Blended Learning. Why Not Blended Design?

Blended learning (Morris, 2010), or hybrid courses (Garnham & Kaleta, 2002; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004) , are most commonly referred to as flipped classrooms to practitioners (aka teachers and admins). This type of instructional design attempts to effectively combine both traditional (lecture-based) and online education. As Young (2002) reports, most educational environments are turning toward a blended learning model to offer more efficient learning opportunities especially in situations similar to longer class periods as experienced in a university/college setting. That said, while flipped classrooms are a recent instructional technology trend mostly in higher education settings, there is growing prominence in high school and middle school (Tucker, 2012). Flipped classrooms are meant to effectively combine traditional and online education by utilizing both in and out-of-class time. Despite positively reported implications of the flipped classroom instructional strategy, there is a deep shortage of literature and data that demonstrate advantages for student learning outcomes. And that’s because, until recently, educational researchers and theorists stayed on one side of the tracks and practitioners on the other side. An attempt to align the two divisions is clearly reflected in this year’s theme for the Annual American Education Research Association (AERA) conference – “The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy.” In essence, how can research aid practice. Yet how often is research truly applicable and relevant, and how often is it actually implemented into classrooms?

Knowing that flipping classrooms is an instructional strategy on the rise, why not blend instructional design with theory to examine benefits, or shortfalls? I’ll tell you why.

Research Integration = there are teachers who:

  1. Do not know how to read the research/data
  2. May know how to read the data, but not sure how to make sense of it
  3. May know how to make sense of the data, but not how to integrate into the classroom
  4. May know how to integrate into the classroom, but not effectively with positive outcomes

And this, my friends, leads me to argue that schools need to have a resource, in-house or consulted, to help facilitate data- and research-based information that makes sense for practice purposes.

And with this in mind, my friends, led me to design a study to support practice with theory. Blended Design.

The purpose of my study was to investigate flipped classroom instruction versus a traditional classroom, specifically an instructional video versus traditional textbook presentation on accuracy and mental effort at three levels of mathematical complexity. College-level nursing students who require mathematical mastery were used as a pilot test group in anticipation that this experience could be translated for larger data sets of variable age groups. These results indicated that accuracy increased and mental effort decreased with flipped instruction. Using Sweller’s cognitive load theory and Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning as theoretical frameworks, this study provides insight into designing effective instruction for learning environments that could benefit from a flipped classroom framework.

For more on the results and limitations, please feel free to read my paper…after I return from this year’s AERA. I’ll post it then.


Effective Use of Technology

Technology. When the opportunity arises to implement some form of technology into your classroom, ask yourself for whom will it benefit? The teacher, or the student? Either answer is correct, but you have to be aware of the audience. If the use of technology is appropriate, then it could be incorporated as teacher-directed or student-centered. Sometimes, using technology would will not (gasp!) serve as a benefit. Technology can be superfluous and extraneous if pedagogy is forgotten.

I found this infographic from somewhere (totally not mine) and I recently posted it to Twitter, only to have received a well-acceptance of favorites and retweets. Yay. But why? What drew attention to this image? Was it the title? The information? The promotion of technology in the classroom? Rather than grasping hold to the latest trend, how often do we ask about the benefits of technology?


Inconstant Education

Having classroom teaching experience allows me to understand what it is to try new teaching methods only to have them not work as intended. I know what it feels like to have a teaching moment that you only wish to have captured on video. Teaching is ever-changing, and teachers need to be flexible to adapt. It’s okay to try something for it only to fail. If you don’t try it, you won’t know how to improve upon it. Why have teachers become scared to try? Not a rhetorical question. Let me know. I’m curious. What prevents teachers from taking risks in their teaching?

Regardless, don’t forget the essentials of teaching.

