Learning modes

Learning modes

The learning modes highlight a variety of ways in which learning occurs. Each mode requires students and teachers to be interacting differently with content, resources and each other.

While each learning mode operates on its own, they are connected and fluid. Before a student begins an independent task, they may require collaboration with peers to increase understanding or develop ideas, then seek feedback after reflecting on the work they have produced.

Deeper understanding and practical application of the learning modes can be explored through online professional learning on contemporary learning and teaching.


Image: Learning with others

When students collaborate, they work together towards a common goal or purpose. Planning activities that give students the opportunity to collaborate enables them to learn and grow with and from each other, particularly when they are learning from home and physical interaction with one another may be limited.

Collaborative learning has been shown to develop critical thinking skills in students and boost their confidence and self-esteem, giving them a sense of well-being and belonging. Successful collaboration for students learning from home involves students co-creating and co-constructing products or pieces of work. It includes the discussion of new concepts and offering feedback on one another’s work in order to find solutions to problems.

Online learning tools and platforms such as Google Jamboard can enable collaboration for students learning from home.

Brainwriting can be adapted for online collaboration using Google Jamboard.

This is a particularly useful activity to use while learning from home because it relies on asynchronous collaboration!

Teachers pose an intriguing question to learners on the Jamboard.

Learners are given a set period of time to record their own responses to the question on post-its and post them to the Jamboard.

At the end of the time period, learners are invited to add to or comment on the ideas of their peers, enriching and improving the overall quality of the collective response to the intriguing question.

As an additional step, learners could work together to select the best responses to the question, moving these to the centre of the Jamboard.


Image: Talking about learning

When working in this mode, students communicate their ideas in an environment built on trust and mutual respect, where all voices are heard and valued.

Students are encouraged to confidently share their ideas to enhance and develop critical thinking, creativity, reasoning and resilience. As such, discussion strategies should encourage equitable student participation.

Students learning from home can discuss concepts live using digital learning tools such as Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams.

When using video conferencing tools for discussion, consider setting up protocols for respectful turn-taking, appropriate questioning and active listening to support student learning and model success.

Discussion can also occur asynchronously using hard copy documents circulated by the teacher on which each student can comment.

Either model allows students to share ideas, enables all voices and gives students agency and choice in their learning.

A hot seat activity can enable discussion while students are learning from home.

Learners could create a Google Slides presentation about their chosen topic or character.

Peers can ask questions of the presenter using Google Slides Q&A function, which stimulates online discussion as the presenter answers.

Feedback and reflection

Image: Learning about learning

Learners consider the method of collecting and presenting information and mastery of a skill. The aim is to seek and provide feedback on the work they and their peers produce using learning targets, scaffolds and rubrics with the purpose of iterative improvement.

When activated successfully, accountability is built into the feedback and reflection process, as work can be reviewed and suggestions actioned in a timely and efficient manner. This is very useful when students are learning from home. It builds students’ capacity to critically evaluate their own work and can develop critical metacognitive skills.

When learning from home, students can engage in this mode independently, with teachers or with peers. Students can be offered rubrics or scaffolds to reflect on and improve their own work, building critical metacognitive skills.

Feedback from teachers or peers using learning management systems, collaborative Google Docs or digital communication tools such as Microsoft Teams can keep students connected while learning from home.

An online gallery walk can be used to facilitate feedback and reflection.

Students can post their work on a Google Jamboard where peers are invited to add notes prompting suggestions, asking questions for further clarification or promoting areas of success.

Peer- or teacher-feedback using learning management systems, collaborative Google Docs or digital communication tools such as Microsoft Teams can keep students connected while learning from home.

Track changes or comments could be used in Microsoft Word Online or Google Docs to empower student agency to enhance their learning.


Image: Learn with an expert

Learners can follow along with an expert as they model a process or skill until they reach mastery.

Success is achieved when the learner demonstrates a new skill or ability at an appropriate level. They may produce a product or piece of work that can be shared with their teacher and peers in hard copy or online.

