The independent work, form or method?


The independent work, form or method?

El trabajo independiente, ¿forma o método?



José Osvaldo Enríquez Clavero1*


1Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Medicine Faculty. Cuba.


*Author for correspondence. Email:



Submitted: 16/11/2018
Accepted: 17/04/2019



To the editor:

Cuban higher medical education has been consistent with the tendency to transform the teaching-learning process from the classic teacher-centered model, to a student-centered model.

Under the influence of this trend, independent work has been lately considered as a teaching organizational form. Thus it appears -for example- in the thematic plans of the programs of several subjects of the perfected Plan D in the Dentistry degree(1) and also in recent books.(2,3) However, for the majority of the professors who have several years of experience, independent work is method and not form; that is, a contradiction is manifested with what has been traditionally taught in Pedagogy courses and with what is regulated in the current Methodological Teaching Regulation.(4)

Article 127 of the aforementioned regulation establishes the fundamental teaching organizational forms in higher education, within them independent work is not included; although it points out that: "... others may be included in those degrees whose peculiarities justify it ..."

The confusion arises when the term is used as a synonym for self-preparation, a form of teaching work that in article 149 is defined as: "... in which the student performs independent work without the presence of the teacher." This form is equivalent to what is known in the colloquial language as self-study or independent study and should not be equated with independent work.

Independent study or self-preparation is the possibility that the student has to make its own decisions about the organization of its study time and learning space; then it would not be entirely appropriate to use a number of hours of the calendar plan for its implementation.

It is the criterion of those who write that the confusion goes beyond the semantic and clashes with the didactic theory -considered the core of pedagogy- so it is worth stopping to distinguish between method and form.

Both method and form are personalized (or non-personal) components of the teaching-learning process, which is the object of study of Didactics. Within the framework of this science, the method is the category that answers the question: how is it learned and taught? and the form is the structuring of the activity of the teacher and the students in space and time, so that each form has its own typology.

According to Danilov,(5) any teaching method constitutes a system of actions of the teacher, aimed at an objective, which organizes the cognitive and practical activity of the student, thereby ensuring that it assimilates the content of teaching.

Álvarez de Zayas,(6) considers the method: "... expresses the internal configuration of the process, so that by transforming the content the objective that is manifested through the way it´s reached, the manner chosen by the subject to develop it ...", while form: "... expresses the external configuration of the process, which it acquires as a result of its location or space-time organization to achieve the objective".

One of the classifications of the best known and used teaching methods in higher education is carried out according to the degree of participation of the subjects (teacher and students) in the process, and considers among them the independent work.(7)

In relation to the definitions of independent work that are often used in literature or in practice, there are several aspects that would be useful to clarify in light of Didactics, including the incorrect identification of this as a form of teaching organization, which brings about theoretical and practical errors that damage the quality of teaching; for example, it is not correct to say that a practical class -as a form of teaching organization- is a type of independent work, since the practical class deals with the organizational structure of the process, and independent work with the manner to achieve certain objectives.

Authors such as Fuentes González et al.,(3) recognize independent work as one of the fundamental forms of organization of the teaching-learning process: "... formally", arguing that: "... it´s planned by teachers and it´s developed with their presence or not, within the teaching hours or outside them". It coincides with the idea in quotation marks as well as with its particularities addressed in higher medical education; however, this same article also analyzes: "… independent work as a system of logical-didactic procedures".

Another wrong consideration is to identify cognitive activity with independent work, because in all independent work there is a degree of cognitive independence, but in every cognitive activity there is no need for independence, or to identify independent work with the teaching- learning aids, although like any method they are needed for its development.

Álvarez de Zayas definition of independent work is assumed,(6) for whom: "… it´s the mode of organization of the teaching process, aimed at the formation of independence, as a characteristic of the student's personality". Thus, it is a consubstantial part: "… its character as a system, as a method, as long as it is a manner, a way, of the form of organizing the student's activity"; that is to say: "... it´s the methodological aspect that specifies the cognitive independence of the student."

Therefore, the author of this letter considers that in all educational organizational forms a certain "dose" of independent work can and should be used; the proportion or amount will be related to the typology of the form in question. In higher medical education, in-service training - type of work practice - is the most widely used form of teaching organization, in which the predominant method is independent work. But if a new organizational form is necessary, in which the student performs independent work with the presence of the teacher, this author considers that it should not be named the same as the method.



1. Ministerio de Salud Pública. Cuba. Plan de estudio "D" perfeccionado. Carrera de Estomatología. Área de Docencia. La Habana: Editorial Ciencias Médicas; 2017.

2. Cañizares Luna O, Saraza Muñoz NL, Morales Molina X. Didácticas de las Ciencias Básicas Biomédicas. Un enfoque diferente. La Habana: Editorial Ciencias Médicas; 2018.

3. Fuentes González HC, García Céspedes ME, Rodríguez Fernández Z. El trabajo independiente: su trascendencia en la formación de los profesionales de la medicina. MEDISAN [Internet]. 2016 [citado 15/09/2018];20(12):[aprox. 11 p.]. Disponible en:

4. Ministerio de Educación Superior. Reglamento Docente Metodológico. Resolución Ministerial 02/2018. La Habana: MES; 2018.

5. Danilov MA, Skatkin MN. Didáctica de la escuela media. La Habana: Editorial Pueblo y Educación; 1975.

6. Álvarez de Zayas CM. Didáctica: La escuela en la vida. La Habana: Editorial Pueblo y Educación; 1999.

7. Klingberg L. Introducción a la didáctica general. La Habana: Editorial Pueblo y Educación; 1972.



Declaration of interests

The author declares no conflict of interest.



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