#Blendedlearning implementation: Teachers are the key!

This is the continuation in a series about the 6 Elements for the Implementation and Sustainability of Blended Learning that I helped develop for iNACOL.

elementgraphic2The six elements that are needed to sustain and implement a blended learning program include:

  * Leadership
  * Professional Development
  * Teaching / Instructional Practice
  * Operations, Systems and Policies
  * Content
  * Technology 

I have talked about the importance of leadership and professional development. Today the focus is on teaching and instructional practice.

In any educational implementation, the teacher is the key. The teacher is the one who is interacting with students day in and day out. In a blended learning environment, this interaction occurs face-to-face and online. When teachers are truly implementing blended learning, their teaching practice changes. This change includes pedagogy, more personalization of for each student, classroom organization, how curriculum is delivered and the ongoing communications between teacher and students. As one professional commented, “If you walk into a classroom and all the desks are in the traditional formation with students facing the front of the room, you’re probably not in a blended learning classroom.”

The key questions to ask regarding teaching and instructional practice are:

  • What is the school’s pedagogical philosophy?
  • How will teaching change?
  • How will the role of the teacher change?
  • How will best teaching practices be modeled and shared?
  • How will the classroom setup change to support the blended learning models?
  • What tools, professional development, and resources will teachers need to support this new model of teaching?
  • How will student learning change?
  • How will teachers analyze real-time data to personalize instruction?
  • How will blended teaching be observed and evaluated?

Ongoing support for teachers implementing blended learning is critical for sustainability. This support should come in a variety of ways. It should be recognized that each teacher is on his or her own journey in the implementation of blended learning. Different teachers have developed different skills and have different needs. Although general professional development is important that provides for all teachers to come together for common learning, individualized and ongoing professional development should be encouraged. One size does not fit all. As teachers learn new strategies in teaching with online tools and content, there should be a mechanism by which they share these ideas with colleagues. This can occur in staff meetings or department meetings or in an online discussion board. Regardless of how it is shared, it is critical for the successes and challenges to be communicated with one another to improve the overall blended learning system.

Promising practices for blended learning teachers include:

  • Change in classroom organization. There should be flexible classroom space with desks in groups that should change depending on the needs of the students.
  • Student engagement increases. Teachers who are implementing blended learning report there is more time to interact with students, more collaboration occurs between students, and students are more engaged when each student has a computer and is focused on a specific blended learning lesson.
  • Ongoing data analysis. Teachers should have access to reports from the course management system or content vendor that provides just-in-time information about each student. With this information, teachers should be changing instruction based on the needs of each student.
  • Individualized instruction. Both teachers and students should be involved in identifying daily learning goals for each student. Starting as young as second grade, students can be involved in setting and meeting daily goals based on data. Each student should have a voice in their learning path and have some choice in how they learn various concepts.
  • Digital content is continuously updated. Teachers who are immersed in blended learning discover that no one content provider can provide all the content needed for each student. Therefore, teachers are continually adding content and lessons that better meet the individual needs of students in their respective classrooms. Teachers also become adept at recording small group lessons that can be put online for students to listen to over and over.

Overall, teachers are the key in a successful blended learning implementation. To learn more about a day in the life of a blended learning teacher, listen to this 60-minute webinar or view the accompanying slide deck. Through ongoing and personalized professional development, teachers transform into providing more customized learning for all of their students in blended learning initiative.

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