The Learning Accelerator Blog/Learning from the Masters: BetterLesson Selects 11 Outstanding Blended Learning Teachers

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Learning from the Masters: BetterLesson Selects 11 Outstanding Blended Learning Teachers

by Beth Rabbitt on September 22 2014

In talking with teachers and leaders on the ground, we’ve been told time and time again that nothing beats getting to see a peer demonstrate how blended learning works in the classroom. The problem is, though, that because blended learning is such a new practice, most teachers lack really experienced peers from which to learn. Most schools and districts are starting from scratch and don’t necessarily have a critical mass of teachers that others can observe and take ideas from. Those that do face the challenge of needing to rely on their few experienced teachers repeatedly. There is a real need for a more sustainable, authentic way to show teachers across the world what the very best blended learning teachers are doing with students in real environments.

Given this, one of the earliest human capital investments we made at The Learning Accelerator (TLA) was to BetterLesson to tackle the challenge. We funded the organization to recruit, work with, and capture the practice of a cohort of the top blended learning teachers in the country. These Master Teachers (“MTs”) would serve not only as examples of blended teaching in action, but also act as critical peers to each other as they worked together to innovate and iterate in their classrooms. Throughout the academic year, BetterLesson would capture the MT’s practice not only through video, but through other artifacts, like lesson plans, assignments, commentaries, and reflections and then find ways to share them online so any teacher, anywhere, would have a resource to turn to in their own development.

As we kicked off the project last spring, we began to wonder where we would find these Master Teachers. Perhaps more critically, assuming we found them, would they let us into their classrooms to share their success and challenges broadly?

As it turns out (and thankfully for us!) the answer was yes. BetterLesson selected 11 outstanding teachers from a talented group of over 170 teachers. They’re a really talented bunch, having survived four rounds of rigorous interviews, performance tasks, and screenings. They also represent a diverse cross-section of the teaching force in terms of subject areas taught and location and types of schools they work in.

BetterLesson has posted more info on the process and selected teachers, but here are a few facts about the group:

  • Geographically, they hail from urban and rural regions across the country. MTs are joining from California, Florida, Montana, New York, and Washington, DC.
  • They work in a variety of public school types, with approximately half coming from district schools and half coming from charters. Five teach in elementary school, two teach in middle school, and four teach high school.
  • Subjects taught include math, English Language Arts, social studies, history, science, and special education.
  • Seven of the eleven MTs identify as teachers of color.
  • Roughly half of the MTs, including a selected teacher team, work in fully blended schools or content areas, but the other half are working in self-designed blended classrooms in traditional school settings.

So what’s next for these chosen MTs? They’re already hard at work, meeting together online and beginning to capture and share some early tools and resources. The BetterLesson team, led by Jeff Liberty, is providing support and coaching as well as filming the MTs in action. The team will be bringing the cohort together in Denver in November, when they’ll get the opportunity to visit schools, hear from experts, and, most importantly, talk to and learn from each other. In January, all of this early work will go live on the BetterLesson website, ready to be accessed (for free) by thousands of practitioners nationally who will be able to join the community to check out the videos and resources, reflect, engage, and help us all push the work to the next level.

So, to close, it’s going to be quite an exciting journey. We couldn’t have a better team of pioneering teachers in the lead.

About the Author

Beth Rabbitt is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator. Email comments to beth.rabbitt@learningaccelerator.org, and follow Beth @bethrabbitt.