Establishing Independent Students

By Rachael Brothers

In her article: She Didn't Teach. We Had to Learn it Ourselves, Dr. Maryellen Weimer (editor of the Teaching Professor newsletter) explores student dependency on step-by-step instruction.

Students are ingrained in the traditional style of teaching: with constant examples of concepts, the answers to tests and quizzes handed to them, and a clear layout of how they will appear on exams. As a result students come to expect this teaching style in every classroom, establish a dependency on teacher instruction, and seldom take initiative for their own learning.

This poses a problem for both students and teachers, when deviation from the standard recipe occurs. When teachers try new teaching strategies they are often met with resistance from students, and unfortunately, complaints on year–end reviews. Students are thrown off by not having the answers readily available and, if they do not have the necessary critical thinking skills needed, experience difficulty answering the questions. They tend to blame the teacher for not helping them when they need it, or not giving them all the material they need. This can be partly true in some instances, but more often than not the teacher is merely trying to enhance student’s critical thinking skills and prepare them for life outside the classroom.

In many cases the best response is to educate the students on why you are employing this different or new technique and how it will enhance their learning. This will open the doors of communication between you and your students.


Weimer, PhD, M. (2014, September 10). She Didn't Teach. We Had to Learn it Ourselves. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from


Pamela K. Coke Associate Professor and Director, CSU English Education Program CLA Master Teacher Initiative Coordinator Editor, CLAS Currents Colorado State University