Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blending Learning at Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School

At Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School, we believe in a rigorous curriculum for our academics. This curriculum translates into a blended learning model.  Math teacher, James, discusses what this looks like at our private academy.

First of all, we should talk about definitions. Blended learning is the process of delivering some of the instructional content in a given course through technological means, typically over some online applet on computer, coupled with face-to-face instruction by a teacher or professor.

The amount of technology delivered this way can range from full online instruction with fully-graded assignments and the face-to-face being mostly optional, to largely traditional instruction with the occasional online learning resources, typically used for homework (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Blending Learning
Figure 1: Blended Learning
At Cedar Ridge Academy, we follow a blended model that sits right in the middle of the continuum. The students meet daily face-to-face with teachers, and spend significant time with those teachers covering topics where they need either differentiated or supplementary instruction.

Further, here we have found a balance where students can move at a self-paced rhythm while still having access to the best parts of a traditional classroom. This lends itself to creating a good environment where the student feels empowered over his/her own education and can learn well in a non-threatening and non-competitive environment that still provides the highest standards for the child’s education.

The available research on the blended learning classroom (see Bolkan, 2012) suggests that while blended learning models don’t necessarily present a clearly superior model than the traditional classroom, with blended learning student engagement and self-reported enthusiasm are significantly higher than in the traditional classrooms.

In education, we learn that student engagement and application are the two best indicators for whether a student will learn and potentially apply a given lesson. The research shows that because technology-delivered resources tend to improve student engagement, for many students their performance increases as well. This is particularly true for students who have learning exceptionalities and students who come from challenging socio-economic circumstances.

Blended_Learning_Model_Cedar_Ridge_Academy_Private_Therapeutic_Boarding_School
James assisting a student with their assignment
We see the proof in that pudding every day here at Cedar Ridge. We have seen students who struggle even to engage in any subject turn around and not only engage with school but excel in their classes, maintaining over 80% proficiency in their classes. The role of the teacher is crucial in making that a reality. Students often have questions or misunderstandings that a recorded lecture simply cannot resolve. In these times, the students have the opportunity to meet with a certified and highly-qualified teacher in their subject area to help them to resolve these concerns and overcome their roadblocks.

This is particularly true in Math. Many students, while they do perform much higher with the instant-feedback systems of online courses, still find that they need additional feedback in order to approach their online practice. I find that most of my day is taken up assisting these students and differentiating their instruction to fit them as an individual learner and help them to be successful in Math.

In short, the research shows what we see every day here at CRA: students who learn online with the help of a face-to-face instructor dramatically improve their scholastic performance and their confidence, which leads to long-term esteem improvement and further positive school performance. 

While these same outcomes may be possible through other means, the online portion of their instruction helps to track their progress, gives them individual pacing flexibility, and maintains the highest state, regional and national standards for all instructional units. With a small staff in a small school, we would not be able to deliver the variety of content that online materials allow, nor would we be able to offer them in a way that ensures students’ self-paced discovery of their potential. These benefits, among many others, make me a firm supporter and believer in the blended learning model we have adopted.

References

Blackboard.com. 2012. Blended Learning: Where Online and Face-to-Face Instruction Intersect for 21st Century Teaching and Learning. Eduviews November 2012. Taken on 7/22/2013 from http://ebookbrowse.com/blendedlearning-pdf-d413271210
Bolkan, J. 2012. School Reform Through Blended Learning. the Journal. Taken on 7/22/2013 from http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/06/07/school-reform-through-blended-learning.aspx

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