How do we adapt and reimagine learning to most effectively teach learners using multiple modalities?


Technology, when used well, can help educators personalize and differentiate instruction. Research has shown there are advantages to using a mixture of in-person and online learning over online or face-to-face approaches alone. Studies from the Policy Analysis for California Education and the US Department of Education also show that well-designed blended instruction can be as or more effective than in-classroom learning alone. Additionally, familiarity with online learning and collaboration practices will prepare students for the workforce. 


Maximizing teaching in varied modes means embracing the benefits of blended learning. Blended learning goes beyond online learning: it is the mixing of different modalities of teaching and learning to increase student achievement. This includes one-on-one, small-group, and whole-group instruction  in both online and in-person environments (with the support of high-quality print and digital tools). Even if blended learning is not the main approach to teaching and learning in your school, the use of technology and learning online is here to stay—it is not just something that takes place during a pandemic.

The modern classroom incorporates many modes of teaching and learning. Leaders can leverage what they have learned and technology investments made over the pandemic to design learning experiences that incorporate a variety of teaching methods. Key to improved student outcomes will be integrating new modes of learning into daily instruction, offering choice and personalization, increasing engagement, and focusing on feedback and mastery. 


  • DO NOW: 


Integrating New Modes 

Intentionally integrating various modes of learning is key to success. Different modes may include independent, remote, small group, one-on-one, and whole-group instruction. 


  • Review your current model. Start by thinking about what you already do and have done across various domains, even before COVID. How did you use technology, print-based materials, whole-group instruction, small-group instruction, and independent work? How can some of these be even more successful with the new investments in training and technology, and the new lessons learned during COVID?    
  • Create strong learning routines for in-person and remote instruction. Learning routines help educators and students maintain consistency and the space for deeper learning in the classroom. Additionally, in this time of transition, content-specific routines may help students feel cohesion across their learning experience. Help teachers establish these routines and connect them to the sections of their curriculum for easier use. Here are some routines to consider for math, ELA and general class management.

Choices & Personalization 

Empowering students with voice and choice is a key component in helping them develop a mindset of self-direction and ownership. Developing ownership and agency has been shown to have significant impact on equity outcomes; see more about this in our Student Agency section. Below are some ways to personalize instruction in your program. 


Increasing Engagement

Increasing engagement and attendance has always been at the forefront of educators’ minds. A shift to blended learning brought about by the pandemic has offered LEA leaders an opportunity to be even more intentional about creating positive student interactions with teachers, peers, and content. 


  • With teacher: develop strong interactions independent of setting. The interactions between teachers and students are one of the biggest predictors of learning outcomes. According to education researcher John Hattie, roughly 30 percent of students’ total learning success depends on teacher behavior. This means that the ways in which we teach and work with young people really matter, and we need to be able to teach in a variety of modalities if we truly want to meet the needs of all learners. Leaders can try different strategies to increase interaction, including: 
    • Intentionally scheduling time for one-on-one time between learners and educators. Such interactions do not need to be long or occur in person, but they should be frequent. Here is a list of potential questions to help build rapport during virtual or in-person interactions. 
    • Creating opportunities for small-group interactions with teachers that allow for personal connection, to supplement one-on-one interactions. This LINC article shares advice and examples of what effective small-group instruction and differentiation looks like during remote learning.
    • Having educators connect directly with parents on a regular basis to share student success stories. Students can be present during such meetings (virtually or in-person), to hear firsthand how their teachers are excited to have them in class and what they need to work on next. 
  • With peers: Provide interactive learning opportunities. Engaging young people in their communities is a great way to encourage collaboration and interaction. 
    • Place-based learning is increasingly popular, especially with more learners at home and the need to think about experiences outside of a traditional school building. Watch this 5-minute Edutopia video and learn how to connect learning to your community and to places that learners care about. 
    • Many school districts are also teaching forward by thinking not just about academics in isolation, but how learners might need to apply their understanding to the real world. Tools like the Real-World Learning Roadmap can help you think more deeply about your community and how you might create experiences for young people that engage them in learning skills they’ll need in their future.  
  • With content: increase engagement through more meaningful learning experiences. When experiences in school are more engaging and personalized, learners want to show-up and participate. 

Giving Feedback for Mastery 

Receiving adequate feedback and developing mastery of individual concepts are essential parts of any learning experience. Providing meaningful feedback is critical, particularly in remote settings, for driving student motivation and enabling students to progress. Below are some considerations to help with integrating feedback and mastery into your educational practices:

  • Consider using rubrics. One strategy educators can leverage to provide feedback and drive mastery are rubrics. Rubrics offer students (and families helping at home) clarity around expectations for assignments and help them self-assess as they work. Here are some useful resources: 
  • Use multiple modes of feedback. Understanding the full picture and not just a single measure provides a bigger picture of what a student might have learned. 
    • Triangulating  data about a competency allows for a more robust look at a student’s understanding. 
    • Pre-, mid-, and post- assignment formative assessments are also critical to glean where students started and where they are as a result of the learning experience.
  • Show student work. A big part of providing feedback and looking for mastery is providing students an opportunity to share their work. When students know their work will actually be looked at, they become more engaged and take greater care in their work products and processes. When students share their work often and with others, not just with their teachers, their work improves. They gain confidence in talking about their work and feeling comfortable with constructive feedback. 


Learn how Placer Union HSD made the leap to mastery-based grading.


  • Based on the skills and mindsets you want students to learn, what are the implications for the design of the learning experiences (and equitable access to those experiences) we provide in our school systems? (You may have answered this question in the Defining Skills for Success Section)
  • What have you learned from the pandemic about blended learning? Online only? Small group instruction? Can you leverage this learning in the future? 
  • In what ways are you currently delivering learning experiences? Are these effectively targeting the skills and mindsets you define as important? Why or why not? 
  • Are teachers on your team trying out different modalities? Why or why not? What is getting in the way of trying something new? 
  • How are educators receiving support for teaching in varied modes?
  • What national examples do you look to when it comes to teaching in varied modes? District examples?  
  • How are you assessing student learning in varied modes? Do you have a common understanding of what success looks like when learning in different modes?