Community Project – Breakout Rooms in Remote Learning Classrooms

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 – Collaborator

Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes. Coaches:

3a. Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.

3b. Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.

3c. Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.

3d. Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

Although teachers and researchers agree that heritage language learners are better served in separate courses specifically designed to address their affective and linguistic needs, in the United States most heritage speakers study their home language in mixed classes, alongside second language learners (Beaudrie 2012, Carreira 2014). Meeting the needs of heritage language learners in these mixed classes represents a major challenge for teachers at all levels. 

In February, I was honored to present as one of the panel speakers in the 2021 Heritage Language Symposium hosted by the STARTALK program from the University of Washington. This professional learning opportunity was designed for all language teachers from Kindergarten to Higher Education. 

This Professional Learning event was hosted online using the Zoom Live event in February. This symposium began with a Keynote Speaker, Olesya Kisselev, PhD who is the Assistant Professor at the University of Texas San Antonio. She addressed the environmental and cognitive processes that shape the nature of Heritage Language learners’  knowledge and discussed how to develop a theoretically-sound and research-based approach to language pedagogy that accounts for specific linguistic and cultural needs of the two populations in the modern language classroom. Her presentation was followed by me and other 3 panel speakers. My 20 minutes presentation mainly focused on the difficulties we have encountered in our mixed classes, particularly while adjusting to remote teaching during Covid-19 and shared the strategies to use breakout rooms in MS Teams to make small group teaching in the online and hybrid model that accommodates  our heritage language learners in online learning contexts. 

Before the presentation, we surveyed all the participants to have them share their questions related to teaching heritage language learners in mixed language class and challenges they encountered during remote learning. We also survey teachers to understand their experience and current challenges using educational tools like MS Teams, Zoom, Flipgrid and others. We had a question board available for participants to submit their questions during the presentation and we dedicated the last 20 minutes as a live interacted FAQ session with all the participants. 

My presentation began by sharing effective digital classroom management practices to create a respectful and responsible online learning culture. Digital classroom management practice related to breakout rooms in remote learning class focus on the digital citizenship agreement in this presentation included the following: 

1. Resource for Digital Citizenship agreement was provided to teachers in one of the slides. Digital Citizenship Primary School Agreement

2. Establish Norms for small groups by practicing good citizenship & “Make sure everyone else gets it!”

3. Assigning Roles for small group to have facilitator, note taker, presenter, checker 

4. Set Goal for each small group activities by having each group provide  evidence of productivity (notes, task result, presentation, report etc. )

5. Use Recording feature in Breakout Room

6. Assign students in the same group for at least twice in a role to build routine and team culture 

My presentation was mainly focusing on using and evaluating Microsoft Teams to create small groups for differentiation in a class to meet the needs of heritage language learners and second language learners. Therefore, Microsoft Teams is the targeted digital tool in this presentation, but all the strategies applied to Zooms, Google Meets or any remote conferencing tools that have the features to create breakout sessions. This presentation was personalized to skip the instruction of using breakout room features in Microsoft Teams because we surveyed all participants and they had  experience using MS Teams or Zooms breakout rooms features.

In this presentation, grouping strategies and samples of breakout session works were provided for educators to make adoption in their own practices. 

The workshop and all materials were recorded and continued to be available in the 2021 HERITAGE LANGUAGE SYMPOSIUM official page for participants to review and use as resources after the workshop.

I am looking forward to delivering this presentation to language teachers in my district. One adjustment I will make depending on the number of participants is to create breakout sessions for teachers who teach in a similar grade level to work on a grouping scenario by using the norms, roles and agreement I demonstrated in the presentation. I believe more interactive online workshops are more effective and engaging for participants. 

Differentiated Technology Integration PD for Educators

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Collaborator

Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes. Coaches:

d.Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

While teachers are expected to differentiate their instruction to meet their students’ needs, too often we treat professional learning differently than we treat student learning. Differentiation has not been modeled well in most of the professional developments for educators, especially in technology integration professional developments. How to ensure coaches and leaders differentiate and personalize educators’ training and professional developments in learning technology to meet the needs of educators with different knowledge and backgrounds in technology?

