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Disrupting the "one-size-fits-all" with Blended Learning

Case study

Keystone International School

Keystone International School is an urban K12 school with IGCSE curriculum with 253 pupils and 20 teachers, including an administrative principal. There are 2 curriculum streams.

At a glance:

Challenge

Keystone International School sought to maximize teacher time with students and increase student engagement.

Solution

Keystone strategically implemented middle and high school blended learning classrooms powered by EdSense innovative solutions.

Results

Keystone gathered overwhelming survey, assessment, and anecdotal evidence demonstrating improved student engagement and the maximization of teachers’ time with students.

Challenge

Limited Time and Waning Student Engagement

Keystone serves nearly 250 students. To better serve its students and community, school leaders began investigating what the school could do differently to improve student success. To accomplish this goal, Keystone articulated two questions for which to seek answers:

1. “Can we create and provide a resource that allows teachers to spend more time with their students?”

2. “Can we increase student engagement?”

Solution

Blended Learning Powered by EdSense

To answer these questions, Keystone field tested blended learning, switching learning management systems (LMS) along the way to better serve the needs of their K-12 students and teachers with a solution that could continue to meet those needs as they evolved over time with program growth.

Under the able leadership and vision of Smt. Srilakshmi Reddy, Administrative Principal, Keystone investigated the answers to these questions with a strategic field test of blended learning from grade 6 through grade 12. According to the Christensen Institute, Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns:
(1) at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
(2) at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
(3) and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

In November 2017, Keystone selected eight teachers to field test blended learning in grades five, six, and seven, and high school math. The field test results show potential, supporting the idea that blended learning could enable Keystone schools to improve student engagement, better meet individual student needs, and raise the achievement of all students. Because Keystone needed an LMS that would better serve the needs of its K-12 students and teachers as their needs evolved over time with program growth, Keystone engaged in a formal review of several LMS platforms to find a simple and easyto-use yet comprehensive solution that could meet their evolving needs over time.

In the formal LMS review, an evaluation committee unanimously chose EdSense to power the school’s innovation after teachers and principals found the platform user friendly, customizable, and comprising a mature set of features that could meet their needs—now and in the future. Additionally, the committee determined that the integration of the solution with the school’s student information system, coupled with robust analytics tools, would help them identify areas where they could make proactive, data-driven decisions to enable student success.

Blended Learning in Action

So what does blended learning look like in Keystone?

Blended classrooms from grade 6 through grade 12 look very different than the traditional education model. When you walk into a blended middle or high school classroom, you will not see individual student desks in straight rows facing the front, indicating a single source of knowledge in the classroom. You will not see quiet students and occasionally raised hands. You will not see anything resembling the traditional model of education stemming from the Carnegie unit. You will see something very different. You will see every student engaged, all the time, every day. You will see a competency-based approach to teaching and learning focused on student mastery of learning objectives, rather than seat time, where student success in the only option.

To realize this vision, Keystone teachers creatively implement variations of the blended learning rotation model to meet each student’s needs. A rotation model is a program in which, “within a given course or subject, students rotate between learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning. Other modalities might include activities such as small-group or fullclass instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, and pencil-and-paper assignments. The flipped classroom, station rotation, lab rotation, and individual rotation are all variations of the rotation model.

Results

The answers: yes, and yes!

Over the course of the field test and the phase one expansion, Keystone gathered overwhelming evidence demonstrating improved student engagement and the maximization of teachers’ time with students. In answer to their questions:

1. “Can we create and provide a resource that allows teachers to spend more time with their students?” No Problem.

2. “Can we increase student engagement?” Absolutely!

Maximizing Teachers’ Time With Students to Differentiate Instruction

Undoubtedly, blended learning has enabled Keystone teachers to spend more time with their students and to differentiate instruction to meet each student’s individual needs. In April 2018, principal captured the viewpoints of teachers implementing blended learning via a formal survey:

  • 93% report that communication with students is more frequent and specific in a blended class
  • 91% provide more immediate feedback to students in their blended classrooms
  • 68% affirm that students with disabilities experience success in a blended learning environment
  • 61% of teachers use EdSense to “flip” lessons to enable differentiation
  • 87% use EdSense in their classrooms to work with individuals or small groups of students

