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Fostering Learner Independence

Fostering Learner Independence
An Essential Guide for K-6 Educators

Foreword by Ron Ritchhart

December 2008 | 240 pages | Corwin
Learner Independence = student success! This resource examines the importance of supporting students to become independent learners, thinkers, and problem solvers. Educators will find essential information, checklists, and useful tips for helping students learn to work independently, establish strong work habits, problem-solve, and develop authentic personal independence to serve them throughout life. The authors provide reflective questions and encourage teachers to reflect on how they teach and learn in order to identify practices that most effectively foster student self-sufficiency. The bookáillustrates ways that teachers can nurture independence through: Assessment Classroom environmentDifferentiationEvaluationPlanning
Foreword by Ron Ritchhart
About the Authors
1. Learner Independence
Defining Learner Independence

Learner Independence Encourages Self-Esteem

Independent Learning: A Habit of Mind


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

2. Structuring for Learner Independence
Controlling Versus Structuring for Learning

Fostering Independence Through Student Thinking

Interdependence Encourages Independence


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

3. Teaching That Promotes Independence
Implicit and Explicit Teaching

Constructivist Education

Supporting Students: The Zone of Proximal Development

Problem-Based Instruction

Gradually Releasing Responsibility


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

4. Expectations and Communication That Supports Independence
Benefits of a Well-Managed Classroom

Setting Expectations

Communicating With Students

Language of the Classroom

Peer Communication


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

5. Aligning Understandings and the Environment for Independence
Benefits of a Well-Planned Environment

An Environment That Mirrors a Teacher's Understandings

Analyzing the Physical Environment

Role of the Teacher


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

6. Setting Up for Independence
Arranging the Physical Environment

Whole Group

Small Group

Student Seating

Student Seating: The Freedom to Choose

The Teacher's Desk

Learning Centers, Materials, Supplies, and Resources

Wall Space

A Final Touch

Routines and Procedures

Change Over Time


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

7. Assessment That Fosters Independence
A Comparison of Assessments

The Link Between Rubrics and Independence

Assessment That Encourages Independence and Creativity

Assessing With Purpose

Reflect on Your Use of Rubrics

The Benefits of Assessment for Learning


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

8. Evaluation and Analysis That Develops Independence
Supporting Students Through Evaluation

Using Evaluation in Planning


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

9. Information That Fosters Learner Independence
Observations as Assessment

Conversations as Assessment

Feedback: Descriptive and Evaluative

Feedback That Informs Instruction

Analyzing Student Work for Evidence of Instruction

Analyzing With Others


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

10. Planning to Support Independence
Purposeful Decisions

The Teaching and Learning Cycle

Long-Range Planning

Daily Planning

Approaches, Grouping, and Resources


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

11. Differentiating for Independence
All Students Can Learn

Teaching Responsively Encourages Independence

Using a Variety of Processes and Resources to Encourage Independence

Go Deep, Avoid Coverage

Students Need to Know Themselves as Learners

Student Choice Is Critical

Differentiation Leads to Independent Learners


A Time to Reflect

A Visit to Our Classrooms

12. Conclusion: Changing and Reflecting
Our Behaviors Are Influenced by Thought and Perception

Teaching Is Constant Decision Making

Learning Requires Engagement and Alteration in Thought

Humans Continue to Grow Cognitively

Resource A: Task Analysis
Resource B: Moving From Controlling Learning
Resource C: Responses That Encourage Independence

“The authors have written a highly accessible book that could change not only the way teachers teach and students learn, but also contribute to the satisfaction that both teachers and students feel at the end of the day.”

Cynthia L. Wilson, Associate Professor of Teacher Education
University of Illinois at Springfield

"This book has challenged me as a teacher, and I believe others will become better teachers with this book."

Renee Peoples, Fourth-Grade Teacher
Swain West Elementary School, Bryson City, NC

“Teachers and administrators will find this book valuable. It has a strong theory and research base along with concrete examples from many classrooms.”

Marilyn Duncan, Literacy Consultant
Author, The Learning Network

"The authors have spent years thinking and writing about the conditions necessary to design, implement, and reflect upon for teachers to be intentional in our work and what independence means for our students. Their book acts as a personal coach for any teaching wanting to increase the rigor of their classroom, establish a classroom of independence, manage their own planning time productively, increase parent support, and truly increase student achievement."

Dawn Christiana, Teacher, Literacy Consultant
Bellingham School District, WA

"This excellent book covers all aspects of what teachers can do with their students to help them develop as independent learners.”

Linda Lee and Mary Haymond, Multi-age Classroom Teachers
Spokane Public Schools, WA

“This one will be dog-eared, highlighted intensely, and readily accessible on the corner of my desk. However, in the spirit of this book’s call for independent thinking, don’t take my word for it. Read and judge for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.”

Rick Wormeli, Columnist
Middle Ground, National Middle School Association

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781412966078