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.


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