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Blended Teaching

Blended teaching is the strategic combination of online and in-person instruction (Graham, 2021). This article addresses the question of why instructors choose blended learning. It also addresses seven common challenges to student engagement that intentional blended strategies can help to overcome. A few practical examples of strategic blends are provided. Finally, two research-based competency frameworks are shared to help blended instructors increase their awareness and self-evaluation of core pedagogical skills for effective blended teaching.
Keywords: Blended Learning, Blended Teaching, Online, Online Learning, Online Teaching

Effective blends are almost always intentional and strategic. There are a wide variety of models and teaching strategies that can be designed into a blend. Figure 1 depicts a spectrum of possibilities from the modality perspective.

Figure 1

Spectrum of blended possibilities based on combining in-person and online modality

Blended learning spectrum

Although there are many traditional blended models (e.g., the Rotation model in its many forms, Flex, HyFlex, A La Carte, Self-Directed, Inside Out and Outside In, etc.), all fit somewhere within the spectrum described in Figure 1. Incorporating these models in traditional schools and universities demands new forms of school leadership (Scheninger, 2019) and a critical examination of strategic innovation, school structure, and cross-institutional partnerships (Thompson et al., 2019).

Why Blend?

There are many reasons why individuals and institutions choose blended approaches. The three most common reasons are shown in Table 1. It is important to note that teachers often work to achieve multiple purposes with a blend even though one purpose may have priority over the others. Furthermore, choices to blend may combine to ensure purposeful changes when reflecting on practice through the PICRAT, 4Es, and other helpful frameworks (Kimmons et al., 2022; Kolb, 2017; Borup et al., 2022).

Table 1

Common reasons to adopt blended teaching and learning

Reason Brief Explanation
Improved Student Learning Whereas different learners maintain personal preferences for how they prefer to receive information (Pashler et al., 2008) and for how they actually learn (Willingham et al., 2015), teaching through multiple modalities can lead to improved student learning.
Increased Access and Flexibility True blended approaches can facilitate purposeful anytime/anywhere learning experiences for students and anytime/anywhere teaching circumstances for instructors, removing the fixed limitations of time and place for education to occur.
Increased Efficiency Some curricula are more quickly and more easily transferred when digital tools are used to enhance teaching and learning. Similarly, other concepts and contents benefit most from face to face instructional interaction. Blending can improve efficiency when teachers and students have access to both online and in person options.

Strategic Blending

Having a clear purpose for blending can help make blended course or lesson design more intentional and strategic. Blending with purpose allows teachers to align pedagogical objectives and activities with appropriate approaches and technologies, thus keeping improved student learning at the forefront (Picciano, 2009). In addition, teachers may adopt blended approaches as they leverage digital technologies to increase opportunities for deeper student learning related to the 6Cs: character, citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking (Fullan et al., 2018). Table 2 outlines seven common challenges to student engagement (7Ps) that blended teaching strategies can help educators to overcome.

Table 2

Seven pedagogical challenges to student engagement that blended approaches can help with (Stein & Graham, 2020; Graham et al., 2019)

Challenge Brief Explanation
Participation Intentionally combining in person and online interactions can ensure that all students participate.
Pacing While in-person instruction often revolves around synchronous whole class activities, online instruction can be individualized to meet unique pacing needs.
Personalization Occurs when the learner drives their learning, having been an active participant in learning design (Bray & McClaskey, 2015).
Place Whereas in-person instruction requires that all learners be physically present in the same location, online portions need not be limited to the same space. Furthermore, students can virtually visit authentic locations for learning that are outside the classroom.
Personal Interaction Instead of the one-to-many model of interaction inherent to in person teaching, online learning can facilitate flexible and meaningful one-to-one interactions between teachers and students, especially when instruction is asynchronous and intentionally planned.
Preparation Blending allows students to look ahead at the curriculum, making deeper and more meaningful preparations for in person learning experiences. It can also help teachers to know students’ level of preparation before class time.
Practice with Feedback Through algorithmic and pre-programmed elements, online practice activities can facilitate a faster and more robust feedback experience than is otherwise available for analog, in person learning.

Practical Examples

Consider how the following real-world examples of blended teaching and learning align with the common reasons for blending listed above, along with how they might help to overcome pedagogical challenges.

