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What students think of their blended learning teachers


A recent survey reveals that teacher training may impact student opinion in blended courses

peter-west-blendedWith blended learning, the computer may provide much of the learning fundamentals and students must be more self-regulated than in a traditional industrial model classroom, but the teacher still plays a vital (albeit different) role.

School leaders need to be aware of this, and need to have pathways developed to transition teachers to this new environment. Thus, teachers must be trained in the different pedagogy, and this should impact the way professional development is delivered.

Student survey

The effect of the teacher is demonstrated by the results of a survey I recently conducted of our school’s students in a self-paced blended learning course. All students used the same learning resources in “lessons” of the same duration and were in the same physical environment. The only factor that varied was the teacher. In this case, one teacher had not been trained in the differences between the self-paced blended learning environment and the traditional classroom; this teacher had to work out the differences “on the fly.” The other teacher had been working in a self-paced blended learning environment for more than four years, and was successful and enthusiastic about the environment.

Survey questions

Students responded to a number of survey questions. There was a five point scale for responses, with 1 being very positive and 5 being very negative, and with 3 being neutral.

The questions are shown below.

  • How do you rate (overall) the way that we “do” this subject?
  • How do you find the online tutorial approach affects your learning in class?
  • How do you find the tutorial approach affects the speed of your learning?
  • Do you find the online approach better for reviewing information?
  • How easy is it to get help when you get “stuck” with a problem and you are not sure what to do?
  • Your teacher talks less often in this subject than in a “normal” class. Is this better for your learning?
  • Most of your time in class is spent “doing things”, with explanation from the teacher on occasion. Is this better for your learning?

This survey has operated in previous years and the results had been consistent. However, the survey discussed in this article highlighted “anomalous” results, which highlighted the need for teachers to be trained in the principles of teaching effectively in a blended learning environment (rather than just being told of the differences).

(Next page: What students had to say)

Student responses

When asked to rate the class using these questions, students were generally positive in their assessments. Students in both classes were overall reluctant to give either teacher poor marks, but the class taught by the teacher comfortable with blended learning topped the “anomalous” class—significantly—in every question. The students in the comfortable blended class averaged mainly 1s and 2s in their assessments, while students in the other class averaged responses that crept closer to “neutral” in many cases.

In fact, the percentage of students in the blended class who answered the questions positively (1 or a 2), rather than neutrally (3) or negatively (4 or 5), typically was over 70 percent. The “anomalous” class had a much lower percentage of students responding positively.

Conclusion

Classes of students vary in many ways, and differences between classes always exist. Teachers interact with classes in different ways, and this is part of the individuality of teaching and learning. Surveys can always be improved, and we should all be cautious about results from a single survey.

However, the results of this survey combined with a knowledge of previous survey results, a working knowledge of the school, the course and the students highlighted some good points. This survey result, combined with some other feedback, led to a change in the style of professional development provided to staff. In an effort to better prepare teachers for a blended learning environment, professional development was restructured to a blended learning model, allowing teachers to experience more facets of the learning environment being introduced.

Leaders of schools need to ensure that teachers who work with blended learning courses are trained in the pedagogical differences between the blended learning environment and the traditional classroom. Assuming that a teacher will automatically know what to do can create problems. It may add unnecessary stress to the life of the teacher, and it may hamper learning outcomes of students. On a larger scale, it may produce the perception amongst students, parents and teachers that blended learning “doesn’t work;” blended learning “works”—we just need to ensure that we adequately prepare for its implementation.

Peter West is director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College in Australia. He has more than 15 years’ experience leading K-12 schools in technology enhanced education, particularly blended learning using online learning environments. He can be contacted at pwest@ssc.qld.edu.au.

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