I must admit that I have never got my head around "independent learning" when it comes to language learning. As a Head of Department I was encouraged, along with other departments and teachers, to incorporate as much independent learning as possible in lessons. An underlying assumption, I assume, was that students would be less bored when working on their own, more challenged and that knowledge and skills acquired in this fashion would be better embedded.
Trouble is, language teachers know that to get their pupils to acquire language successfully they need to supply lots of language input which means talking to them, asking them questions, playing them CDs or videos. This is the best quality listening input, although we are, for very good reasons, happy to let them work in pairs and groups when the quality of input will be less good.
All this listening means it is harder for the language teacher to create the conditions for independent learning, unless we just mean that the student can control the pace and nature of the input via a listening station or computer. Even this is a little problematic, because language teachers also know that they need to select and grade the language they release to students.
Now, reading is a different matter, as it is possible to set up independent, if guided, reading schemes. You just need the right kind of graded material and this is not easy to source. The old favourite Bibliobus was a good example of useful reading where pupils could go at their own pace and, in a sense, work independently.
What about "project work" using the mother tongue? Alright if your aim is cultural rather than linguistic, but time is limited, too limited, so we have to prioritise practice in the target language.
When it comes down to it, language teaching, to work well, needs to be teacher-led and instructional in the best sense. We are not talking note-taking here, we are talking structured practice, question-answer, drilling, repetition, game playing, singing and the rest. This is why the charismatic, "all singing, all dancing" style often works well and this is what makes language learning demanding and enjoyable both for teacher and student.
My own experience, and maybe a consequence of my own failings, was that students liked and needed to be led, and became unsettled when they they were left too much to their own devices. Homework was the best opportunity to work alone and this was when lots of great, "independent" work was produced.
We want students to become independent users of the language, but paradoxically giving too much independence is not the best way to achieve it.
Do you agree?