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Blended Learning | Career and Technical Education (CTE)

Top 7 Blended Learning Strategies for CTE

April 23rd, 2020 | 9 min. read

Bri Stauffer

Bri Stauffer

For nearly 10 years, Bri has focused on creating content to address the questions and concerns educators have about teaching classes, preparing students for certifications, and making the most of the AES curriculum system.

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Many CTE teachers have heard about blended learning and the benefits that it can provide to students in CTE pathways. After all, in the right cases, blended learning can help both engage students and ensure they retain what they've learned for the long term. 

However, it can be overwhelming to implement blended learning in the classroom - especially when you don’t know where to begin. How can you go about blending your classroom? What do other teachers do?

As a CTE curriculum developer, we hear questions like this from thousands of teachers like you every year. In response, we've composed a list of the most effective ways to blend CTE classes. 

In this article, you’ll discover 7 of the best blended learning strategies you can use in your classroom:

  1. Use multiple types of instructional materials
  2. Incorporate technology for reinforcement
  3. Try new teaching techniques
  4. Keep your traditional methods
  5. Vary your assessments
  6. Mix up group work styles
  7. Try a digital curriculum

By the time you're done reading, you'll have a solid understanding of each of these different blended learning strategies and how to use them. 

But before getting into the details, it’s important to understand what blended learning is.

What Is Blended Learning?

Blended learning is an education strategy that features multiple teaching methods to help students learn more effectively than one method on its own.

In most cases blended learning combines a mix of traditional classroom instruction and digital learning.

In a blended approach, traditional instruction is used to introduce or reinforce concepts, provide hands-on skills practice, and give students opportunities for collaborative work.

On the other hand, digital learning is used to provide additional content when paired with traditional instruction. While digital curriculum is frequently what you see in blended learning, it is not the only method.

Both of these pieces being combined in the learning experience is what makes a classroom blended.

With that, let’s dive into some blended learning strategies you can implement in your classroom!

1. Use Multiple Types of Instructional Materials

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Blended learning requires you to use different types of instructional materials and strategies. While it may be tempting to stick to your main textbook, you’ll need more than that to provide a truly blended experience!

Along with your textbook, try supplementing your lessons with free resources from the Internet, online discussion groups, your home-grown teaching resources, and test prep materials.

By using several resources, blended learning will come naturally and easily. A typical day in a blended classroom could look like this:

  • Class starts with a bell ringer activity you found on the internet
  • You instruct students to read a section of the textbook
  • A teacher-led discussion follows
  • Students break into groups to complete a related activity you’ve created
  • You end class by assigning homework from your textbook or eBook

Each day will be a little bit different as you mix up the use of each resource. Some concepts may be best taught from a textbook, while others are better covered by a digital curriculum.

Finding which materials work for which topics is just the first step!

2. Incorporate Technology for Reinforcement

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Since CTE courses have both standard lessons and lab work for learning skills, you have an opportunity to try a few extra things by incorporating technology.

Technology can be used in a few different ways, including to directly instruct your students, or to reinforce their learning with fun activities or exercises. 

If you teach a health science class and want to use more technology, one of your lessons might look like this:

  • Show them a video of how blood travels through the body, since some topics are best taught with visuals.
  • After that, you could instruct your health class to discuss the video online through social media or a digital teaching tool you have.
  • Finally, you could try using a mobile app or interactive game to quiz your students on the video. Quizlet and Kahoot! are two popular options many CTE teachers are embracing.

However you decide to include technology, keep in mind that it should have an applicable purpose to help increase your students’ understanding and retention of information.

Don’t add technology just to check the box!

3. Try New Teaching Techniques

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If you’re new to blended learning, you have a golden opportunity to use different teaching techniques to help your students. You may be surprised to see your students’ reactions to a new technique!

One approach to try is differentiating your lessons. Differentiated instruction is a more specific technique of varying your instruction to meet the needs of your individual students. With differentiation, you could have three versions of a lesson based on students’ performance in the classroom.

For instance, if you wanted to differentiate an economics unit, you might have your lessons take a few different forms:

  • For students who dislike traditional instruction and are more visual learners, you might have them sit in one section of the room to watch videos and complete self-assessments so they can move at their own pace. 
  • For students who learn best via reading and love to teach themselves, you might assign them textbook reading to complete over the course of a period. 
  • Lastly, for students who prefer traditional instruction, you might stand at the front of the room and give your lecture as you would in an undifferentiated class. 

Another great teaching technique is flipping the classroom. In essence, flipped learning means students do typical classroom work at home. This leaves class time open for teacher-led discussions, projects, and hands-on skill work.

