Master your time: Building a schedule for blended learning
I have a strong belief that the better prepared we are, the more successful we can be in any given circumstance. But sometimes, no matter how well-prepared you may be, you’re confronted with a problem that nobody expected. But that’s what has made the 2019-20 school year so amazing. Our teachers, administrators, students and families have just participated in the most intense and in-depth professional development ever offered.
So as we look toward the upcoming school year, here are four strategies for preparing an effective master schedule that supports personalized learning in a blended learning environment.
1. Create a flexible schedule
A traditional school schedule establishes an equal amount of learning and instruction time for each student and for each content area. In the blended learning environment, locking students and teachers into set time requirements can limit opportunities for them to personalize learning. Teachers at the Bronx Arena High School in New York City believe that adjusting their master schedule allows them to use their face-to-face time to “create authentic student-teacher relationships that can’t be built … in 45 minutes.”
2. Build a schedule around student needs
Limiting student learning to 45 minutes per class per day sends the wrong message. At some point in everyone’s schooling, a teacher has told them at the end of a long day: “The bell doesn’t release you, I do!”
As you begin building and revisiting your master schedule, remember to stay intentional with your design. Are we building a schedule based on a tradition, or are we building a schedule based on supporting effective teaching and learning?
To help build greater relationships between teachers and learners, the teachers at Rogers Lane Elementary in Raleigh, North Carolina, built a schedule that provides for larger learning blocks throughout the day. This move allows students to get specialized instruction in areas of need, offers opportunities for students to grow in areas of interest, and provides flexibility for teachers to develop effective teaching strategies without the pressure of falling behind.
3. Increase PD
If we are going to build a schedule that provides the time needed to personalize student learning, we must also include the time needed for teachers to develop the skills and strategies of effective blended learning instructors. Over the last few weeks, we have learned plenty about educators and education. One lesson that I know we can appreciate is how difficult virtual and remote instruction is.
Building a schedule for blended learning is going to require time for teachers to develop the skills needed to be just as effective in their virtual classrooms as they are in their physical classrooms. I am amazed at the rate in which teachers are adopting and adapting to new tools and resources. Moving forward, shouldn’t we provide the time needed for our teachers to grow as much as they have over the last month?
4. Boost relationships
Effective instruction in the classroom takes place alongside effective relationship building. When students notice that their time is valued, that they are given opportunities to guide their own learning, and that their teachers are building instruction around their individual needs and understanding, there are going to be positive impacts.
Research suggests that rethinking your schedule to support blended learning also has these other (unintended) impacts on teacher development:
- Teachers have an increased amount of time to collaborate with their peers.
- Teachers have increased opportunities to observe their peers.
- Teachers have additional time to prepare true personalized interventions for students.
The idea of overhauling your master schedule can be daunting. The idea that all of us would be working remotely to finish the school year seemed impossible as well.
As you begin building and revisiting your master schedule, remember to stay intentional with your design. Are we building a schedule based on a tradition, or are we building a schedule based on supporting effective teaching and learning? Your master schedule should be built to support your blended learning instruction and to allow for increased personalized learning opportunities for your students.
Trent Stapleton is in his 10th year in public education, serving K-12 teachers. He is an education technology specialist for the Kennesaw State University iTeach Department in Georgia, and a featured speaker for FETC®.
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