Blended teachers have shared numerous examples of how they differentiate instruction more effectively in their blended classrooms. In Anusha's sixth grade class, math and reading are completely individualized. Anusha personalizes instruction based on each student’s ability and progress toward learning objectives. She leverages her flipped lessons of the sixth grade math curriculum within EdSense and other digital content assets such as CK12, Youtube, Discovery Education, and Kahn Academy during class time to help her differentiate and meet her students at their level. She has some students one and-one-half to two instructional units behind where a typical sixth grader should be and other students who have just demonstrated mastery of instructional unit at the sixth grade level. In reading, she has students who are as many as eight months below grade level and students reading at the fifth grade level. With blended learning, Anusha can support those students who need more attention, one to one or in small groups. Teaching third grade traditionally and working with students in generalized level groups (below grade level, at grade level, and above grade level) for 30 minutes at a time, Sainath struggled to meet individual student’s reading skills needs. Now, with blended learning, Sainath leverages data from the Student Progress Monitor (SPM) to break students into groups. He spends just 10 to 15 minutes with small groups and can target specific word work and comprehension skills based on individual student needs. In EdSense, his sixth graders individually choose a concept identified by SPM on which to focus and choose a passage within their lexile range. They then engage in different activities designed to meet the targeted need, identified via data from the SPM. Some examples of activities in which the students engage in EdSense include comprehension and discussion questions, participation within discussion boards, contribution to a class wiki, or sharing a project with the rest of the class in a class blog.

Improved Student Engagement

Keystone has gathered overwhelming evidence documenting improved student engagement as a result of blended learning. “The unsolicited response I get from teachers on student engagement specifically, you won’t believe,” Rai says. “Many share that discipline has become a non-issue in their classrooms.” Results from the April 2018 blended teacher survey show that:

  • 98% of teachers believe student engagement has increased
  • 95% believe students’ attitudes have improved since implementing blended learning
  • 84% agree that students come better prepared for class

The anecdotal stories supporting improved student engagement are even better. With respect to her sixth graders, Anusha reports, “They are more engaged. They’re more enthusiastic and excited about being at school. They’re taking their learning home. They often say, ‘I’m going to get on EdSense at home and show this to my mom and dad.’” In his classroom, a sixth grader asked, “Can I still get on EdSense over the summer? I want to go back and do some things again.” After visiting Anusha’s class, a parent observed, “Every single student is engaged all the time, all day long.” In third grade, Sainath reports, “I had a parent at conferences tell me that their child used to cry when she had to come to school. And this year, she cries when she misses school.” Sainath adds, “I think, for my students, they like having the freedom of choice and the empowerment that it gives them. I have had multiple parents comment on how safe their child feels in the classroom and how they feel like they’ve seen a big boost in confidence from their child.”

Expert Blended Learning Advice for Teachers

Teaching and learning has indeed changed for the better in Keystone International School, and their success can be replicated by other schools. Of Keystone blended learning teachers, ninety-three percent report that blended learning has changed their approach to teaching. For Anusha, a 32-year veteran teacher, the only difficult part of the transition to blended learning was the technology. Like many of today’s teachers, Anusha did not grow up with technology, so it has been a “learned step” for her—but well worth the effort. “Once I started changing the pedagogies and thinking of how I was going to teach the kids, it was easy because it was fun to think how to teach differently,” Anusha says. She advises new blenders to, “Go slow, but I know you’ll jump right in like me.” A 12-year teacher, Sainath encourages new blenders: “Do not be afraid.” Saxena, an 11-year veteran, really enjoys her student centered classroom and it’s benefits. To those venturing into blended learning, Saxena recommends, “Dive right in! Don’t worry about mistakes.” Rohit says, “Just be flexible, it’s very freeing. Take risks. For the first time in my career, I felt like I could make mistakes and that it was healthy do so in front of my students.” Anup Acharya urges teachers to realize, “This did not happen overnight. We did not leave for Waterworld, come back on Monday, and everything fell magically in place. It took a lot of hard work. It took many hours of reflection on my part trying to figure out how we would change the norms in my classroom. The creation of those norms was a big leap on my part because it meant that I was giving up control.”

Improved Student Achievement

With the combination of the ability to differentiate instruction to a degree never possible before blended learning and student engagement at an all-time high, early evidence regarding the impact on student achievement is very promising. Keystone uses Keystone Understanding Skills to monitor to growth. In fifth grade math, for example, Keystone teachers like to see students gain five to six points in a school year. At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, however, Ami Dua’s fifth grade class achieved an average gain of thirteen points! Results like this are fueling the excitement for and expansion of blended learning across the school. In reference to these results, Dua says, “I truly feel that blending my classroom was a key ingredient in their success.” Instead of counting the number of days until summer vacation, Dua adds, “I really don’t want this year to end. We’re having too much fun. But, I also cannot wait for next year!”

4x

One-on-one time with students is up four times over years past

One-on-one time with students is up four times over years past, test scores are up and our students are more engaged. We are “flipped out” over our fabulous results and are extremely committed to ensure that all of our students and their families get the very best we have to offer.

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