While trying a new method like flipped learning can be intimidating, many CTE teachers have great success with it! You can too — all you have to do is start!

4. Keep Your Traditional Teaching Methods

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While new techniques are an important blended learning strategy, don’t dump your old ones!

Traditional lectures still have a place in a blended classroom. After all, there are some topics that are just better taught with a teacher standing at the front of the room. 

You're probably familiar with traditional teaching methods, but if you're new to teaching, a typical day in the classroom using them might look like this:

  • Begin class with a lecture and an accompanying PowerPoint presentation. This is a great way to introduce a new concept before you try branching out into your other blended strategies.
  • Continue on with a good classroom discussion so that students can see what their peers are thinking. This is an irreplaceable part of an effective classroom. Your students can explore a topic more in-depth with a discussion that you facilitate.
  • Finish the lesson by assigning them reading or homework they can complete before next class, so that they come better prepared to learn. 

While newer, student-centered techniques are a must, your role as a facilitator is still just as important even when adding blended learning strategies to your classes. There's a reason these traditional techniques have stuck around, after all--they tend to work!

5. Vary Your Assessments

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While it’s not exactly a teaching strategy, varied assessments are crucial to successful blended learning.

If you plan to mix up your instructional materials and teaching style, it’s only natural to mix up how you measure student comprehension.

So how can you add more variety to your assessments? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Keep some traditional, paper-based assessments
  • Add digital quizzes throughout the course
  • Include essays as end-of-course assignments
  • Assign presentations for unit wrap-up
  • Use self-assessed or peer-assessed assignments

By varying your formative and summative assessment styles, you’re doing far more than just using a new technique for blended instruction. You’re providing your students with more opportunities to showcase their knowledge in ways that better fit their strengths, rather than always using traditional paper-based exams.

6. Mix Up Group Work Styles

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Another valuable blended learning strategy to explore is mixing up how group work is done in--and out--of the classroom.

If your students are working on a group project, it’s natural to have them do all of the work in class.

However, with blended learning you may consider having students connect digitally outside of class time.

For example, if you assigned an end-of-unit marketing project, here's what this might look like in action:

  • Ensure your students have the technology necessary to collaborate outside of class.
  • Assign your students the marketing project (it should probably be some kind of digital graphic or video to ensure they'll use technology to complete it). 
  • Emphasize that most of the project is to be completed outside of class (just be sure you're not overwhelming them with homework). 
  • Offer guidance to any students who are having trouble connecting digitally, either due to technology or some other reason. 

If done right, this method will ensure your students work together digitally to get their project done. This is important because online collaboration is an essential skill your students will need once they are out in the working world.

By including online collaboration for group work and discussions, you not only provide a different way for them to interact with each other, you help them develop a solid foundation for technology-based communication. 

7. Try Digital Curriculum

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A digital curriculum is another great way to implement blended learning in your CTE classroom. Simply put, a digital curriculum system is online teaching software that saves teachers time when it comes to planning and grading. 

Digital curriculum systems often include a variety of teaching materials, such as digital lessons, hands-on activities, guided notes, teacher presentations, and group projects. 

You’ll likely also find different types of formative and summative assessments within a digital curriculum that measure your students' knowledge and understanding in a variety of ways.

If you use digital curriculum to blend your classroom, it might look like this:

  • Start off class with an activity to hook student interest. 
  • Move into a presentation to introduce concepts to students, then have them complete eLearning lessons to hone their understanding.
  • Conduct digital review exercises to help them reflect upon and retain what they've learned. 
  • Have students complete creative projects or assessments so that they have the chance to employ the knowledge and skills they learned during the unit. 

Because digital curriculum combines traditional instruction with technology, it helps teachers very naturally blend their classrooms. After all - the materials and flexibility for blended learning are built right into the system!

Thousands of CTE teachers use these digital curriculum systems to plan classes, incorporate blended learning in their classes, assess student progress, and get their free time back.

Need More Blended Learning Strategies?

With the increased student engagement and retention levels blended learning can provide, it's no surprise many teachers think blending their classrooms is worth it. However, it can be difficult finding the right techniques to successfully blend your classroom in such a way that your students thrive.

In this article, you've discovered some of the most effective blended learning strategies for CTE classes. If you use these techniques well, you'll go a long way toward making sure your students learn--and remember--more in your classroom. 

However, these aren't the only ways to blend your class. If you liked these strategies and they worked well for you, why not take a look at a few more? Check out this guide to four more blended learning strategies you can incorporate in your CTE classroom

This guide goes into four broader and more sweeping strategies you can use not only to blend your classroom, but also to make you rethink the way you teach altogether. Along the way, you'll receive valuable advice from experienced teachers, as well as links to articles, best practices, and more. 

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