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Common Core and independent learning
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2014 11:20 AM

The Common Core State Standards may be more rigorous than previous standards, but the changes can have positive effects. Both the math and English/language arts Standards promote the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, abilities that help make students independent learners. What's more, if students are to be college and career ready by the time they graduate from high school, they'll have to be able to learn on their own and stay self-motivated. 

Importance of independence
All throughout K-12, educators help students learn certain ways of thinking. The Common Core especially develops students' abilities to analyze math and language in a way previous standards did not. Instead of just solving an algebra problem, students have to look at the structure of it. In English, they must look for context clues the author left to discern the meaning of the text. Students have guidance in school from teachers and peers, but they'll have to do those things independently in college and at work. 

University professors do offer some guidance, but they generally assume students know how to learn on their own. As such, college students tend to be independent, identifying the topics they need to spend more time on studying and putting forth the effort they must to earn good grades. 

In a professional situation, people must learn skills for their new jobs with very little help. While students will get plenty of content knowledge from Common Core-aligned curricula, they'll also become independent learners. 

Characteristics of independent learners
Students who have the skills they need to learn on their own exhibit certain traits. Some they can learn in school, others they already have and must develop further. Here are some of the characteristics of independent learners:

Analytical: Common Core benchmarks help students learn to analyze by having them assess writing and math. Even in grade one, students should be able to identify key details about a text they read in school. Later, they'll note more information and how it relates to the text as a whole.

Curiosity: To find the motivation to learn independently, students need to be curious and have a thirst for knowledge. Children are born with curiosity - it's how they learn about the world when they're young. However, as kids grow, many lose that sense of wonder. If schools can support and value curiosity, students may retain it. 

Perseverance: When students learn on their own, they have to have the drive to keep going even when faced with obstacles. Teachers won't push them, they have to push themselves. The Common Core is challenging, which will teach students how to persevere even when they make mistakes.