All Teachers Are New Teachers in Blended Learning

This post is the fifth in a seven-post series exploring the practices of leading blended learning practitioners across the country. The blog series comes in conjunction with the release of five detailed case studies on blended learning operators written by FSG with support from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. This particular post explains how the role of the teacher is changed within a blended learning model, a change that has implications for professional development, school leadership, and of course learning.  

When Alliance College-Ready Public Schools launched Blended Learning for Alliance School Transformation (BLAST) at three high schools in 2011 and 2012, we were confident that the integration of technology into our college preparatory curriculum would help us individualize instruction for all students. What we didn’t fully appreciate was the impact of this powerful model on teachers at every level of experience.

Once the year began, we quickly discovered that the demands of blended learning essentially transformed all teachers into novices. We saw that teachers with more experience often faced steep learning curves as they struggled to unlearn certain ingrained habits and practices, and that true first year teachers were just as likely to develop effective blended learning practices as those with more years in the classroom.

What must teachers “relearn” in a blended learning model?
In our blended learning classrooms, students spend roughly two-thirds of their time working independently or in small groups with other students. The one-third of the time students work directly with the teacher is focused on reinforcing what they learn independently, filling in gaps where needed and participating in deeper, teacher-led discussions about the subject matter. In other words, BLAST fundamentally changed the relationship of the teacher to students. BLAST teachers’ roles morphed from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.” When each child is able to learn at his or her own pace, teachers have little choice but to let go of the idea that all students must be doing the same thing at the same time.

And while that may sound like a less demanding role than that of omniscient lecturer, teachers quickly discovered otherwise. With students in the same class working on different projects and progressing at their own pace, teachers had to plan out multiple lessons in advance, at a minimum one week and often further ahead, so that those students capable of moving faster through the material were able to do so.

What new skills are required by blended learning?

These “flipped” classrooms place a variety of new demands on teachers, ranging from classroom management skills to facility with digital content tools – with a particular focus on analyzing and using the real-time data about what students are and aren’t learning each day.

Click to read the rest of this post on the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation website.

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