Five Steps to Practical and Personalized Blended Learning - ASCD
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February 14, 2019

Five Steps to Practical and Personalized Blended Learning

Instructional Strategies

I teach at a high school with a one-to-one Chromebook initiative in a blended learning environment. We've received multiple trainings and resources for implementing blended learning strategies. However, there is such a thing as too much information and too many resources, especially given the busy schedules and time constraints of classroom teachers.

Many teachers, especially those who are new to blended learning, may feel pressure to try every innovative idea and keep up with the latest applications and technologies. This pressure often leads to frustration, burnout, and ultimately, the failure of a blended learning program.

By contrast, strategically applying blended learning strategies, based on each teacher's available resources and technological knowledge, provides a solid foundation for consistent improvement at a tech-savvy school. I developed a five-step cycle to practical and personalized applications of blended learning as a way to differentiate the development of each teacher and avoid pitfalls, frustration, and burnout.

Step 1: Explore Blended Learning

Teachers can get a sense of the common principles of blended learning by exploring different definitions and descriptions of blended learning. The Blended Learning Toolkit and Blended Learning Universe provide the following characterizations:

Although the definitions may differ, they are based on similar principles. That is, blended learning replaces some of the traditional face-to-face instruction with technology and allows students choices in their place, pace, and path of learning.

Step 2: Write a Personal Definition

With these principles in mind, I invite teachers to write a personal, working definition of blended learning that applies to the subject they teach. I suggest they focus the definition on one key principle (place, pace, or path) of blended learning and make it germane to their current classwork. I provide a sentence frame and examples to help teachers write a personal definition that they may use immediately to plan lessons:

Blended Learning is________________ (technology) to allow students to _________________ (place, pace, or path).

Using this frame, a teacher might draft a personal definition like the following examples:

  • Blended learning is using online lecture videos to allow students to take notes outside of the classroom.

  • Blended learning is providing a choice of websites to allow different ways to learn historical information.

Keep in mind that this personal definition is situational and may change as each teacher's perspective, context, and comfort levels change. The main purpose of writing a personal definition is to provide a foundation for implementing a specific blended learning strategy in the classroom as soon as possible.

Step 3: Brainstorm Strategies

Once teachers have written their personal definitions, I ask them to brainstorm blended learning strategies they may implement in their courses. Additionally, I encourage them to consider how blended learning fits with what they are already doing in their classes and what resources are readily available. This greatly increases the probability of immediate implementation.

I also refer teachers to this graphic from Australian educator, Allan Carrington: A New Wonderful Wheel on SAMR and Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. It lists activities and applications that are categorized within the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. The graphic may help teachers generate ideas for technology integration based on the skills they are already teaching. I remind them to choose activities based on their definitions of blended learning rather than try every idea. Remember, we want to avoid frustration and promote immediate successes.

Step 4: Choose an Application

The next step is quick, but important, because it helps focus teachers on practical and doable strategies. Teachers choose three applications from the brainstorm. They base their choices on their personal definition of blended learning and current learning activities goals for their classes. They will use at least one of these applications in a blended learning implementation plan.

Step 5: Develop a Plan

The final step is to develop a plan, using the organizer below, to implement blended learning in a lesson. I ask teachers to focus on three questions:

  • What skill or concept are students learning?

  • How will students show they learned it?

  • What strategies will help students achieve the outcome in their own time, pace, place, and path?

The following example is based on a workshop I facilitated to help colleagues develop personal definitions of blended learning.

Blended Learning Implementation Plan

Blended Learning Implementation Plan


Skill or Concept: What skill or concept are students learning?Students will define blended learning.
Objective: How will students show they learned it? Students will _______(verb) a ___________ (product) that _______________ (evidence of learning).Students will create an infographic that defines, lists key elements of, and describes 3 strategies of blended learning.
Blended Learning Strategies: What strategies will help students achieve the objective in their own time, pace, place, and or path?Explore online definitions of blended learning. Write a personal definition of blended learning. Brainstorm blended learning strategies. Flip learning: Students review websites at home and discuss in class. Students may finish the infographic in class or at home.

Use the Process as a Cycle of Improvement

By cycling through these five steps, teachers may periodically revisit and revise their personal definitions, add new strategies to their repertoire, and implement them on an ongoing basis. Through each iteration of the cycle, a school can mitigate the challenges of information overload, frustrations, and burnout while laying a solid foundation for a robust blended learning program.

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