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CAN BLENDED LEARNING STRATEGIES PREPARE TEACHERS FOR BLENDED

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CAN BLENDED LEARNING STRATEGIES PREPARE TEACHERS FOR BLENDED
LEARNING

Patrick Staley
Pepperdine University
Master of Arts in Learning Technology
May 2014






















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The Current Educational Landscape
Blended learning has shown continuous growth during the 21
st
century.
According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), 27
states have virtual schools and 31 states (and Washington D.C.) have full-time online
statewide schools (iNACOL, 2013). In a similar study, the Innosight Institute (now
known as the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation) identified
45,000 K-12 students that participated in some form of online education in the year
2000. By 2009, that number had grown to over 3 million students (Innosight,
2011). The study also suggested that most of the growth was occurring in blended-
learning environments, or, in a setting where students learn online in an adult-
supervised environment (Innosight, 2011). Depending on the type of school model
being implemented this could be on a part time basis or consist of the entire
schedule in full-implementation models. While the numbers of students
participating in blended learning in a K-12 setting continues to grow, this reflects
only a small sample size in comparison to the projects for postsecondary exposure
to virtual and blended course offerings. It is projected that by 2014, half of all
postsecondary students will take at least one class online by 2014 (Christensen,
2008).
With such a dramatic increase in the number of students participating in
online and blended learning educators must work to acclimate themselves to a
changing educational environment. As students become more interconnected with
technology and districts around the country mobilize to stay ahead of the curve,
teachers must mirror these changes effectively in their classrooms. Unfortunately,
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recent practices and the current implementation of teacher training have not
reflected the move towards blended learning. While there have been some attempts
to implement the effective use of technology, they remain isolated and complex, and
as such, no consolidated picture on how to introduce technology through teacher
training has been developed (Kay, 2006).
The aforementioned complexity is a result of a combination of factors. For
seasoned teachers, their traditional practices have been previously constructed and
reinforced, making it difficult to evolve. As argued by Carl Rogers, Learning which
involves a change in self organization in the perception of oneself is threatening
and tends to be resisted (Rogers, 1969, pg159). For new teachers, the learning
process is difficult enough even with the absence of technology. Within blended
learning, there exists an even greater complexity of issues. Not only would it
require seasoned teachers to drastically alter their role within the classroom, but it
would also pose problems for new teachers in that they must master a plethora of
educational technologies in combination with the understanding of what it means to
be a teacher. Between both parties of teachers there is a unifying issue in that their
training has been fixated on the traditional model. On top of that, current
professional development models within schools, even those that adopt blended
learning strategies, refer back to traditional methods of rote memorization often
times placing emphasis on aspects not concerning instruction. Most frequently,
standards take center stage in the area of professional development. Previously
concerned with state-wide standards, the focus is shifting to the adoption of
Common Core State Standards. Forty-three states, in addition to Washington D.C.
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and Puerto Rico have agreed to adopt these standards (Kendall, 2011). In his book,
Understanding the Common Core, Kendall also addresses the vacuum in curriculum
support. Due to the fact that the standards were developed before the curriculum,
there will be an increased burden upon school districts and teachers to support
their implementation.
The purpose is not to negatively evaluate the adoption of different
professional development focus points. It is understood that each district, school,
and teacher have identified areas of concern and support that are personal to them.
Instead, the purpose of this literature review will be to evaluate proper learning
methodologies in an attempt to correctly apply them to address the issue of teacher
unpreparedness in blended learning environments. In order to prepare teachers,
both new and seasoned, a multi-faceted approach should be taken. And, in a
reflection of that approach, the appropriate learning theories will be addressed in a
manner that supports the path to preparedness. First, with the influx of learning
technologies in schools there must be background information, data, and best
practices available at all times to the teacher. From there, schools can create an
environment that fosters communities of practice and a professional development
model more relevant and reflective of classroom practices. To support the
development of an online curriculum, the theory of constructivism will be addressed
and evaluated in the context of blended learning environments and instructional
technology. Reinforcing the need of an alternative approach to teacher training, the
theories of adult learning and situated learning demonstrate the importance of the
correct approach to training teachers. Just as the digital curriculum is reinforced by
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professional development, the learning theories are mirrored to demonstrate how
constructivism is interconnected, in this scenario, with adult and situated learning
theories. Finally, to support the theories being applied to both a need for a
combination of digital curriculum and professional development, the argument in
favor of a move towards a blended approach to professional development will be
upheld.
