Coaching Moves for Blended Learning Professional Development

By Nancy Penchev, Jenna Kraft, and Tova Yemin

Blended learning is an amazing method that allows teachers to target students needs in all subject areas and provide students with opportunities to learn and share their learning in the style that fits them best. We started learning about blended learning as a group of excited educators 4 years ago. Jenna was teaching 4th grade and then 5th grade, Tova taught Hebrew, and I was a specialist teaching media and worked as the technology coach for the school. We experimented in our own classrooms and then decided we wanted to move forward with piloting blended learning in one subject area/grade that we taught.

Before we could move forward, however, we needed to educate our administrators and fellow teachers about blended learning. So we teamed up with our head of Professional Development, Dr. Helen Chaset,  and Chief Academic Officer, Mr. Craig Carpentieri,  to create a blended learning PD in a blended learning style. We started with our administrators with the goal of showing them why we should use this method of teaching and why it was important to personalize our instruction.

When the administrators (head of school, principals, assistant principals, special needs coordinator, and others) came in we gave them a pretest to determine their understanding of what blended learning was. Then using those results, we created small groups to move through a rotation style of instruction.

  • Teacher center: In the teacher center, our director of Professional Development Dr. Chaset led a group discussion about where we were on the Continuum of Choice by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. First, admin sat quietly reading and thinking about the image. Then they had a conversation centered on where each admin thought we were on this spectrum and what we needed to do to move forward.

  • Technology center: In the technology center, administrators explored a BlendSpace where they read articles, watched videos, and viewed posters about blended learning. They created sticky note graffiti walls to share their takeaways: what they wanted to understand more and what they were most excited about with blended learning.  As we looked for movies, we added them to a google doc with comments, and all members of the planning team added comments, we want you to have that as a resource, too!
  • Group center: Administrators in this center worked together to create an ideal classroom. They used magazines, playhouse furniture, art supplies, and poster boards to make 3D models of classrooms that would engage students in learning, provide safety and security, and give all classroom members an environment perfect for learning.

Our Admin PD was a rousing success. Our admin team fully understood and supported our plan to implement in classrooms and pull other teachers in for training and to serve as coaches for blended learning.

While there are many different models, we selected station rotation for our presentation so that our administrators would get the feel of blended learning as a student.  This graphic, along with lots of other great resources, came from The Christensen Institute.

We initially began our implementation with the station rotation model. However, as we have worked more with students, our choice of model tends to center more on the a la carte model, leading us to use playlists and choice boards more than using station rotation. Some of our students didn’t like moving to different places and preferred to just be in one location, trying different learning opportunities in their comfort zone. Every teacher is working to determine their model, and just like learning is not one size fits all, teachers need flexibility as well.

As this was the end of school for the year we wanted to introduce, but not overwhelm teachers with the introduction to blended learning. On our last day of school teachers were given the choice to come in for this inservice, or keep cleaning their room and getting packed up for summer. We had 13 teachers come in for the introduction and learn together about blended learning. This was a tremendous turn out and a great next step!

The next school year we attended further training and brought in additional teachers for training as well. Our goal was to have one teacher per grade level in the training and coaching cycle. We went to trainings every 3 months and in between we experimented in our own classes and together in my classroom worked on blended learning lessons for all grade levels. Teachers who were not in training were still able to observe and co-teach blended learning lessons when their students came to my classroom. We also tried to use a blended learning approach for all of our PD sessions, whether about reading programs, testing, or other topics.

At the beginning of the third school year we had a Glow and Grow PD to bring all teachers together to learn a bit more about blended learning. This year our intention was to implement coaching and get all teachers trying blended learning in some way. Again we worked it in small groups, centered on teachers needs. We had two groups, one K-2 and one 3-5.

We modeled a flipped classroom by sending an email to teachers a few days before asking them to view one of the Edpuzzle videos we prepared about blended learning. By watching the video in advance we were preparing them for the rest of our presentation and using their time more effectively during the meeting.

Our centers again were Tech, Teacher-led, and a group work center.

Tech: Student made video with sticky note chart- What do students say the most?

Teacher: Where we are and where we are going discussion with Nancy (3-5)/Jenna (K-2)

  1. Where we are
  2. Our definition of Blended Learning
  3. Common language for iPads and Chromebooks
  4. Grant for $ to purchase equipment and training
  5. Next steps

Group work: Brainstorm a lesson

  1. Gen Ed K-2: Your next unit for your class of 15 is about the life cycle of a butterfly. Brainstorm activities in the three center areas. Keep in mind that 5 students had Morah Roberta in Kindergarten and watched the life cycle in action. 3 students are ESOL and need language support. 2 students are learning center and need visual cues to understand the topic.
  2. Gen Ed 3-5: Your next unit for your class of 15 is money related. Brainstorm activities in the three center areas. Keep in mind that 5 students work in the Shuk and have experience with using money in real life situations. 3 students are ESOL and need language support. 2 students are learning center and need visual cues to understand the topic.
  3. Hebrew: Your next unit for your class of 15 is about Hanukkah. Brainstorm activities in the three center areas. Keep in mind that 5 students are new to Hillel and have not attended a Jewish school before and may have limited understanding of traditions. 3 students are ESOL and need language support. 2 students are learning center and need visual cues to understand the topic.

After the PD session teachers were given a “homework” assignment to post their reflections on a Padlet.  They included a grow, a glow, and questions I still have. We went in and answered questions and were able to use the feedback for future trainings.

This Glow and Grow PD gave every teacher a spark of what blended learning can do for students in the classroom, and how every student has their needs met. We introduced our teacher coaches and set up a team time for teachers to observe each other and meet for help with coaches.

We are still not 100% blended learning in our classrooms, but we have progressed and worked diligently to move forward in our practice. We continue to introduce blended learning topics to teachers, admin, and parents through videos , collaborative activities, and meetings.

We also created a Blended Learning online course that is open to anyone. If you would like to check it out, join, email with the names and emails of people who want to join the learning network.

Blended Learning Online course
101: Introduction
201: Finding your data
301: Planning your lesson
401: Action Research

If you have any questions about blended learning PD or blended learning in the classroom, please let us know.

Nancy Penchev, Jenna Kraft, and Tova Yemin