Educator Reflection Tips

Educator Reflection Tip #77: Are you gradually releasing students during remote learning?

Graves and Fitzgerald (2003) specify that efficient teaching frequently develops through a sequence which  involves educators progressively performing a reduced amount of the work and students steadily presuming heightened accountability for their own learning. It is during this practice of increasingly taking charge of their learning that students develop into capable autonomous learners  (p. 98). At the introduction of new knowledge, additional support is critical. Nevertheless, with time as the learning process continues, we want students to grow to be take on more ownership for their learning. Pearson and Gallagher (1983) coined this process as “gradual release”, and it is particularly critical when teaching and learning is taking place remotely. All students should be given support at their instructional level at all stages of learning. It is crucial that we continue to do this no matter the educational setting (Blackburn, 2020).

When you take into account all of the research and data that you have gathered regarding your students’ impermanent learning (learning loss), it is imperative that we modify our thinking about what the gradual release of student responsibility looks like in a virtual/hybrid environment.

The home learning environment that parents have created for their children is not the same as the brick and mortar process they are used to. Not only are students attempting to resist the “fun” distractions, they are likely also dealing with life’s distractions such as food insecurity, family related Coronavirus illnesses, and many other experiences that we can only imagine. Educators should carefully examine their current practices to ensure a balance between teacher-directed instruction and student centered learning experiences.

Gradual Release of Student Responsibility Model employs that instruction should include the following types of experiences:

  1. Teacher modeling performance and learning expectations.
  2. Guided scaffolding of the learning expectations
  3. Collaborative practice between students and their peers.
  4. Autonomous exercises to determine if reteaching is needed before students are released to work on their own.
Created by Jami Fowler-White (2020) and adapted from Pearson and Gallagher’s Gradual Release of Student Responsibility Model (1983)

As you reflect on your instructional practices consider the following:

  • Do you currently know the academic level of each of the students in your classes?
  • What scaffolds are you currently using to bridge the learning gap of students?
  • How much time are you spending on direct instruction/lecturing within each block of learning?
  • Have you continued to follow the four-step gradual release process within hybrid and remote teaching and learning?
  • Are you modeling the expectations for mastery of the standards during every lesson that you teach?
  • What processes have you put in place to ensure that students are able to collaborate with their peers?

As a classroom teacher, I created the “BRACE” acronym to help me remember to include all levels of Gradual Release of Student Responsibility during instruction. If you don’t currently have a method to help you remember the steps, feel free to utilize this one.

B-Be intentional about the instructional strategies and sequencing of information that is taught to students.

R-Remember to utilize all available data when considering scaffolds to include within lessons

A- Academic expectations should be modeled within each lesson taught to students to ensure students understand the performance standards they are required to meet to show mastery of the standard.

C-Create opportunities for students to collaborate with peers through the use of channels, breakout rooms, social distanced peer groups, or any combination of these methods.

E-Examine student work during the final phase of the Gradual Release process to determine if students are ready to be released to work independently.  

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is grr.bracemethod.jpg

As you continue to work to improve the virtual teaching and learning process in your classroom, remember that the Gradual Release of Student Responsibility Model stresses including  instructional explanations/demonstrations are clear, accurate, and build student’s understanding of the content. Planning lessons that are focused on the intent of grade level performance standards. Instruction that is geared towards students mastering that skill or standard as well as modeling. As outlined within the process, teacher modeling should ensure that students are able to understand your thought process and contain time to practice with you before being released to work independently. Lastly, modeling consists of demonstrating what students are expected  to know and show based on the standard not focusing on the activity, graphic organizer, or chosen protocol that is used during the learning process.

Below, I have included several resources to help you continue working to revise how this process looks within hybrid or distance learning. Thanks for visiting Digital PD 4 You and I hope that you will consider signing up for our bi-weekly email list and or reading other reflection tips. Be safe and I look forward to posting additional entries within the next couple of weeks.Sign Up


Minds in Bloom:

Barbara Blackburn (2020). Using Gradual Release in Remote Learning

Doug and Nancy Frey. Gradual Release of Student Responsibility Framework

Virginia Rojas. Key Principles for ELL learners (Scaffolds for Instruction): Nesa Center Resources.  

Sara Brown Wessing (Teaching Channel). Improving Teacher Practice with the Gradual Release Instructional Model

Sandra Clark. Avoiding the Blank Stare: Training Teachers on the Gradual Release Model

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