Blended Learning for K-12 Performing Arts

Just has my first blog post published on the Blended Learning Universe blog! Check it out here: 

As I’ve worked with pre-service teachers who are focused on performing arts disciplines (music, dance & theater) I have noticed a trend of general distrust for using technology. And that is OK! In the performing arts, we use class time for doing things we could not do unless we were gathered together in the same physical space. (Yes, I have seen Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir [and it’s cool!] , but no, that is not the norm, nor the ideal in terms of a K-12 arts education experience).

The more that I mesh my two worlds of instructional design/ blended learning with my background as a musician, I realize that there is huge untapped potential for performing arts disciplines through the use of blended pedagogical approaches. It takes willingness to experiment with online tools, but I really feel like it can bless the lives of individual students in the ensembles that we direct.

If you read the blog post and like what you’re hearing but want more direction, contact me! I’d love to help you brainstorm effective ways to use blended teaching pedagogy in your classroom.

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Dissertation Update

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve been able to post an update about my dissertation, so here it is!

  1. My first article, a literature review comparing online and blended teaching competencies, was reviewed by a journal and asked for some revisions before publication. I don’t yet know if it will be published by the journal, but I have revised it and re-submitted. Here’s to hoping!
  2. My second article, which takes a subset of the literature from the review and coded competencies based on whether they were (1) online/digital in nature, (2) in-person, (3) blending online & in-person, or (4) generic. That has been accepted, pending a few revisions! Should be published in March, and I will post a link on this blog so you can read it.
  3. My final research article just got approved by BYU’s IRB office. We are sending out the test of blended teaching skills, knowledge, and understanding to blended and online schools and teachers across the country. I am looking forward to seeing how people perform on the test and analyzing the results. This is what I am partnering with The Learning Accelerator to do. This test may or may not end up being posted on their website as a resource for schools.

I still need to hold a formal prospectus meeting with my committee, but today I am actually having a pre-prospectus meeting with 4 members of the committee to discuss details and get their feedback before I launch into the formal prospectus.

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Publish or (the field will) perish: Blended learning needs more peer-reviewed publications

This is my latest publication, written for the Brookings Institution– coauthored with Saro Mohammed of The Learning Accelerator!

We have both noticed the disparity between blended learning research and publication in peer-reviewed journals. The process of submitting to a journal may seem cumbersome in this digital age where we can self-publish easily to a blog, but there are reasons it is here!

Check it out here!

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SITE Conference 2018

The Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) is holding a conference this March, and our submission about the Blended Teaching Readiness Instrument Development has been accepted! Charles Graham will be presenting this. To read more about this topic, see the MVLRI report below.

Also, a conference presentation about our analysis of blended teaching competencies has been accepted! The analysis is about whether the blended teaching competencies are geared toward in-person skills, online skills, weaving the two together, or if the competency is generic and really could apply to anyone in any teaching/learning environment. My colleague Cecil Short will be presenting this research on behalf of all those on the team.

Unfortunately I cannot be at this event, but I am excited for the researchers on our team who can go.

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Interview with Innovations Early College High School Teacher

I had a great time interviewing my friend Darilyn about her experience teaching at Innovations Early College High School in Salt Lake City. I learned about her journey and how she got to where she is, and what she thinks about her job.

Innovations uses a “flex” blended model, and draws students from the downtown Salt Lake City area. It is in its seventh year of operation, and has been led by Ken Grover who was once the principal at West High in Salt Lake City. Each teacher has a group of students that they individually mentor, in addition to teaching classes.

A few things that struck me as profound from my interview with Darilyn:

1) You don’t need to want to change the world or be super entrepreneurial to thrive in this environment–you simply need to be humble.

2) There is time built into the schedules to care about students, which is why most teachers get into the profession in the first place.

If I come up with any findings that are more nuanced than that I may post them here, but for now, I am going to focus on writing up an analysis for my Qualitative Research class!

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Blended Teaching Assessment: Update

I just realized I haven’t posted my progress on the new Blended Teaching Assessment, which is well underway!

From September to October we worked on narrowing the Specified Learning Outcomes of the exam. Now we are writing the actual test items. One of the crucial things for writing a high quality test is that you ensure that each item correlates to one objective, not to multiple. You want to write questions that are clear and have effective wording. You also want to write questions that invite deeper level thinking and analysis. Ideally, if we could, this would be a performance-based assessment that would be administered by watching the pre-service teacher in a classroom. However, due to so many complications with a performance-based assessment we are using Qualtrics to build the assessment and administer it for pre-service teachers at BYU.

You might be wondering, “But Emily, you already created a Blended Teaching Readiness Instrument,” and you would be right. That instrument is self-report based, and doesn’t have right or wrong answers. It just assesses the level of readiness based on personal perception. Some of the self-report readiness instruments in the literature related to blended teaching aren’t validated; they don’t actually indicate the true measure of a teacher’s readiness to get into a blended classroom and do it.

