Independently inspired

Humans are social creatures. In the classroom, like most other places in the world, students are expected to interact together while being led by a teacher. However for some, this traditional classroom setting may not be effective for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, these students opt to partake in an independent study, one of the hidden treasures of high school.

An independent study is a course that is set up between a teacher and a single or small group of students. With guidance from the teacher, the student(s) can create their own curriculum that fulfills the necessary credit. Typically, it will be similar to syllabus a teacher class plans for his or her classroom. There will be objectives for the day, the week, and eventually the semester that the student will make progress towards, and establish evidence of their learning. After the preparation is completed, the student may apply for an independent study with help from the office. With the signature of a teacher, counselor, and member of administration, the student may then begin their course work.

There are many reasons that one would choose to take an independent study over a traditional class. During an interview with Dr. John Sheehan for the Mensa Education and Research Foundation: “Understanding and Appreciating Introverted Advantages” Marti Laney, Ph D., states that, “About 25 percent of the world’s population are introverts.” Contrary to the common belief, introverts are not shy, but they do gain their energy through alone time, whereas extroverts gain energy by being with people. “It is really all about that personal energy–how it is used and how it is gained,” Laney says. For those 25 percent, six and a half hours of constant interaction can be taxing, making learning on top of it all even more difficult. Independent studies, even if only part of the day, can allow an introvert to gain knowledge without any social pressures.

There is also greater mobility when choosing which classes to take if one decides to pursue an independent study. Although the OHS offers a huge selection of classes, there are  students who will have interest in other courses, such as Portuguese. tomdonSenior Thomas Donlon, who has a calculus based physics independent study with fellow seniors Aaron Tryhus and Brodie Theide, says, “This hour and a half has given me many more opportunities than I would have otherwise had in a traditional classroom.” They are working with Mike Stormo. Independent studies allow students to broaden their horizons and explore other interests in an academic setting for credit.

Additionally, independent studies require self-discipline. “I love my independent study. It allows me to work at my own pace and be responsible for what I do,” says senior Elizabeth Weibke, who is studying creative writing with Polly Shives. This enables students to better prepare themselves for the quantity of solo work that they will be expected to complete in college, as well as in the work place. By taking responsibility for their learning, students more willingly invest themselves in the material and gain more knowledge. Although not for everyone, independent studies can have serious benefits for those who are willing to make the effort.