According to Randi and Zeichner (2005), the current emphasis on accountability for student performance on national and state tests has been directing some schools to select particular curriculum interventions and research-based practices they deem most likely to improve instruction and increase student achievement and then design staff development programs around the content of those interventions. In order to “demonstrate immediate results, schools may pay more attention to “what works” in the short term than to research findings about

how best to design and sustain teacher professional learning opportunities for the continuing growth of both teachers and students” (Randi & Zeichner, 2005, p180). 

Randi and Zeichner argued that although focused staff development activities designed to introduce or sustain the implementation of a common curriculum may build organizational capacity and unite teachers around the shared visions of the organization, they provide teachers little choice about their own professional learning and little autonomy in instructional decisions, which limits teachers’ choices about their own learning and limits their access to knowledge and may leave them with an insufficient knowledge (Randi & Zeichner, 2005, p194)

According to the Center for Public Education’s Teaching the Teachers report, almost all teachers participate in PD throughout the year. However, a majority of those teachers find the PD in which they participate ineffective.Therefore, Zdonek(2016) suggested that the following simple but effective strategies to improve teacher professional development sessions through differentiation:

1. Gauge teachers’ readiness by taking a survey of teachers to see what they know about a professional development topic, and how skilled they consider themselves in that area. This information will also allow you to tailor the PD session to meet teacher needs, designing smaller group sessions with flexible groupings to instruct teachers at their varying readiness levels.

2. Utilize teachers’ interests by taking some time to figure out what teachers themselves want to improve upon. When they work on areas of their interest, they’re more likely to be engaged, making the work more productive — just like with students.

3. Get teachers involved by allowing teachers that have skills or experience to run smaller group sessions. It provides leadership opportunities for teachers and develops a sense of ownership over the school improvement process.

4. Provide opportunities for continual assessment by providing time for teachers to discuss and reflect on how they are incorporating the given area of development into their classroom practice. Have opportunities for feedback, allow teachers to set goals, provide continuous support, and assess progress toward the goals they’ve set.

In addition to these general PD strategies, we might also want to look specifically into professional development focusing on technology integration for educators. The goal of successful technology professional development is its integration into teaching to impact student learning. Teachers are participating in technology learning professional development with different readiness and background.

Professional development provides educators the opportunity to understand new advancements and adapt their teaching styles and pedagogy to make effective use of available educational enhancements. How to ensure these PDs are customized to meet educators’ needs? Moynihan (2014) recommended the following 7 tips for integrating technology professional development. 

  • Provide ongoing support by delivering immediately usable solutions to the daily challenges that teachers will face when making major curricular changes in their subject areas.
  • Promote understanding of technology pedagogical practices by providing extensive training in both pedagogy and technology.
  • Encourage teacher participation because teachers who participate in a PD program that includes coaching or mentoring are more likely to implement new instructional methods.
  • Adopt a learner‐centered pedagogy because technology is less effective when used to support traditional “teacher‐centered” pedagogies, which tend to use technology as a supplement rather than as a core element of instruction.
  • Provide access to online information repositories that offer teachers continuous and convenient access to relevant teaching resources.
  • School structure should be “policies, practices, culture, and funding” to facilitate the integration of educational technology.
  • Make use of the technologies that teachers will be using. The ISTE notes that “learning with technology is more important than learning about technology.” Teachers benefit by seeing what and how they can learn through available technological tools.

Mazzella(2011) suggested technology can make a difference in supporting student learning, however, this cannot happen by merely providing classrooms with the latest equipment. Instructional technology integration will occur across all grade levels and in all content areas when it is supported by professional development that is differentiated and sustained over time.


Randi, J. and Zeichner, K. (2005). New Visions of Teacher Professional Development. 

Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education 103(1):180 – 227. Retrieved July, 28th, 2021 from

Zdonek, P. (2016). Why Don’t We Differentiate Professional Development?. Retrieved July, 28th, 2021 from

Moynihan, A. (2014) 7 PD tips for your instructional technology integration plan. Retrieved July, 28th, 2021 from

Mazzella, N, (2011). What are We Learning About Technology Integration and Professional Development? Retrieved July, 28th, 2021 from