When students are learning from home, experts (teacher or student) can guide learning through a live online platform such as Adobe Connect to enable synchronous guided learning for groups of students. They may also use a pre-recorded video, distributed using a tool like Microsoft Stream, that learners can follow at their own pace.

Non-digital guided learning utilises other accessible files or documents that scaffold and outline exemplars and procedures for mastering new skills.

Students could create their own study guides using digital collaboration tools to support their peers while learning from home.

This activity could also utilise non-digital tools – students could create their own hard-copy study guides and circulate return them to their teacher for recirculation.


Image: Learn from an expert

Learners access expert knowledge in order to reach an understanding of new information and concepts. They synthesise and use that knowledge for another purpose or in another context.

This mode enables all students learning from home to engage with new concepts, processes or information through both group and individual access to digital platforms. It is important that teachers use a design thinking approach to strategically scaffold student access to resources and enable high-quality explicit learning from home.

Use of consistently formatted ePub text-based filesflipped learning videos, learning management systems or self-paced online learning platforms like Google Classroom are useful tools that activate explicit learning to occur while students are learning from home.

Frayer diagrams can help students take notes during explicit instruction, and to organise their new knowledge while learning from home. These can be used in both digital and hard-copy format.


Image: Presenting learning

Learners can share new understanding or skills with an appropriate audience. When students are learning from home, this may involve student presentations of learning, sharing products they have made or teaching their peers.

When used successfully, this mode builds students’ confidence and their communication skills using a range of digital tools. For students learning from home, it can provide valuable opportunities for connection with peers.

Students learning from home may also take over the direction of their peers’ learning, offering new opportunities for feedback and reflection.

Asynchronous platforms for students to share and interact with each other include podcasts made with Adobe Audition, digital presentations created using Google Slides, videos shared using Microsoft Stream, or live demonstrations on digital platforms like Microsoft Teams.

Students can use online presentation tools such as Microsoft Sway or Google Sites to display their understanding of a topic and demonstrate purposeful links between concepts.

Students learning from home can also use Graphic organisers to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding without the need for digital tools.


Image: Make, explore, investigate

Experiential learning provides opportunity for students to explore, apply and acquire knowledge in a practical context that can be either virtual or physical. While learning from home, students may be offered rich opportunities to do, make, explore and create using materials available to them.

This applied approach should enable students to think critically and creatively about theories, and put into practice their design thinking and apply problem-solving skills.

Online coding, video editing (using Adobe Presenter) and virtual reality (using Google Expeditions) can be explored digitally while design and make or upcycling projects can provide kinaesthetic opportunities.

Engage critical thinking and creative skills through a design and make task.

Using recyclables, Lego blocks, natural materials or household objects, students are encouraged to use a design thinking process to plan, test and create a model, prototype of a new invention or simple machine.


Image: Learning by myself

Students self-regulate and make decisions about their learning through self-organisation, time management and appropriate learning approaches and tools. Learning from home offers rich opportunities for students to develop these capabilities and improve their capacity to learn independently.

Successful independent learners review intended outcomes, set goals and monitor their progress, while empowering their learning by embracing accountability. Teachers can scaffold this progress by setting clear success criteria and learning goals for students learning from home and engaging in regular check-ins on progress via phone, learning management system or using digital communication tools.

Teachers can scaffold this progress by setting clear success criteria and learning goals for students learning from home and engaging in regular check-ins on progress via phone, learning management system or using digital communication tools like Google Classroom.

Self-regulation and purposeful learning targets are key for independent learning.

Students can create goals based on learning intentions or can make use of a class scaffold to progress through a task.

Employing an online Pomodoro timer can help sequence the learning and provide motivation and accountability, leading to success.

Professional Learning

For further professional learning on how to integrate the learning modes into your contemporary teaching practice, enrol in 'Learning and Teaching in Innovative Learning Environments', our online course for classroom teachers.

School leaders can enrol in 'Leading Learning and Teaching in Innovative Learning Environments' to develop a strategy for introducing the learning modes to your school.

Alternatively, attend our professional learning course 'Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Innovative Learning Environments'.

Visit MyPL to enrol in this session.


  • Teaching and learning
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