Constructivism And Instruction
Seymour Papert, basing theories off constructivist ideas, described the
process of learning as a reconstruction rather than a transmission of knowledge.
That learning is most powerful when a meaningful product can be created from
learned experiences (Papert, 1986). Prior to Papert, Jerome Bruner reinforced the
theoretical framework of learning being a construction of new ideas and concepts
based on previous experiences and knowledge. In terms of Bruners theory of
instruction, there are four major aspects to consider: 1) specify experiences which
implant a predisposition to learning, 2) knowledge should be structured so that it is
readily grasped, 3) effective sequencing, and 4) the use of rewards and punishment
throughout the continued learning process. As Bruner argues, the notion that
learning is more of a broad idea than a skill is at the heart of the educational process
(Bruner, 1961). With this in mind, during the formation of instruction and
curriculum, one must create a broad basis from which the learner could apply, or
construct, their own experiences and practices. While instruction and curriculum
theories focus on different notions, that curriculum is a pragmatic approach to what
to teach while instruction concentrates on how one learns (Duffy, et all, 2013), it is
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paramount in understanding the interconnectedness of the two. One critique of
Bruner is that a focus primarily on instructional theory limits the effectiveness of
constructivist ideas. In order to have a more impactful contribution to education it
must be also looked at through the lens of educational theory as well (Lawrence,
2010).
The Role Of Constructivism In Learning Technologies
In Constructivism and the Technology of Instruction: A Conversation, David
Jonassen attempts to bridge the gap between objectivism and constructivism
theories. While making the argument for knowledge acquisition through the lens of
constructivism, he continues to appeal to the objectivist approach, identifying the
need for identifying important stimuli Duffy, et all, 2013). While this connection is
somewhat paradoxical given the two theories in discussion, Jonassen makes a
strong case that notes that the front-end portion objectivism - as part of a
multifaceted approach to learning constructivism (Duffy, et al, 2013). For the
purposes of an intertwined curriculum with further collaboration through
professional development, this appears a valid and strong argument.
Jonassen also describes three facets of educational design: 1) Front end
analysis, 2) instructional strategy environment, and 3) assessment (Duffy, et all,
2013). This provides a strong basis in the formation of curriculum and is indeed
given further support later in the text. The argument made by Jonassen appears to
be somewhat lacking in terms of clarifying the initial approach of front-end analysis.
While it does adhere to some objectivist ideas, there should be mention of the fact
that this facet of educational design could very well be the broad foundation from
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which experiences and practices could be applied. In terms of learning technologies,
a strong understanding of applied tools could be the basis from which new theories
and practices are applied in a shared environment.
Duffy and Jonassens argument concerning the development of instruction is
more fully specified when they argue that
Abstracting concepts and strategies from their theoretical position, as
instructional systems theory has done, strips them of their meaning, so it is
necessary to deliberately apply some particular theory of learning
(preferably constructivist, cognitive theory) to the design and development
of instructional materials
The implications of constructivist theory for instructional developers are that
specific content and outcomes cannot be prespecificied although a core
knowledge domain may be specified. (Dufy, et all, 2013)
Duffy (citing Hirsh, 1987) places the emphasis on the construction of interpretations
rather than knowing particular things. Learning should be present in meaningful,
problem-solving contexts that allow for the simulation of the classroom (Duffy, et
all, 2013). It is here that notions of apprenticeship and situated learning support the
connection between applied theories of constructivism in the formation of
instruction and curriculum. Within simulated classroom experiences, the values of
apprenticeship learning become apparent (Spiro, et all, 2013). Spiro makes the
point that even when the learning process appears relatively straightforward,
mental processes are formed (Spiro, et all, 2013). However, as prior experiences are
concerned within constructivism, there is a divide between expert teachers and
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novice teachers (Spiro, et all, 2013). For novice teachers to become immersed in the
phenomena being investigated, they must have exposure to experiences, which
expert teachers can provide (Spiro, et all, 2013).
