Blended Learning in Mathematics: Examining Vignettes From Elementary and Middle Schools

Blended Learning in Mathematics: Examining Vignettes From Elementary and Middle Schools

Drew Polly (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA) and Amanda R. Casto (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8009-6.ch013

Abstract

The term blended learning continues to gain momentum in K-12 classrooms around the United States. While the idea of implementing blended learning environments is becoming more popular, there is a need to gain a deeper understanding of how these environments look and how they influence student learning. This chapter takes a step in that direction by examining four instances of blended learning in mathematics classrooms, described as vignettes, that examine the model of blended learning, shifts in teachers' instruction while trying to implement blended learning, as well as teachers' reported benefits and barriers to teaching mathematics in this way. Implications cite a need to focus on the quality of mathematical tasks posed by teachers as well as in technology-rich environments and the need for more in-depth examination about teachers' instructional decisions and rationales related to blended learning and how those decisions influence student learning.
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Overview Of Blended Learning In Mathematics

As technology access in both K–12 settings and homes continues to increase, blended and/or personalized learning experiences continue to be a focal point among educational leaders, policy makers, and those funding educational initiatives across the world (Fisher, Bushko, & White, 2018). In the United States, blended learning and personalized learning have been focal points in the 2010s (Freeman, Adams Becker, Cummins, Davis, & Hall Giesinger, 2017; New Media Consortium, 2017), due to their potential to be transformative as they focus on student actions instead of relying on the teacher to impart knowledge on their students (Kaspar, 2018).

In this chapter we focus on blended learning in elementary and middle school classrooms. We draw on the definition of blended learning from Christensen, Horn, and Staker (2013, p. 8),

an educational program in which a student learns at least: a) in part through online learning with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace, b) in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and c) the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

Blended learning implementation in schools varies greatly. The well-known resource Blended Learning Universe (https://www.blendedlearning.org) refers to seven specific models of blended learning, which are described in Table 1. In some cases, teachers’ adoption of blended learning has simply become the addition of a separate activity in a center or rotation of activities, while in other cases blended learning has substantially transformed teachers’ approach to educating their students (Christensen et al., 2013).

Table 1.
Models of blended learning (adapted from Blended Learning Universe)
Name of ModelDescription
Station RotationStudents rotate through stations or centers on a fixed schedule. At least one of the stations included digital learning experiences.
Lab RotationStudents rotate through stations. However, in this model a rotation is an actual physical computer lab or designated space for digital learning.
Individual RotationStudents rotate through stations, which are predetermined by either the teacher or a digital tool. Individuals may work on only specific activities on their playlists or learning path rather than every activity like in Station Rotation.
Flipped ClassroomStudents spend time outside of class learning through digital or other types of experiences. Class time is dedicated to projects, student-centered experiences, and guided learning activities.
FlexStudents spend time in a fluid set of activities in which they drive their learning by having more ownership of how much time is spent on activities, the order in which activities are done, and what resources they use to support their learning.
À la CarteCommon in high schools, à la carte models allow students to take an online course as well as other face-to-face courses. Students are able to select courses they want and need, which provides options.
Enriched VirtualCommon in some high schools, this model allows students to primarily complete online courses with the option to come to a school building for enriched learning experience from a teacher or tutor.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Technology Integration: The use of a digital device in a learning environment by either the teacher or the student.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK): The construct that posits that technology integration knowledge includes a combination of knowledge of technology, pedagogy, and content and the context and culture of the educational setting.

Technology: Any digital device.

Mathematical Task: Any activity or problem that students engage with in a mathematics class.

Blended Learning: An educational program in which a student learns (1) in part through online learning with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; (2) in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and (3) the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

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