Best Practice

From the jaws of defeat: When independent study goes wrong

When studying independently, students often learn more when things go wrong or badly. Dr Andrew K Shenton discusses how we can derive success from failure in independent learning

We tend to associate problems in life with barriers, frustration and lost time. They are, however, very often essential to a student’s progress when tackling an independent learning assignment.

Indeed, it can be said under these circumstances that many cognitive gaps may be plugged as the individual responds to adverse experiences.

We can even go so far as to say that one of the foremost tasks in the research process – that of looking for information – itself typically emerges when the learner finds themselves in a problematic situation.

Specifically, on discovering that their own internal resources, such as personal knowledge and memory, or the material immediately available to them, like their own class notes or the teacher’s handouts, are of no or insufficient assistance in meeting the challenge, they realise that a special form of problem-solving must be applied.

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