Adult Learning Through Andragogy
This notion of apprenticeship and situated learning, as it applies to
instructional technology in professional development, should be viewed within the
context of adult learning. Carl Rogers observed that all human beings have a natural
propensity to learn (Rogers, 1969). While many theoretical perspectives place
emphasis on the cognitive development within children and young adults, Rogers,
and others like him, examine learning from an adult perspective. The role of the
teacher in such a scenario, is to facilitate learning by setting a positive climate for
teaching, clarifying the purposes of the learner(s), organizing and making available
learning resources, balancing intellectual and emotional components of learning,
and sharing feelings and thoughts with learners without ironclad control over the
process (Rogers, 1969). Perhaps the key element of this environment, as one can
find in other arguments by similar theorists, namely Cross and Knowles, is that
there is a direct connection between the knowledge learned and the practices,
experiences, and social setting in which the learners operate (Rogers, Knowles,
Cross).
Malcolm Knowles, in part influenced by Rogers, coined the term andragogy
to describe his approach to adult learning. Similar to Rogers, he further emphasized
the self-directed nature of adults. Other points of emphasis corresponding with
Rogers and the proposed approach to professional development includes an
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explanation of why particular knowledge is being learned, learning built upon
exponentially, problem-solving approach to social roles, and an immediate value of
proposed topics (Knowles, 1973). Within his approach, not only should selected
knowledge be applicable to experiences and social roles, but also that experience is
the richest resource (Knowles, 1973). Knowles was, in fact, far ahead of his time in
his approach to learning. In his book, The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species,
Knowles states that Adults have a deep need to be self-directing; the role of the
teacher is to engage in a process of mutual inquiry with them rather than to
transmit his or her knowledge to them and have them conform. Knowles then
solidified the connection between constructivism, adult education, and todays
approach to blended learning by clarifying that individual differences among
learners increase with age. And, as a result of this, provisions must be made to
account for differences in style, time, place, and pace of learning (Knowles, 1973).
All of these descriptive features are strong components of blended learning
strategies. For direct practices, instructors for adults need to focus less on what is
being taught and more on role-playing and simulations as a facilitator rather than a
lecturer or grader (Knowles, 1973).
Situated Learning, Apprenticeship, and Communities of Practice
The argument for direct experience applies directly to Jean Lave and Etienne
Wengers theory of situated learning, specifically in the areas of apprenticeships and
communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Interestingly, Lave and Wenger
sought to observe practices outside of schools (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Not only
does this approach provide a new approach to learning but it also provides more of
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a foundation for adult learning, as their observations focused on various professions
and communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). The primary component to
Lave and Wengers studies was the idea of Legitimate Peripheral Participation. By
this we mean to draw attention to the point that learners inevitably participate in
communities of practitioners and that the mastery of knowledge and skill requires
newcomers to move toward full participation in the sociocultural practices of a
community (Wenger & Lave, 1991). Building upon the constructivist approach to
curriculum in collaboration with adult learning, the idea that learning occurs in a
social environment, or community of practice (Wenger & Lave, 1991) the argument
for a need of a more relevant approach to professional development is strengthened.
Notions of empowerment are also present. Through Legitimate Peripheral
Participation, learners become more empowered through experiences and further
identifying themselves within their environment through increased practices. The
opposite is also true, that when one is kept from participation it will be
accompanied by disempowerment. To the common observer of schools, it would
appear that there is one organization or community of practice. However, Lave and
Wengers argument creates a need for multiple groups to form their own
community of practice within the school. Ideally, this could take two forms: one of
apprenticeship (Lave & Wenger, 1991) or through the adoption of communities of
practice based on content areas. The later of the two being an optimal selection, as
it adheres to shared experiences as well as logistical constraints a topic to be
touched upon later on in the review of professional development models.

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As previously noted by Lave and Wenger, identity is formed through participation.
Through sustained participation within community of practices the cycle of growth
between newcomers and experts becomes apparent (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Rather
than a typical notion of teacher and learner, various roles become intertwined
within these communities: newcomers become old-timers and apprentices become
masters. These evolving roles are made possible through collaboration, and as Lave
and Wenger argue, primarily among apprentices (Lave and Wenger, 1991). In a
school setting, where emphasis is placed on experience, this highlights a need for a
discussion on the diversity of roles and participation. The structure of schools, from
administration to department leaders to the teaching staff, should allow for the
movement of staff not based on yearly experience, but deeper participation in a
communal practice.