Remember the Fundamentals

While it is  indispensable to incorporate current approaches to best teaching practices, it is also critical to remember the fundamental essentials of teaching. Fundamentally, many in-the-moment assessments can occur in the classroom without technology through strategies such as Gallery Walks, Save the Last Word, Tableau, 3-2-1, ABC, Character Charts, Word Clouds, and most recently T2T (Text to Text) to help students with their synthesis abilities. It is vital to make such teaching strategies cognizant because while it is important for schools to build in technology within learning and instruction, it is also of benefit to nurture verbal communication and team-building skills. Contemporary teaching includesaligning such strategies to CCSS is considered progressive toward 21st century learning. For instance, I designed a corresponding activity packet specifically for a recent 11th grade experiential learning field trip that intertwined fundamentals with the contemporary; students were able to meet each of the overarching CCSS of listening, reading (fiction and non-fiction), speaking, and writing while partaking in some of the aforementioned strategies. In this case, using technology would not have served as a benefit. If the use of technology is appropriate, then it could be incorporated as teacher-directed or student-centered. Technology can be superfluous and extraneous if pedagogy is forgotten.

Yet technology has ample opportunity to enhance pedagogy and standards alignment. Just ask yourself – for whom does it benefit, and how. And why this particular tool over another?


FACCT: Vision Framework for Faculty PD

When reflecting on what faculty professional development is, I thought of the following:

  • PD is not one-size-fits-all because we are not a one-size faculty. While there are general areas that we can enhance, teachers need to be autonomously aware of their areas to improve upon.
  • Guide teachers in planning and execution stages of teaching and instruction including class management and assessment. Developing individual plans for professional growth and adjusting those needs as seen fit is part of the natural learning process.
  • Support the conscious effort of the reflective process on an ongoing or final product. Reflection paves the way to growth, and teachers need to have the explicit opportunity and safe environment.
  • Not change teachers, but foster their abilities into self-betterment and continual improvement as educators.
  • It is critical to remember the fundamental essentials of teaching and the current approaches to best teaching practices.
  • Teaching is not all about the teacher talking 100%, nor is teaching hovering over students 100% of the time. Not if classroom management, instructional strategies, and student engagement are aligned.
  • In order to grow professionally, we should also grow personally.

I was recently asked to develop an outline representing my vision for a school, a vision meant to promote faculty professional development. Time frame? 1 week. So to the white board I went and started writing through my stream of consciousness. Ideas. Thoughts. Arrows. Combinations. Categories. For the time being, I concluded that a vision for a strengthening faculty PD lies within the FACCT framework: Funding, Alignment, Communication, Connection, Transparency.

Vision for Faculty Professional Development

Funding: Schools should be able to fund teachers in their areas of interest. A set budget a year before is limiting. Get someone to write the grants.

  • Grants
  • Bring in outside resources
  • Conference/Workshop/Convention Attendance

Alignment: Instruction should be aligned with the school’s graduation outcomes and the school’s mission. What’s the point in having them if they are not consciously brought to the forefront?

  • Instruction
  • Graduation Outcomes
  • Mission

Communication – Bring out the voices. Developing faculty professions is not and should not be a top-down approach. PD is not one-size-fits-all. Can teachers enhance their development to bring out the interest of the school? Yes. But teachers need to embrace their personal interests as well, so ask them what they want, too.

  • Faculty
    • What do department chairs envision?
    • What do individual faculty want to learn?
    • ADDIE; UbD; Bloom
    • Pedagogy
    • Visions of school
  • Counseling
    • Learning Resource Specialist
  • Learning Commons Resources
    • Research
    • Technology
  • Technology Coordinator
    • Technology can be scary. It can be intimidating. What we need is to be fearless. – LeVar Burton, CUE14
  • Cross-curricular
  • Parents
    • School policies – grading

Connection – teachers need to learn from each other; share ideas with each other; be humble when stuck.

  • Inter- and intra department
  • What is everyone doing?
  • Make PD daily and random
  • Tweet – action pics, whiteboard brainstorms

Transparency: Don’t be afraid to show off all of your teachers; motivate and inspire; like students, teachers, too, will want to perform if someone other than the administration is seeing their abilities.

  • Show parents/audience how the school supports PD
  • Post PD processes on website
    • Faculty
    • School
  • Current resources
    • Forms
    • Evaluation templates
  • Exemplary portfolios
    • Share on teacher profile page
    • Marketing
    • Showcase the faculty
    • Be proud of what happens on campus and in classrooms
  • Blog
    • Once a month = 8-9 times a school year
    • 4 CCSS
    • 4 Graduation Outcomes
    • Incorporate Mission
  • Teachers self-track and self-evaluate progress – ongoing; not strictly scheduled