One of our values at Growing Leaders is to play a role in enabling administrators and faculty to lead their schools and classes well. As John Maxwell has said for years: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Yesterday, I posted Part One of a blog series that looked at what’s hindering Education from working well. Today, I’d like to look at a major solution by discussing the realistic shift teachers can immediately make to improve student engagement and learning.
The solution has everything to do with combining on-line and in-class pedagogy. The shift, however, has everything to do with the idea of “control.”
When she introduced Khan Academy videos and quizzes to her sixth-grade math students, Suney Park had to “give up control.” At a Blended Learning in K-12 conference at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, she admitted, “That’s hard.”
But the software lets her students work at their own level and their own pace, moving on only when they’ve mastered a lesson. More are reaching proficiency, says Park, who teaches at Eastside College Prep, a tuition-free private school in all-minority, low-income East Palo Alto, California.
“I’ll never go back,” Park said.
Before she tried blended learning, she struggled to “differentiate” instruction for students at different levels. “You can try it, but you can’t sustain it,” she said. “Teaching to the middle is the only way to survive.” Now, her advanced students aren’t working on a task devised to “keep them out of the way.” They’re moving ahead. In fact, every student is working at his/her own pace.
Blended learning is taking off, said Michael Horn, co-founder of the Christensen Institute. It has the potential to “disrupt” the “factory model” of education. If students are practicing skills on their tablets, the teacher can be a small group discussion leader, coach, project organizer, counselor, curriculum planner, or . . . who knows? If students are learning at their own pace, should they be organized into “grades” based on age?
To be clear, just because a school is doing blended learning doesn’t mean it’s any good, especially if it’s managed poorly. If Implemented well, however, it does provide the opportunity for students to “own” their education, which is a major challenge in K-12 education. Schools must move from a “push the content down to the student” model to an “invite the student to pace their own learning” model. And blended learning seems to help.
If you’re an educator, let me ask you a few questions:
- Are you a control freak? Are you open to trying new methods like this?
- Would you be willing to “blend” class time with screen time?
- Is your class experience about you and your career, or is it about the student?
This is a paramount issue. We’ve got to figure it out. Comments anyone?