What does Your Child Need to Self-Study?

In our previous three articles, we covered how you, as a parent, are in a position to kick-start your child’s improvement, we dissected the pros and cons of conventional schooling, and we made a list of what you need to best tutor your child at home. This time, we will be discussing the efficacy of self-study.

To reiterate, the key factors that you as a parent need to engage in home-tutoring are: teaching resources, a point of reference, and mastery of the subject matter; with any of these lacking, the efficacy of your home tutoring sessions will be drastically reduced.

That said, leaving your child to the conventional schooling system may not be optimal: the conventional schooling system is generally class-focused rather than individual-focused.

Therefore, encouraging and enabling your child to study beyond the confines of the school environment is an important factor in ensuring your child derives the most from their learning experience, which brings us to the question which we shall now tackle: What does your child need to successfully study on their own?

Can your child successfully study on their own?

Learning is a complex process that requires facilitation on multiple levels, requiring the child to possess both the innate motivation to learn, and the creation of optimal learning conditions. What exactly is required? Let’s take a look.

Factors Governing The Efficacy Of Self-Study

1) Motivational Source

As we have established, a source of motivation is crucial to ensure that your child gains the most out of their self-study sessions. But how can we achieve this?

First, we need to delve into the two forms of motivation: intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation, often observed as the desire to perform well or to improve, is an extension of adaptive self-efficacy, or whether a person believes themselves to have the capability to achieve a goal.1 When your child expects themselves to have the potential to do well, they tend to try harder, persist longer, and perform better.2

Extrinsic motivation refers to the case where a child is motivated by external factors. This can take several forms,  with the most commonly observed being the promise of a reward, or the possibility of attaining another individual’s praise or approval.

Providing your child the motivation to study and excel is the first, most fundamental requirement for enabling independent study.

2) Enabling Cooperative Learning

Studies have shown that cooperative learning often leads to higher levels of productivity and achievement, resulting in an increased frequency of higher level reasoning, as well as in more frequent generation of new ideas and solutions.3 Education is best conducted in a social environment, surrounded by peers of a similar level.

A major benefit of conventional schooling is that it creates the opportunity for this form of cooperative learning. By interacting with their peers, children are able to enhance their learning in a holistic manner by developing important social skills in addition to providing an avenue for peer review. By teaching their peers and being taught by their peers, your child is able to further enhance their understanding of the concepts, developing a higher degree of proficiency.

The greatest weakness of independent study is that, by nature of the child studying on their own, any chance for this social interaction is eliminated. As a parent, one possible option which may offset this detriment is to cooperate with other parents and establish a study group for your child. This will grant your child the opportunity to engage in cooperative learning even during independent study.

3) Finding A Point Of Reference

To create an optimal learning environment, a point of reference is needed.  A teacher, versed in the examination syllabus, whom your child can turn to for clarification and assistance, is required. Having a point of reference can serve to both strengthen your child’s conceptual foundations and encourage the habit of questioning and clarification, which cultivates an inquisitive mind that will enrich your child’s learning experiences.

This is the purpose of the teacher in a classroom. So long as the teacher is allowed to operate in an environment where they can grant your child the assistance and attention required, the teacher then plays an irreplaceable role in ensuring your child has an optimised learning experience. If they possess mastery in the subject matter, parents, too, can play this role.

Reiterating the previous point regarding cooperative learning, it is therefore ideal to have a study group wherein a point of reference exists. As a parent, if you can set up a study group for your child and serve as their point of reference, you will greatly assist in creating an environment where they can self-study effectively.

4) Ensuring Supervision

An adult within the group as a point of reference also plays another, significant role: supervising the study session. Even the most independent and diligent students can be distracted. In any self-study session, it is crucial to have a supervising presence, to direct and facilitate the learning process. Providing your child with supervision as they study will greatly enhance the efficacy of their self-study sessions.

5) Access To Materials

Materials are vital for any study session. In particular, materials beyond those provided by the school allow for a higher degree of exposure and hence confidence when faced with unusual or uncommon questions. By preparing a large variety of unique materials beyond those provided by conventional schooling, the efficacy of self-study sessions can be greatly improved.

As parents, it is possible to provide these materials in the form of assessment books or practices sold in bookshops, but even these have a limit. Ideally, it would be best to observe your child’s conceptual weaknesses and strengths, and provide them with exercises designed to either bolster these weaknesses or amplify these strengths. Doing so will allow for your child to have a targeted study session that provides them exactly the practice and assistance they require to excel.

Drawing Conclusions

The question of how effective independent self-study will prove for your child largely simplifies to the consideration of whether the aforementioned factors are present. With an ideal learning environment, learning will undoubtedly be more fruitful.  With an enhanced learning experience, an improvement in results will be a foregone conclusion. As long as these factors discussed are present and accessible,  self-study will prove highly beneficial for your child.




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1 Liew, J., McTigue, E. M., Barrois, L., & Hughes, J. N. (2008). Adaptive and effortful control and academic self-efficacy beliefs on achievement: A longitudinal study of 1st through 3rd graders. Early childhood research quarterly23(4), 515-526.

2 Pintrich, P. R. (2003). A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts. Journal of educational Psychology95(4), 667.

3 Roger, T., & Johnson, D. W. (1994). An overview of cooperative learning.Creativity and collaborative learning.

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