IS THE STATION ROTATION MODEL EFFECTIVE?
Theoretically speaking, the station rotation model seems to be the ideal solution for teachers who wish to work with small groups of students to support their learning needs: one only needs to set up a variety of differentiated learning stations, establish a time limit for rotations and have the students rotate through stations independently until it is their turn to work with the teacher. Seems simple enough, but is it? And is the station rotation model really an effective method of teaching? I would argue that practically speaking, it’s not as easy as it appears and that the benefits of implementing stations are often outweighed by the cons.
First off, when it comes to prepping materials for the stations, there’s often no accounting for students who may finish faster than others, or on the other end of the spectrum, those that aren’t able to complete the task within the time limit and so must complete their work in the station the next time they are on that rotation. And so, some students are ultimately left filling their extra time with drawing, coloring or reading, thereby resulting in lost learning time for them as they aren’t being pushed to extend themselves, while others struggle to play catch up.
Secondly, there’s the issue of students being able to complete stations independently and without needing to ask questions, especially in the younger grades. From my experience, there are very few students who can manage to do this, and for those who aren’t able to, it can be quite frustrating as they struggle to complete the task because the teacher isn’t available to answer their questions or offer support.
Which brings me to classroom noise level. Because some students finish quickly while others require additional support, students often lose engagement and/or interest in the learning stations and become distracted, which inevitably leads to increased socializing and noise levels in the classroom. This causes interruptions to the small group learning time with the teacher as the teacher must stop to refocus the rest of class and remind them to stay quietly on task.
Finally, there’s an imbalance between direct and independent learning time, both of which are equally important for students. Often there are 4 to 5 rotations planned out and these are limited to roughly 15 minutes. In an average week, this means that if a class could complete 3 rotations per day four times a week, students would receive 30 to 45 minutes of direct lesson time with the teacher versus 2 to 3 hours of independent learning time during which the teacher isn’t supporting them. And if a student is absent on a day they were on rotation for small group teacher time, there’s no making up for it – they miss that lesson.
These are just a few of the drawbacks to implementing the station rotation model in one’s classroom; however, if they are still a path you choose, it’s worth considering how you will support students who finish at a quicker pace, or on the flip side, those who are struggling to complete stations while you are working with small groups of students. If you are in a co-teaching situation or have educational assistants in the room to keep learners on task and answer questions, the station rotation model could be a viable option for you, but if you are the sole teacher, you may wish to consider an alternate solution for your classroom.
Are you currently using the station rotation model in your classroom? Are there any thoughts you would like to share on its effectiveness?
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