Teacher of English, David Murray’s blog on Independent Study

David has been teaching for longer than any of his students have been alive. He was born at a young age in west London. Growing up near the M4 and Heathrow, he dreamt of going to great places. And so he moved to Stoke. When he isn’t reading, he is writing. And when he isn’t writing, he’s sleeping. He finds it hard to do all three at once.


David Murray – is an experienced English teacher and examiner who is part of our English team here at the college

When you come to college, you will no longer be pupils but students. Looking at the origins of the words, pupil comes from the Latin word for a child and is related to the word for a doll. A pupil is someone not yet old enough to be trusted, someone who is directed by another. A student, however, is literally someone who studies. A student is responsible for themselves. This means that a student must be independent in their learning, they must take charge of themselves and their own education. It’s now up to you.

Such personal responsibility in learning may be the surest guide to academic success. It is more important than talent or intelligence or natural flair. A student who takes responsibility for their own learning and applies themselves independently will nearly always be the one who comes out on top.

So what does it mean to be an independent learner? There are several elements:

  1. You must be proactive. That is, you must not simply respond and react to what you are told to do but you must take the initiative. So, for instance, if your teacher mentions that the next topic is South American snails, an independent learner would go away and read up a little on this before they even got to the next lesson. You are teaching yourself. Some of you may be surprised that as you get to higher levels of learning, you effectively teach yourself more and more. The teacher becomes a guide, not an instructor.  
  2. You must be planning. You must manage your time, manage your space, and manage your resources. You must work out when you are doing your work, when you are resting, when you are socialising, and when you are doing your part-time job. You must work out where you are going to work, whether it is in college or at home, and you must make sure it is an environment conducive to concentration. You must make sure you have all that you need, asking for support from your teachers if necessary. Tell us if we can help you, but we’re not doing it for you. 
  3. You must be persevering. Your progress through the next few years will not be smooth. Very few students go from success to success to more success. Life just doesn’t work that way. Rather, you might get a good grade, and then a poor grade. You might be full of energy one day and in a slump and a fug the next. So a good independent student takes the long view. Every journey is a series of smaller journeys. If you take it all one step at a time, you’ll be surprised at how far you will get. And, whether you feel like it or not, an independent learner keeps going. The resilient take the reward. You’ve made it this far. So keep going. 

Further guides to independent learning:

The University of Hull: https://canvas.hull.ac.uk/courses/30746/pages/what-is-meant-by-independent-learning

The University of Bristol: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/students/study/teaching/independent-learning/