20th June 2014 at 01:00
Every week, we bring you the most interesting discussion, debate and issues from around the web and around the world by focusing on the most popular educational hashtags on Twitter

"Independence as a term is overused." This remark came not from a weary observer of the referendum debate in Scotland but from a contributor to #engchatuk discussing the idea of independent learners.

The contributor was @englishlulu, who added that, if the term were to be adopted, more clarity would be needed on its definition: "Independence to my 12-year-old means doing things her way, when she wants. That isn't what I need in my classroom."

@DrJohnLTaylor turned to philosophy for an explanation, saying that "independent learning was best defined by Kant: having the courage to use your own understanding".

This idea was expanded on by @XjuliesmithX, who talked about how to apply that philosophy to teaching, saying that it was "important to foster a culture where students are able to learn from failing".

However, @numpty_teacher warned that students' attitudes to learning made this difficult: "Students have become scared of failing and looking stupid. English is all about failing so you find the right answer."

For @mrcstory, "developing resilience" was key, and the way he did this was "to set problems that take time to solve and they WILL get wrong at first".

@paulawright2110 suggested an alternative solution of "independence by stealth". "Scaffold," she advised - then "take away the scaffold bit by bit".

The idea of stealth was echoed by @SurrealAnarchy, who said: "The independent learner as an aim will not be achieved by insisting on a child's independence throughout the learning process."

Chat organiser @EngChatUK described an independent learner not as someone who had no need of a teacher but as someone who knew when they really did need them - "a risk-taker, who has confidence in their own voice but also seeks answers".

This "tricky balancing act", as @KerryPulleyn termed it, was also referenced by @agwilliams9, who said that, ultimately, the teachers fostering independent learning were "weaving our way between support and letting go. Like helping a kid to ride a bike."

Sarah Cunnane

Keep up to date with the latest education chat online by following @tes on Twitter


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