Blended Learning and Differentiation: It’s Not Whether, But How

By Kelli Allen, Clinical Assistant Professor, UTeach Austin, The University of Texas at Austin

Blended learning is rapidly growing in popularity. Recent developments in technology-based teaching tools have the potential to take personalized learning to another level. With the advent of engaging apps, online assessment tools, interactive simulations, and many more technology-enhanced resources, teachers are able to combine technology tools with strong, traditional teaching strategies to enhance learning opportunities for all students.

In her recent book, Party of Four Please!, Dr. Ariel Taylor (a UTeach Austin alumna) describes the restaurant classroom model, a standards-based approach to differentiation through the vehicle of blended learning:

Blended spaces incorporate traditional face-to-face instruction with web-based online learning. Every teacher has had that one student who opts out of all the frills and glitter and would rather complete a worksheet or textbook drills from the independent practice section. Blended learning spaces provide a platform for this student to thrive, as well as the student who needs lights and cameras to get into action.

Blended learning fosters a personalized learning experience to heighten engagement for all students. Blended learning models such as station rotation incorporate teacher-led, collaborative, and independent learning activities throughout the different stations. Ensuring that active learning and assessment pieces are embedded throughout the station rotation model holds every student accountable for their own success. As Dr. Taylor writes,

Complementing traditional practices with individual and online learning allows for students to take some degree of control over the when, where, and how of their learning. The beauty of blended learning opportunities is that if a student needs repeated remediation, they have access to view the same information multiple times or until mastery is obtained. And for students who master concepts quickly, there are immediate opportunities for enrichment and elaboration.

Diversity in America’s public schools is a fact, so it’s not a question of whether to differentiate instruction, but how. Blended learning provides students more choices in their learning by differentiating content, process, or product.

Blended learning environments also provide opportunities for students to

determine the place, path, and pace to achieve the intended objective. This provides differentiation for all student learners. The model of the restaurant classroom is centered on differentiation but is achieved through the vehicle of blended learning.

Teachers must be thoughtful in their planning of blended learning and purposeful in implementation to ensure learning success for all students. UTeach believes strongly in the power of equipping teachers with the most effective instructional pedagogies, classroom management strategies, and technology to spark student interest and support individualized learning. Blended learning supports this conviction.

For more about blended learning and a look at what UTeach can offer, visit UTeach Professional Development.

Extract from Ariel J. Taylor. (2018). Party of four please! A standards-based approach to differentiation through blended learning.