As we’ve expanded our work to reach more than 50 schools across the country, we continue to seek input from our partners about their experience implementing blended learning. Gestalt Community Schools in Memphis, Tennessee, recently shared with us some thoughts and we want to share their comments, verbatim, with our broader community.
For those who don’t know the Gestalt Community Schools, they are an outstanding set of charter schools that believe in building better communities through education; They are achieving excellent results for their students who mainly hail from low-income communities. Innovation abounds at Gestalt’s middle and high schools where students and teachers are using a rotational blended learning model that focuses on closing skill deficits in literacy and numeracy. In this model, students rotate through 3 learning stations: The first is direct instruction from the teacher, the second is guided practice in small groups, and the third is independent digital practice prescribed by the classroom teacher.
What we love to hear is how teachers explain blended learning in their own words. So, we decided to ask teachers in the Gestalt Community Schools network the following question: If you were explaining Blended Learning to a colleague who had never heard of Blended Learning before, how would you explain it? Although each teacher described blended learning in a slightly different way, three themes arose across all comments:
2. Data Driven Instruction
3. Multiple Modalities
We were happy to hear these themes expressed by the teachers because they mirror our view that differentiation and data-driven instruction are two of the essential attributes of a successful blended classroom. We also believe that when digital curriculum is integrated into the classroom alongside teacher-led, small group instruction and project-based learning, kids can benefit from learning from multiple modalities.
- Theme 1: Differentiation
“I would say that Blended Learning is when a teacher divides the class in such a way that the students are getting more individualized attention to master the necessary skills.” – High School Writing Composition & Literature Teacher, Power Center Academy High School
“I enjoy blended learning because it awards an opportunity to relate to every scholar better in the learning community.” – 6th Grade Reading Teacher, Gordon Science and Arts Academy
“Fully integrating technology as part of the learning process. Using technology alongside traditional teaching practices enables more differentiation to happen so scholars are met where they have needs and the content and intervention systems help to continually address learning gaps.” – 6th Grade Math Teacher, Gordon Science and Arts Academy
- Theme 2: Data Driven Instruction
“I would explain that it was a system of teaching that allowed for differentiated instruction within one classroom. It would be focused on data-driven small-group instruction targeting specific scholars and their particular needs.” – 7th Grade Reading Teacher, Power Center Academy Middle School
- Theme 3: Multiple Modalities
“Blended learning is a system that seeks to allow students to tackle material in as many ways as possible through the use of differentiated stations.” – High School US History, Power Center Academy High School
“Blended learning is a way to reach students of all levels in the classroom. It gives students the opportunity to grow independently as well as gain confidence from direct instruction in a small group setting. In the classroom blended learning can be set up many different ways. As long as there are multiple stations covering a topic in different ways (i.e. direct instruction, independent work, group work) you are engaging in blended learning. Blended learning can also come in handy when there are students in your class who are ready to move on to a new topic and some students who need more practice with the present topic.” 9th Grade Special Education Teacher, Power Center Academy High School
It was great to hear from this set of Gestalt teachers doing pioneering work in blended learning. As the field of blended learning continues to grow, innovate and evolve, we look forward to hearing from you about your experiences and best practices. We’d like to hear from you. Tell us how you define blended learning. Please share with us via comment on our blog or on our Facebook page.