Why Blended Learning Is More Effective Than Online Learning Alone

More and more students are opting to opt to work in blended learning environments, says author Beth Linn.

I remember speaking at a conference and getting asked why I decided to quit my job as an art director and pursue an entertainment career full time. “What makes me so special?” my competitors asked. “What are you so great at that I don’t understand?” It was an inevitable question I expected to be asked because I’m a woman, and because my parents never started a career for financial gain.

My response was clear and straightforward: “I am teaching preschool kids the meaning of art and content literacy.” At first, I was puzzled by the question. I teach these kids about the important things in their lives: friendship, independence, respect, decency, compassion, innovation and exploration. I ask my class about why our country’s founding fathers created our Constitution and what each part means. I ask them what discoveries in life have been made by their age group; for some, it’s more surprising than for others.

I have worked with preschools all across the U.S. and in elementary and middle schools in New York City. I have seen how teaching is taught differently for different age groups. There is one significant difference: the educators who teach preschool children are currently trying to find answers to their own questions.

In kindergarten, teachers teach facts about different pieces of food that students must learn. In first grade, students learn spelling, reading and math, in separate groups. Some teachers decide to keep the students in small classes for enrichment. Other teachers have found that they are better at using small classes to create conversation-based discussions.

But as the school year progresses, the younger students are exposed to more material than the older students. Teachers are faced with the question of whether to further overwhelm their younger students by adding more lessons on complex concepts such as history, science, and literature. Should they try to focus on smaller unit work instead? Should they make the most of the student’s current knowledge?

Research suggests that blended learning makes the best sense for preschools. Parents want to know how their children are doing and want to know if they are making progress toward their potential. They want teachers to be free to experiment with different strategies and approaches to help their children to succeed in school. When the curriculum is too specific or difficult to attempt, the parents want parents to know how their child is doing. Studies have shown that blended learning instruction allows parents to feel better about their child’s learning and response to instruction.

While it’s exciting to see how young students are learning and taking something in for the first time, I also believe that blended learning prepares children for kindergarten. The material they learn is much larger in scope than that required in kindergarten, and perhaps it’s a bit too hard for them to grasp. They may be challenged with information beyond their elementary school level. However, they will be able to compare what they know from kindergarten and grade level with what they learned in preschool and understand how and why they learned different things. This exercise, especially for pre-K classes, provides children with a greater understanding of what reading means, and of what facts mean.

For preschool teachers, the blended learning model provides greater opportunities to experiment with children’s learning. With the continuous cycle of teaching, preschool teachers are free to experiment with different approaches for students’ achievement at the same time they are preparing their students for kindergarten. This shift from lesson planning and instructor training to growth mindset curriculum enables us to reach children at their highest level of ability, with a combination of content mastery and growth mindset.

Instead of pointing at their own challenges and shortcomings, young children can look to their peers for support. The psychologist Daniel Goleman often stresses how well children learn best when they have supportive adults in their lives. As early-childhood teachers, we are surrounded by eager young students. Instead of refuting the notion that blended learning is effective, we should focus on using it to give students the tools they need to succeed in kindergarten.

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