That is why this assessment assesses knowledge, understanding, and application of blended teaching skills. There are right and wrong answers, and the teachers will be expected to demonstrate their abilities in five areas:

  1. Basic technology and dispositions
  2. Personalization
  3. Real-time Data Practices
  4. Integration between face-to-face and digital environments/activities
  5. Tech-mediated Interaction

We have been careful throughout the process to make sure that the items on the test are specific to an environment that is not the traditional teaching one. For example, we used to have a Specified Learning Objective of “Understands personal e-mail etiquette”– which, while important, is not a skill that is unique to teachers nor to a blended environment. We make sure that even if some skills involve technology, that the very basics like e-mail are not the focus of this instrument, rather we want the focus to be on the new and emerging skills of using data to make decisions, mastery-based learning progression, and being able to integrate face-to-face learning with digital learning.

The goal after creating the assessment is to create some remediation exercises and resources readily available to the test-taker when the test is over so that the ideas can be fully explained and understood by the pre-service teacher.

I will keep you updated when we have made more progress!

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MVLRI Report, Phase 1

I helped to write this report about our development of a Blended Teaching Readiness Instrument! Very excited to have it published through the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) and to share our research with the world.

Read the report here:

This readiness instrument was developed over long hours, consulting with teachers and experts, and will partially inform the blended teaching assessment for preservice and inservice teachers that I’m writing right now for the second phase of my dissertation.

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Learning Accelerator Fellowship

I am pleased to say that I have been awarded a research fellowship for the upcoming year with The Learning Accelerator, working with creating assessment tools for blended teaching practices! I am excited for the opportunity to interact with other scholars in the field and work to create solutions for teaching and learning.

This fellowship coincides with the second phase of my dissertation, which is the creation of an assessment tool for blended teaching knowledge, understanding and skills. Previously I wrote a literature review about blended and online teaching competencies in K-12 (which has been submitted to a journal for publication). These will inform the assessment.

The third phase of the dissertation is yet to be determined, but it will likely be based upon the data we collect as we administer the test. I hope that this test will help preservice teacher education to improve their training on blended pedagogy, and also inform inservice teacher professional development efforts as school districts incorporate these pedagogies among teachers who are already skilled in traditional teaching, but may need to gain experience and skill in blended pedagogy.

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Blended Teaching Competencies: Literature Review

I am now nearing the conclusion of a very long road! My literature review/ grounded theory analysis of blended teacher competencies is almost written up and ready to go. I will be first author, with Charles Graham second author. He has helped me refine my ideas immensely. I recommend co-authoring papers whenever possible.

Without completely giving away the findings of my paper, here are a few things that we’ve learned:

1) Blended teaching is NOT the same skill set as online teaching.

2) Being able to personalize learning is one crucial skill to both blended and online teaching pedagogy.

3) Student-centered learning paradigms are going to be key for teachers to adopt. Well-meaning “sage on the stage” attitudes will not be sufficient to allow for student growth and learning in these new modes. It’s more “guide on the side” and emphasis on student autonomy. If teachers don’t have this mindset, then some of the other skills won’t come very easily.

I’m looking forward to what will come after publishing our findings. (I already have an idea… more dissertation writing!)

I feel lucky to be in a department who encourages a 3-article dissertation format, so that I’ve been able to tackle my dissertation when I’m still doing coursework. This will be the first article. The second article will be on the confirmatory factor analysis of the blended teaching readiness instrument (see my previous blog post). The final article will contain findings from interviews I conduct with a variety of blended teachers at several schools.

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Blended Teacher Readiness Instrument

On Friday I attended a poster conference at Utah State to share ideas about my literature review and to get feedback from others on K-12 blended teaching competencies. Currently, Jered Borup, Charles Graham and myself have built an instrument that assesses “Blended Teacher Readiness”– it is targeted at the school teachers who have some experience in face-to-face teaching environments, who might teach with some level of technology integration, but who haven’t yet adopted online teaching components for their classroom. The hope is that by surveying their readiness for blended teaching, that we can assess where their needs are and provide targeted resources for them to enhance their abilities in blended and online teaching.

We are conducting a confirmatory factor analysis at this point to validate the 50-60 items in the survey (utilizing teachers in a Virginia school district to take the assessment). Here are the general concepts we are surveying the teachers for (these general categories follow the IBSTPI model categories, loosely):

  1. Foundational Knowledge and Skills
    1. Technical Literacy
    2. Digital Citizenship
    3. Positive Mindsets
  2. Planning and Design
    1. Planning blended activities
    2. Planning blended assessments
  3. Instructional Strategies
    1. Personalizing Instruction
    2. Facilitating Community-based Activities
    3. Facilitating Student-Instructor Interaction
    4. Facilitating Student-Content Interaction
  4. Assessment and Evaluation
    1. Implementing Digital Assessments
    2. Evaluating and Reflecting


One of our main goals in creating the instrument was to create items that are targeted to a blended environment. We are assuming that those taking this survey have experience in the face-to-face classroom, so the skills we want to assess in them are ones that require the technical literacy and creative use of digital technologies to change the way the classroom works. More information on that when we are finished with the validation!

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