Hybrid Rotation Learner Behaviors | Steve Barkley

Hybrid Rotation Learner Behaviors

Some schools have implemented a rotation instructional model that has students learning by moving in small groups among working in teacher-directed instruction, a collaborative learning activity, and an independent learning (often technology-based) task. Some approached this strategy as a way of increasing differentiation or personalization. Some were focused on a process for increasing students’ opportunities to use technology as a tool for learning.

Here is how Lampeter-Strasburg School District in PA describes its program:

The Hybrid Rotational Learning Model enables teachers to meet the diverse learning needs of students by blending digital and traditional teaching methods in a differentiated format. Students rotate in fluid, flexible groups among three learning stations within the classroom. Each station is strategically designed to provide students with individualized learning opportunities to demonstrate mastery of course content.

Direct Instruction – Students are provided direct instruction based on their needs moving through concepts within the curriculum. Instruction for each group looks different based on that group’s needs.

Independent Instruction – The independent station gives students the opportunity to interact with digital content, providing both the student and teacher with immediate feedback.

Collaborative Learning – The collaborative station provides students the opportunity to draw connections among ideas, use information in new situations, produce new and/or original work, and justify or support decisions based on data and knowledge gained from content and fellow students.

Exploring the rotational model with instructional coaches and administrators has lead me to focus on the student learning-production behaviors needed as students move among the stations. It’s critical that students know and can take responsibility for the behaviors on their part that will maximize learning at each station in the rotation. They should be able to identify “how they are learning” rather than just thinking “what work needs to be completed.”

Here’s my first attempt at identifying needed learner behaviors that are common within each station. Specific tasks would add additional production behaviors. What would you add?

Direct Instruction

Focus on what the teacher is saying/showing. Ask yourself what is most important? Consider taking notes on those items

Continually volunteer to answer questions the teacher asks. This gets you feedback that reinforces or corrects your understanding.

Answer all questions the instructor asks to yourself and compare your answer to the ones others give. This gives you more feedback.

Check your understanding with a question or statement to the teacher. “Is it important that the lines are even?”  “So, congress can override the president’s veto.”

When you don’t understand, ask the teacher a question that can guide you. “Where do I find that on the map?”

If too confused to ask a question, tell the teacher you’re not understanding.

Complete all practice examples the teacher provides. When your answer is wrong try again and/or seek help. Then ask, “What did I learn from that mistake?”

Collaborative Activity

Ask yourself, “Why are we doing this task?”

  • We are matching the words and definitions to identify the ones we know and don’t know. Repeating the process will help me remember new vocabulary. Also, I’ll find out which ones I should study.
  • By building the model we will reinforce our understanding of the life cycle.

If you are unclear how the task helps you learn, ask your partners or teacher.

Commit that each person in your group will gain from the tasks. Offer assistance to your teammates and ask questions of them that will help you understand.

Encourage each other. Use all the collaborative verbal skills like giving appropriate feedback and approval.

The social part of group work often helps us stay with the task. Remember to stay with the task while being social.

Think out loud and listen to others’ thinking. It’s part of the value of collaborative learning.

Use problem-solving skills when the group is stuck. “What else can we try?” “Let’s start over step-by-step.” “Can we ask another team for a clue?”

Remember the learning process is often more important than the product.


Check that you understand the purpose of the task. Are you practicing, applying, or assessing understanding? If unclear check with the instructor.

It can be helpful to set a goal that you want to accomplish during this independent time.  “I will outline my essay and draft the opening paragraph.”

Monitor your degree of focus. If your mind is wandering as you read or are on the computer screen, stand up, stretch, and refocus.

This is the time for effort and perseverance. Commit to stretch your “stick-to-it-ness.”

Know the guidelines for seeking help during this time. Can I ask other students? Search online? Do you want to record a question to take to the teacher at another time?

When time is up, do a debrief. How did you do on your goal? What goal will you set next? This reflection leads to an increased understanding of the learning process.

If we want students to take increasing ownership of their learning, it will be critical that we identify, teach, model, and coach the needed student learning-production behaviors.

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2 Responses to “ Hybrid Rotation Learner Behaviors ”

  1. Jon Netzler Says:

    I really appreciate you articulating these “needed learner behaviors” within these categories of learning activities. After our virtual PD session this past Tuesday (ISG Jubail), during which you mentioned this blog post, I was motivated to take about 5 minutes prior to an Independent Learning activity to brainstorm with my 8th-11th grade students what Independent Learning LOOKS LIKE and SOUNDS LIKE // with another group, what Collaborative Learning LOOKS LIKE and SOUNDS LIKE, etc.

    My plan is to make 3 simple, large posters to hang up and refer to so that my students better understand what my expectations are during particular learning activities.

    Thank you very much for this. By teaching and reinforcing specifically what these expected learning behaviors ideally should be and should entail, I’m confident the result will be improved learning (i.e., student achievement).

  2. Tresa Murphy Says:

    I completely agree! Teaching these student learning production behaviors is critical. I connect them with sharing clear expectations in the classroom of how student success can be achieved.

    Here are a few additional considerations for 2 of the categories outlined above that I thought of as reading this post:

    1. For Direct Instruction: I often like to take a moment to connect with the group of students before I begin teaching and have them think of the following… How do you feel about this topic/subject? And what do you already know about it? In this way, students hearts and minds are open to the learning and they are ready to engage emotionally and intellectually with the learning content.

    When a student asks themself what do I already know about this subject they can activate a personal connection, prior knowledge, identify a book, course or something else that you may have encountered, even a video on the topic. This may increase motivation and engagement.

    What is my reaction to this topic/subject and why might I feel this way? (emotional response: curious, bored, anxious, excited) This might allow the student to share common misconceptions, past failures or a sense of fear of the unknown or the difficult parts of a topic/subject. The teacher may want to meet with a student personally to help them move past some negative emotions around a topic/subject.

    2. Collaborative Activity:

    We succeed when everyone participates and understands. Some students may want to do all the work, while others watch. Some students may dominate or try to get competitive within the collaborative group. It should be “all for one and one for all” in this setting. Also, understand and allow for the fact that we all learn differently and at our own pace. Some students may understand quickly or disagree on something. Value all voices and opinions and be respectful of differences. Agree to disagree or vote on the most popular approach.

    Thanks for the thought stimulating blog post on student learning production behaviors!

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