Independent learning beats teaching to the test every time, argues Karen Sullivan. She offers some ideas and resources

At the Independent Schools Show, Adam Pettitt, head of Highgate School, expressed his concern at the growing culture of tutoring, not just to get students into selective schools, but also to ensure that they acquire and maintain a top position in their class and year. He emphasised the need for children to become independent learners, and there is plenty of research to suggest that he is right.

The current focus on standardised testing creates a model where teachers are forced to rely too heavily on the “teach to the test” method of instruction to ensure good grades for all students.

This not only removes the opportunity for students to “learn to learn” – i.e. use their natural curiosity and problem-solving skills, make mistakes, assess where they went right or wrong, identify and use the best personal techniques and tools for individual learning and, of course, immerse themselves in subjects above and beyond the curriculum – but also reduces the chance that students will become passionate about learning.

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