Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning with some element of student control over time, place, path, and pace. Students should also learn in part within a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home, where each student’s learning path within a course or subject is connected to provide an integrated learning experience.
The blended learning model contains pillars focusing on the design or creation of learning environments and lessons. Pillars include but are not limited to data-driven instruction, personalized learning, student agency, relationships, rigor, and relevance. Each subsequent strategy supports at least one or more of the pillars.
Using models like backward design, a teacher can easily identify the appropriate structure of a blended learning lesson. Teachers should identify the desired results, determine acceptable evidence, and then plan the learning experience. Not every strategy aligns with the outcomes you seek, so choose carefully. Also, remember that the learning task may necessitate some prerequisite skills for students to succeed. Use caution when estimating the readiness of your students to complete a task independently.
5 Powerful Blended Learning Strategies
1. Utilize goal setting. When goals are cocreated with students, they are more likely to commit and achieve success. Students who set goals, identify specific actions to reach them, and track their progress toward those goals have greater agency and will have the skills to help them succeed throughout life. Teachers who plan regular cycles of one-to-one conferences with students to monitor progress and goal achievement are highly successful.
A best practice for goal setting is focusing on one or two goals at a time so that students and teachers can manage them easily. A well-written goal is specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant, and has an element of time length.
This strategy supports the blended learning pillars of personalized learning, student agency, relationships, rigor, and relevance.
2. Apply standards mastery mapping. Standards mastery mapping is closely tied to goal setting, and student benefits are maximized when they are used together. For example, when discussing with individual students about their progress, a visual representation is a powerful tool to see if they are progressing in a skill area or need to redouble their efforts in another. Similar to an “I can” tracker but organized by standard, this strategy can be digital or on paper.
Allowing students to take part in maintaining the map is a way to support accountability and agency. Standards mapping can take on a variety of scopes, such as a range of individual micro skills out to the broader concepts in a unit.
Depending on the maturity of your students and their readiness to comprehend levels of analysis, customize your maps based on need and effectiveness. Some maps include a bar graph with percentages where students can track their progress by coloring in progress as they grow. Another effective component of mastery mapping is allowing the student to reflect on their performance.
This strategy supports the blended learning pillars of data-driven instruction, personalized learning, student agency, rigor, and relevance.
3. Provide pre- and post-testing with real-time feedback. Providing a pre- or post-test with real-time feedback can be as simple as a Google Form using the feedback feature after every question; the student will see a canned response indicating if they were correct or not. More-sophisticated assessment platforms, such as Raz-Kids or DreamBox Learning, can provide real-time feedback through adaptive software, which offers a customized learning pathway.
The power to address misconceptions immediately is ideal, albeit rare and sometimes expensive. Pre- and post-assessment allows teachers to identify specific needs and prioritize each student’s instructional time. Educators who teach the same content and grade level from year to year have insight into the challenging skills within each unit. When coupled with individual data that pertains to current comprehension, lesson design is even more informed. Online tools give students and teachers immediate feedback.
Real-time, specific, and accurate feedback helps teachers identify and reteach needs and allows students to own their learning by tracking their progress and identifying their strengths and weaknesses. The pre- and post-assessment strategy combined with standards mastery mapping and goal setting creates a trifecta of powerful teaching. Start with one and add another deliberately and strategically.
This strategy supports the blended learning pillars of data-driven instruction, personalized learning, and student agency.
4. Introduce choice boards and menus. Essential considerations for choice boards and menus are tasks that students can choose from or paths they can take to arrive at a similar destination as all other classmates. They may or may not be digital and should include online and offline activities. Based on the outcomes you want your students to produce, the choice board should take a unique form to enable differentiation and personalization for all levels of mastery.
Choice boards and menus allow teachers to organize instructional materials for students to access at any time or place and have some control over their path and pace. The distinguishing feature of choice boards is the flexibility to engage in learning tasks satisfying students’ interests and readiness. Some tasks may be required, while others may be optional or extension activities.
This strategy supports the blended learning pillars of personalized learning, student agency, rigor, and relevance.
5. Establish peer tutoring. When students verbalize, they internalize. In the right classroom conditions, peer tutoring is an effective teaching practice. Considerations for successful peer tutorials include protocols, explicit expectations, and potentially modeling what an effective tutoring session is.
Also, teachers must strategically pair students based on several key variables, such as personality, mastery level, and readiness to participate and contribute. This strategy has the potential to support a variety of student needs that can lead to a high degree of success and growth, but it can also be a source of extreme frustration if not planned and implemented correctly.
Some benefits of peer tutoring include reinforcing concepts, providing leadership opportunities, and building confidence. Recipient students may learn new ways of solving problems from peers. Students benefit from pragmatic language and social interactions.
This strategy supports the blended learning pillars of student agency and relationships.