How School Leaders Can Promote Hybrid Instructional Strategies for In-Person and Virtual Classrooms

by | Jan 5, 2021


As a school leader, you probably feel torn in several directions as you work to safely support teachers, students, and caregivers in the midst of this unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic. School leaders have had to make tough decisions about reopening, and sometimes re-closing, schools for in-person instruction this fall. How can you help your teachers incorporate hybrid instructional strategies that can be used both in-person and through virtual learning?

Teachers and school leaders need professional development on hybrid instructional strategies and blended learning.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many school leaders to consider blended learning and virtual instruction strategies for the first time. School district administrators, principals, and other school leaders must provide intentional, job-embedded professional development to help teachers learn how to use hybrid instructional strategies that apply to in-person and virtual classrooms.

Although some training requirements are universal, every school’s specific professional development needs are unique. For example, your teachers may need professional development focused on:

  • Which hybrid instructional strategies work best for your reopening plan and students
  • How to use a blended learning model for the first time
  • How to measure students’ progress through a combination of in-person and virtual learning
  • And/or other relevant skills.

This article will outline two specific blended learning techniques that work well for almost all schools. We will also explain how our expert team of consultants can help plan and implement customized professional development for your school or district and list some additional resources for your research.

Two-Hybrid Instructional Strategies for the COVID-19 Era

Blended Learning Universe outlines seven models of blended learning that combine in-person and remote learning strategies. Two of these hybrid instructional strategies are ideal for speedy implementation during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Flip the Classroom

In a traditional classroom setting, teachers often offer direct instruction in the classroom and assign independent homework for students to complete at home. With theFlip the Classroomblended learning approach, students engage with instructional material at home and use classroom time to collaborate with their teacher and peers.

For example, many schools have decided to use an alternating schedule during COVID-19, in which students spend part of the week learning remotely from home and part of the week learning in-person at school. Teachers can “flip the classroom” to provide individualized instruction for students while they are at home, and support social and emotional learning needs in the classroom through collaborative activities.

On days that students learn remotely, teachers can have them:

  • Watch short instructional videos through a virtual learning platform (A 2014 study finds that instructional videos work best when they are about six minutes long. Edutopia recommends teachers break their lessons into bite-sized “chunks” so students can take a break between videos, practice new skills they have learned, or even rewatch videos they did not understand the first time.)
  • Read books and examine images.
  • Work on documents and projects, either individually or in groups.
  • Prepare questions and thoughts ahead of time for in-person discussions

On days that students attend school in-person, they can work in pairs, small groups, as a class, or individually with the teacher to further develop their learning.

  1. Rotating Stations

Hybrid learning stations look different from stations in a traditional, in-person classroom but continue to offer helpful practice and insights for student learning. Edutopia offers a few examples of different stations your school could utilize through a hybrid learning schedule:

  • Independent, online practice — Students complete online activities through a virtual learning platform, which helps them progress toward mastery of each unit-of-study. Educators should take advantage of virtual learning tools that promote individualized learning at each student’s pace.
  • Teacher-led activities — Individually or in small groups, students can “meet” with the teacher in-person or virtually to work through learning activities and receive live feedback. In this station, teachers are able to reteach and provide real-time support as needed.
  • Screen-free remote activities — Students can learn remotely while taking a break from screens. They can read books, journal, create graphic organizers, do art projects, and complete other activities to demonstrate their understanding of the material.
  • Collaborative learning activities — Students can work in pairs, small groups, or as a whole class either in-person or virtually. In these activities, students are able to practice social and emotional learning skills and learn new perspectives and ideas from their classmates.

How School Leaders Can Strategize and Support Hybrid Instruction

In a 2016 study about hybrid instruction and blended learning environments, the Christensen Institute found that:

  • About 90% of teachers and administrators believe implementing a blended learning plan requires learning new skills, and
  • About 80% believe they would benefit from more professional development to “develop instructional approaches that facilitate conceptual understanding and application” in blended learning.

At the Center for Student Achievement Solutions, we work one-on-one with school leaders to develop a customized professional development plan for your school, district, or state. We use evidence-based practices to identify and support your team’s specific needs. Through consistent job-embedded coaching, we can train your teachers on how to:

  • Provide direct, explicit instruction to students through blended learning.
  • Use formative and summative assessments to track and support students’ progress.
  • Offer timely and useful feedback to students during both in-person and virtual instruction.

Schedule a free call with one of our expert consultants to talk about how we can partner with your school leaders to provide customized professional development for your team’s unique needs.

Resources for School Leaders About Hybrid Instruction and Blended Learning

The following articles can help you learn more about how to implement a hybrid learning strategy at your school:

Do you need more support with your hybrid learning strategy? Contact an educational expert at the Center for Student Achievement Solutions today.