As districts consider at-home remote learning, socially-distanced schools, or hybrid models, school leaders and educators can use this opportunity to intentionally integrate technology into their regular instruction by utilizing principles of blended learning.
Through the Raising Blended Learners initiative, we have developed the RBL Implementation Continuum (RBL-IC) as a resource for teachers and administrators as they design student experiences for socially-distanced schools, at-home remote and hybrid learning scenarios, and plan for teacher support.1
The RBL-IC is intended to help teachers develop their capacity to implement strong blended learning classrooms, and it can guide instructional coaches and school leaders in teacher development through non-evaluative coaching and aligned professional development. The RBL-IC presents a framework of the five core elements of blended learning and provides a progression of instructional strategies aligned with each component of the blended experience. Utilizing the RBL-IC can build a strong foundation around blended learning and embed new practices more deeply in classroom, school, and district cultures.
The RBL-IC identifies and defines core elements of a blended learning student experience, and presents common implementation strategies teachers deploy to realize the envisioned blended experience. The framework is built around two organizing constructs: Pillars and Strategies.
1. Assessment and Data-Driven Instruction
2. Personalized Instruction
3. Student Agency
The RBL-IC is intended to support teachers’ progress over time as they learn, reflect, and refine the student experience in their classrooms. Each strategy has a corresponding continuum that describes shifts in teacher and student behaviors. Strategies evolve from a beginning stage through developing, practicing, and finally, achieving.
In this example, implementing Differentiated Learning Objectives within the Personalized Instruction pillar moves from the beginning to achieving continuum with incremental steps. The ultimate goal is the following teacher-facing statement: “I almost always design learning objectives that are differentiated to facilitate progress for different groups of students based on students’ level of mastery. I make sure the lessons are engaging and challenging for all students.”
Students are offered a variety of learning opportunities to master standards according to differentiated learning objectives dependent on students’ level of mastery, and frequently receive individual feedback about their progress.
Educators need time to learn the purpose of the RBL-IC and practice using it to improve instruction. Educators will most likely need one or more thoughtful training sessions on the rubric and principles of blended learning before fully integrating the tool into observation and coaching cycles.
As with most rubrics of this type, the ideal use is for teaching teams, including instructional coaches, to adopt and integrate this rubric in existing cycles of instructional observation and improvement. Ideally, the coaching cycles are non-evaluative and should gather evidence that demonstrates where teachers fall on their developing continuum. The goal of these observations is to identify specific evidence of how teachers have utilized the blended pillars and strategies, and conversations should guide the next steps a teacher might take to improve blended implementation. For districts with no existing coaching process, the RBL-IC might provide an opportunity to pilot the development of a short-cycle teacher coaching and development protocol to support a group of blended learning teachers.
Supporting and developing teachers during COVID-specific learning environments will require educators to consider new approaches, especially when large gatherings of in-person professional development might not be feasible and in-person instructional coaching cycles are adjusted, reduced, or temporarily halted.
While the RBL-IC was created for use in a blended environment, the progression of these pillars and strategies helps build teachers’ expertise in transferable skill sets that are directly applicable to at-home remote learning and in-person socially distanced schools. The RBL-IC could be introduced through professional development to develop a shared understanding of the tool, unify around a common vision for blended learning, and create norms for use if instructional coaching protocols are interrupted. Coaching practices utilizing the RBL-IC can be adapted for at-home or socially distanced settings, where teachers might be invited to submit videos of various aspects of in-person and/or online instruction as evidence for a coach to review and discuss.
In addition to coaching discussions, the RBL-IC can also be used for individual self-reflection, or among a team of teachers willing to serve as learning partners. Teachers can self-identify where they fall on the rubric, provide related artifacts as evidence, and list concrete next steps to push toward the next level of practice. Colleagues can respond with concrete feedback and suggestions to support the teacher’s growth, offering real-time support in areas where they are further along on the continuum. Interacting as learning partners in this way not only supports the development of individual teachers but also helps build consensus around strong blended classroom practices across grade levels teams, vertical teams, and campus cultures.
As our educators are faced with unprecedented challenges this fall, it is crucial we provide them with the resources and training needed to best support our students. The RBL-IC is a valuable resource that promotes blended learning strategies, provides a framework for adapting instruction for a variety of learning environments, and encourages collaborative growth and improvement.
01. The Teacher Perspective: Why Does Blended Learning Work? ➔
02. Educators Should Focus on 3 Blended Learning Fundamentals in 2020-21 ➔
03. A Blended Learning Coaching Tool ➔
04. Using Strong Data Culture to Create Effective COVID-19 Instruction ➔
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