12 Strategies for Accelerated Summer Learning Programs

Updated: May 26, 2021

This summer is a very important opportunity to create accelerated programming to address learning loss due to the pandemic. In many cases, funding is available to support those initiatives through ESSER II & III. The strategies given below are a few best practices we incorporate at Digital Leader Academy that may spark some new ideas for how to engage your students in a non-traditional way this summer.

Happy teaching!


1. Challenge Based Learning

This lesson structure is very near and dear to us here at Digital Leader Academy, and it works by introducing shorter cycles between investigating an idea and acting on it. We are particularly drawn to this style of learning because of how closely it mirrors real-world project management and design sprints, especially within the domain of entrepreneurship. Because students are able to reach checkpoints for reflection and re-evaluation sooner, maintaining engagement for students with shorter attention spans is definitely an easier task under this framework.

2. Scenario-Based Learning (SBL)

This strategy is perfect for students that need to see things applied in context in order to grasp their significance and impact. It is very popular among design schools for sharpening the "learn on the job" skills of their students and has proven very effective for highly hands-on learning. A typical scenario may involve students being given an hypothetical budget of $1 million to renovate the school. What project would they pick? Where would they start? Who would lead that project? What would the timeline be? SBL also has the benefit of adding to the emotional learning of students as they become fully engrossed in a "role-playing" scenario with the rest of the class.

3. Peer-to-Peer Instruction

It may seem a bit daunting at first to hand over the instructional control of a topic to a student, but this model has proven very effective in breaking down certain engagement barriers that can often take place in the classroom. By having a senior teach a group of freshmen on a topic or a student who completed a course last semester lead a discussion on the topic, not only are the new students gaining from the example of their peer, but that student is able to gain skills in leadership and public speaking themselves.

4. Face-to-Face Driver blended learning

One of the more popular blended learning strategies, the face-to-face driver method includes having students work on a digital program on the computer with the instructor/facilitator present to answer questions and provide support. This added level of involvement and supervision from the teacher not only ensures correct usage of the online tool, but also increases the confidence and accountability for students who are typically not as engaged in a purely digital learning environment.

5. Hyflex Learning

HyFlex Learning is a term that gained a lot of popularity purely out of the necessity of split classrooms between in person and virtual. But best practices have emerged for running classes with this model on purpose. The benefits of this learning style emphasize the optionality for students to participate in both the in-person and virtual components of the event (ideally with a balanced blend of participation in both) in order to grow their sense of autonomy and self-ownership with their learning.

6. Four corners Discussion

One of the easiest ways to involved the whole classroom and spark discussions about a topic by dividing the room into "four corners" one for strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree. The instructor reads out a series of statements and students walk to the respective corner that matches their level of agreement to the statement. It is important to emphasize the purpose and importance of different opinions prior to the exercise and can be an excellent way to showcase how even a single room of people contains a multitude of different opinions.

7. Accountable Talk

This style of speaking is a great way to demonstrate ownership language, as students use an accountable talk framework to construct their statements in a way that personalizes their own beliefs. This may be a very helpful learning style for learners who like to disagree but need a little extra guidance in how to do so constructively. Accountable talk is an especially effective tool for approaching open-ended questions related to readings or articles.

8. Gallery Walk

A gallery walk is an excellent way to break up the classroom into smaller groups for more effective discussions. It involves splitting the room into "stations" where small groups of students spend 5-10 before rotating to the next station. It requires a small amount of preparation to set up the stations prior to the activity, but stations can be as low-tech as a piece of paper with a few discussion questions pinned to the wall. It is a great strategy for slightly larger classes where more soft-spoken students can have their opinions lost in a larger group setting.

9. Concept Attainment

Concept attainment is a fantastic way to introduce some gamification to learning a new concept. It begins with a secret pattern or connection that only the instructor knows at the beginning, and as more examples of the pattern and examples of invalid patterns are added, students are tasked with helping their classmates figure out the connection between the patterns. For example, if the connecting concept was "female founded companies," the instructor could write: Lever, Maven Clinic, Canva, Simple Habit, Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, as "yes" answers -- and Apple, Nike, Google, Waymo, as "no" answers. (This might also make a great discussion regarding the need for publicity around female-founders...but that is just our opinion).

10. JIgsaw Method

The Jigsaw Method is a creative approach to group-work where each group is responsible for gathering and developing knowledge for a small sub domain of the greater discussion of a topic. Take for example, a discussion on autonomous cars. One student group could be responsible for describing the hardware of an autonomous car, another might investigate the legislation around them, and another group could research the current companies working on autonomous vehicles. When the groups return to discuss the topic, each is responsible for communicating their findings and teaching the rest of the class about what they learned.

11. Flipped Classroom

One of the older methods of blended learning, flipped classroom settings allow students to learn off-site and then bring their questions for their instructor later on. Of the strategies mentioned so far, this one is easily the one requiring the most planning ahead of time, but there have been many examples of programs that have been run very successfully on a flipped model. However, flipped learning is not without its pros and cons, and is worth researching tools for proper execution and implementation of this learning method.

12. Problem-Based Learning

Ideal for entrepreneurship classes, problem-based learning involves students beginning with a problem, instead of a solution, and works to find a multitude of different solutions to solve the given problem. This is a very common practice in design thinking and is typically a first step for anyone in entrepreneurial circles. Our course on entrepreneurship is centered around this practice and we have been personally able to observe its effects on student learning outcomes with our partner instructors.


If you are interested in learning how we help schools implement programming like the ones mentioned, feel free to reach out to ellen@digitalleader.tech!

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