Blended Teaching Competencies

Several key challenges are often inherent to designing blended environments: incorporating flexibility, stimulating interaction, facilitating student learning processes, and fostering an affective learning climate (Boelens et al., 2017). Important blended and online teaching competencies have been identified that can help address these and other significant challenges. Table 3 outlines two competency frameworks relevant to blended teaching. These competencies, along with a foundation of basic technology skills and positive dispositions, can be learned, measured, and improved upon. The Blended Teaching Readiness Survey (https://bit.ly/blended-teaching-readiness) serves as a helpful tool for teachers to self assess their understanding and skills with blended teaching.

Table 3

Competency frameworks relevant for blended and online teaching

Blended Teaching Readiness Framework (Graham et al., 2019; Pulham & Graham, 2018) Pillars of Online Pedagogy (Archambault, et al., 2022)
  • Online Integration - integrating online and in-person activities
  • Data Practices - using digital data practices to inform teaching
  • Personalization - facilitating personalized learning for students
  • Online Interaction - facilitating online learning interactions
  • Build Relationships and Community
  • Incorporate Active Learning
  • Leverage Learner Agency
  • Embrace Mastery Learning
  • Personalize the Learning Process


Archambault, L., Leary, H., & Rice, K. (2022). Pillars of online pedagogy: A framework for teaching in online learning environments. Educational Psychologist, 57(3), 178–191. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2022.2051513

Boelens, R., De Wever, B., & Voet, M. (2017). Four key challenges to the design of blended learning: A systematic literature review. Educational Research Review, 22, 1-18.

Borup, J., Graham, C. R., Short, C. R., & Shin, J. K. (2022). Evaluating Blended Teaching with the 4Es and PICRAT. In C. R. Graham, J. Borup, M. Jensen, K. T. Arnesen, & C. R. Short (Eds.), K-12 Blended Teaching (Vol 2): A Guide to Practice Within the Disciplines, Vol. 2. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/k12blended2/evaluating_bt

Borup, J., Graham, C. R., Short, C., & Shin, J. K. (2022). Designing the new normal : Enable , engage , elevate , and extend student learning. EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2022/1/designing-the-new-normal-enable-engage-elevate-and-extend-student-learning

Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2015). Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization Report (PDI) v3. Viitattu, 16, 2015.

Graham, C. R. (2021). Exploring definitions, models, frameworks, and theory for blended learning research. In A. G. Picciano, C. D. Dziuban, C. R. Graham, & P. D. Moskal (Eds.), Blended learning: Research perspectives, Volume 3 (pp. 10–30).

Graham, C. R., Borup, J., Short, C. R., & Archambault, L. (2019). K-12 blended teaching: A guide to personalized learning and online integration. Provo, UT: EdTechBooks.org. Retrieved from http://edtechbooks.org/k12blended_series

Fullan, M., Quinn, J., & McEachen, J. (2018). Deep learning: Engage the world change the world. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Horn, M. B., & Staker, H. (2014). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kimmons, R., Draper, D., & Backman, J. (2022). PICRAT: The PICRAT Technology Integration Model. EdTechnica: The Open Encyclopedia of Educational Technology.

Kolb, L. (2017). Learning first, technology second: The educator’s guide to designing authentic lessons. International Society for Technology in Education.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. John Wiley & Sons.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. A. (2008). Learning styles: concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3): 105–119.

Picciano, A. G. (2009). Blending with purpose: The mutimodal model. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13(1), 7–18.

Pulham, E., & Graham, C. R. (2018). Comparing K-12 online and blended teaching competencies: A literature review. Distance Education, 39(3), 411-432.

Sheninger, E. (2019). Digital leadership: Changing paradigms for changing times. Corwin Press.

Stein, J., & Graham, C. R. (2020). Essentials for blended learning: A standards-based guide (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Thompson, K., Jowallah, R., & Cavanagh, T. B. (2019). “Solve the Big Problems”: Leading Through Strategic Innovation in Blended Teaching and Learning. In Technology leadership for innovation in higher education (pp. 26-48). IGI Global.

Willingham, D. T., Hughes, E. M., Dobolyi, D. G. (2015). The scientific status of learning styles theories. Teaching of Psychology, 42(3): 266–271.

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