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Is 'independent learning' a cop out in primary school?

(26 Posts)
wheelsonthebus Thu 11-Oct-12 11:35:19

If a child is doing well and put on an 'independent learning' table, how much benefit do they really derive from that? I can see the logic in making a child work things out for themselves, but I also fear it's an excuse for the real situation - 'we can't teach your child to a higher level than he/she is currently achieving because we don't have the staff, and the teaching assistant is too busy helping those who are having difficulties.' Don't independent learners need help - albeit a different kind - as well, and how can I raise this effectively with the school?

Elibean Thu 11-Oct-12 11:42:35

I would imagine the independent learners get help/attention too, but of a different kind, already? Do they really get just left there entirely? If so, yes, I would have a word - ask the school the same question, really.

dd1 has benefited hugely from independent learning, because she wasn't confident - didn't trust herself - and chatting with her friends whilst working things out can be helpful too.

wheelsonthebus Thu 11-Oct-12 11:47:35

I'm not sure that is true to be honest (in my case), and the school's results don't reflect it either - with few children operating at level 3 in KS1. My dc says there is a lot of 'getting on with it'

MisForMumNotMaid Thu 11-Oct-12 11:48:57

Independent learning is the thing we strive for with our eldest yr4 son (ASD 1-1 support). Ds2 in yr2 now does some sessions of independent learning.

Done well It means they are able to work to their ability, taking tasks further and gathering more information etc if their interest is tweaked. I feel it's one of the skills they need to develop before secondary.

At the DS's. school each class has one teacher and several assistants. They all help all the children and the independent ones are far better at popping to ask when they need to. That's one of the skills they seam to develop.

Why not just pop and see the teacher and ask how it works at your school? Do you know which bits really concern you?

PastSellByDate Thu 11-Oct-12 12:02:01

Hi wheels

Good question. I suppose the answer depends on the teacher and the planning that goes into the work the 'independent table' is doing.

I'm just a Mum - but my ideal would be for independent work to be given to children who understand the concept (say x7 or x8) - but could do with building up familiarity and speed with these tricky times tables. So if the main class is being taught a song about x7 or x8, reminded that they know most of the x7/ x8 facts already from other tables - and possibly also reminded that x8 is just doubling x4 - and the independent table is playing a game (maybe a video game) working on their speed of recall of these number facts - that seems a very good use of everyone's time. They're all working on x7 or x8, but the group who already have these number facts are going on to work on their speed of recall for these tables.

At our School the Teachers (and trainee teachers) tend to work more frequently with the low ability groups where high quality explanation would be of benefit and TAs work with the upper ability groups. What is a consistent problem is that often middle ability children slip through the cracks - as neither Teachers nor TAs always give them full attention.

As a parent, the thing that frustrates me is the lack of holistic approach to ability - homework really should be about tweeking those skills that an ability group have yet to fully master. So they should have been introduced to it in class (maybe on a few occasions) and then homework sent home helps to really firm that learning skill up. Far too often homework is about ticking that box - I have sent homework home - rather than extending learning/ improving understanding. Personally I'd love a teacher to send a note saying we're working on x7 now and your DD is finding this tricky, could you spend a bit of extra time on this table over the next fortnight & here are some great websites/ free on-line games for practice (or we've posted them on the school website).

But I do completely take the point that teachers only have so much time - and tailoring resources would take a lot of effort.

Unfortunately, our solution wasn't through the school but through ideas of other Mums (& Dads perhaps) here on Mumsnet. So thank you Mumsnet - because it has given me so many useful ideas over the years and so many of them have hugely helped.

rumncoke Thu 11-Oct-12 13:43:08

I am also getting frustrated with this exact point wheels, i posted earlier in week about my son being bored and doing work he did last year. He is often left alone to do his work, and yes he can do it but he is not being stretched or checked on to make sure he is actually working and not sitting there gazing out of the window. I do feel for the teacher BUT my son has a right to an education at his level not someone elses........ , and to have teacher/ta feedback!

learnandsay Thu 11-Oct-12 13:52:16

Um, rumncoke, if you know that the tasks that your is being set are too easy for him then can't you supply him with some harder ones? And if you know that his work isn't being marked can't you mark it yourself? Schools don't actively prevent parents from helping their children to learn do they? I know that one or two teachers have suggested it on MN. But I don't think that it actually happens, how could it?

rumncoke Thu 11-Oct-12 13:56:22

um, learnandsay, yes i can but i am not at school 9-3!!His work maybe being marked at end of lesson but its the feedback/guidence through the lesson which he is not getting........

RosemaryandThyme Thu 11-Oct-12 14:01:37

With the Independent learning - I do think it can be rubbish, for some children.

Some from quite a young age can take a concept, investigate it, internalise it and produce something from it - left to it with a book, computer, paper, pens and the guide "find out why the Eygyptians needed angles to build pyramids" my Y3 spent 90 mins, produced a mini-film script, 3D model with plotted right angles and "fact book" -0 given exactly the same, his best mate squiggled a page of lego mini figures and then logged on to unrelated computer games.

If yours' isn't any good at independent learning you'll know it from the amount of supervising of homework you normally do.
those that are easily distrated, bored, dreamy when left alone probably would benefit from slowly being lead to more self-0directed study, but leaving them just to get on with it in the calssroom will not achieve this.

