Blended teaching integrates in-person and online instruction in order to expand learning opportunities. In other words, in a blended setting some content is taught in class whereas some is moved outside of class and into a virtual setting. But what is the best content to deliver outside of class? What should be done in class? And how much of it? What is the right amount of blend?
Today’s technologies allow us to not only use digital tools to aid teaching, but also to “flip” the traditional classroom and blend instruction for improved outcomes. Consider the Bloom’s taxonomy for a moment:
In a traditional classroom, we often focus on the bottom part of the pyramid. We present and explain new structures in the classroom and assign the tasks of applying and creating for outside of class. In a blended classroom, the traditional approach is “flipped”: students build higher order thinking skills in the classroom while learning new concepts and practicing more routine, or rote, skills at home. You might be thinking: “What about instruction? Don’t students need to learn the concepts before they apply them?” Of course! But they can do so outside the classroom using some readily available digital tools. So, what exactly could be moved outside of the classroom? The answer is any content that requires less cognitive load on the students’ part; those structures that involve only the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy – remembering and understanding. In addition, it includes content that would benefit students greatly to: hear again and again; learn in smaller, shorter chunks; and learn at their own pace. Here are a few practical examples:
- Instructional videos that explain grammar concepts in short, 1-5 minute chunks, followed by online exercises that check students’ understanding.
- Readings and listenings that students can access online, followed by vocabulary and comprehension activities.
- Videos – both TV shows and movies – that students watch at home at their own pace, followed by a discussion in class.
- Online activities with feedback that students can complete as often as they need for remediation and practice.
Finding the right balance of blending in the classroom
So, how much blending should happen in the classroom? What is the right balance? There really isn’t a formula that can be applied here. How much you want to blend your classroom really depends on your students, the language skills and concepts you teach, and the level of comfort you and your students have with technology. You might want to make your course a hybrid one in which all instruction and targeted practice happens online, and classroom time is spent on applying skills and engaging in creative, communicative activities. Or, you might want to blend only some content, choosing to explain some concepts in class and assigning online instruction as a review. If you are not comfortable with fully “flipping” your classroom, you might want to test it for only one or two lessons in order to gauge your students’ engagement and motivation, and then increase the amount of blending if you feel it is working for your students.
How does blending look in a real classroom? Are there any materials readily available that allow teachers to blend their instruction without creating more work for themselves? Absolutely! If you want to start small and blend your instruction for selected skills, you might want to find some interesting videos that your students can view at home and discuss in class. For a more blended instruction, there is a number of commercial materials available on the market that are accompanied by online supplements to facilitate blended learning. Below are a few examples from Next Generation Grammar, a contextual grammar series that is supported with digital content on MyEnglishLab. These are examples of activities that are moved outside of the classroom:
1. Grammar Coach Videos
In this exercise, students need to watch a video on the placement of gerunds in a sentence. Then they are asked to unscramble the sentences. This activity may require some students one or two viewings, while others may need four or five. If we were to do this lesson in class, explaining the placement once would not be enough for most students. However, moving this content outside the classroom allows students to work through it at their own pace and access as many times as they may need to.
Instead of reading this text in class, students read it at home and complete the vocabulary exercise. By moving this kind of exercise into the lab, students can work through the vocabulary and comprehension at their own pace through engaging and interactive activities. The following classroom lesson can then be spent on collaborative activities and discussion related to the text.
3. Student progress, feedback, and remediation
MyEnglishLab offers a flexible gradebook and diagnostic tools that allow teachers to collect student data to measure progress. Teachers can see which students are excelling and which need extra attention and practice, and they can assign additional activities online.
Here’s another example of how online and in-class complement each other in Next Generation Grammar. Notice how in class and out of class practice complement each other for more a more engaging learning experience.
Modals and Semi-Modals: Necessity in the past
Modals and Semi-Modals: Certainty in the past
|OUT OF CLASS: MyEnglishLab
||IN CLASS: Student book|
|Before beginning the chapter, students complete the What do you know? section on MyEnglishLab to see what they already know about the grammar in the chapter.||Students engage with the content in the Getting Started section through lively, communicative activities.|
|Students complete the Vocabulary Check activities on MyEnglishLab. They review and practice the vocabulary necessary for reading comprehension on the reading selection in the chapter. They also read the chapter reading and complete the comprehension task.||Students review the reading as a group, discussing the reading and comprehension questions.|
|Students watch the Grammar Coach video about modals and semi-modals and complete the activities that follow.||Students engage with contextualised activities that allow them to apply and evaluate the new structures. The teacher offers additional explanation if needed.|
|The teacher can choose to have students listen to the chapter audio at home before working with it in class.||The class listens to the chapter audio and completes the listening and interactive speaking activities that allow them to create new content using the new structures.|
|Students complete additional activities online in the Listen for it and Sounding natural sections. These activities asses grammar in context, listening comprehension, and pronunciation.|
|Linking Grammar to Writing task link grammar to the skill of writing. Students complete it before they complete the writing task in class.||Students complete the Writing task, exchanging drafts with classmates and discussing their work.|
|Student complete a review test that assesses their comprehension and mastery of the chapter’s grammar. Teachers can use the diagnostic tools on MyEnglishLab to track student progress and focus on specific student needs.|
Blended teaching delivers numerous benefits. First, it allows for more personalised learning, enabling both the advanced students and the at-risk students to work at their own pace, which reduces stress and increases retention and motivation. Secondly, blended teaching allows for more flexibility and efficiency. Moving instruction, focused practice, and homework online allows teachers to create a rich collaborative environment in class and to spend more time engaging students in interactive activities that build up their communicative and critical thinking skills. Finally, the availability of student data allows teachers to respond to students’ need more efficiently. In short, blended learning is worth the try because it increases learner autonomy and creates better learning opportunities for students, which in turn results in improved student learning outcomes.
Share your innovation for a chance to win the Pearson ELT Teacher Award
We’ve just launched a new Pearson ELT Teacher Award! Aiming to recognise and celebrate teachers, the Award is open for any English teacher who has developed innovative ways of teaching in their classrooms. You may have used technology or digital tools in unique ways or re-invented traditional tasks. The Award encourages teachers to enter who can show that their ideas are not only unique but have improved learner engagement, motivation and success.
Prizes include all-expenses paid trips to IATEL or TESOL. Deadline for entries is 1st January, 2017 so enter or nominate a teacher today!