Blended learning combines direct teaching with computer software programs that enhance what students are learning. The computer aspect—that is, the fact that students each have their own device—allows students to learn at their own pace, depending on their academic level.
Using technology this way is a wonderful concept where students can excel or bridge the gap in certain academic areas, and it can be used from Kindergarten all the way through college level education, and on into continuing adult ed. Obviously, schools need to have access to the technology needed to have a successful blended learning atmosphere, but another crucial element in the success of blended learning for students is the relationship their teachers build with them.
Is it possible to use a blended learning environment and build student relationships at the same time? It is not only possible, but crucial.
The more positive the relationship between a teacher and their students, the more interest students show in the process of learning, especially in an engaging setting like a blended learning classroom. Students who do not feel a connection to their teacher often do not perform as well as their classmates who do have that comfort level.
Teachers should continually try and build relationships with their students, no matter what time of the school year or the subject matter being taught. When teachers try to get to know their students, they can find out what their actual needs are.
Here are five things you can do in a blended learning class to build relationships and trust with your students.
1. Set goals with your students, and hold them to those goals.
Teaching students to set goals for their own achievement is a life skill that not only builds a bond between the teacher and student, but also sparks the realization within a student that they are capable of the task before them. Sometimes students simply need a push in the right direction to get a boost in their self-esteem. Once they begin to progress, some students are able to move at their own pace and reach their own goals.
2. Ask questions and encourage students to share.
When using blended learning in the classroom, teachers can continue to build relationships with their students by allowing students to share what they have learned through using various software programs. As students share, teachers can use leading questions to gain better clarification from the students. This model allows students the opportunity to be the “expert” at that time. It also allows the other students in the classroom opportunity to listen and gain perspective from each other. The opportunity to listen and speak is a wonderful relationship builder, not only with the teacher and student, but among other classmates as well.
3. Images help students connect material with their own lives and feelings.
Being that digital imagery is part of the blended learning atmosphere, students gain the experience of learning detailed ways of describing their experiences. Teachers can use this occasion not only to build rapport with their students, but also to let students experience the growth that comes with processing their thoughts in a detailed manner through speech and/or writing.
4. Find other ways to connect the material directly to students’ lives.
Having students connect what they are learning to their lives not only helps the academic value last longer, but it builds relationships along the way by seeing how they relate to one another. When teachers share their own experiences with similar learning activities, students usually see the teacher as much more approachable and understanding.
If blended learning can be connected to student’s personal interests, there is a genuine spark of excitement and willingness to engage in the activities planned. It is almost like a safety net for some students when they see their teacher taking an active interest in what they are interested in doing or learning. This is one way that teachers can get that “buy in” from the students and build relationships at the same time.
5. Celebrate student successes.
As students excel in their blended learning activities, teachers should celebrate their victories with them by telling them specifically what they did that was accurate, or better yet, have the students verbalize how they achieved their goals.
Ask your students how it made them feel to meet the goal that they set. Truly listen to what your students are telling you. Showing an active interest in students and what they have to say builds a bond that not only builds their self-esteem and critical thinking skills, but can even have life-long positive effects on a child.
I hope you found this post helpful. I’d love to hear about how you build relationships in a blended learning environment—please let me know in the comments below!
About the author
Marilyn K. Myers, M.Ed, TESL, serves in the Clark County School District in Las Vegas as an Equity & Diversity Liaison, as well as a Teacher Leader/Mentor. She enjoys finding and investigating resources that are educationally and scientifically based, as well as sharing these findings through round table discussions or training sessions. She has experience developing programs, including a college preparatory Guidance Center, a Learning Lab, a state certified Before/After school program, and a Student Council program. In her spare time, she loves to travel and write. She is the author of It's All Left Up to Time.
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