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The "Why" Behind Your Blended-Learning Program

Monday, June 25, 2018

Higher-Powered Learning - The Why

Do you remember the post we wrote about protecting purpose in the blended classroom? We explained that one of the most common mistakes teachers make in blended classrooms is planning activities without having a learning goal in mind for them. Teachers should resist the urge to plan activities simply so that they can increase the number of “stations” or “centers” in their classroom and focus instead on planning activities that will help students reach the learning goal for that lesson.

"There are many viable goals you can have for your blended-learning program, but you can’t have every possible goal be your goal."

But there is a related problem that comes long before teachers ever set foot in a blended classroom, and it has to do with why the school chooses to implement blended learning in the first place. Fr. Nate and I hear from school leaders or teachers all the time who are thrilled to announce that their school just purchased new carts of iPads for every classroom or Chromebooks for every student–and though some of these purchases are extremely intentional and purposeful, most are not. Instead, when we ask the leaders or teachers what motivated them to buy this new technology and how they plan to measure the success of their investment, they rarely have a response beyond that the technology will help their students acquire 21st-century learning skills (whatever that means).

On the flip side, schools can have the opposite problem of wanting to do way too much with their technology as well. Sometimes we ask a school why they want to implement more technology, and their rationale consists of a mile-long list of every benefit blended learning could ever possibly offer. Unfortunately, having a laundry list of vague goals for the program may be just as unhelpful as having no goal whatsoever. In the end, both situations lead to a school implementing technology or blended learning simply for the sake of doing so.

There are many viable goals you can have for your blended-learning program, but you can’t have every possible goal be your goal. When it comes to articulating the “why” behind your blended-learning program, we urge you to determine one or two very specific goals for the program and determine how you will know whether or not you met these goals.

For example, many schools say that they want to use blended learning to meet the needs of all their students, including those far below and far above grade level. A metric of success for this goal, then, might be that every student meets his or her projected growth (or that every student grows at least as much as he or she is supposed to grow in that year). Attaching that metric of success makes the goal far more concrete and gives the school a sense of what they will have to change in order to reach this goal.

"You will never be able to design a truly successful blended-learning program if you don’t know what “success” means to you."

Are most students already meeting projected growth but the highest-achieving students in the class are not? Then you know that the focus of your program needs to be on your highest-achieving students, so your program design may include more rigorous project-based learning opportunities or an accelerated course of study for small groups of students.

Or do the majority of students fail to meet their projected growth year after year in math? Then the first year of your blended-learning program may want to focus specifically on that subject and expand from there.

You will never be able to design a truly successful blended-learning program if you don’t know what “success” means to you. Just as every learning activity should be driven by the purpose behind it, every decision you make regarding your blended-learning program should be driven by your goals for it, too.

So now we want to hear from you: what are your goals for your blended-learning program and what metrics do you use to measure its success? Let us know in the comments below!