Blended Learning & the return to the classroom: What do the experts say?

By Julie Summers

In my previous post I outlined which blended learning methods have worked well for Oakham School pupils so far. However, in June/July I attended three webinars managed by the CPD organisation OSIRIS which each featured an interview with a different leading figure in educational research. The theme was ‘Build Back Better’ as each speaker gave their own perspective and ideas about how the current crisis in education could be managed and the opportunities blended learning can afford us. Here are some of the key messages that emerged from those sessions.

John Hattie:

Hattie is arguably one of the most influential educationalists and researchers in the world today, best known for his work on feedback and ‘visible learning’. He says:

 “The worst thing that can happen from Covid is nothing. Don’t make this unnatural experiment a waste of time”

Hattie refers to the closure of schools and move towards remote teaching and learning in March 2020 as an ‘unnatural experiment’ which could open the door to positive change. He frames it as a chance for schools to get rid of outmoded and ineffective teaching methods and dismisses and the nostalgia for a return to ‘normal’. He outlines some of the advantages of blended learning:

He argues that blended learning has allowed parents an insight into what teachers do. There is currently an appreciation of, and interest in the profession which we should mine! Many parents faced with home-schooling their children have had a crash course in the language of learning and schools could work more with them to help support what they do.

A second major argument raised by Hattie was the importance of arming pupils with the skills they need to educate themselves in a blended learning environment – self-regulation, independence and resilience.

Michael Fullan

Fullan is a Canadian researcher and author of the influential ‘Education reimagined’ paper published in conjunction with Microsoft last spring. His messages chime with Hattie’s and he also makes a case for the potential of blended learning to facilitate ‘deep learning’. The key strategies for teachers at the moment should be: Invite, De-front the classroom, collaborate, offer students choice, support.

Fullan also advocates a re-thinking of traditional hierarchical management structures in schools which may be particularly pertinent in these strange times. He stresses the value of the middle leader, their knowledge of school contexts and the important of their voice.

Andy Griffith

Griffith is a British educationalist and creator of the Outstanding Teaching Intervention. In his webinar he talked about the importance of ‘triaging’ in blended learning and as pupils return to school. This means identifying pupil needs and working backwards from there rather than teaching to fill perceived ‘gaps’ in learning. He summarises this in four simple points:

  • Starting point: what do pupils need?
  • Be clear about where we want them to go (models)
  • We should maintain our high expectations in September
  • Quality feedback is very important

Griffith also stressed the importance of staff ‘buy in’ with regard to both blended learning and the return to physical schools. He argues that staff needs are important and pupils are best served through collective teacher efficacy. Helping staff realise what their knowledge gaps might be, encourage sharing, being better adult learners and open-mindedness are all components of this. Griffith maintains that by building a strong community as staff many barriers to learning can be overcome and that this has never been more true than now.

We will be holding a T and L clinic on triage and differentiation in week 3 (Thursday 24th Septmember) in which we will discuss the contributions and ideas made by Andy Griffith in more detail.

For more information on these webinars and resources visit: