Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Blended Learning: What Does the Research Say?

Though such approaches as blended learning, flipped classrooms, and personalized learning are unfamiliar to the current generation of parents, they are generally intrigued about the potential of melding educational technology and face-to-face learning. Parents often ask about research or data that support these innovative approaches – and rightly so. With this in mind, I was pleased to read a recent report in Educational Leadership that provides an overview on this topic.

According to Bryan Goodwin and Kirsten Miller, the writers of “Evidence on Flipped Classrooms Is Still Coming In,” “to date there’s no scientific base to indicate exactly how well flipped classrooms work. But some preliminary nonscientific data suggest that flipping the classroom may produce benefits.” In a flipped classroom model, new material is studied at home (often using online resources), while activities traditionally completed as homework are done at school, allowing students more time to interact with their peers and the teacher during class. Surveys conducted by The Flipped Learning Network, which now reports 9,000 teachers as being members of its social media site, indicate that two-thirds of teachers using the flipped classroom reported increased test scores, 80% reported an improvement in students’ attitude towards learning, and virtually all these teachers plan on continuing to use the flipped classroom in the coming year.

Other observational benefits of having lectures posted online relate to teachers having more time to provide individual support and feedback to students within the classroom. Ongoing assessment and a viable social-emotional connection with students are two areas often cited as key elements of an effective learning experience.

One area of data gathering that may prove important in supporting blended learning and the flipped classroom is the research of Professor John Hattie. His Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, a 15-year study involving millions of students, is considered to be the largest study thus far on the factors that improve student learning. According to Hattie, great improvements in learning occur when students become their own teachers and are provided with opportunities to self-direct their learning, which is a fundamental element of blended learning. By setting goals, through self-teaching and self-assessment, students become more responsible, and presumably more accountable for their learning.

Gathering data on the impact of our blended learning courses on student learning is an important part of moving forward with this approach at Greenwood. Currently, we use student surveys to gauge student engagement with the approach. Next fall, we plan on launching 10 new blended learning courses. In order to gauge the impact of this initiative, we will continue to examine how we can measure effectively the impact of this approach on student learning.

Allan Hardy

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