How to Include Blended Learning in Your School’s Professional Development Plan

by | Jul 6, 2020


Last week, we published an article about the developing national discussion about blended learning, and how blended learning can be incorporated into your 2020-2021 curriculum. However, even the best laid plans for blended learning will fail without the proper professional development supports. In a 2016 study, the Christensen Institute found that:

  • About 90% of teachers and administrators believe implementing a blended learning plan requires learning new skills, and
  • About 80% believe they would benefit from more professional development on blended learning to “develop instructional approaches that facilitate conceptual understanding and application.”

What is Blended Learning?

With a blended learning plan, educators can support an equitable school environment by incorporating technology into the curriculum so students can learn in and out of the classroom.

The Christensen Institute outlines three components of a blended learning program:

  1. With the support of online technology, students have some control over their learning in terms of time, place, path, and/or pace.
  2. Students spend at least some time learning in a physical location away from their homes.
  3. All learning activities meaningfully connect to support the student’s learning experience.

How Can School Leaders Offer Effective Professional Development on Blended Learning?

For all types of professional development, school leaders should consider only evidence-based professional development which has shown proven results in real-life schools.

All evidence-based professional development is:

  • Frequent and Consistent — Peer-reviewed studies continue to find professional development needs to be provided frequently and consistently to support targeted student growth goals. School leaders and teachers also need clear expectations and data-driven systems to measure progress so professional development can be modified as needed along the way.
  • Collaborative — School leaders and teachers should have a voice in crafting a professional development strategy. You should be able to have candid conversations about what you need or don’t know.
  • Focused on Curriculum — There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” professional development plan. Professional development resources need to fit your curriculum, prescribed standards, and student achievement goals.

The Christensen Institute also offers four main tips for planning blended learning training for your teachers:

  1. Incorporate blended learning into your professional development (PD) training.

Find meaningful ways to incorporate technology into the professional development training so teachers have the opportunity to experience what blended learning is like. EdSurge offers an example: Use collaborative Google Docs, Google Forms, and other Google products dyrubg training sessions to demonstrate how peers can work together on an activity. You could ask them to brainstorm solutions to a challenge in a shared Google Doc, or have them fill out a Google Form to provide feedback.

  1. Use peer observations so teachers can learn from one another.

Using an instructional rounds approach, teachers can learn from one another with five main steps:

  • Observe — Break teachers into networks containing 8-30 teachers each, and schedule time for each network to observe a high-performing classroom during the semester.
  • Debrief — After each observation session, summarize observations with a focus on blended learning techniques.
  • Glow — Highlight the strong points of the instruction and student engagement.
  • Reflect — Reflect positively on how blended learning lesson planning can be improved by building on tactics which are already working.
  • Grow — Continue professional development, including instructional rounds, throughout the school year so teachers can continue to grow their understanding and skills with blended learning.
  1. Offer adequate technology training and support.

Teachers should learn about various helpful software which could be incorporated into their lesson planning, especially if they are all required to use a common underlying blended learning system. However, it’s important not to overwhelm teachers with too many options at once. Focus on 1-3 technology options during each professional development session. Also, be sure to talk about how virtual curriculum should be customized to help meet students at their individual learning levels.

Additionally, teachers should learn how to incorporate blended learning into their student data analysis. They should continue to use student data to inform their instructional strategies, including new blended learning strategies.

  1. Teach new classroom management strategies.

As we mentioned earlier, about 90% of teachers and administrators who are trying to implement a blended learning program believe they need to learn new skills, including technology, classroom management, and instructional strategies. For example, Edutopia offers tips for managing the classroom with free Google Classroom tools.

Where Can School Leaders Find Blended Learning Training Opportunities?

CSAS offers customized consulting services for districts, schools, and school leaders to improve student achievement and outcomes. Whether you’re an administrator, school board president, principal, or another leader in the education space, we would love to help you develop a supportive Professional Learning Community based on equitable best practices. Schedule a free consultation call with us to learn how we can work with your district, school, or classroom.