, I was thrilled when the students jumped in to support them. Instead of giving them the answers, they asked questions just like we do together in class. They got them to think about where they could look. They got them to think about what they could do. They encouraged the students to, “just try.” And the students did try and met with success.
Creating this self-reliance takes time, but I’m thrilled to see that students are now at the point of encouraging independence in others. Watching students become more self-reliant this year has given me a different perspective on what independence in learning really means. Students do not just need to work alone to be independent learners. Self-reliance is more about knowing where to look for help, and how to see beyond the adult in the classroom as the sole teacher.
How can we help develop self-reliance in our learners? How do you encourage learners to support each other?
Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.
She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.