Independent study is a form of education offered by many high schools, colleges, and other educational institutions. It is sometimes referred to as directed study, and is an educational activity undertaken by an individual with little to no supervision. Typically a student and professor or teacher agree upon a topic for the student to research with guidance from the instructor for an agreed upon amount of credits. Independent studies provide a way for well-motivated students to pursue a topic of interest that does not necessarily fit into a traditional academic curriculum. They are a way for students to learn specialized material or gain research experience. Also, independent studies provide students opportunities to explore their interests deeper and make important decisions about how and where they will direct their talents in the future. Another way to understand independent study is to understand learning from a distance. Learning from a distance is a theory in which the student is at a physical or a mental distance from his or her teacher. The student and the teacher are connected by something such as a worksheet, an essay, or through a website on the internet. 
Independent study programs
For elementary and junior high, independent study is sometimes a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, where the student must research the topic and formulate and answer questions. At the end, they develop and present a product, although not all GATE systems participate in this.
Many charter schools in the US provide independent study and homeschooling in a variety of formats: online, in-person or a hybrid of online/in-person interaction. These independent study programs are particularly helpful for those who find a traditional classroom setting to be unsatisfactory. For example, independent study is ideal for those who have children, health issues, intense work schedules, or gifted academic ability. Often students with high scholastic standing are encouraged to take independent studies to try and learn without attendance in a class. Independent study is also useful for self-directed learning activities that allow the student to be self-reliant.
A program titled "The Research Experiences for Undergraduates" (REU) has been founded by the National Science Foundation which provides funding for undergraduates to engage in different areas of research outside of the classroom. Groups are formed of graduates, undergraduates, and faculty to work on a specific research project.
Studies have shown that personality can influence whether a person enjoys an independent study project, rather than lectures. People that believe the teacher should be authoritarian did not perform well in independent studies. Personality, however, should not solely dictate who is allowed to receive independent study.
- Karnes, Frances A.; Johnsen, Susan K.; Goree, Krystal (2005). Independent Study for Gifted Learners. Prufrock Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-59363-016-4. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Henderson, Euan. S. (1984). "Introduction: Theoretical perspectives on adult education". In Henderson, Euan. S.; Nathenson, Michael B. Independent learning in higher education. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications. pp. 3–56. ISBN 978-0-87778-188-2. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Moore, Kenneth D. (2009). Effective Instructional Strategies: From Theory to Practice (2 ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-4129-5644-4. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Winebrenner, Susan; Brulles, Dina (2012). Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-57542-664-8. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Independent Study". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- Hacker. "Using a Blog in an Independent Study". Chronicles of Higher Learning. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- Fetterman, David M. (1988). Excellence and Equality: A Qualitatively Different Perspective of Gifted and Talented Education. SUNY series, frontiers in education. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-4384-0271-0. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Moore, Michael Grahame (1973). "Toward a theory of independent learning and teaching.". The Journal of Higher Education: 661–679.
- Knight, Anthony W. (2006). A comparative analysis of the curricular and programmatic features for gifted and talented students from two policy perspectives: England and California (Thesis). United States -- California: University of Southern California. p. 152. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
- English, Jeannine L. (1999). The Charter Movement: Education Reform School by School. DIANE Publishing. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-7881-8220-4. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Curry, Cameron (16 April 2013). Charter School Leadership: Elements for School Success. R&L Education. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-4758-0328-0. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Independent Study". California Department of Education. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- Littleton, A.C. (June 1933). The Accounting Exchange. JSTOR. p. 160.
- Empey, Donald W. (1968). "Independent Study". The Clearing House: 229.
- Lang, James. "Doing Research with Undergraduates". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
- Koenig, Kathryn; W.J. McKeachie (June 1959). "Personality and Independent Study". Journal of Educational Psychology 50 (3). doi:10.1037/h0041286.