There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to education. Students, teachers, and organizations have their own unique needs and pathways to facilitate successful learning. Fortunately, with the digital shift, the doors have been opened to more diverse, impactful lesson structures that accommodate more people.
Station rotation isn’t a new concept in education, but with more tools and platforms to communicate remotely, the model lends itself well to teachers that want to modernize their classroom and improve the learning experience. Particularly when applied in tandem with blended learning, station rotation can help classes develop skills, retain information more easily, and improve communication.
So, what exactly is station rotation and how can it be applied in the most optimal way? The Sphero STEAM experts explain below.
What is Station Rotation?
Station rotation is a structure for learning. In the model, students are put in small groups and move through a series of educational tasks. Each task (or station) is designed differently, for example, one may focus on independent learning where students work by themselves using software. Another station may emphasize collaborative learning, where they have to build a prototype with a peer.
There can be as many stations as the teacher sees fit, and all students should pass through all stations for the same amount of time. Some educators choose to implement a ‘teacher station’ in the model, where students meet in-person with the teacher to discuss progress and receive personalized feedback.
Brad Fessler, Professional Development and Content Manager for Sphero, says “stations are different activities and can have different modes of instructions. Teacher-led, online, and unplugged activities are just some of the options for delivering content at each station.”
Tod Johnston, Senior Education Content Manager at Sphero, elaborates, saying that “students may be asked to transition from station to station in a specific order or they may be given a choice about which station they want to visit.”
Station Rotation is common in blended learning, as the stations can involve technology or offline activities. The ratio of offline and online stations depends on the class preferences and targets. With this hybrid approach, it’s important that digital stations still have teacher support available to students, just as they would have for face-to-face stations.
Benefits of Station Rotation
There are a number of advantages that come with integrating a station rotation model. The first is that it offers students a more customized learning experience. Working in smaller groups means teachers can more closely observe individuals and note their performance and needs. In response, they can curate stations to better address those needs. A ‘teacher station’ also gives students time to receive more personalized instructions from the teacher.
Station rotation encourages knowledge retention because of its varied nature. Students can concentrate on a specific topic or project within the station rotation, but the selection of stations gives them more routes to understand and remember information. Likewise, a wider range of tools allows students to discover what learning trajectories they most strongly resonate with, and they can utilize these resources moving forward in other learning areas.
The collaboration element of station rotation also benefits students. Research shows that working with others nurtures higher-level thinking, self-esteem, and time management. Collaborative work plays a strong role in shaping leadership qualities too.
Tod mentions that station rotation sees teachers group students together, so they can target instruction for certain purposes. “This may mean reviewing group progress on an engineering design project or accelerating learning for students who are ready to go further,” he says.
From a tech perspective, station rotation enables institutions to maximize their digital tools. Classrooms with limited devices can form one or two stations that include these devices and ensure all students get to use them at different times. Devices can also be left with instructions, so students have to navigate tasks independently and partake in a more intuitive learning experience.
Brad notes that maintaining resources at each station is essential. “A missing or broken resource can bring the entire station to a halt.” He adds that the model should not take the teacher out of the learning process, instead “the teacher becomes an additional resource and facilitator during the process.”
Station Rotation and STEAM Education
Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) learning is well-suited to the station rotation model. Tod says that in most STEAM classes, students aren’t all doing the same thing at the same time, so station rotation brings in the flexibility that STEAM needs.
Brad continues that technology can be cost-prohibitive at times, but that station rotation allows every student to get an experience with tech even if it's in limited supply. “A well-designed STEAM station gives students good foundational knowledge about a topic but provides resources that allow the student to go further with their own ideas about the topic.”
For Sphero, station rotation feeds in well to the moto, play is a powerful teacher.
Station Rotation Examples
Imagine students are working on a module about sustainable energy. Through a station rotation model, they learn about the main types of energy and how they’re used in the world.
One station could ask students to read an article about nuclear energy, and then answer questions about the piece. Another station may require them to build a simple electric circuit and describe the transfer of energy. Elsewhere, a station could have a game involving magnets where students have to track how polarization is at play. A final station may feature software that visualizes sound waves for students.
Specifically for STEAM learning, Tod offers the following example to incorporate BOLT robots in station rotation.
“A teacher could set up stations with programming challenges. One station explores a Sphero Spirograph program and how to use operators to change a robot’s heading in a repeatable pattern. In another, students program BOLT’s path through a maze and fine-tune the accuracy of the robot’s movement. Elsewhere, students prototype inventions that help BOLT swim across a pool of water. At the teacher-led station, the instructor introduces and reinforces key programming terminology that allows students to articulate their newly developing skills.”
“STEAM projects can require valuable time and resources. The station rotation model can effectively give instructions and stimulate exploration and hands-on experiences for students,” says Brad. “The result is more meaningful and engaging STEAM content for the minds of tomorrow.”Ready to create your own station rotation for STEAM subjects? Browse Sphero’s coding robots and bring your learning to life.