In this newsletter, I have advocated for Hybrid teaching - here, here, and here. But this has mostly been my hot air on the subject, based on some experience with online learning over the last 15 years. It has not been based on research. And we need research.
When I use the term “Hybrid” I am referring to integrating in-class teaching with asynchronous online teaching components. The last two newsletters were about hybrid textbooks, which - of course - could support this kind of hybrid teaching well. And I have criticized HyFlex teaching, which involves trying to teach in two places at once - some students in the classroom, and others synchronously connected.
In a paper recently published in Educational Researcher, Dr. Lora Bartlett1 describes the result of some qualitative research she conducted on K-12 teachers in the fall of 2020. She sub-divides the term “Hybrid” into three types: parallel hybrid, alternating hybrid, and blended hybrid. Because many K-12 schools chose myriad ways to stay operational under the stress of the pandemic, she stresses the importance of using the right terminology when referring to “hybrid” learning, so she proposes her own schema.
“Parallel hybrid” divides school into two separate pathways, one remote and the other in-person. In this mode, teachers are assigned to one or the other - online or in-person teaching. “Alternating hybrid” cycles students in and out of the building on different days or weeks, one track online, and the other in-person. In this mode, teachers are responsible for teaching both their online and their in-person students, but not at the same time. And “blended hybrid” mixes in-person students with remote students in the same class at the same time. (This last one is the equivalent of “HyFlex.”)
Dr. Bartlett notes that each of these models place different demands on teachers. Teachers working in the Parallel hybrid model encounter the fewest new demands on their time and workload, although they must navigate restrictive classroom safety rules (i.e. no group work). Teachers working in the Alternating hybrid model have to adapt their lesson plans for online learning. Meanwhile, the teachers working in the blended hybrid model have to simultaneously teach both synchronously online and in-person. These teachers have “the greatest challenge,” according to Dr. Bartlett’s research. In her study, those teachers described their teaching assignment as “exhausting,” requiring modifications to their workday and load that compromised the academic learning opportunities for their students. During the study, more than half of those teachers shifted their online students to asynchronous format. Citing high levels of student failures, three school districts “replaced the blended model with the more sustainable parallel model.”
I think we can take at least two lessons from this research. First, we now have data about how impossible it is for teachers to teach with two heads, or to be in two places as once. Whether we call it blended hybrid or HyFlex, it places demands on teachers that are unfair and compromise student learning. Second, we are still studying the wrong thing - none of these models are what I am referring to when I speak of Hybrid learning: where all students are in-person part of the time, and learning outside of class using interactive technologies - preferably in part by using a hybrid textbook.
But it is good to have some real academic research on these questions. We need more.
Letters of Recommendation
I seem to be in a mode of reading biographies of major artists right now. I will list some of them here over the next few weeks. First up is the one I am currently reading. I guess I did not realize how little is known about William Shakespeare’s life, and thus writing a biography of him is a real challenge. But Peter Ackroyd was up to the challenge, and part of why it is successful is he has such a deep knowledge of the plays. Because of that, he makes regular reference to what Shakespeare’s time and life was like growing up in Stratford, and connects that information to the language and references in the plays. In so doing, he makes a strong case that the plays could only have been written by him. I can highly recommend Shakespeare: The Biography.
Q of the Week
The Q of the Week this week is a Quote from Nicholas A. Ferroni:
Teachers are the only people who lose sleep over other people’s kids.
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Dr. Lora Bartlett is an associate professor of education at the University of California, Santa Cruz.