Teachers Express Their Concerns about Blended Learning

July 8, 2015

 

Contributor: 
Renae Abboud
Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - 2:00pm

Blended learning implementation in the education space is gaining momentum all over the globe—yet teachers have varying degrees of comfort with this innovative model of instruction. As we transition to new education models, it is important to be cognizant that some teacher’ are apprehensive about these changes. Administrators who understand the teachers’ concerns can personalize professional development and consulting needs to address the essential instructional component in blended learning. In other words, in is important to personalizing instruction for our teachers just as we expect them to do for our students.

Surveying Educators on Blended Learning

A little more than a year ago, I was asked to present at an education technology conference in Hawaii. My overarching goal was to create a collaborative atmosphere where I could work with educators to design the structure of blended classrooms to meet the needs of the diverse populations in their region. To ensure that we had common language, I started my presentation by asking the audience what they thought blended and personalized learning meant.

As I expected, they had varying views and levels of understanding around blended learning. This gave me the opportunity to clarify definitions about various blended education models taking place around the globe.

Blended Learning Concerns

During this group discussion, I noticed a hesitant gentleman who didn’t seem to have buy-in with the blended learning trend. Rather than overlooking him, I encouraged him to share his hesitations with the hope that his negativity would not disrupt the drive for inspiration and motivation within the group. He shared his belief that blended learning was really just grouping students into levels by ability, and he didn’t understand how that would facilitate personalized learning.

Before I knew it, instead of teachers sharing their understanding of blended learning, they were now expressing their concerns and hesitations about this new instructional model. The teachers understood the value of creating a personalized learning experience for their students, but were fearful of what that meant for them as educators. Rather than continue with my planned topic for the session, I decided to use this opportunity to create a list of their main concerns and talked through them with an open mind.

I now use the airing of concerns and issues around blended learning to kick-start conversations with educators—and have seen a pattern of common concerns across the country. I have found that, by addressing educator concerns and fears upfront, I am able to dispel some of the common misconceptions about blended learning. As a result, even some of the most resistant teachers have been transformed into blended learning advocates!

Common Blended Learning Misconceptions for Educators: 

I am going to lose my job

This is the most common fear I hear from teachers. It is important to remember that blended learning requires a high level of interaction with the teacher. In a blended learning setting, the teacher is able to focus on specific student needs and provide personalized instruction, which actually allows them to work more closely with students, not less. 

With the little time I have, it is impossible to give students the one-to-one support that is expected.

This is where the technology comes in. When teachers embrace digital solutions to introduce content and concepts, they are freed up to engage with students one-to-one or in small groups. A great example of this is the station rotation model—which may be familiar to many primary grade teachers. In this type of blended classroom, the teacher creates various stations, including one that uses technology to deliver adaptive or guided instruction. At another station, the teacher provides enriched and focused instruction in another station. This type of learning environment fosters independent and peer-focused learning.

I will spend too much time redesigning everything I do. 

        

The purpose of the technology tool is to help streamline and support the instruction that a teacher once stood up to deliver. While the pedagogical differences in this model may require some initial training and changes, it’s purpose is to reduce the administrative tasks so the teacher can spend more time providing direct instruction personalized to each student’s needs. 

I can’t make blended learning work in the space that I have. 

Many people believe that to implement a blended program, you need a new space or more money to be successful, but there are many models where teachers can merely modify their existing classroom and methods. 

We do not have enough computers in our classroom. 

Not all blended learning programs require a 1:1 device; there are a number of models that can be implemented with limited resources. Schools and programs can identify the resources currently available and tailor a program that meets the school’s budget and needs. 

My demographic of students are not able to self-manage

Teachers are often shocked at how independent and self-motivated students become in a blended model. I have found that, when you create an environment of accountability and high expectations, students will not only meet those expectations, but they often will exceed them. 

 

Blended Learning Takeaways

When educators have the opportunity to voice their concerns up front, administrators are able to alleviate these worries by addressing the teachers’ issues and by providing relevant professional development. Armed with strategies and tools they can use in their classroom—and the support of school leaders—teachers can transform their classroom into a blended learning environment where they can personalize learning for their students.

As the room was emptying at the end of my session in Hawaii, one of the teachers approached me and explained that, while she knew the benefits of blended learning and the reason for the need to personalize learning for every student, she also had the same concerns as the gentleman who was brave enough to speak up about them. Although too shy to express her concerns at first, the session helped her to reverse her thinking and become more open with expressing her voice. She felt comfortable knowing she can now redirect her focus on the task of personalizing learning for her students without those blended learning fears creating reluctance.

About the Author

Renae Abboud is an education consultant at Fuel Education who works with district leaders to strategically design school and classroom models, drive program effectiveness, and help improve the validity and efficacy of education programs. Between teaching in the classroom, developing curriculum, and customizing blended learning programs for schools and school districts, Renae has more than 15 years of experience in education. She is a frequent facilitator and presenter at blended and online learning workshops and has been a speaker at many education conferences. Renae holds a Master of Education degree in instructional technology from the University of Maryland. 

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