Are you looking for a new teaching technique you can add to your arsenal to help your students maximize their understanding of core concepts? The rotational learning model has been proven successful as a technique to support concept reinforcement and practical application for students of any age. If you’ve heard the term but haven’t experienced it in practice, below, we summarize the basics of rotational learning so that you decide if it will benefit your students.

What is the Rotational Model of Learning?

A rotational model is a form of blended learning. Blended learning combines digital self-paced learning and interactions with traditional place-based classroom methods. In a rotational model, students rotate between courses or subjects and among learning modalities, one of which is online. The rotation occurs on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion. For example, the cycle might look like this:

  • Group one: small group instruction
  • Group two: online learning or practicum
  • Group three: self-study desk work or individual assignments
  • Group four: whole-class discussion

Each group is composed of a portion of students in the classroom. Therefore, at any given time, among the whole classroom, groups of students are working on one of four different activities simultaneously. Then, when the teacher announces it’s time to rotate, students shift to the next rotation segment, mixing up who is practicing what type of learning.

The Four Rotation Models

While moving students fluidly among stations is not a new teaching modality, adding an online learning stop on the rotation is relatively new, shifting the concept of rotational learning into the blended learning space. There are four standard rotation models that teachers often leverage to maximize their students’ potential:

Station Rotation

Students rotate through modalities within a classroom or from classroom to classroom throughout the day. When it comes time for the digital learning component, students might take part in self-paced learning, review skills, digital assessments, or online content. The remaining stations might include teacher instruction, practice exercises, independent reading, small group work, or games.

Lab Rotation

The lab rotation model is similar to the station rotation; however, the online learning or practicum occurs in a dedicated computer lab, not in the primary classroom. Migrating students to a separate room for digitally-based activities opens up classroom space for students to spread out and be active when taking part in other learning activities, such as group work or quiet self-study.

Flipped Classroom

In a flipped classroom, students rotate between their classroom during the day and self-study at home in the evening. First, students learn about a topic at home using digital content, such as recorded lectures, videos, or engaging digital content. Then, they return to the classroom the next day for teacher-led discussion, reinforcement of concepts, and to practice what they’ve learned. The flipped aspect is how students take part in the initial concept immersion on their own, rather than through teacher lectures in school, and then practice what they’ve learned during the day, rather than practicing using homework at night.

Individual Rotation

Individual rotation allows for the most personalization at the student level. In this model, students rotate through pre-set modalities, but the teacher prescribes a dedicated rotational schedule and pattern for each student. While this approach places logistical pressure on teachers, it offers the most customizable learning potential, enabling students to learn at their pace and maximize their potential.

If you’re considering adopting a rotational model in your classroom, or if your school is considering adopting it for individual grade levels (or the building as a whole), and you have questions about its benefits or opportunities, talk to other teachers in your network who have used it successfully. Hearing success stories from trusted mentors and colleagues will give you the confidence you need to explore this method and even adopt it successfully for your students.

Related PLS Course: Blended and Synchronous Learning Design™

Online Classes Start January 2022!

Explore how to choose a blended learning model and how to apply that model to the logistics of daily class activities. Through the lens of the iNACOL Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework, this course highlights the practical, everyday skills you and your students need to be successful in a blended learning environment.

This course is available in both 7-week and 4-week online formats.

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