The Learning Accelerator Blog/What does it take to teach in a blended learning school?

What does it take to teach in a blended learning school?

by Beth Rabbitt on August 30 2013

At The Learning Accelerator, we firmly believe that people are a (if not the most) critical component to innovation and improvement in schools. Given this, we've been thinking a lot about ways to support staff, particularly teachers, as districts transition to blended learning models.

As a first step in identifying our human capital strategy, we're having tons of conversations with practitioners, leaders, and thought-partners. We've been asking a lot of questions, including:

  • What is the nature of changing educator roles in blended learning, particularly given increased pedagogical emphasis on personalized learning, mastery-based progression, and infusion of technology?
  • What are the competencies - motives, traits, self-­concepts, values, knowledge, and skills - teachers and other instructional personnel need to perform in these roles?
  • How can we identify and/or create critical supports, such as training and professional development resources, that will help educators build these competencies?

While our work is still in early stages, and there's much still to be learned, these conversations about what it takes to be a terrific blended learning educator make it clear that support needs to go far beyond building technology skills. We've developed an emerging framework for thinking about educator competencies and have identified four areas we think are essential for success in any blended learning school:

  • Mindset: Core values or beliefs that guide thinking, behaviors, and actions and align with goals of educational change and mission, such as growth-orientation, urgency, role awareness, and vision for equity.
  • Qualities: Personal characteristics and patterns of behavior that help an educator make the transition to new ways of teaching and learning, like grit, transparency, and flexibility.
  • Adaptive Skills: Generalizable, transferable skills that apply to across roles and subject areas. These skills are complex; they help practitioners tackle new tasks or develop solutions in situations that require organizational learning and innovation. For example, collaboration, problem solving, and goal setting.
  • Technical Skills: Domain-specific expertise (or "know-how") that educators used to execute against the known tasks in their jobs. For educators, these include skills like data practices, technology proficiency, and specific instructional strategies.

Our thinking here is just a starting point, and we're just beginning to test some of our ideas and hypotheses with partners. We're also interested in continuing the conversation, so we've submitted a proposal to SXSWedu on just this topic.

In March, we plan to bring together some stellar panelists who are working on this problem at multiple levels - from classroom to district to region to nationally - to talk about what it takes for instructional practitioners to make the leap from more traditional teacher-centered approaches to newer models that combine awesome teaching with effective technology to make learning more personalized and student-centric. Panelists will include:

  • Deborah Ramm, a veteran elementary teacher and blended learning adopter at Johnston Public Schools in Rhode Island (@deb_ramm)
  • Shawn Rubin, a professional development expert/Director of Technology Integration at the Highlander Institute and co-founder of Metryx (@ShawnRubin)
  • Christina Jean, a blended learning field manager and instructional coach at Denver Public Schools and Janus Education Alliance
  • Beth Rabbitt, a partner and the leader of human capital work at The Learning Accelerator (@BethRabbitt)

The session will be lively and interactive, and we hope to bring in a lot of audience perspectives to fuel the discussion and push thinking. We'll be sharing our lessons learned on the blog, but perhaps you can join us for the conversation too? We'd love to engage with you and hear your own ideas!

Interested in learning more, or want to support our idea? Check out our panel proposal, and give us some feedback and as well as a "thumbs up" on SXSWedu's PanelPicker site by September 6th.

About the Author

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