The Case For A Blended Approach To Professional Development
With the arguments for a constructivist approach to instruction and
curriculum, further strengthened by, and in harmony with, the theories of adult and
situated learning, the professional development models within schools should be
revisited. While the previous studies have applied to learning in general, they do
not deviate in their support of learning occurring in a virtual or blended setting.
Noting the increase in students in such models (Innosight, 2011), the approach to
professional development should account for this and react accordingly. Similar to
Wenger & Laves arguments for participation in communities of practice, Palloff and
Pratt make the argument that instructors in an online setting (either distance or
within brick-and-mortar schools) rarely emerge out of the box but rather develop
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their skills over time (Palloff & Pratt, 2011). Accounting for the differences between
face-to-face and the traditional approach, it is unrealistic to expect instructors to
automatically know what to do. As such, good training will lead to development
over time (Palloff & Pratt, 2011).
With the increase of blended learning (Innosight, 2011) and the adoption of
education reforms, raising teacher effectiveness is central to school improvement
initiatives (Allen, et all, 2011). As noted by Allen, the primary method of improving
practices is significant professional development. According to the research study
by the Gates Foundation, it is evident that teachers agree, with 85% of 40,000
teachers surveyed viewing professional development as absolutely essential or
very important (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2010).
Traditional models of professional development are based on face-to-face
delivery (Allen, et all, 2011). While many teachers prefer face-to-face-training, there
is an increased amount of evidence arguing in favor of a blended approach (Allen, et
all, 2011). Allen (referencing U.S. Department of Education, 2010), observed the
complexity of learning objectives with the amount of teachers needing training,
argued that online delivery can mean a substantial reduction of costs, creating a
more efficient method of delivery that is comparable if not better than face-to-face
PD methods (Allen, et all, 2011). On top of being a more cost efficient approach, the
argument for a blended approach is further strengthened by introducing efficiencies
that make training more focused, create a more job-embedded approach, and
increase collaboration among participants (Allen, et all, 2011). All of these suggest a
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professional development model that reflects the fundamental notions of
constructivism and adult learning.
In order to provide clarity for the arguments, one should remember that
suggesting online delivery does not mean that teachers would only meet
asynchronously in a virtual setting. Instead the broad knowledge base to build
from, central ideas, and possibilities for collaboration are presented through an
online medium (digital curriculum, video, information processor) and then built
upon in face-to-face settings (Allen, et all, 2011). The online components of this
model would create additional opportunities for discussion and information that is
readily available within various delivery methods. According to Allen, the following
were what teachers found to be the primary benefits: preservation of class time
(16%), less travel (52%), more flexibility (35%), and cost savings (32%).
Summary of Findings
In her study, Face-to-Face vs. Online Development? Do Both! The Power of the
Blended Model, Dr. Paula Hidalgo reinforced the argument for a blended approach to
learning and professional development.

Despite promising statistics and the undeniable popularity of online and
blended learning models, there are many educators and school
administrators who are, understandably, skeptical about the effectiveness of
these models, and the extent to which students and teachers who participate
in them learn as much as they would learn if they were sitting in a classroom,
in front of an instructor who delivers the content. (Hidalgo, 2010)
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In order to keep up with the changing landscape of schools a new approach to
teacher preparedness must be undertaken. Due to aforementioned popularity of
blended learning coupled with the expanding market of learning technologies,
information, best practices, and opportunities for shared experiences within this
setting must be provided to educators. This is not a means of advocating a one-size-
fits-all method of delivery, but rather a blueprint for adoption. In terms of the
appropriate curriculum concerning schools, a constructivist approach is advocated.
A broad base of knowledge and ideas should be readily available that educators can
access, making meaning of, and directly apply within their classroom or social role.
In isolation, however, this body of knowledge would not serve the advancement of
best practices. Thus, in viewing the next step through in the context of adult
learning, ideas on the optimal environment for direct application and collaboration
are apparent. Apprenticeships and communities of practice are able to thrive when
a blended approach to professional development is taken. With knowledge readily
available without sacrificing face-to-face time for teachers to further their practices,
teachers, both newcomers and old-timers (Lave & Wenger, 1991) will be better
prepared to teach in blended learning environments.





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