Is Blended Learning Detrimental for Special Education Students?
Blended Learning occurs when a student learns partially online, within a brick and mortar building, and along an individualized learning pathway (www.blendedlearning.org). As Blended Learning continues to march steadily onward into many of our country’s schools, many are left wondering if it’s the right fit for some of our most at-risk students — namely, special education students. Many students that are part of our special education student population struggle with behavior problems, learning disabilities, low self-esteem, and a myriad of other problems. Can special education students function in a Blended Learning environment? Are they prepared to take control of their education through the use of technology tools? Will they adapt or will they woefully sink further and further behind because the instructional pedagogy is not right for them? Many educators are asking themselves these questions as they reflect about the cultural shift that is occurring in today’s classrooms.
Blended Learning & Special Education Students — A Perfect Match
Blended Learning will not only be beneficial for regular education students, but will benefit special education students because of its ability to allow students to have more control over the pace, path, and place where they learn. Coupled with the right data, Blended Learning is poised to help special education students make more growth than they ever have before. Special education students have qualified to receive specialized instruction for a set amount of service time each day, however Blended Learning can provide opportunities for special education students throughout the entire day that mirror these academic services. Special education students can look to a brighter future now that Blended Learning environments are on the rise in today’s classrooms because they promote many teaching strategies that are beneficial for them.
#1. Blended Learning Facilitates Small Group Instruction
Most of our special education students receive academic services by either being pulled out of their regular education classroom or the special education teacher pushes into the regular education classroom. Either way, special education students typically receive instruction in a small group setting. In the same way, Blended Learning focuses on providing students instruction in small-groups or even one-on-one from the classroom teacher. Because more students are guiding their own learning, the classroom teacher is freed up to provide more targeted instruction to students that need it, especially special education students.
#2. Blended Learning Provides Tailored Instruction
Blended Learning utilizes technology to help provide instruction to students. Most Blended Learning programs incorporate computer software programs that collect data through assessments or the programs actually focus on delivering content knowledge in an interesting way. Either way, these computer programs can help provide the instruction that is needed for students or even provide teachers with the information necessary to know what to teach students next.
#3. Blended Learning is Engaging
According to the book “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools” by Horn & Staker, most students drop out of school not because they are struggling, but because they are bored. Student engagement is even more important than ever especially with some special education students who are subject to disabilities that impact their ability to focus and remain engaged in learning content. Blended Learning environments focus on using technology as a tool to not only engage students but to provide them specific data that motivates the students to personally improve their learning.
#4. Blended Learning Creates a Culture of Differentiation
The argument for the need of a Blended Learning environment focuses around the belief that all students are unique and learn in different ways and at different speeds. If there is one group of students that would thrive in a culture where student differences are celebrated — it would be special education students. Special education students often struggle with feelings of inferiority because they learn differently than other students. In Blended Learning environments, those differences are not swept under the rug, but brought out into the open to communicate to students that all learners are different and that’s okay.
#5. Blended Learning is Mastery-based Learning
Special education students work on individualized education plans that focus on helping students achieve goals and measure the progress they are making. If a special education student has not mastered a learning goal, then they continue to work on that goal. Blended Learning focuses on mastery-based learning in the same way. Because students are allowed to go at their own pace, students do not move on from a subject area until they have mastered the content. Special education students would be able to readily adapt to a Blended Learning environment due to this similarity.
Conclusion: Special Education Students Have Nothing to Fear From Blended Learning
Blended Learning has more in common with special education instruction then one might think. It’s easy to overlook the negative impact on certain sub-groups of students when new teaching pedagogies like Blended Learning are introduced, however Blended Learning environments mirror positive aspects of special education learning services and will foster a new understanding and appreciation for unique learning needs in all students.
For more articles like this click here!
Also, if you are interested in seeing what it takes to have a careers in Special Education, see SpecialEducationCareers.com!