Assess, Instruct, Measure, Support
by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist
Everyone today talks about blending technology into their classrooms. When I first started working for JFYNetWorks, many teachers asked, “How can a computer be better than me?” Those days are long gone as technology has become such an essential part of our lives, but many teachers still ask how they can create an effective blended learning environment.
There are many ways of integrating technology into the classroom to create a supportive blended learning environment. As an educator, you may be a great classroom teacher and you may be tech savvy. However, that does not mean you have all the skills and tools you need to integrate technology in the most effective way. That’s where a blended learning specialist—like me– comes in. JFYNet’s methodology provides a guideline to structure your blended learning classroom. If I’m working with you, I guide you through the steps right in your classroom.
The JFYNet methodology is called AIMS: Assess, Instruct, Measure, Support. Here’s what it means:
- Assess: Administer baseline assessments to identify student learning needs. These can be MCAS-based (if you’re in Massachusetts) or Accuplacer or practice SAT or any other skill assessment in math or reading. The beginning assessment shows the teacher every student’s individual skill profile. This baseline knowledge informs planning and instruction.
- Instruct: Assign online curriculum based on the student’s assessed needs . With the background knowledge provided by the baseline assessment, the student can be placed in the curriculum at the appropriate level and instruction can be individualized. All online instruction is self-paced.
- Measure: Follow the embedded mastery quizzes and administer interim formative assessments to measure progress and make instructional adjustments. Final summative assessments are used to document gains and, in college readiness classes, eliminate remedial courses. The JFYNet specialist monitors the ongoing data analysis and works with the teacher to make instructional adjustments.
- Support: The specialist provides onsite and online program oversight, data analysis, instructional consultation and teacher training and PD.
It‘s a good idea to administer baseline assessments at the beginning of the year. This helps you inform instruction and create differentiated lesson plans according to individual needs. Many software programs incorporate assessments. JFYNet helps you interpret assessment results and deliver appropriate instruction.
Planning is an essential part of instruction. Your lesson plan for blended learning will depend on many factors such as computer availability and students’ ability to work independently. One of the most important things is making sure that students use the computers properly. Students use the internet every day, but many see it as a recreational tool. It’s important to teach students about responsibility and responsible digital citizenship.
Another way to insure that students use online learning time productively is to make online work part of the class grade. Students must have a clear understanding of your expectations and what they are supposed to produce. General principles are very similar to a traditional lesson: state a clearly defined lesson goal, introduce the concept through an exercise or group activity, and have mini- quizzes before branching out. If you’re dealing with a controversial topic in a reading selection, you may want to have students vote and give their opinion. At the end, you may want to have students vote again and compare the responses. You could also get student opinions on something factual and see if they change their opinion after the lesson review.
Like any other lesson, you must state the goal clearly and make sure that students understand the tasks that need to be accomplished in order to demonstrate mastery of the concept. Even though goals should be specific, there needs to be flexibility to accommodate individual needs and abilities. Struggling students need extra remediation to master concepts. Have extra work planned for advanced students who finish quickly. Allow students to do some peer tutoring. This will reinforce their concept mastery, build confidence, and make blended learning more fun.
Circulate! The teacher has to be an active participant in the blended learning classroom. It’s important to move around the classroom so that you can make sure students are on task. Students are also more likely to ask for help if you are moving around the classroom. Keep checking on them and try to spend time with each student. Identify struggling students, but balance your time between students as you give one-on- one attention. If a student is struggling, give a background assignment or offer extra help outside class.
Since students are working independently, it’s important to continually monitor progress. Don’t wait until the end of the quarter. Your JFY specialist can help you analyze performance data to inform instruction. Measuring mastery should be done throughout the semester. By the time you give a comprehensive post-test, it may be very difficult for a lagging student to catch up. Look at formative results frequently and offer support to students who are having trouble mastering a concept.
Students can demonstrate mastery and use their creativity. You can create a class website by using Google sites (https://support.google.com/sites/answer/98081?hl=en). Students can blog about their experiences and what they have learned. They can also produce e-portfolios that demonstrate their knowledge or summarize class projects (sites.google.com ). You may even have students do a group podcast on their learning experiences, also on Google sites (https://sites.google.com/a/fayette.kyschools.us/overstreet/google/podcasting).
The last part of the measurement process should be a final assessment. Comparing the final assessment to the baseline pre-test will give you a comprehensive picture of student progress. When you are giving an online assessment, make sure students understand that this work is also part of the class grade—so they don’t blow off the test. Be clear in your expectations and tell students that you will be looking at improved mastery as a measurement of success and as part of their grade.
JFY supports teachers in all of the above aspects of blended learning. We give you feedback and constructive suggestions on a regular basis, so that you can effectively individualize instruction and guide your students to maximum—and measurable– learning gains.
Blended learning is a challenge, but you will find that the fluid environment of the blended learning classroom provides an engaging and enriched learning experience. If you’re working with a JFYNet specialist, you’ll become a blended learning expert in no time!
Click here to learn more about JFYNet‘s AIMS Methodology.