Every student has unique needs, but how can a teacher be expected to differentiate for 40 different classroom students?
To answer a question like this, one has to explore introducing technology to support classroom teaching. Schools have quickly adapted to online classrooms to ensure there is no loss of learning for students. The blended learning approach ensures the use of technologies like personalized learning to be used by teachers and students and improves students’ learning and productivity levels.
Take, for example, personalized learning programs in mathematics. In such a classroom, students are engaged in typical whole-group instruction for the first 15 minutes. Then the class is broken into two groups – one group works with the teacher to understand concepts using manipulatives. In contrast, the other group works independently on the personalized learning program using laptops. The program adapts the difficulty of challenges based on student performance. So, if students get answers correct, they get tougher problems and move ahead. In contrast, those who answer incorrectly are redirected to instructional videos and simpler tasks to master the core ideas before moving on. Teachers are provided with real-time student performance data which shows how and where students are struggling and progressing, along with resources and strategies to use in subsequent lessons that allow for differentiated instruction based on student strengths and needs.
Information on each student is immediately available from such programs. It allows teachers to differentiate students from many students, with different learning needs, in the same course, or classroom. Students with similar requirements can then be grouped for further instruction where needed. This ensures that no students are shooting too far ahead, or lagging too far behind. Teachers now have the tools to identify and help each student in the exact area they need help.
In classes where such personalized learning programs have been used, the teaching-learning environment was more effective. The program was effectively able to identify where a student was falling short and provide instruction through a different method to help them out. And since each student learns differently, this proved effective for many students. Students were also provided help and assistance exactly when they needed it rather than falling behind and having to catch up later on. This ensures an improvement not only in student engagement but also in student performance. Teachers found that students in these classrooms were more physically and mentally present and were constantly engaged in the subject. Overall students showed significantly higher gains in math performance, despite being at the same level at the start of the year.
Blended learning using traditional classrooms mixed with technologies like personalized learning also ensures that students learn new things, in an interesting and fun way. It replaces the mundane chalk-and-talk method with more interactive learning methods that keep students excited, engaged, and therefore interested in learning. In the long run, this also ensures that a student will no longer dislike a subject.
Additionally, blended learning approaches also ensure that the time teachers initially spent in providing in-classroom exams, and corrections are now taken away. The programs can give teachers immediate results and feedback, providing teachers the time to effectively analyze this data, assess each student’s needs, or the classroom. The teacher can now use her time to actually provide instruction to the students, thus making both teacher and student more productive.
In conclusion, while traditional teaching methods may have had their advantage, the truth is the approach to teaching needs to be reassessed. Blended learning can provide a customized approach to teaching and learning, which was not possible earlier, thus making teaching time and student learning more effective. And as we move forward, schools will have to look for more ways to implement blended learning to ensure the most effective outcomes from both student and teacher.
This blog appeared as an article in Education Today dated 18th Jan, 2021
(This article is written by Rohan Parikh, Chairperson, The Green Acres Academy on Education Today )