Concepts and Adventures in Student Independence

student independence in the classroom

Student independence is very much emphasized in my classroom. I want to help students to learn about their thinking, how to use their hands, how to learn from a mistake, and just how much fun creativity and simple materials can bring. I love it and I am slowly getting better at teaching student independence.

The Innovative Arts classroom - home to plenty of student independence

As teachers, it is essential that we promote student independence in the classroom. By fostering a sense of autonomy and ownership, students can become more engaged and take ownership of their learning. I want to discuss some strategies for developing student independence and provide examples of how to implement them. I’ll also give some examples from Innovative Arts class.  

In general, our goal as teachers is to help our students become independent learners who can think critically and creatively. Developing student independence in the classroom is an important step towards this end.

Enough introduction, let’s dive into how to get student independence in any classroom!

Provide Opportunities for Independent Work 

One way to promote student independence is to provide opportunities for independent work. This could include allowing students time to work on projects by themselves or assigning individual or small group tasks that require them to utilize their critical thinking skills. For example, have students research a topic of interest or have them create a presentation about a concept they’ve recently studied. These activities will give them the chance to explore their own interests while also developing problem-solving skills. 

I am lucky that I can use maker education to teach exactly these ideas. The first projects we tackle are progressively more complex popsicle stick engineering tasks!

Encourage Self-Reflection 

Self-reflection is an important part of developing student independence because it allows students to assess their own progress and identify areas for improvement. Encourage your students to review their work regularly and evaluate what strategies have been successful and which ones need more practice or refinement. This might take the form of “AARs” or After Action Reviews, where students share their completed project and talk through their process. This will be published on this site once it is more developed.

The more opportunity your students have for self-reflection, the more likely they are to develop independent learning behaviors. 

You could also have students create a “Learning Journal” where they track their progress over time on different topics or skills. This helps them gain insight into their own learning process and allows them to develop strategies for improving their performance in the future. 

In our classroom, these take place in the ‘Puzzle” or ‘mindset topics’ that guide our daily discussions.

Model Independent Learning Behaviors 

A great way promote student independence is by modeling independent learning behaviors yourself. Show your students how you approach problem solving and decision making by engaging in strategic discussions with them about topics related to course material. Explain why certain decisions were made and how these decisions were arrived at after careful consideration of all available evidence and options. By demonstrating independent learning behaviors yourself, you will teach your students how they can apply these same skills in their own studies and pursuits outside of school.  

I try to work discussions like this into class daily and never miss a chance to share a mistake I made and how it helped me change my thinking.

Provide Opportunities for Choice 

Giving students opportunities to make choices within the classroom environment can help build their confidence and increase motivation while instilling a sense of responsibility and ownership. For example, in a typical classroom you could allow students to choose which topics or activities they want to focus on during class time or even which tasks they want to complete first when completing an assignment. You could also give them options for how they would like to present their work (e.g., written report vs presentation). 

Innovative Arts students are given six creator types that they can choose to dig into and gain experience within. The goal is to give students experience with self-directed learning and letting them run wild with their creativity!

Allow for Collaborative Learning Experiences 

Collaborative learning experiences are another great way to promote student independence in the classroom. When students work together on activities or assignments, they are forced to rely on one another and develop problem-solving skills that will help them become more independent learners in the long run. You could have your students work together in small groups on projects or assignments, with each group member responsible for a certain aspect of the project (researching information, presenting results, etc.). This encourages collaboration as well as independent thinking from each group member.  

I often am asked about making ‘group projects.’ I tell my students that they should make projects that coordinate – a cool panda and its big brother, for example.

Encouraging student independence in the classroom can be incredibly beneficial for both teachers and learners alike. By providing opportunities for self-reflection and accountability, choice-making experiences, as well as collaborative learning opportunities; teachers can help foster an environment where student autonomy is respected and celebrated as well as provide meaningful learning experiences that will last far beyond the walls of any given classroom!  With these strategies at hand, teachers now have a better understanding of how best to promote student independence in their classrooms. It’s up to us now to put these ideas into practice!

If you are interested in some of the other resources available on this site, here are a few:

Student independence is an important part of any successful learning environment. By providing opportunities for independent work, encouraging self-reflection, and modeling independent learning behaviors yourself, you can help your students develop into confident thinkers who are ready to tackle challenges head on with creativity and insight. With these strategies in mind, you should be able to foster an atmosphere where student independence thrives!


I am creating this site to advance student creativity and help students to take ownership of their learning. The resources on this site are intentionally open-ended and a part of my Innovative Arts curriculum.

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