Independent learning and metacognition in learning laboratories
Activity Guide
Adapted from
The Quality Improvement Agency for Lifelong Learning (QIA) 2008

This activity guide has been developed for use for CETIS in order to create a working routine for use in the language laboratory. The following themes are offered:

Theme 1: Independent study skills: What are independent learning skills? Working with RMs. Caro, Arte, Ezequiel
Theme 2: Learning Styles: Find out how best students learn. Marta, Rosy
Theme 3: How to act, what is expected of me in the learning lab? Dania, Antonio, Luzma
Theme 4. Developing work cards and activities for students. Ale Memo

Introduction to theme 1.
One definition of independent learning or ‘autonomy’ in learning is: “…the ability to take charge of one’s learning” H. Holec, 1981 
Independent learning is usually developed throughout a learner’s time at school or college to give learners more responsibility for working or learning. It helps learners to make informed choices and to take responsibility for deciding what they need to do in order to learn. To do this and to have the motivation to learn independently, learners need to:

1. feel confident about taking and acting upon decisions
2. appreciate the value of reflecting on learning
3. decide whether learning has been effective or whether they need to try 
another approach: 
a focus on learning and not teaching. 
Independent learning means that learners make decisions about their learning rather than relying on their teachers to do it for them.
At first, many learners find this challenging. When they are more familiar with it, they realize that it allows them to focus on their own individual needs and to take account of the way they prefer to learn. 

Does independent learning mean working on your own? 
Independent learning is not only about ‘isolated’ or ‘unaided’ learning, or operating without the help of teachers. It is as much about sharing ideas and problems and working together to resolve those problems. Talking things through and explaining ideas to each other can help learners to clarify issues and understand concepts more fully. The characteristics of independent learning can just as easily be demonstrated by a group working together as by an individual.
Theme 1: Independent study skills: What are independent learning skills?
• setting own goals and deadlines
• reflecting on their progress
• organizing themselves, their time, and their work (making a work plan)
• evaluating their use of time
• evaluating your work. 

ACTIVITY 1: Design an activity card (ficha) for a work plan that can serve also as a goal plan. This is to help students develop study habits and learning strategies. Working towards a plan that THEY have elaborated is more motivating for them than doing what the teacher said to do.

Tips for creating independent learning
• Tip Reflection
• Sharing ideas
• Questions
• Learner voice
• Catch confidence
• Create opportunities for independent learning
• Learners center stage
Encourage your learners to think about what learning strategies work for them and what progress they are making.

Theme 2: Learning Styles: Find out how best students learn
Make a work card about the route that students should follow when they are working independently. Instructions can be online.
ACTIVITY 2: Investigate learning style questionnaires and adopt one for each level of student.
• Provide formats for learners to record this.
• Create opportunities for group and paired work, and for mutual support.
• Encourage learners to share stories and strategies, and seek ideas from other people in the group so that the teacher is not the only source of support.
• Develop a learning atmosphere and exercises that encourage learners to ask questions.
• Use problem solving techniques rather than finding right and wrong answers to closed questions.
Extra activity: Take a learning style questionnaire and represent it on Prezi or, or Animoto (for students, as an example)
Learners tend to become more confident when they know that their views will be taken seriously, so provide opportunities for learners to express their needs and concerns.
• Help them to feel secure by establishing a clear code of conduct from the start of their learning.
Theme 3: How to act, what is expected of me in the learning lab?
ACTIVITY 4: Write a code of conduct that supports independent learning.
• Provide a framework for recognizing and recording progress and achievement.
• Include constructive comments from peers as well as teacher and learner feedback.
• Tackle the self-doubt expressed as “I’m no good at that”.

• Do not be afraid to let your students tackle questions on their own or as part of a group exercise.
• Encourage learners to demonstrate what they have
• Support learners to develop their study skills
This activity is an excellent use of a Google Doc. Study skills students will be using are synthesis, summarizing, collaborating, and revising.
How to develop strategies, good study habits, and positive self-concepts:
• Build study support into your courses.
• Identify which reading, writing, speaking or listening skills learners need in order to cope with learning their subjects.
• Encourage students to identify their goals from the start of their journey with you.
• Discuss with them the learning that will help them reach those goals.
• Find out whether they need support with developing their skill strategies in reading, writing, or speaking skills.
Theme 4. Developing work cards and activities for students.
Write generic activity cards that can be used for multiple activities on multiple levels to have them handy in the language laboratory.
ACTIVITY 5: Design reflection activity cards
Linking key skills, independent learning and the expert learner
A process that underpins the acquisition of all key skills is the cycle of Plan – Do – Reflect – Review.

These skills underpin both independent learning and the concept of the expert learner. They encourage learners of any age and stage of development to:
• think about their intentions and purposes
• plan a course of action
• implement the plan
• reflect on their progress towards the plan
• review the plan to suit changing circumstances or to overcome problems
• devise a new plan when the original one has been fulfilled. 
In particular, the wider key skill of improving own learning and performance encompasses a range of process skills, interpersonal skills and personal qualities that align closely with the skills and attributes of the expert learner.
• Process skills Set targets
• Plan learning Review progress
• Interpersonal skills Communicate own needs
• Accept constructive feedback
• Negotiate opportunities for learning and support
• Personal qualities Confidence
• Motivation Persistence