In my work with schools, I am often asked the question, How can I tell if the teacher PD around blended learning is working? What can I see in the classroom? These questions speak to the recognized nuance of effective blended practice. Kids on devices does not mean learning is taking place.
As the goal of blended practice is to personalize the learning for students, there should be evidence of this personalization in play when we walk into a classroom. In a classroom rotation model, where students move from station to station in small groups, the following indicators provide such evidence.
1. Different Paths at the Digital Station
Students should be engaged with digital curriculum that offers at least a few different learning paths. For example, if students are on IXL practicing grammar, teachers or students should have selected lessons aligned to individual or at least small group needs.
A personalized environment allows for students to participate as drivers of their own learning. In a rotation classroom, there are many opportunities to provide choice to students.
o Project-based learning station with project options catered to different learning modes
o Digital curriculum which allows students to choose a skill or starting point
o The use of choice boards or personalized learning logs which empower students to choose their path and reflect on it
The best blended classrooms do not rely solely on digital curriculum to engage learners. Students need to share their learning with each other and learn from peers. Rotations designed to include student voice may offer
o Discussion threads
o Sharing via tools like Padlet
o Student blogging
o Face-to-face presentations of learning
4. Strategic Grouping and Different Lessons
A common feature of the classroom rotation model is the teacher station where small groups rotate into a mini lesson by the teacher. If designed with differentiation in mind, these mini lessons should be catered to the different groups and the groups should be formed strategically considering the following:
o Different skills (finding textual evidence v. developing topics sentences in writing)
o Learning modes (more visuals, tinkering, auditory, discussion)
o Preferred learning flow (ex: are some students better at learning when they can tinker first then watch then discuss, while others are more suited to a traditional flow of discuss – watch – tinker)
A sign that teachers may be missing the mark in a rotation station model is when all students are doing essentially the same thing but in small groups and in a different order. However, this is also a very natural stage through which teachers pass as they hone their blended practice. It is therefore important to recognize the growth in implementing some important component of a classroom rotation model (e.g. using digital curriculum, setting up different stations, monitoring transitions via routine) while providing feedback targeting deep personalization.