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5 Things You Need to Know About Blended Learning

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 by Francesca Varga & Kourtney Bradshaw-Clay

5 Things You Need to Know about Blended Learning

It seems like just yesterday we were beginning our journey with five schools in the Twin Cities. On the last day of professional development, we asked our teams to reflect on what they learned about implementing blended learning. We asked, “What is one thing you know now that you would offer to someone who is just getting started?” We received many thoughtful responses that centered around five major themes. 

Starting Small

The popular saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” rings true for many things, but it particularly pertains to our teachers starting their blended-learning journey. Teachers said they learned that implementing the model in their classrooms takes patience and needs to be tackled one step at a time. 

    • “Baby steps are okay. It took me waaaay too long to think that was okay.”
    • “Start small to go big. Focus on one thing and do that well!”
    • “Be patient with yourself by going from a slower pace to a faster pace.”

Adaptation and Growth

Our teachers learned the importance of continually adapting to changes and challenges in their blended learning classrooms. For many of our teachers, everything was brand new, from the classroom layout to blended-learning specific instructional practices. Our teachers bravely tried a number of new things until something worked with their students.

    • “You will try one thousand different things. They all have value, but you will find what works for you AND your students!”
    • “Don't be afraid to take that leap, to try new things, and to grow from what didn't work.”
    • “Blended learning is a constant work in progress.”

Data Use

HigherPoweredLearning 1aOne of the most powerful sources for growth is using data to inform instruction, as explained in this post. The software programs used in our classrooms generate data reports for teachers. These reports cover topics such as student usage (whether students are meeting their required minutes per week) and skill mastery (whether students are progressing at their appropriate level). Reports also pinpoint which students are struggling and need remediation before they move to the next skill or concept. 

Our teachers learned how to use these data points to inform their instruction this year. Incorporating the data from these reports inspired change and growth in their students. When teachers consistently track their data, they have to adapt their practices to meet student needs. Many teachers also went a step further and came up with fun ways to display, track, and celebrate data with students.

    • “Look at data to ensure scholars are making gains.”
    • “Data doesn't need to be scary."
    • “Data can also be fun!”

Protocols and Procedures 

Solid protocols and procedures are the foundation for any successful classroom — whether blended or not. A quick word of wisdom to keep in mind is “If you don’t have a plan for your students, they will have a plan for you!” Our teachers quickly learned that having a strong classroom layout and clear expectations for students were needed before rotation models like stations could even begin.

    • “Expectations need to be explicitly clear.“
    • “Physical space - this is an important tool for behavior and transitions.” 
    • “Physical space and transitions need to be implemented effectively.”

Feelings Towards Blended Learning 

Our team was thrilled to find that our teachers and leaders responded in a positive way to blended learning, resulting in transformations for their schools and classrooms! It was overwhelming in the beginning, but our fearless teachers and leaders weathered the storm and persevered through the challenges. We cannot wait to see the growth that will come as blended learning is implemented school-wide.

    • “Even apathetic teens like the blended-learning stations. There was no boredom in an 80-minute math class!”
    • “Through blended learning, you will enable your students to show so much growth through the software and small group time.”
    • “You’re just going to LOVE blended learning!”

If implementing blended learning is in the future for your own school, make sure to give your teachers time to reflect on their own growth and success. Blended learning requires transformational change and fearlessness from staff. Like any new project, it can be daunting to start, but amazing results and growth can occur with perseverance and encouragement!

If you are a blended-learning teacher, what is the one thing you would offer to someone who is starting their own journey? Post it below!

About the Author

Francesca Varga

Francesca Varga

Francesca Varga served as the Associate Program Director of Blended Learning for the Higher Powered Learning team and the Alliance for Catholic Education. 

Francesca came to ACE after teaching for nine years from Penn High School where she served as an English teacher, instructional coach, and team leader. Prior to that, she served as a high school English teacher at Schmucker Middle School and Washington High School in South Bend, Indiana, where she focused her practice serving at-risk and underrepresented populations of students.    

Francesca is originally from New Mexico and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame in English and her teaching license from Saint Mary's College. She earned her Master of Education in Curriculum and Design from Indiana Wesleyan University, and her Administrative license through Ball State University.  

Kourtney Bradshaw-Clay

Kourtney Bradshaw-Clay

Kourtney is a native of North Carolina and attended UNC for her undergrad and then moved to Baltimore to teach and attain her M.Ed. Most recently, Kourtney comes to us after teaching K-2 at KIPP One in Chicago where she has been using blended-learning methods for several years.

Along with her hard-working approach and a history of innovative tech usage for differentiation in her classroom, Kourtney brings a lower-elementary educational expertise to our HPL team.