For Teachers and Librarians

Eight Traits of an Independent Learner or

                        How to be a Great Knowledge Seeker

These traits help students understand what is expected of them when they are finding and using information.  If students understand how they are to behave as independent learners and knowledge seekers, they will be more comfortable in an information environment.

Knowledge Seekers 

         Eight Traits of an Independent Learner              

 

 
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An Independent Learner is curious about the world.                                                                             

Knowledge seekers are curious.
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Curiosity is at the heart of independent knowledge seeking.  Fortunately, humans are innately curious.  Engaging student curiosity and then focusing that energy is the challenge of teachers and librarians.  The easiest and most productive way to help children channel their curiosity is to help them develop choices within a topic or subject.  Developing  and using questions is a way to encourage and channel curiosity. 

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Ask students to use the following questions when they begin a project:  
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1. What do I know about this?

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2.  What do I want to know about this?

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As a teacher (school library media specialists, please put on your teaching hat), you will want to have some essential questions or learning concepts to address. This will ensure that what you want students to know will be included in their questions. See QueSPER.

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An Independent Learner is focused on his/her work. 

Knowledge seekers are focused.
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Focus is a characteristic of good learners. Students can and do understand what it means to be focused or not easily distracted. Using computers is an example of focus.  Computers are engaging because they are so interactive. 

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Giving students a preview of what they are going to do helps them focus. 

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Allowing students to make choices within given  parameters helps them focus.

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Ask students to think of a time when they were truly focused.  What were the circumstances?  Ask students to write about that time.  Reading their papers will help teachers and librarians understand how to help students become focused in the classroom or library media center. See Lessons. 

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An Independent Learner is responsible and respects others in the community of learners. 

Knowledge seekers are respectful and responsible.
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Issues about ethics, and honesty with regard to information should be addressed by teachers and librarians for all grades.  Respect for others, for their right to learn, and for their property (including information) can be encouraged long before the concept of plagiarism is taught.  The more students understand that information is also property, the more they will be responsible toward its use.  

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Begin early to help children understand that using information means knowing where it came from. A lesson in the LMC or Computer Lab about using information is not complete until students have had time to write down their sources.  

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Make a very simple form for young children that includes author and title, publisher and date. See Notes and Notetaking.

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An Independent Learner knows and uses many skills, strategies, resources, systems, and networks to help her/him find and use information effectively.

Knowledge seekers know and use many  information    skills and strategies.

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Let's face it, we live in two worlds.  The natural world is a physical experience, but the information world is now so much a part of our lives and those of our children that we are living in two worlds.  The natural world is spontaneous, simultaneous, and unrepeatable.  The information world captures snippets and perceptions of the natural world.  We create media formats for information about the natural world that can be stored, categorized, cataloged, searched, and retrieved.  

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The natural world is never the same. (Every nano-second is a thing of the past, never to be repeated again.)

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The information world is always the same. (The information captured is the same each time we see it or hear it.  Unless, of course it has been altered by someone in the meantime.)

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Can children understand this distinction? Try them. This is the basis for understanding the reason to learn about information systems, patterns, skills, and strategies. See QueSPER, SMILKA, DEARHEART, FIRSTSEARCH and Lessons.

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 An Independent Learner uses information to solve problems. 

Knowledge seekers solve problems
bulletLearning is about solving problems and  asking and addressing questions.  It is not about memorizing the right answer for the test.  Realistically, however, we recognize that state and national tests are for accountability (for adults, not children).  Until tests are changed to reflect real learning as some researchers are suggesting, we are stuck with the system.  Can we both help children become problem solvers and teach to the test?  Perhaps if we use our own problem solving skills the answer is yes.  Try this.
bulletTeach children how to take tests.  They need practice in the process and they need to see and use sample test instruments.
bulletUse state guidelines to formulate your essential questions.
bulletUse more authentic, student centered assessments to learn what your students have learned.  See Assessments.

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An Independent Learner collaborates with others, shares information in many ways, and gains knowledge as a result of the process.

Knowledge seekers collaborate with others.
bulletWorking together builds communication skills and increases learning.  Collaboration is a process that lets many minds solve problems.  Most of us know that it is good experience for children.  It is also good experience for teachers.  School library media specialists have been asking for more collaboration for years.  Planning is the key to collaboration.
bulletOn the fly planning does not work if  you want a project to go well.  Sit down together and plan out the whole project.  Try . to give yourselves time to to think of everything you will need and do.  Once the project starts, planning time is limited.  See Planning Template.

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An independent learner knows when to seek assistance. 

Knowledge seekers ask for  assistance.

bulletCan children understand that we want them to be independent learners and to seek assistance?  Yes.  One strategy for a good learner is to ask for help when he or she needs it.
bulletSpelling, meaning, indexing, and keywords all give beginning students difficulty when learning to be knowledge seekers.  Letting them know that this is okay will help them boost their confidence in searching.  You do not have to know everything to be a good searcher. You have to be a thinker.   See Strategies.

bullet An Independent Learner evaluates and reflects upon his/her work and knowledge.
Knowledge seekers evaluate and reflect.
bulletResearch tells us that giving students time to reflect upon what they have learned  and to evaluate their own work will help them integrate the information into their knowledge base.  We need simple ways to do this and to be sure to devote time to it.  Doing an active lesson and then running off to gym leaves an entire part of the learning process undone. See Reflection and Evaluation

Back to QueSPER Online                                                    Back to 8 Traits Student Version

Carol J. Fox, 2002 

Schools may use this chart for educational purposes without permission. 

[Carol is a Library Information Specialist in Rockford, IL. You may contact Carol at foxc@rps205.com]

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