From Rote Learning to Independent learning

Paper presented at the Panel discussion held at SIES school, Mumbai on 31st August, 2023.

“The ability to learn by oneself is the greatest gift any teacher can give a learner; indeed it is the ultimate aim of all education”.

After the exam, if we ask students any questions, they will go unanswered. The reason is simple, they have forgotten. To effect a change from Rote learning to Independent learning is a paradigm shift. Teachers need to work harder.

Students and teachers must be active while the students are learning study skills.  Giving notes on how best to study doesn’t work.

Firstly, one should Move from Teacher control to student control.

For starters,

Discuss with your students and have a shared vision.

Goal setting is to be done while keeping the vision in perspective

Students should be trained in self-evaluation

The teacher should be a facilitator -The emotional climate created by the facilitator is crucial. She /he must emphasise each student is treated equally and be non-judgmental.


Characteristics of an Independent thinker

Reasoning, analysis and synthesis, critical thinking, problem solving, resilience, open mindedness, focussed and growth oriented

Let’s see how this can be learnt. This technique is called the POE technique of teaching science. Predict, Observe and explain

The teacher takes a jug full of water and a Pepsi light can filled one. Before the teacher puts the Pepsi light can in the water the students have to predict what will be the result of such an action then the can is put in the water and what do you find?

The Pepsi light can floats. Now the students have to check their prediction after observing the experiment and state reasons why it does happen?.

This experiment can be made a little more difficult by pouring some oil on the can. This time the can levitates. Very often students do not arrive at this answer.  All students know to recite Pascal’s law But, fail to apply it to the context. Oil pressure on the water surface is bigger down than on the upper surface of the can and the pressure transmitted through the water increases the pressure on the bottom of the can. This is the reason for the levitation.

One More thing can be added to this Experiment. Show a diet Pepsi and the regular Pepsi to the students and ask them which would float?

Peer tutoring

This is one of the best ways to retain the information.

Encourage Think Pair and share. This is a collaborative learning strategy.

Think: Each individual student independently thinks about his answer to the question posed by the teacher

Pair up with the partner

Share: Communicate the thinking to the partner and discuss.

This can be used before introducing the topic, and after completing the topic.

  1. Integrate study skills teaching into the scheme of work. Include in the Lesson plan. Also, try to use the integration of subjects while teaching.

So that students are able to form connections and retain the matter for a longer time.

Let the students go out and look for insects in the garden. When they come back teacher discusses their experience. She then divides them into groups of 4 each. Each student from the group is given a different question. Each of them moves into a temporary group and discusses the answer to the question in detail. Once they have done that they return to their original group. One of them presents the matter to the class. In this way, each of the students would have learnt their part in detail and together it is comprehensive and leads to holistic learning.

Initially, the teacher has to do hand-holding by providing resources for the research or the links for online research. Jigsaw technique leads to Mastery learning, peer tutoring, collaborative leaning, to do research

Integrated learning is a kind of horizontal learning. A graphic representation is provided below. Integrated learning is holistic learning.

A simple concept like The Library, can be made into an interesting project. 

Through storytelling technique

I had developed this module a few years ago when I was teaching in the primary.   Let me start with that technique. we are familiar with the story Goldilocks and the three bears no how do we make this into an active learning process?  a few questions to ask first. This is related to the foundation level.

  1. how could Goldilocks enter the bear’s home? What was the mistake made by the bears?
  2. What should Goldilocks have done before entering somebody else’s house and helping herself to the food?
  3. Baby bear likes Goldilocks. He would welcome her to the house and treat her to milk and biscuits. What would they talk about? This would help in teaching conversation.

Grade 3 & 4  we can use slightly higher order questions.

  1. What would be the dialogue between Goldilocks and the Bears?
  2. Write the dialogue in the present tense and change it to
  3. We can get the students to see the similarities and differences between the tales of Snow White and Cinderella
  4. Sequencing the story is a good exercise so mixed templates can be given.
  5. Students can be asked to end the story differently.

Finally, teachers have a lot of responsibility in bringing in this paradigm shift.

Summaries of research on teachers and Prof. John Hattie’s reviews indicate that teachers have a much bigger impact on student achievement. Researchers have identified a few other factors that have a cumulative effect on this concept. Self-belief of teachers, motivation of the students, active and passive teachers. Mindsets are self-fulfilling prophesies.

What is it that teachers with active mindsets do that the others don’t? They know intelligence, talent and ability can be learnt. Motivation can be increased. They understand that teachers touch lives forever. So, they take responsibility and take initiative.




Published by Dr. Pramila Kudva

I am a teacher educator currently worrking as a Principal of a reputed school in North Mumbai, have more than 30 years of experience, with several publications to my credit and have authored a book -"From chalk to Talk The Art of Teaching.

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