Guided Self-Study: Supporting Students to Process Learning Materials Properly

Do you expect your students to process teaching material individually and independently? Have you noticed that students do not always know how to get started? Then guided self-study is the solution. 

What is Guided Self-Study? 

Not all teaching material is covered in class. Students should acquire and process parts of the course content independently. Although students can be expected to have a certain degree of independence, it is still important to guide them so that they can make the most of their individual learning moments.This is called guided self-study. 

Getting Started   

Choose teaching material that is suitable for self-study, and that aligns with your course unit’s learning outcomes. 

Provide targeted guidance. Your options are: 

  • adding built-in support or providing structure to your learning material, such as outlines, a table of contents, advance organizers, self-tests, schedules, key concepts, summaries, goals per component, processing assignments, examples and study tips; 
  • provide individual or collective guidance moments by navigating or guiding the students through the material. This guidance can either happen face-to-face, or online. 

Choose a format and an intensity tailored to your student group. Your choice will depend on the students’ ability to process learning material independently. So please take this into account! As students gain more experience in self-study, you can reduce the guidance. The figure below illustrates this: 


Figure: the teacher’s role in guided self-study 

Points to Consider with Regard to Guided Self-Study 

Guided Self-Study Does not Always Mean Saving Time 

Presenting some of your learning material by means of guided self-study may save you time in class. However, providing the right amount and format of guidance requires sufficient attention from your side. Only then will the students’ learning experience be optimal. 

Take into Account the Study Load  

Self-study requires more study time from students, even if you provide guidance. This extra study time should be taken into account when you determine your course unit’s study load. Study time is a fixed component of your course sheet

Finding a Balance is Essential 

Correctly estimating your students’ degree of independence is crucial: either too much or too little support can harm the outcome of your guided self-study. When determining your strategy you need to take into account the following elements: (1) the outcomes you wish to achieve with a specific self-study assignment, and (2) the student group that will be carrying out the assignment. You then tailor your support accordingly. 

Want to Know More? 

  • take a look at the practical examples of guided self-study in the BV database
  • browse through the sources that were used in writing this education tip: 
    • Arteveldehogeschool, Hogeschool Gent, Hogeschool PXL, Thomas More Hogeschool, Universiteit Gent, Universiteit Hasselt, …  VUB. (2015). Spelvormen. Retrieved August 20, 2019, from 
    • Kallenberg, A., van der Grijspaarde, L., ter Braak, A., & van Horzen, C. (2006). Learning (and) teaching in higher education. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Lemma BV. 
    • From Petegem, P. (2009). Practice book activating higher education. Tielt: Uitgeverij LannooCampus. 

UGent Practices

Last modified March 18, 2021, 2:37 p.m.