Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Students Won't Do Anything on Their Own!

This is one of the most common complaints I hear.  And the question is, how do we create independent learners?  There are several answers to that question, and I'll be breaking that down with specific strategies over the week.  But let's start with something simple.  Have you ever had a student bring you work and ask, "Is this right?"  It is so tempting to simply answer the question.  But that teaches students to depend on us to tell them if it is correct.  My son used to do this all the time.  He just wanted to finish the work, and go skateboard.  My husband would tell him, "yes it's right" or "no, you need to redo it".  One day, I was helping him with his homework, and everytime he asked me if a question was correct, I would say, "What do you think?"  He replied, "that must mean it's wrong."  "Why do you think it's wrong?"  "Because you didn't tell me it was right."  Usually, the conversation ended with "You are being a TEACHER again!"  Yes, I was.  Because if we want students to learn to NOT depend on us, we have to insist upon it.

When a student asks us for validation of a correct answer, we need to turn it back on them.  What do you think?  Why?  I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm asking you why you think it's right or wrong.  Guide them through the thinking process.  Model it for everyone, and reinforce it over and over again with your whole class and individuals.  This is one of the best ways to teach them to reflect upon their work, and decide for themselves if it is correct.  Another benefit?  Over time, it cuts down on the number of times they ask you for validation.  The downside?  It takes time, patience, and perseverance to coach students to more independence.  And when they move to a new level of learning or something more rigorous, they will revert back to needing your perspective.  That is fine, but what you want to do is create an overall environment in which they depend less on you and more on themselves. 


  1. This is coming at a perfect time for me. My coworkers and I have become more and more frustrated in how to help our students when they seem to depend so much on us.

  2. I totally understand! This was a huge struggle for me when I was teaching. I have several posts coming in the next two weeks that are similar to this, so keep reading!


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