For Teachers and Librarians
Eight Traits of an Independent Learner
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.
Eight Traits of an Independent
Independent Learner is curious about the world.
seekers are curious.
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.
Ask students to use the
following questions when they begin a project:
1. What do I know
2. What do I
want to know about this?
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
Independent Learner is focused on his/her work.
seekers are focused.
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
Giving students a
preview of what they are going to do helps them focus.
Allowing students to
make choices within given parameters helps them focus.
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.
Independent Learner is responsible and respects others in the
community of learners.
seekers are respectful and responsible.
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
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
Make a very simple form
for young children that includes author and title, publisher and date.
See Notes and Notetaking.
Independent Learner knows and uses many skills, strategies, resources,
systems, and networks to help her/him find and use information
Knowledge seekers know and use many
information skills and strategies.
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
The natural world is
never the same. (Every nano-second is a thing of the past, never to be
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
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.
Independent Learner uses information to solve problems.
|Knowledge seekers solve
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.
|Teach children how to take
tests. They need practice in the process and they need to see
and use sample test instruments.
|Use state guidelines to formulate
your essential questions.
|Use more authentic, student centered
assessments to learn what your students have learned. See
Independent Learner collaborates with others, shares information in
many ways, and gains knowledge as a result of the process.
|Knowledge seekers collaborate with others.
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
|On 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
independent learner knows when to seek assistance.
Knowledge seekers ask for
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.
|Spelling, 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
Independent Learner evaluates and reflects upon his/her work and
|Knowledge seekers evaluate and
|Research 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
[Carol is a Library Information Specialist in Rockford, IL.
You may contact Carol at email@example.com]