Reevaluating Your Teaching Philosophy for a Blended Learning Environment
Our teaching philosophies express our values and beliefs about teaching. These personal statements introduce you as a teacher and let students, parents, and even your administrators know what to expect from your teaching. For veteran teachers, your personal teaching philosophy may not have crossed your mind as a succinct statement in years. But, even if you don’t think about it, as an educator, you live it every day.
Now, as we shift away from the way things have always been done, it’s imperative that we reevaluate our teaching philosophies. Our schools are transitioning to blended learning and we have to adjust, not only to the times, but also to the new needs of students that may not have been a factor before COVID-19.
It’s time to let go of the notion that every student in a class will benefit from the same instruction. As a collective, we’ve known this for a while, but there are always those stragglers. Laggards—as they are often referred to when it comes to technology adoption and change—are teachers who have an extremely conservative and often “old school” philosophy on teaching and learning. And honestly, in a time like this, teachers with these views can hinder the development of an effective blended learning program, which can ultimately obstruct student learning overall.
As we embark upon a new school year—the first of its kind—take these things into consideration to reevaluate your teaching philosophy for blended learning.
Define blended learning strategies in your classroom.
The concept of blended learning is extremely broad by definition, but we all agree that it involves teaching and learning both in person and virtually. As you introduce the concept to students this coming school year, make sure your definition is clear and covers all of your bases. Here are a few questions that will help you define blended learning for you and your students.
- How will we incorporate technology in the classroom on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?
- How will student collaboration be impacted? Will it increase or decrease based on the amount of time devices are in use?
- What is the optimal use for the technology tools and digital resources we have access to?
- What does assessment look like?
- How do I know if students are learning and what do I do if they’re not?
Have a teaching philosophy and mindset that we are all learners.
Learning alongside your students is an admirable quality. Showing them that you too are a lifelong learner is not only a great way to build relationships, it also shows your human side and gives you the opportunity to lead by example. Gone are the days that teachers are the sole keepers of all knowledge. Let your students see you make mistakes. Let them see you research the answers to questions you don’t know.
It’s especially powerful when you can ask students to help you solve problems that they may have more knowledge about than you. Don’t hesitate to ask students how to add music to a presentation, upload multiple documents to Google Drive, or which hashtags to use to find and share relevant information about a discussion topic.
To address learning gaps, focus on instruction that is student-centered and learning that is student-led.
Blended learning should be used as a tool to support each student with innovative instructional practices that place them—and their needs and interests—at the center. This year, we anticipate hefty learning gaps due to the quick pivot to distance learning last school year. Therefore, it's essential to begin the school year with comprehensive diagnostic assessments that make the needs of each student clear, so that instruction can be tailored to them in the blended learning classroom.
When blended learning is personalized, the classroom—both in-person and virtual—transforms into a student-led environment. It’s important to give students a platform to share their voice, then listen carefully to what they have to say. Not only does this keep the classroom student-centered, but it allows you to personalize learning by letting students lead the discussion and observing what they are interested in, having trouble with, or want to know more about.
Our current reality requires us to be flexible. It may take a little while to figure out what works for each student, teacher, school, distinct, and greater community. And what works could potentially be different across the board. Let’s be open minded as we revisit our teaching philosophies from years past, and flexible as we plan for a future that we’re creating as we go along—our students deserve it!