5.1 Blending in Science Teaching
The first question you should ask yourself before embarking on the journey of blended teaching is “Why blend?” Teachers who are still searching for their answer to this question may end up spending a lot of time and energy implementing changes that do not serve any larger goal or purpose.
Guiding Question: Why Blend?
Teachers must answer the question “Why blend?” It is not sufficient to blend just because it is popular or because others are doing it.
Teachers Talk: Hands-on Learning
In science, I try to do as much hands-on learning as I can. Blending my class with technology gives me the chance to have more hands-on learning. even though students can't actually experience it. I'm trying to get everyone involved. A huge benefit to blending is increasing the engagement of students.
Teachers Talk: Use Blended Teaching to Engage Students (5:44)
Reflection Question: How does blended teaching involve every student
5.2 Reasons for Blending
There are three primary reasons why teachers choose blended teaching:
- Improved learning outcomes—Blended classrooms can increase personalization, allow for more individual and small group instruction, and make better use of classroom time.
- Increased access and flexibility—In blended classrooms students have access to materials anywhere and anytime. In addition, they have access to resources and activities that are unavailable to them without an online component.
- Increased efficiency/cost—Blended classrooms can help students complete learning activities in less time and with less energy, reduce printing costs, and help students stay more organized (less likely to lose assignments).
Matthew Harris and Patrick Hemmingsen have experienced the benefits of these reasons for blended teaching. As you watch their videos below, listen for how they use technology to allow them more time in class to work on individualized and deeper thinking.
Teachers Talk: Advantages of Blending
In science classes, hands-on labs are great, but they cost time and money. One lab can last 90 minutes, and if you mess up something, that's a waste of a class. Some universities use PHET simulations, and they are Chromebook compatible. They work really well with the devices we've given to our students, and if you mess up on that, you just hit reset. The simulation takes about five minutes, not 90. So even though I still do some things hands-on, using the blended learning approach is imperative.
When we do hands-on activities, students can work on it for 20 minutes and see the data. Then I stop them and ask, “Why do you think those things happened?” Once they have sparked the idea, I will do a lecture. Because this method is a little more flipped, I don't have to spend 45 minutes talking to them; I can say what they need to hear in 15 minutes.
Blending is also helpful when we study the atom. Since the atom is so incredibly small, it can be really difficult for students to imagine what it could look like. So, I've really leaned on online simulations to model the atom when we've done molecular geometries and, in AP, the actual three-dimensional shapes of the molecules. Anything that's not macro science, I've really learned to use technology to support student learning.
Oftentimes teachers have multiple reasons for blending, but one of these three reasons is almost always primary in their minds. Table 1 below shows some simple examples of purpose-driven blended teaching in science and how it might help teachers achieve multiple purposes simultaneously.
As you go through the science chapters, you will be able to reflect on what you have learned and design your own activities and classroom in the Blended Teaching Workbook. Click on the "Blended Teaching Workbook" button to access your workbook.
Examples of Multiple Purposes for a Blended Science Activity
|Allows students to practice or complete labs using a virtual space and virtual materials.
||Learning Effectiveness: Using science simulations can promote students' higher levels of understanding of the scientific concepts or phenomena that can hardly be seen or are difficult to imagine in daily life, such as the structure of the atom or experimenting with gravity.
|Access & Flexibility: It also allows students to access and interact with the learning content.
|Increased Efficiency/Cost: By modeling and manipulating difficult concepts using a virtual space and digital materials, students master principles faster than simply learning from lectures. It also saves teachers effort and time to shorten tedious lectures by adding hands-on digital activities.
|Creates opportunities for students to collaborate on reports and presentations using the online space.
||Learning Effectiveness: The online space promotes an open environment that can give everyone the opportunity to contribute to group projects. Students can share their ideas and add images and videos to scientific reports to make them more engaging and easier to understand. When students present group projects, the online space can also help their audience learn more effectively.