If you have one that is great at cracking on without guidence then I'd say they will learn much more going at their own pace into their own areas rather than following the teaching lesson plan.

wheelsonthebus Thu 11-Oct-12 14:20:45

rumncoke - I am with you on this. I have no problems supplementing work (and I do), but weekdays 9-3 is the time dc should be taught/stretched/challenged by trained teachers. That's what school is for. There's no point in all these motivational quotes you see on school walls about doing your best, when you are not being taught to your best.

mrz Thu 11-Oct-12 17:02:48

As a teacher it is much easier for me to sit with a group of children and tell them what to do than to get them to think for themselves and work independently. They don't learn much if I give them the answers but they get finished faster. hmm

TwllBach Thu 11-Oct-12 17:16:10

<agrees with mrz>

The easiest lessons I have ever taught go like this:
Tell them what I want them to know.
Ask them to repeat it back.
Get them all to fill in the same 'copy and complete' worksheets.
Done.

All under the guidance of my mentor. Nowadays I like to make my life much more difficult by asking them questions and setting tasks that involve them finding things out for themselves. To me, that is what "independent learning" is. They're learning things by themselves without me spoon feeding them. It's an important skill to learn.

wigglywoowoo Thu 11-Oct-12 18:03:20

"Schools don't actively prevent parents from helping their children to learn do they?"

I've been told not to help my daughter work towards her literacy and maths targets sad Personally I would have thought it would help the teacher to show progression but obviously not.

Teacher told me that Independant learning is used in my dd's class, but even on these these activities they are not left completley to it and dd says Teacher or TA come over.

learnandsay Thu 11-Oct-12 18:10:09

If a teacher told me not to help my daughter with English and maths, or anything in fact, I'd tell the silly cow to take a running jump.

rumncoke Thu 11-Oct-12 19:34:04

mrz and twllbach, i am not totally against independent work, what my problem is , is the actually work the class have been given as a whole. Its simply not challenging my son and i think this is what the original op is asking? How do you stretch the more able kids, or is year 2 simply to bring all kids upto the 2b nc? If that is the case,( and i have noticed a few threads like this now, were more able kids are basically bored stiff and not learning nowt new)is that fair? I do not personally think so...........

rumncoke Thu 11-Oct-12 19:35:25

or is it a case a only just started back? seeing what kids levels are like and after half term put them into ability groups?? I hope so.

wheelsonthebus Thu 11-Oct-12 19:40:46

Yes, the question I am asking is - how much differentiated teaching do you do, because there has to be quite a lot in a mixed ability class. I always get the answer about 'independent learning'. But that's not teaching. It's teaching yourself hmm and I think 7/8 year olds are not disciplined enough, sitting round a table with six others, to make themselves do hard work. Why would they? The head of Ofsted makes this point himself, albeit he was referring to secondary schools...

mrz Thu 11-Oct-12 19:46:49

I was reading an interesting pieces of research that say pupils in mixed ability groups/classes significantly outperform those taught in ability sets.

wheelsonthebus Thu 11-Oct-12 19:47:04

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2205855/Mixed-ability-classes-holding-bright-pupils-says-head-education-watchdog.html

mrz Thu 11-Oct-12 20:03:01

www.education.gov.uk/schools/toolsandinitiatives/tripsresearchdigests/a0013256/themes-pupil-grouping-and-organisation-of-classes
Effective classroom organisation in primary schools concludes that there is no evidence that lower Key Stage 2 pupils learn more effectively in sets for mathematics at any level. In fact, the study tentatively suggests that children of all levels of attainment do better when taught in mixed ability classes. The author also recommends mixed ability teaching because of its social and equitable benefits, and suggests that setting is usually adopted in order to make the teacher’s job of whole class teaching more manageable.

rumncoke Thu 11-Oct-12 20:15:48

I just want my son to learn something new at school, he is being held back and i do not believe that is fair on him or any other child who is very able in a subject. No one has answered about how easy/hard it is to give different work to kids? What are we as mums suppose to do? Sit back, let it go. I take my sons education very seriously and feel sad for him as he is beginning to not care as much. The spark he had as he knew he was doing well has gone.

mrz Thu 11-Oct-12 20:20:25

It's very easy to give different work according to the needs of the child.

rumncoke Thu 11-Oct-12 20:25:28

well that is not happening in my sons class....

wheelsonthebus Fri 12-Oct-12 14:14:50

The DoE research supports mixed ability teaching.

'The study found that mixed ability teaching, by contrast, encouraged teachers to see pupils as having different needs, abilities and working styles.'

Yes, there should be differentiated teaching. The question is, how often does it happen, and how long for, and how does it happen in classes of 30? And why don't schools talk about it more?

lljkk Fri 12-Oct-12 14:34:23

I suppose OP's question is along the lines of should every child be pushed to their very maximum ability at every opportunity. It sounds a very pushy approach. I don't see why, at least sometimes, children shouldn't work well within their comfort zones to build up confidence. I can see how that benefits DC. It must depend on personality, too, I know DC1 rises to a challenge & works best if openly pushed, DC2 (most academic child) needs a mixed approach but never pushed hard, and DC3 produces his best work when not pressured at all.

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