As a teacher at Bronx Arena High School, a transfer school that accepts students year round, Abe Cohen has to continuously accommodate different levels and needs. He sets up his classroom to allow for asynchronous learning, where students learn and track their progress at their own pace. Using an online tracker developed by his school, Abe not only sees what requirements students need to fulfill, he individualizes the instruction for each student and assesses their comprehension. In this way, students move at the pace of comprehension, rather than at the pace of the teacher or lesson.
WHEN TO USE
Asynchronous instruction is helpful when you have students at different levels. In a CS classroom, different levels may stem from the fact that you have transfer students (as in Abe’s case), ELLs, students with special needs, or students who tend to move at a faster pace than their peers. Asynchronous instruction differs from differentiation in that students in the same classroom are working on different concepts—not the same content at different depths of understanding.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT
> BEFORE CLASS
- Plan, plan, and plan some more. “In an asynchronous class, you need to have everything planned out in advance,” says Abe. Unlike a traditional classroom where improvising from your lesson can sometimes help, “you have to do a lot of work to make sure the courses are structurally sound.”
- Determine how you will track each student’s progress and handle assessment. Talk to your administrators about developing a centralized tracker that can work for the population in your school. Alternatively, you can develop a spreadsheet customized for your students or use Google Classroom to help you track assignments and progress.
> IN CLASS
- Don’t discount group activities just because your students are at different points. In Abe’s classroom, “A lot of thought is involved in building out group activities,” he says. “Because we don’t work under the assumption that students are all learning at the same pace, we need to build a wide range of access points into more traditional discussion and synchronous lessons.”
- Make yourself available. One of the biggest advantages of asynchronized instruction is that much of the planning happens in advance so you can increase interaction with students, working with them one-on-one during class time.
- Abe found that designing more traditional, repeatable activities that students can use regularly to build skills works particularly well. “One of our big ones,” he says, “involves using a post-lab feedback sheet that’s pretty structured and designed for later teacher feedback.”
- Asynchronous learning: Education, instruction, and learning that do not occur in the same place or at the same time.
- Individualized assessment: Assessments that are focused on the needs of the individual student.