BLENDED LEARNING: Personalizing Education for Students





Hi, my name is Áurea Anguiano. I’m a student from Mexico, finishing my majors in Psychology and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) Teaching. I am currently working as a counselor and also a teacher assistant in junior high (grades 7-9) at a private school in Mexico. I am trying to convince the school administrators to implement a Blended Learning Model that will allow personalized and mastery-based courses, collaborative work and a chance for students to actually be in charge of their own learning, where they feel empowered and motivated to investigate and seek for help with their peers and/or teacher –whose role is to be a facilitator in their learning. The pilot program began this month, and it is solely used in the English Language courses. It includes a rotational structure within the classroom (at the teacher’s discretion) but that will also include a weekly session at the Computer Lab.

BEFORE: Traditionally Structured Classroom
 


Students take (almost) all their classes in the same classroom and teachers are the ones who switch classrooms. As you can see on the right, the classroom is structured in a traditional way, that is, having all students seated on the rows of desks one behind another and facing the whiteboard. This seating arrangement is basically teacher centric and mostly promotes individual work. Group work can only be done if students rearrange their desks and that translates in a lot of noise and the loss of precious class time (and this type of desks aren’t designed to promote group work). No online learning can take place in the classroom since there is no room available to introduce enough multimedia equipment for 20-25 students (laptops or tablets for each learner are not an option, due to budget constraints).

Seating information in this section and the next is taken from:

AFTER: In-Class Rotation …
The first change in the new structure is CLUSTER SEATING, which promotes peer tutoring and group work.


Students are seated in a group of 3 to 5 with their desks facing each other. It is easier to momentarily orient the chairs facing the teacher for the full class instruction stations (instead of the whole desk back and forth). This arrangement allows the teacher to walk around the class, sit with students to guide their work and engage them in cooperative learning. Seating in the same cluster students with a similar language level enables personalizing the pencil and paper activities and a much better assessment of their specific needs.

… + Lab Rotation
To solve the problem of lack of space for the online learning station, students will take one of the three weekly language sessions in the computer lab.


The computers are already connected to the Learning Management System (LMS) and online tools, features and the course contents have been previously installed. The use of authentic material and resources through the new technologies also represents a great improvement in the quality of the contents. Students will be assigned individual accounts to log in so the system will keep track of their activities and progress, all of which can be monitored and reviewed by the teacher at any time. Since the course materials (audios, videos, readings, web-links, activities) are already loaded, each student is able to work at his/her own pace, at their just-right level, and once they’ve mastered each topic, they can work on activities of the next level. Collaborative work is also promoted through the use of Wikis. Conversational skills are practiced through chats and live e-meetings with native speakers. Discussion boards will also provide asynchronous interactions and encourage critical thinking.



How has this changed the role of the adults?

Before, the lessons were mainly teacher-centered, where he/she talked and only few interactions occurred. Now, the teacher is more of a facilitator of learning, guiding students, assessing them and being able to provide meaningful one-on-one tutoring when needed. Monitoring has become easier and they are showing better rapport with their students. Online tutoring via Skype is an option for those students who need it as an additional resource to help them. Parents/Adults are also more involved in their children’s education, keeping more in touch with the teacher via phone, e-mails, weekly reports and monthly parent-teacher meetings. Most of them even help and monitor their kids schoolwork at home instead of only relying on what happens in the classroom.

How has this changed the learning for the students?

Students show more motivation and focus, they are relying on their own skills to find the answers and to solve problems; working collaboratively has allowed them meaningful interactions with their peers and teacher. The different stations from the rotation model has helped them to feel more in charge of their own learning since they can work at their own pace and focus on specific aspects, and move on once they’ve truly mastered the topics. They also enjoy working online both individually and with their peers, and showing lots of creativity in their projects.


This is more or less what this project is about and, if it proves to be effective, maybe it will be implemented to more, if not all, courses in the next school cycle.


What are the implications for future practice in this classroom/school?

Since it is content based, it not only provides flexibility by using the same topic in class with different language levels (for each cluster and online learning), but also the language class can be used in coordination with other subjects to connect knowledge and actually use the language to communicate, which increases the chances of authentic interactions and undoubtedly an improvement in their conversational skills. Moving to the new structure hasn’t been easy because it means using the school’s already tight budget for the procurement and provision of resources and new classroom furniture, as well as the training and coordination of the EFL teachers and computer lab personnel. It is worth mentioning that this has been a joint effort of school authorities, teachers, parents and students that will translate in the improvement of the quality of the school’s educational services by promoting meaningful independent learning and, hopefully, will also strengthen the sense of community and collaboration among everyone at school.



Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to record or use the video camera for this project, so I apologize for that. The best I could do was to use some archived footage and images from the Internet to visually show the before and after that I’m attempting to reach through the introduction of a Blended Learning Model. Hope you liked it.


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