New resources help blended learning teachers

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Oct 16, 2014

Today, a growing number of schools across the United States and around the world are starting to experiment with blended learning. Leaders at these schools recognize how blended learning can help them personalize instruction in order to meet their students’ individual learning needs. Nevertheless, many schools that are “going blended” face a common challenge of not knowing how to train and coach their teachers as they implement this new form of learning. Given this common challenge, it was exciting to see the recent release of two new resources for supporting blended learning teachers.

The first is Education Elements’ Blended Learning Teacher Rubric. Education Elements is a company that helps schools develop and implement blended learning strategies, and the people at Education Elements developed this rubric through their work with thousands of teachers from schools around the country. The rubric categorizes important blended learning practices into five domains (classroom culture, classroom management, planning and delivery, assessment and analysis, and classroom technology) and then describes specific behaviors of successful blended learning teachers within each of those domains. Education Elements uses this rubric in its work with schools to, “help teachers create goals and self-assess their progress, and to help school leaders focus on key areas for coaching and supporting teachers.”

The second resource is iNACOL’s Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework. This framework categorizes the important competencies of blended learning teachers into four categories (mindsets, qualities, adaptive skills, and technical skills) and then lists specific standards that describe the behaviors and thought patterns that characterize those competencies. The authors of the framework developed it by reviewing the available academic literature on blended teaching and by drawing on the expertise of a working committee of blended learning educators and thought leaders. (In full disclosure, I was a member of the working committee.)

One important theme that is common in both of these resources is that good teaching in a blended learning environment is not qualitatively different from good teaching in other settings. The Education Elements rubric states: “In many cases, the skillset for good blended learning teaching resembles what it takes to be a great traditional classroom teacher, but requires a shift in mindset, focus and a set of incremental skills.” Similarly, the iNACOL framework says: “Great blended learning builds upon a foundation of expert, in-person teaching. The competencies presented here are not novel; the majority of skills and approaches blended educators need are the same as those connected to effective traditional instruction.”

As the field of blended learning continues to advance, these new resources should provide a great starting point for teachers and school leaders as they think about how to define and support good teaching in their specific blended-learning implementations.

Thomas’ research focuses on the changing roles of teachers in blended-learning environments and other innovative educational models. He also examines how teacher education and professional development are shifting to support the evolving needs of teachers and school systems.