|Access & Flexibility: The online space allows each student to access group projects and write reports and slides in flexible ways.
|Increased Efficiency/Cost: Blended learning saves students time by allowing groups to write and revise reports simultaneously.
|Blended learning gives students some control over their learning.
||Learning Effectiveness: Students can be assigned instruction and learning activities that are adapted to their specific needs. Students who get it can move on to additional learning materials and those who don't get it can go back and review content until it is mastered. Blended learning can also make it easier for teachers to provide individual feedback to students.
|Access & Flexibility: Students have the flexibility to access the content according to their individual learning progress and have some freedom concerning where and when to complete their assignments. If they can't finish in class, they can continue learning and complete work at home, work, or other locations away from their classroom.
|Increased Efficiency/Cost: Students don’t waste time studying content in which they are already proficient. Top students don’t have to wait for other students to catch up. Slower students don't have to worry as much about falling behind.
Think about why you would like to blend your classroom. In your blended teaching workbook, write your thoughts, creating your own purpose.
Write a brief statement about why you want to blend your classroom. Which purposes and outcomes are you most interested in for your blend? Access your Workbook here. Make sure you save your copy where you can access it as you go through the social studies chapters.
5.3 Common Challenges to Teaching/Learning Science
Teachers Talk: Hard to Provide Authentic Feedback in Traditional Classroom
When I was a teacher in a traditional classroom, it was very challenging to give authentic, real feedback in a way that actually benefitted the individual student. And I feel like the biggest way that blended learning improved my teaching is that it makes a difference, allowing me to provide feedback that is more targeted to each student. And that's a system that didn't exist in the same sense previously. Now, the blended learning model specifically enables me to gather data on what students are thinking and how they are doing. Gathering that data is helping me become more than I am. Now it's like I have 10 teaching assistants with me. I can provide individual feedback to students based on those data.
Reflection Question: How can the advantages of blended learning help you overcome the challenges you face in the traditional classroom?
Your choice to blend will be more meaningful to you and your students if it helps address challenges that you and your students face in the traditional non-blended classroom. We refer to these challenges as “problems of practice.”
5.4 Problems of Practice
Definition: Problem of Practice
A problem of practice is a current problem or challenge that you believe could be improved through blended teaching.
Problems of practice can fall under any of the three purposes outlined in section 5.1 and 5.2. However, the most meaningful and powerful problems of practice for teachers deal directly with improving learning outcomes for their students.
Problems of Practice in Science
These five pathways are a powerful tool to help you think deeply about problems of practice that are relevant to you. Once you identify specific challenges in your current approach to teaching, you will be able to explore what online approaches may be combined with your in-person approaches to create a better learning experience for your students and you alike. While implementing blended learning can be valuable to both teachers and students, its implementation is not without its challenges. Teachers, Meredith Brady and Alan Schwalb, talk about some of the barriers they have faced with implementing blended teaching and provide ideas for overcoming those barriers.
Teachers Talk: Common Challenges to Teaching (3:30, 2:15)
Reflection Questions: What barriers did Meredith Brady face in implementing blended teaching? What resources did she use to overcome those barriers? What resources are available to you in your school?
Teachers Talk: Common Challenges to Teaching: Student to Student Interaction
Reflection Question: What were some of the challenges that Alan Schalb faced with blended learning? What are some ideas for overcoming those challenges?
Finding Your Problems of Practice
Now that you have reviewed the five pathways to identifying problems of practice, it is your turn to look at your own practice and try to identify a couple of challenges that you can consider as you continue throughout these science chapters. What student outcomes and teaching practices would you like to improve? What stands in the way of your teaching having the impact you would like it to have?
Identify 2-3 problems of practice (PoP) that you can use as you consider blended options for your classroom.
Note: You should identify several problems of practice (PoP) because not every PoP has a good blended learning solution.
If you haven't already opened and saved your workbook, you can access it here.