June 18, 2024


International Student Club UK

Which Blended Learning Model Should I Use?

Which Blended Learning Model Should I Use?

I get this question all the time in coaching and training sessions! First, let’s be clear about the definition of blended learning.

Blended learning is the combination of active, engaged learning online with active, engaged learning offline to provide students with more control over the time, place, pace, and path of their learning.

Tucker, C. (2022). The Complete Guide to Blended Learning. Solution Tree.

Next, let’s review the taxonomy of blended learning models, specifically the rotation models.

Blended Learning Models

The rotation models work well in a physical classroom, on a hybrid/blended schedule, or in a remote learning situation (as long as offline learning activities are integrated into the student’s remote learning lessons). It’s that flexibility that makes these rotation models so attractive and versatile!

Now that I’ve defined blended learning and reviewed the spectrum of blended learning models, let’s shift to the question at hand.

How do I decide which blended learning model to use?

I encourage teachers to consider three questions when deciding which blended learning model to use for a lesson or sequence of lessons.

  1. What are the learning objectives or desired outcomes?
  2. What are the students’ needs, learning preferences, language proficiencies, etc., in your class?
  3. How do you want to use your time in the class?

These three questions are the best place to start when deciding which blended learning model to use. The answers to these questions clarify lesson objectives, take learner needs into consideration, and help teachers identify the best use of their time and energy in a lesson.

Let’s explore each rotation model and think about them through the lens of these three questions.

The Station Rotation Model

The station rotation model is composed of a series of stations, or learning activities, that students rotate through. This model has three types of stations: a) teacher-led, b) online, and c) offline. The teacher-led station makes it possible to differentiate instruction, modeling sessions, guided practice, and feedback to better meet the needs of small groups of learners. The online and offline stations allow students more control over the pace and path of their progress through learning activities. They may work individually or collaboratively at these stations, directing their learning and accessing peer support.

Desired Outcomes

Students practice and apply specific concepts and skills

Students communicate and collaborate effectively

Students work independently to navigate learning tasks

Students practice their self-regulation and social-emotional learning skills

Learner Needs

Students will benefit from differentiated instruction, models, and practice

Students will benefit from a small group dynamic where they can access peer support

Students need to practice their communication and collaboration skills

Teacher Time & Focus

Provide differentiated instruction

Lead interactive modeling sessions

Guide practice and application

Give feedback as students work

Facilitate small group discussions

The Whole Group Rotation Model

The whole group rotation model rotates the entire class between online and offline learning activities. This is an updated version of the lab rotation model because increased access to devices in classrooms has made moving from a classroom to a computer lab unnecessary in most schools. The whole group rotation aims to bring a high level of intentionality to the decision about what happens online versus offline. The teacher can lead whole group mini-lessons, demonstrate a process, or model a strategy or skill for the whole class. The offline activities can be collaborative and generate productive noise without being distracting or problematic. The online portions of the lesson allow students more control over the pace and path of their learning and free the teacher to work with individuals or small groups of students.

Desired Outcomes

Introduce the class to a new concept, skill, process, or issue

Pique student interest, drive inquiry, or assess prior knowledge

Gather diagnostic or pre-assessment data to gauge student needs, skills, or abilities

Allow for personalized practice using online software or programs

Learner Needs

Students will benefit from engaging in conversation or learning activities with peers

Students need time to self-pace through practice online

Individual students will benefit from time with the teacher for re-teaching or additional scaffolds and support

Students need time to make progress on a piece of writing, performance task, or project

Teacher Time & Focus

Present information or model something for the whole group (little to no differentiation)

Pull individual or small groups of students for additional instruction and/or support

Observe students as they communicate and collaborate to provide feedback and informally assess speaking and listening skills

The Flipped Classroom Model

The flipped classroom model shifts the transfer of information online with video so that students can control the pace at which they consume and process new information. This frees the teacher from the front of the room and allows them to spend more time supporting students as they apply and practice in the classroom.

Desired Outcome

Allow students to self-pace through new information

Dedicate class time to practice and application where students can access teacher and peer support

Make information more accessible by posting it online where learners can pause, rewind, and rewatch; add closed captioning; slow down the speed of a video

Learner Needs

Students will benefit from controlling the pace at which they engage with new information

Students may benefit from repeat exposure to explanations, instruction, or models

Students will benefit from more time in class to practice and apply with the support of their teacher and peers

Teacher Time & Focus

Provide support, scaffolds, and feedback as students practice and apply

Pull individual or small groups of students who need significantly more support or customized explanations into a small live instruction session

The Playlist Model

The playlist model is a sequence of learning activities designed to move students toward a clear objective or outcome. Teachers can use the playlist model, also known as the individual rotation model, to teach a concept, strategy, skill, process, or walk students through the parts of a multistep performance task or project. This model is ideal for any learning sequence where students benefit from variable time on task.

Desired Outcomes

Students control the pace of their progress through a learning sequence

Students work independently to navigate learning tasks

Students practice their self-regulation and social-emotional learning skills

Students reflect on their progress

Learner Needs

Students will benefit from variable time on task

Students will benefit from differentiated learning paths

Students will benefit from one-on-one conferencing with their teacher

Teacher Time & Focus

Conference with individual students at key moments in the playlist to review formative assessment data, provide feedback, discuss their progress, and make adjustments to their individual playlists

Embracing Our Role as Architects of Learning Experiences

Just like architects design different structures to meet various needs, teachers must design different types of lessons to meet specific objectives and student needs. This requires that educators develop confidence using a collection of instructional models.

For years educators have treated the whole-group, teacher-led model like a metaphorical swiss army knife, but it doesn’t work for every situation. One instructional model will not work for every set of learning objectives or desired outcomes. Instead, teachers need to cultivate a toolbelt full of flexible models they can choose from to meet the needs of their students, ensuring that all students progress toward firm standard-aligned learning goals.