Blending Better: Teaching Competencies for the Blended Learning Educator

Framework for Blended Teaching Competencies

We are lucky to be educators at a time when the education model is finally shifting. The century-old tradition of direct teaching is in the process of adapting to a much more personalized experience, and technology plays a very important role in this shift. However, as learning changes for students, the support given to teachers must also evolve. The question becomes how to provide ongoing, relevant, job-embedded, and engaging professional development with limited resources. The solution is blended learning for teachers—personalized professional development that provides the educator what they need, when they need it, and where they are able to access it.

Such an approach provides a more efficient model for educator growth than the traditional "one and done" workshop model of the past. It enables teacher leaders to plan support sessions with careful consideration to the amount of class time that is interrupted, and it supports a collaborative environment where teachers are able to work together during common planning time while also devoting time and energy to their own personalized learning and growth.

A culture of change is an important factor to the effective transition to blended learning for teachers. Just as a set of detailed and consistent standards help prepare students for success, a framework can also support the development of blended learning teachers. Adopting and implementing blended learning at scale means that both teachers and administrators have a solid understanding of the new role of teachers in a blended environment. Combining development opportunities with content, technology, and pedagogy provides educators with a comprehensive growth plan that is personalized to each individual, and models the teaching practices expected in the classroom.

iNACOL, in partnership withThe Learning Accelerator, developed acompetency model to support teacher development that is specific to blended learning. Blended learning techniques will shift and adapt to the new technologies that become available and thus the authors acknowledge that this framework must be dynamic and act as "the floor, rather than the ceiling."

The framework is designed to support the development of effective blended learning teachers, which iNACOL describes as having the following characteristics and beliefs:

  1. High expectations and commitment to achieving equitable outcomes. Teachers create rigorous but supportive environments in which students are held to high expectations academically and behaviorally. They seek evidence of achievement of goals. Further, in order to help all students meet these high expectations, teachers move beyond a traditional notion of providing each student with the same and equal inputs towards a focus on equity in both inputs and outcomes. They are willing and able to apply more and different resources to certain learners who need them to achieve.
  2. Desire to move towards competency-based learning. Teachers recognize that not all students learn at the same pace, and that mastery of knowledge and skills is a better measure of learning than time on task. Given this, teachers measure progress against competency attainment and find ways to meet students where they are along their learning path rather than adhere to one-size-fits-all schedules or sequences of instructional events.
  3. Valuing all learners—including those with different skills, exceptionalities, and needs. In seeking to personalize their instruction, teachers recognize that all students bring different strengths and needs to the table, including those with identified disabilities. They are aware of different learning preferences, diversity, and universal design principles and appropriately differentiate and adapt to meet these differences.

Good teachers have always held students to high expectations and showed sincere concern with the individual needs of students, however, as technology advances, more tools have become available to support teachers and students in constructing a more personalized experience. As we learn more about what blended learning is and how it works best, it is important to set a bar—an adjustable bar—that identifies the characteristics of excellent blended learning teachers and supports their ongoing professional development.

Our mission at DreamBox Learning® is to radically transform the way the world learns, and in order to do this, we understand the importance of supporting the development of these qualities. This means a dedication to the creation of curriculum and tools to support students and teachers in their blended learning journeys. Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ technology is designed to shift the learning paradigm by personalizing the learning experience for students so that they are challenged, encouraged, and engaged in an individual way. We start by thinking about the student and then develop a structure that teachers and administrators can use to guide students through the learning process.

Professional development for teachers is essential for ongoing growth toward best practices and innovation in education. Teachers remain some of the most influential figures in a student's life. Educators deserve the opportunity to advance professionally so they may facilitate current, engaging, and relevant learning in their classrooms.

DreamBox Learning is dedicated to supporting educator growth through designing professional development resources that are flexible and meet teachers where they are on their own teaching journey. We have developed engaging and relevant materials within an easy-to-access platform that support teacher learning by connecting the content from the course with the pedagogical approaches of the classroom. Our approach blends technology, content, and pedagogy to provide engaging and relevant professional development that allows teachers to access what they want when they want it. Personalized educator learning should be no more than a click away.

This blog is part of a new series on blended learning, which will include a comprehensive white paper on the Blended Learning Journey in May.

Thera Pearce

teacher | mother | learner | friend | Raleigh, NC