Teaching Memo – Hybrid Teaching: Dos and Don’ts (that didn’t make the cut)

I’m excited that I’m contributing to a major education publication’s series on how to find success with teaching online and in person simultaneously, which is called “hybrid” teaching or “concurrent” teaching. (I’ll be posting about the forthcoming article when it is released.) As usual, I had to cut more than half of what I wrote, but I am convinced that what I deleted are also helpful dos and don’ts, so I’m posting them here. I hope these ideas are helpful to teachers entering the hybrid teaching world (or refining their approach).

Do Iterate.

Know that whatever solution you come up with will change as the year proceeds. This is a practical and a psychological suggestion: be open to the idea that whatever you come up with will have to change as you realize what would work better. At the same time, if you’re continuously tinkering with what you have already spent time developing for this year’s hybrid model, you’ll never rest. Excepting outlier cases, the design improvements are usually applicable in the next unit’s design and not in the here-and-now, so keep notes.

Do Give yourself and your students more time.

Slow down with course goals. As a teacher with a full agenda of content and skills to teach, you will check off fewer items in a hybrid or online mode than in a fully in-person setting. Get okay with this right now. Remember that less is more; most students will learn more if they’re handed less than they would were you to overwhelm them.

Do Use multimodal media

Wherever possible, offer multiple ways of accessing content. Offer students more than text alone, audio alone, video sources alone, or your voice as the only path to knowledge.

Do Make regular communication a priority.

More than ever. Remember to go easy on them and to err on the side of overcommunication. One-on-one zoom meetings to address missed connections, wellness check-ins, and old fashioned class progress status updates – all of it is critical.

Do Make different content available for identical skill goals, wherever possible.

Student voice and choice is made easier in a hybrid or fully online model of teaching and learning. When I taught causal thinking using what I called social revolutions as a model, for instance, students chose what movement most clearly spoke to them: Black American Rights, Women’s Rights, LGBTQ+ Rights, or the American Anti-War Movement. Students in the same room learned different content while practicing the same skills in assignments they chose from a short list of pre-selected tasks that would help them all practice the same skills. Student engagement was high.

Do Accept work across a larger swathe of time.

Consider shifting to deadline windows rather than specific dates, coaching students to aim for early in the window to take the pressure off. Accept assignments as late as physically and practically possible. Remember that in the so-called real world, there are actually plenty of second chances, that learning is iterative, and that revision is important.

Don’t Assign homework.

Homework exists for skill development and practice, and that should happen during class where there’s a qualified coach on hand – that’s you! There are probably exceptions, but let this be the rule. If you’ve got to have students reading at home on a limited basis, that’s one thing. But don’t give them busywork, and provide time to do work in class where you can be the awesome learning coach that you are.

Don’t Use grades punitively.

This is one of those oldies but goodies. I do not dock points for late work or even for misunderstandings, though I sometimes ask students to revise their work to get it done right. I give full credit if the work is completed to a basic and clearly articulated standard and use rubrics and comments for substantive and conversation-starting feedback.

More to come soon on the Dos and Don’ts of hybrid teaching!

Stephen Capone (@CaponeTeaches) is a full-time faculty member at The McGillis School, a K-8 independent school in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a part-time faculty member of the Dept. of Philosophy at Utah Valley University. He has been teaching since 2008 and has presented regionally and nationally on student engagement, gamification, and game-psychology-inspired teaching and learning.

About Steve Capone

Writer hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah. Interdisciplinary teacher (read: generalist guiding inquiry) at an independent school. Adjunct instructor at a medium sized state school. Lover of learning. Favorite destination: Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, Germany. @CaponeTeaches on Twitter M.S. Philosophy (Univ. of Utah 2013) M.A. Humanities (Univ. of Chicago 2007) B.A. Philosophy & English (Washington & Jefferson College 2006
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