Updated: Jan 19
It’s well known that schools are more than just a place for students to receive an academic education.
Students gain a variety of skills through their learning and extracurricular activities. Teachers are more than simply people who teach for academic results. They care, listen, and develop students into well-rounded individuals. For most students, school isn’t just a building, it is a place to grow and build a community of friends with a strong support system around them.
If anything, this period has shown us the importance of that school community. 98% of teachers surveyed by the Careers & Enterprise Company reported that their students are more anxious and uncertain about their futures since school closures. Students have reported boredom (51%), worry (28%) and feeling trapped (26%) as their experiences of lockdown (YouGov).
This is an opportunity to think differently about education and how to motivate students to reflect on their own skillset. To support students to work independently and to set personal goals to succeed in their futures. With uncertainty remaining, the need for a blended learning approach to this is paramount.
So what is blended learning?
Blended learning is an approach to learning that combines face-to-face and online learning experiences. Ideally, each (both online and off) will complement the other by using its particular strength.
We like this definition because it recognises that an online learning experience cannot ever replace traditional face-to-face learning completely. Yet both styles of learning have their strengths.
Why should you be thinking about a blended learning approach?
While schools have reopened their doors, and attendance, in general, has been high so far (according to Teacher Tapp 97% of schools have full classes), schools are preparing for students being required to quarantine and learn from home.
Many schools have responded fantastically, developing online lessons to support students learning at home. We have also seen a range of online provision emerge including Oak National Academy which supports schools to deliver continued learning. The results are incredible, providing essential opportunities for students and schools to adopt a blended learning approach to academic subjects when students are at home.
But what about the wellbeing and personal development of students at home?
Teachers in schools create a safe open environment for students and in many cases, they go above and beyond with pastoral care. But how can you recreate the environment through a digital lesson? Even more so, one that is prerecorded?
Charities have responded with wellbeing resources, including the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families and Place 2 Be. We developed our own series of activity sheets to support confidence, resilience, self-awareness and communication skills while at home. They have included lesson plans and assembly ideas for when students are in school, as well as a range of home learning activities.
But to address the growing concerns of young people about their futures, and to build their confidence, more still needs to be done.
A blended learning solution to the wellbeing and personal development of students
An online/offline approach can help, but there are some students, particularly the most disadvantaged, who do not have access to devices at home. Only 7% of teachers believe that all their students have complete access to a device at home, with that number falling to 2% in the most disadvantaged areas according to research by Teach First.
We have taken this into consideration when developing our solution. Our newly developed Strengths System allows any teacher to support their students, be that online or offline through our combination of physical resources and virtual lesson plans. Our physical resource is a comprehensive workbook for each student, containing over 100 hours of reflective activities to support students’ confidence, resilience, self-awareness and communication skills wherever they are.
Our recent impact evaluation with leading evaluation organisation ImpactEd found that 60% of students are more confident since using the resources, with an increased ability to set independent goals and achieve them.
Our experience has shown that an intentional, planned approach to support students’ personal development and wellbeing is the most effective. A sustained approach that builds students’ confidence over time, developing reflective skills and a goal-setting approach empowers students to take control over their own wellbeing.
Over the coming months, we’re keen to continue to offer support to schools, teachers and students as we navigate upcoming challenges. We’d love to hear what’s worked in your school, and are very happy to share what’s worked for us - we can learn a lot from each other! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more.