Friday, July 3, 2015

Hybrid Learning - Some background and My Success Story

In addition to standards based grading, hybrid learning is the other main thing that sets me apart from most of my peers.  The majority of the teachers in my department teach math in a very traditional way.  A typical class for them might look like this:

warm-up, check homework, notes, guided practice, and exit ticket.  This process would repeat basically every day with the exception being test days then the entire period would just be spent taking the exam.  This method works well for teaching kids to solve routine algorithmic problems with fluency.

However, our demographic is changing.  Practicing algorithms is not as important as it used to be.  No human has a future in performing algorithms.    This video is cool and scary.  It makes me rethink my future as a teacher.  Even if it were possible to make a living running algorithms, not all of our students can retain what they learn this way.  This is where hybrid learning can help.

The next few posts will be about how to implement hybrid learning in your own classroom.  I'll walk you through step by step what you need to do to be ready to do this successfully.  For now, I want to share just a little about the what hybrid learning is and how I ended up teaching this way.

Hybrid learning is a teaching method that rotates that rotates students through different learning stations with independent, collaborative work, and small group instruction.  Here is an example of what hybrid learning looks like at the elementary level.

I first learned about what hybrid learning was at a conference, Stemathon 2013.  The presenter was Colette, a teacher who used to teach across the hall from me before she went to work for our local IU.  I knew that she always gave interesting presentations, so that is why I chose her session.  After hearing Colette describe hybrid learning and getting to experience first hand during her presentation I spoke with her individually.  I told her that I thought this method would be perfect for my block class.  My school has a traditional schedule, but the lowest performing 10% of freshmen take  two back to back periods of math.  This is 105 minutes of math with kids who hate math and school in general.  I thought hybrid seemed like the perfect way to keep those kids engaged.

Luckily, Colette shared with me that our middle school had been awarded a grant to implement hybrid learning,  I asked for permission from our assistant superintendent and was allowed to attend the training sessions.  Now, I had far less support than my middle school counterparts because I was not part of the grant.  This means I did not get paid to do this, I did not get financial support to purchase digital content, and I did not get in class coaching to help implementation go smoothly.  However, I did feel strongly that this method would benefit my kids, so I stuck with it.  It was not easy.  It took about two months for the kids to respond.  I have tried a lot of new strategies in my classroom and I have never given anything two months to work.  I might have given a strategy one day or one week, but never two months.  Fortunately, I contacted Colette via email and she told me the learning curve was a long one and that I should stick with it.  I did, and I got great results.  In the two years that I have used hybrid learning, my students have outperformed those of every other teacher in the building.  My Keystone exam passing rates were the highest at both levels (honors and college prep - we don't have any other 'tracks').  Specifically, my Keystone passing rates were about 20% greater than those of the rest of my department for both CP and Honors levels.  And this was not a 'scheduling' fluke where I just happened to start with the higher performing kids because my growth scores (PVAAS) were also off the charts and the highest in my department.  Other teachers in out IU had similar results.

I'll stop here for today.  In upcoming posts I'll write about the logistics of getting started and share some free resources that you could use if you would like to try this method in your classroom.