Academic research in the field of effective practices specific to blended and online learning in K-12 classrooms is still “young,” so the lack of data to define those practices and build the resources to prepare teachers to excel when teaching in blended and online environments is not surprising. However, as the pedagogy emerges and the rate of adoption continues to grow, educators and administrators need direction in incorporating best practices of blended and online learning in K-12 environments. With the idea of furthering the field in mind, I developed two frameworks to identify standards and essential components of both blended and online instruction. Continued exposure in the field has led to a specific focus on the needs of instructors trying to implement blended instruction, as their barriers seem to be undeveloped or lacking resources for growth.
In order to meet the current demands of teachers and administrators for professional development on blended learning pedagogy, I married the framework with personalized professional development in the design of The Blended Practice Profile, a software that allows teachers to self-assess, resulting in a personalized professional development plan to improve on his or her blended learning instructional skills. The software also provides comparative data for teachers and is designed to influence national and international trends in administrator expectations of teachers in the blended learning environment. For example, reporting allows a veteran science teacher in an urban school to see how other veteran science teachers fair in comparison with pedagogical expectations across the country. Reporting features also compare teacher performance strictly by environment. For instance, how do teachers in urban compare with suburban school districts regarding blended pedagogy?
The software is linked to The Framework for Blended Instruction, which was designed and validated with the intention of providing examples of best practices to K-12 educators. Both Oliver’s Framework for Blended Instruction and The Blended Practice Profile have been tested for validity. During 2014-2015, teams representing a national sample of subject matter experts evaluated Oliver’s Framework for validity. National focus groups analyzed items from the Blended Practice Profile instrument in 2013 to establish validity, and in 2015 participant results (n=367) were also used to test the Blended Practice Profile instrument for validity. Cronbach’s alpha for the 33 blended items on the Blended Practice Profile was .95.[table “2” not found /]
The Framework for Blended Instruction is aligned to several national standards, including the International Society for Technology & Education (ISTE) Standards for Teachers, ISTE Standards for Students, the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) Standards for Professional Development of Teachers, and the iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Teaching. The Innovation Configuration Map (IC Map), which presents contextual examples of each standard, is aligned to national standards including Common Core State Standards (CCSSO), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
The Blended Profile instrument was originally designed to shed light on actual teaching practice in which “good teaching is good teaching,” whether learning takes place in a traditional classroom, entirely online or in a blended teaching environment. Interesting findings emerged while validating the instrument in national focus groups in Washington DC in 2013, where teacher participation was voluntary. Some of these results are shared here while the results in their entirety will be shared in the upcoming special issue of the Journal of Online Learning Research.
When testing for item clarity for consistent interpretation, teachers were asked to identify from examples of traditional, blended and online instruction, all of which were rich examples of pedagogy from each environment phrased using an Ipsative design (a methodology where each response selection for participants is a positive choice with no negative connotations), the response that most closely aligned with their teaching practice. Focus group participants became exceedingly frustrated and began searching for responses that fit the blended pedagogy. Comments supported that the participants were selecting blended learning pedagogy because it was most socially desirable. For example, participants stated that “there is a lot of pressure from my principal to teach blended, even though I don’t really know how to do it.”
Additionally, participants were particularly interested to know how their implementation practices of blended learning compared to those of others in similar teacher settings. This interest wasn’t necessarily one of competition. Rather, the participants wanted to know how their implementation compared to others in the field so they could gauge their own adoption and practice as the implementation of blended learning increases in K-12 education.
Participants felt expectations for implementing blended learning with their students were the same regardless of teaching environment or setting. A teacher in an urban environment shared that she is held to the same standard as a teacher in a suburban environment even though stakeholder and student access to technology are very different. There was clearly a need for a diagnostic instrument that allowed teachers to compare their practice to others with similar experience and in a similar teaching environment.
Dr. Wendy Oliver is interested in furthering the research in the area of professional development in blended and online learning. As a result of her work thus far, she has developed a software tool that allows teachers to self-assess their skills in blended learning, resulting in a personalized professional development plan to improve their skills in blended learning instruction. One of the primary goals with the results from the survey software is to advance the body of knowledge on blended teacher practices internationally. The survey itself is offered at no charge to teachers at blendedpracticeprofile.com. Oliver is co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Online Learning and Research that will focus specifically on professional development in online and blended learning in June 2016. Contact Dr. Wendy Oliver at [email protected]