Blended Learning: My Fear for the Future

Jenn BreisacherBlog, Engage Better, Lesson Plan Better, Tech Better

TL;DR:

  • It is important that educators don’t mistake the model of learning in the past year as true blended learning.
  • When blended learning is implemented properly, educator stress levels will decrease and student success levels will increase.

I began teaching with a blended learning approach before anybody really knew what it was. I had always been intrigued by flipping my classroom, and it was already very hands-on by design. But it was not until my later years of teaching that I really understood what a blended model was and why it was so beneficial in the classroom. Fast forward to fall 2020. Most schools said they were going to be teaching with a blended learning approach or a hybrid model of education for the school year.

On one hand, I was extremely excited to see this. I knew from my own teaching and from seeing the success of those teachers that I was training that the blended model in the classroom was doing leaps and bounds better from every datapoint than traditional models in the classroom.

Once you implement this model in your classroom, your stress level will be significantly decreased, you will actually have more time in your day, and your student success levels will go through the roof. - Jenn Breisacher Click To Tweet

However, my worst fears were recognized when I saw school district after school district were calling what they were asking their teachers to do a “blended learning” approach when it was anything but.

Teaching some kids while they were in the classroom and some kids on a screen at the same time, or having some work in the classroom and while others did extended homework at home, or flip-flopping between being in school or being virtual, and every other possible scenario that was concocted, was anything but true blended learning.

Just as in spring 2020, the 2020-2021 school year quickly morphed back into “crisis learning.” While not everybody was fully virtual and trying to manage that beast (even though some people were), most teachers that I spoke with were some variation of having some students in the classroom and some who were virtual. And they were not getting any formalized training on what the blended learning approach actually is or how to do it correctly.

Blended learning is actually easier to implement in the classroom when it is done appropriately. Student engagement and achievement are beyond your wildest dreams when this model is implemented correctly. The problem is that most districts did not explain to teachers what this actually looks like. For a teacher with no knowledge, they try their darndest to recreate what goes on in a traditional classroom to a model that is partially digital. This is absolutely ludicrous and does not work.

Here is the thing: this discrepancy in training is probably because so many administrators did not know what the blended learning approach looks like either.

Even though it is quite the buzzword in educational circles, there’s not much mainstream teaching out there that embraces this model of instruction on a large scale.

Ironically enough, this is exactly what I train my teacher students to do in a regular classroom (and I was doing well before there was a global pandemic). This is why most of the participants in my program were not struggling throughout all this craziness of the past year of school.

Is it difficult? Absolutely. Is it sustainable? Absolutely not. However, it is manageable if you have the right tools and explanations on how to make it work.

Here is my biggest fear. The concept of the blended learning approach, to begin with, seems somewhat foreign to many teachers. It is not necessarily how we were taught to teach, but it works really well for the students we currently have in our classrooms. But, with the 2020-2021 school year being referred to as blended learning, when it was anything but, there is going to make an exorbitant number of teachers who hear the term “blended learning” and have a physically ill reaction to it. This school year has been beyond difficult. But what we are doing is not blended learning. Again, it is crisis learning.

I am so afraid that when school goes back to normal, or whatever the new normal is, teachers are going to do everything in their power to try to forget everything that happened this year.

On one hand, I get it. This was extremely difficult, trying, and brought many people to the brink. Burnout is at an all-time high. And many people are questioning whether they want to stay in the profession.

On the other hand, those who were truly trained in how blended learning works and how to do it appropriately found ways to get around some of the pitfalls and hardships of teaching during the school year. While not sustainable as I mentioned, there are so many opportunities to use some of the tools and techniques from this experience and make the classroom 100% better moving forward.

But if someone didn’t receive that proper training and they think this crazy mess that they’ve been going through is “blended learning,” they are never going to want to hear that term again, let alone try it properly.

This worries me on so many levels because again and again, I see that the children that are in our classrooms today perform at much higher levels when they are in a blended, student-led classroom environment. If teachers close off their minds and think that what they were doing is, in fact, this model of instruction, not only are they wrong, but things are not going to get better.

I wrote an article called “The Secret to Successful Blended Learning” that explained all of the ins and outs of blended learning. During summer 2020, I did a free training series that helped to break down how to do this. There is a video within the article that condenses that multi-day training into 45 minutes to begin to understand the basics.

Many of the teachers who participated in the training series decided to join me in my program to help them manage this school year and beyond.

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Those who completed the program as designed have come forward with glowing administrative reviews, classrooms that are fully engaged, and an entire arsenal of teaching tools—tools they didn’t have before and that they plan to use again and again in the future.

Again, I don’t want such an incredible classroom experience for both teachers and students to be soured by the thought that what everybody was doing in the classroom was a blended learning approach. It was not. And I promise you if you give it a fair opportunity, and actually learn what it is and how it works, you will find that once you implement this model in your classroom, your stress level will be significantly decreased, you will actually have more time in your day, and your student success levels will go through the roof.


About Jenn Breisacher

Jenn Breisacher started her teaching journey in 2007. She graduated Cum Laude with her BA from Monmouth University with dual majors in both History and Education. Throughout her tenure of teaching, she taught in both an affluent, academically charged district and also a Title I, technical CTE school.

Through her own research and both trial and (lots of) error, she was able to make the transition from a 100% teacher-led classroom to a 100% student-led one, with her final years encompassing a blended learning model (including teaching a course that was fully hybrid).

While managing this, Jenn also started a family and received her Master of Science degree in Public Service Leadership from Capella University.

After falling in love with giving workshops to other teachers and finding it her calling to help students outside of the walls of her own classroom, Jenn founded Student-Centered World in 2018 with the goal to help every teacher create a fully engaged classroom, in turn reducing teacher stress, reclaiming teacher time, and increasing student success.