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Independent study 2018/19

“…it’s not just learning that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things that matters”.  Norton Juster

No matter how well we feel we understand the material covered in class, the acid test of learning is seeing whether we really have developed our understanding enough to complete the work on our own…

What is ‘independent study’ and ‘directed study time’ (DST)?

Independent study refers to curriculum related activities completed outside of timetabled lessons, either at home, or making use of the college facilities. It may also involve work experience and/or trips and visits. For many students, independent study will be completed on the college study day, whilst for others it will be completed during directed study time (DST). Directed study time takes place throughout the week on various days, but is equivalent to a study day.

Independent study time, whether on a study day or during DST sessions is intended to help support you to develop the skills required to become an ‘expert learner’ in preparation for your exams/assignments. Independent study helps to review and practice what has been covered in class, get ready for future learning and learn beyond the scope of class, exploring subject content more widely.

What skills will I develop and why do I need them?

Once you leave college, we hope that you will be progressing onto higher education, employment or further training, where you will be expected to demonstrate your wider skills – those that employers are interested in. Independent study will help you to develop the top ten most important employability skills, including;

  • Communication, through collaborative work with your peers, teachers and mentors
  • Teamwork (e.g. by completing assignments as part of a small group)
  • Problem solving and resilience (e.g. developing ways to improve your grade following feedback)
  • Initiative and enterprise, by working beyond the requirements of exam board specifications
  • Planning and organising (e.g. prioritising work to be completed, creating a study timetable)
  • Self-management, including time management and self discipline
  • Technology, by developing your use of the internet, apps and social media to learn
  • Resource management (e.g. using the internet, Fyi and other resources to find relevant reference materials)
  • Positive attitude and willingness to learn, by looking for opportunities to get more involved in your learning
  • Autonomy, building confidence to take responsibility for your own work performance

How can I make the most of my study day/DST?

Independent learning is proactive study and  ‘work you set yourself’. Think of independent study time as an opportunity to build upon taught lessons, to explore your subjects by researching beyond the curriculum. Below are some tips to help you develop your skills:

  • Take the ‘Independent learning’ questionnaire and score yourself out of ten
  • Use subject specific independent learning checklists provided by your teachers to broaden the range of activities you complete outside of class
  • Read actively: When reading, have questions in mind to ask
  • Go solo: Practice working on your own for long periods of time before seeking support from others – try the ‘three before me’ technique
  • Different sources: When doing research, try to draw from a variety of different sources.
  • Be persistent: If a task is challenging, don’t give up. Keep at it until you understand what you need to do.
  • Seek help where necessary: Asking for support and advice is an important part of independent learning. If you need help, ask for it!
  • Talk about it: If you want to expand an argument but are stuck for ideas, get a debate going with friends or peers. This could help you think about an element you hadn’t considered before.
  • Set goals: A good way to keep your motivation up is to think what you want to get out of your work and remind yourself next time you’re flagging.
  • Work on your time management: In work or university studies, you’re likely to have several pieces of work to juggle at any one time. Break each project down into the relevant tasks, work out how long you will need to spend on each part, then prioritise
  • ‘Learn to learn’ – it has great benefits. Ask your pastoral mentor and/or teachers to talk to you about the research from mindset (VESPA) and the college ‘learn to live’ app to be clear about how much study is needed for success and finding a way of tracking and monitoring.

So, what activities should I be doing?

Example activities outside of class, at home or during DST:

  • Complete ‘study day’ or ‘DST’ tasks set by teachers on Google classroom, e.g. practice papers, wider reading, research tasks, stretch tasks
  • Complete outstanding work/re-submitting assessments below MTG/paying back time missed through absence
  • Mock exam papers to more fully reflect the actual exam
  • Create a glossary of key terms
  • Answer examination questions
  • Plan out assignments using available assessment criteria
  • Work through past papers
  • Summarise class notes using flash cards/mind maps
  • Read the relevant pages of the textbook
  • Add in additional notes to class notes based on reading
  • Write down any questions to ask your teacher for any clarification
  • Identify your own strengths and weaknesses within each topic to add focus to independent learning time
  • Create an action plan with SMART targets to improve areas of weakness
  • Access the digital library and recommended films and books
  • Work with peers to test recall of core subject material
  • Create questions to test others
  • Comparing model answers against your own work
  • Use internet discussion boards with other students

Example activities available in college:

  • ASTs organised by teachers as appropriate
  • Peer mentoring as arranged by curriculum staff
  • ‘Excellence Programme’ events, e.g. Oxbridge workshops, mock interviews, etc
  • Mock exam papers under timed conditions to more fully reflect the actual exam, e.g. where the paper is longer than a typical lesson
  • Drop in study skills sessions, e.g. how to send emails, compose letters, interview skills
  • Health and wellbeing sessions, e.g. meditation sessions
  • Work placement
  • Enrichment activities
  • Guest speaker sessions
  • Trips/visits organised by curriculum teams
  • Meeting with the futures team to discuss/organise work placement and/or to get help with application forms for apprenticeships, for example
  • Seek higher education/UCAS advice and guidance

And remember:

  • This your opportunity to take ownership of your time – independent learning is exactly that, not teacher led and facilitates the development of skills required in the workplace
  • Any ‘in college’ use of study days will have a clear rationale e.g. inviting you in to complete outstanding work to ‘catch up’, to re-submit a key assessment to meet or beat MTG or to give you a ‘mock’ exam experience
  • The volume of work set for study day completion will be ‘capped’ to ensure that it is manageable for you – please, let your teachers know if tasks set feel unmanageable
  • Look forward to the positive reinforcement when your hard work pays off – improved employability skills, a boost in confidence, improved grades!!