The secret element in blended learning

I just read this article at the Christensen Institute. This is an insightful article about the importance of the teacher in combination with technology in blended learning. I’m quoting what resonated with me here:

The missing measures

What doesn’t show up clearly in Hattie’s rankings are the positive interaction effects between teacher effectiveness, online learning, and the personalized learning practices that blended learning enables. While technology facilitates differentiated instruction, accelerates real-time feedback, and enables mastery-based learning, teachers often help students find their “why.” Teachers have the power to motivate and inspire students to engage deeply with educational content; they can provide students with the expert feedback to validate the meaning of their achievements; and they can show students that someone cares about their success.

Hattie synthesized the results of nearly 1,200 meta-analysis studies to compare various influences on student learning based on their statistically-measured effect size. When we look at hardware and software, their impact on student achievement tends to be moderate, in the rage of 0.1 to 0.6.

  • Technology with learning needs students – 0.57
  • Technology in other subjects – 0.55
  • Interactive video methods – 0.54
  • Intelligent tutoring systems – 0.48
  • Information communications technology – 0.47
  • Technology with elementary students – 0.44
  • Technology in writing – 0.42
  • Gaming/simulations – 0.35
  • Technology in mathematics – 0.33
  • Technology with high school students – 0.3
  • Online and digital tools – 0.29
  • Technology in reading/literacy – 0.29
  • Technology in science – 0.23
  • Technology in small groups – 0.21
  • Web-based learning – 0.18
  • One-on-one laptops – 0.16

Pure technology, however, isn’t the only way to influence student learning within a blended model. Online learning also gives teachers new options for how they group students, provide feedback, and use instructional time. In other words, the real potential of online learning comes not from the tools themselves, but from what the teacher’s can do using their toolbelt. When we look at many of the “offline” activities that online learning makes possible—such as small group instruction and mastery-based learning—we see even more favorable effects, ranging from around 0.3 to 0.9.

  • Micro-teaching/video review of lessons – 0.88
  • Classroom discussion – 0.82
  • Deliberate practice – 0.79
  • Interventions for students with learning needs – 0.77
  • Mastery learning – 0.57
  • Providing formative evaluation – 0.48
  • Small group learning – 0.47
  • Student-centered teaching – 0.36

Now consider teachers. Even with the best technology has to offer, teachers still stand out as more important than any other element of blended learning, with effect sizes ranging from about 0.4 to nearly 1.6:

  • Collective teacher efficacy – 1.57
  • Teacher estimates of achievement – 1.29
  • Teacher credibility – 0.9
  • Teacher clarity – 0.75
  • Teacher expectations – 0.43


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