Independent Learning

Originally published here.

I chose to join this critical skills course having heard its focus on independent learning and I hope it will help me develop my skills in this area. Often when revising for an exam I simply read materials I already have and really fail to exploit any other resources that I have at my disposable. This skill will almost certainly be useful to acquire for the future.
This past week I have been challenged to really define what independent learning is and what skills this may consist of. I believe there are misconceptions that independent learning is, as it literally implies, learning unaided and alone or autonomous learning and self directed learning. While there are some elements in this proliferation that are true, I think the term ‘independent learning’ is just a broad umbrella term that covers most aspects of learning.
To be a good independent learner, there are probably many things you first have to identify within yourself, for example reflecting on how you learn best, in a basic sense are you an auditory, kinaesthetic or visual learner. Every person is different, so for instance one may feel more of a benefit teaching materials in order to retain information whilst another learns from being taught. The ability to recognise and identify the best method which suits you is a key characteristic in being an independent learner.
Through further discussion, although the implication is that independent learning is a solitary activity, this is deemed not the case. Being able to establish when you require help from others and finding the right person to ask for guidance is also a key aspect which gives rise to the term in(ter)dependent learning. Having the ability to work together with others and sharing ideas with others can further enhance your own knowledge and also help you become more aware of your educational environment in a social context.
Inevitably one of the most important characteristics of an in(ter)dependant learner is to have motivation and the drive to work hard to achieve this goal. This gives rise to the question ‘Can you learn to become a more in(ter)dependent learner?’ I believe it is perfectly reasonable to argue that you can, as a desire to become an independent learner can be achieved through developing an individual’s positive attitude by finding an ambition they can strive towards. Nevertheless, even without an end goal as a means of motivation, being taught the skills and aspects of being an independent learner will help to successfully instil a strong positive mentality to find the optimal conditions for an individuals learning.