NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Real Educational Reform Is on the Horizon

June 14, 2013

Today's most promising experiments in K-12 education combine computerized instruction with immediate assessment and feedback, while carefully linking students to the best traditional classroom teaching practices. It's called "blended learning," and the mix of digital and human elements constitutes the "blend," says Laura Vanderkam of The Philanthropy Roundtable.

The new big push in these schools is to make the most of teacher time by deploying educators as tutors and mentors who focus on the precise concepts that each student is missing without holding back those who are ready to move ahead or abandoning those who need supplemental instruction on concepts they haven't yet mastered.

  • Handling the grunt work of simple instruction and then uncovering these competencies and gaps through online exercises is how the computers help the teachers.
  • This dramatically different style of instruction attempts to optimize the combination of empowering technology and human touch.
  • Some speculate that it might be not only a godsend for students who often get lost in today's mass-lecture model of teaching, but also an answer to the spiraling costs of conventional schooling, which have become such a drag on our families and communities.

These innovations are very new, and the educators pioneering this more personalized style of teaching are constantly adapting as they discover improved ways of proceeding.

  • The technologies and managerial insights are improving rapidly, and there are indications they might sharply enhance both student performance and the efficiency of schools.
  • Many philanthropists are excited about this field, and say they'd love to see and fund additional blended learning institutions.

There are four major ways in which creative educators and donors believe blended learning can have transformative effects:

  • Individualization.
  • Improved feedback.
  • Teacher effectiveness and satisfaction.
  • Cost control.

The blended education program successfully captures several or all of those advantages, and could produce dramatic improvements over conventional school methods.

Source: Laura Vanderkam, "Blending, Upending: Is Blended Learning the Disruptive Innovation of K-12 Reform?" Philanthropy Roundtable, Spring 2013.


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