Helping students to become independent learners in numeracy

This page provides guidance on how and when to release responsibility for learning to students to help them achieve independence.

The goal of any intervention or program to accelerate student learning is to help them to become as independent as possible. This is particularly important for students with specific learning disabilities (for example, dyscalculia) who will continue to have difficulties throughout their lives.

It's your responsibility to equip students with the strategies they need to achieve independence. However, knowing when and how to do this can be difficult.

The following guidance will help support students with learning difficulties to develop their numeracy independence.

Build a student's numeracy knowledge and skills

To build a student's numeracy knowledge and skills:

  • Work to automatise their numeracy knowledge through multiple exposures and practice, especially when it comes to maths concepts, procedures and terminology. For students with dyscalculia, manipulatives (such as MAB blocks) and other ways of presenting numerical information, along with interventions based on a student's cognitive strengths, are important to help them achieve these goals.
  • Build their self-efficacy as users of numeracy by using reflective questions and by helping them to see why numeracy is important and how it connects to their everyday lives.
  • Develop students' metacognitive skills, that is, their awareness of the learning process. This includes planning how to approach learning tasks, identifying appropriate strategies to complete a task, evaluating progress and monitoring comprehension.
  • Create opportunities for students to demonstrate choice and agency while they learn.

Gradual release of responsibility

The gradual release of responsibility instructional framework involves teachers gradually taking less responsibility for learning and students gradually assuming increased responsibility. It's through this process that students become competent and independent learners.

Students with learning difficulties often find a gradual release of responsibility challenging. For many, a negative self-view about their potential to succeed can prevent them from willingly or meaningfully engaging with the supports their teacher offers. Alternatively, they can become overly dependent on these supports and be reluctant to attempt any activity without a teacher's help.

Determine when to begin releasing responsibility

Determining when students are ready to demonstrate more independence and to what extent can be difficult. It's appropriate to give greater independence to students when they consistently:

  • identify and justify what word reading and/or comprehension strategies they will use to complete specific tasks
  • demonstrate motivation or enthusiasm to engage in learning activities
  • attempt (or express a desire to attempt) tasks by themselves and without assistance.

It can be easy to release too much responsibility too quickly and before a student is ready.

Think carefully about the stages in which you will release responsibility for learning to a student and how you will monitor and record their progress.

You can find more information on Learning Difficulties Information Guide: Numeracy.