High stakes assessments can provide educators with useful data about student learning. However, by the time scores are tallied and reported, it is often too late to address the learning needs of students. They have already taken the tests! A blended approach to instruction affords teachers the opportunity to gather data over the course of the school year in order to determine students’ understanding or misconceptions related to the content and better target instruction. Blended learning enables teachers to leverage technology and use data to determine what they need to re-teach or where they need to deepen and differentiate their instruction BEFORE students take the tests.
Here are some ways that a blended approach can support educators in preparing students for high-stakes exams:
Blended Learning Provides Data for Learning
What if we thought about assessment as a way of learning rather than a report of what students learned or didn’t learn over the course of a school year? Online platforms can provide valuable data in ways that traditional teaching practices never could through adaptive technology, online formative assessments, and personalization. When teachers have immediate access to students’ responses to standards-based questions, they can use the data in that specific moment to redirect instruction, create small groups for targeted instruction in the next lesson, or assign additional tasks for students to spend more time practicing a skill. By using formative assessments, teachers can better understand learning gaps and focus their instruction to prepare students for success on high-stakes assessments.
Blended Learning Supports Differentiated Instruction
A blended approach can support teachers in providing students with equitable, personalized and differentiated opportunities to access information and demonstrate their learning. Platforms like Genius Plaza provide digital resources for teachers to integrate authentic, student-centered learning activities into their lessons. These activities help build the 21st Century skills necessary for mastering high-stakes assessments, like critical thinking and argumentation. For example, a group of students might collaborate to create a short video to explain their process for solving an algebraic equation. Or, a student can create a game to share with the class to review the key terms related to a science topic.
Furthermore, a student might choose to write an eBook with relevant images to make and defend a claim about addressing climate change. These personalized learning experiences help students to understand themselves as thinkers and creators while having the ability to choose the format in which they will present their knowledge. Additionally, online platforms can provide adaptive content like leveled readings and skills-focused activities based on individualized performance data. By increasing student engagement in learning through differentiation and personalization, students will better retain and recall important information related to the content when the time comes to take end-of-year assessments.
Blended Learning Saves Time
Blended learning maximizes instructional time so teachers can focus on what they do best–teach! A blended approach enables teachers to deliver formative assessments regularly with immediate access to results. For example, students can submit a short written response to a review question online or complete a quick survey to demonstrate their understanding of the lesson. Rotations at computer-based centers allow teachers to assign independent, more rigorous work to students with higher degrees of readiness while facilitating small-group instruction with students who need more support. Additionally, the use of online tools and digital platforms extend learning beyond the classroom, so students can work at home, increasing time on task to practice the skills and strategies they need most to master high-stakes tests.
Blended Learning Empowers Teachers
The data that online tools and assessments can provide translates to educators’ knowledge of students. Teachers can make more informed decisions about instruction and engage in deeper discussions around student learning. Consequently, teachers can design more student-centered lessons with clear objectives and appropriate activities to address the mastery of standards, as well as the individualized needs of diverse learners. Furthermore, schools can continue to develop their classrooms and curricula to be more relevant in our continually changing technological landscape. This is an exciting time for educators!