Combining remote and in-person learning led to chaos, study finds

Writing for the Hechinger Report, Jill Barshay reviews new research that finds what teachers were saying throughout the pandemic – it is madness to teach students in the classroom and those joining by computer simultaneously. Excerpts from the piece appear below:

Although educators are trying to keep schools open during the pandemic, they still have to figure out how to educate children quarantining at home. Some school leaders have been turning to an innovative solution: allowing children at home to learn remotely along with their in-person classmates. That sounds simple, but it means that teachers have to track students who are only present in Zoom squares while watching others at desks in the room. 

Now a small study of teachers across nine states finds that this hybrid solution is the worst way to teach because it’s exhausting for teachers to toggle back and forth between the two modes, and all students appear to learn less this way. Student failures during the 2020-21 school year prompted three districts in the study to abandon the dual approach and split into separate in-person only and remote only classes. 

It’s unknown exactly how many schools around the country have asked teachers to teach two ways at once. Surveys of school principals during the 2020-21 school year by the RAND Corporation found that 60 percent of schools were offering hybrid instruction, but that could also mean that students alternated between in-person and remote days. RAND estimated that two-thirds of the teachers in hybrid schools were delivering remote and in-person instruction concurrently.

Teachers’ first preference, Bartlett said, was to teach in person. When that’s not possible, the second best is all remote. Alternating days and class periods between the modes is practical too. The problem is combining the two at once, according to “Specifying Hybrid Models of Teachers’ Work During COVID-19,” published online in the peer-reviewed journal, Educational Researcher, in January 2022. 

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