How Blended Learning Increases Teacher Job Satisfaction & Retention

Posted by: Michael Horn, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Education, Clayton Christensen Institute

July 14th, 2015

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Michael_Horn_273x268As models of blended learning grow, improve, and reinvent what school looks like, their potential isn’t only limited to helping create a student-centered education system; they can also vastly improve the lives and capacities of teachers worldwide.

Blended learning is not about merely using technology in the classroom. It’s about the combination of online learning in schools that gives students more control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of their learning. For the first time in human history, there’s a way to affordably scale the powers of personalization for all students; differentiation that previously only a tutor could provide.

Equally exciting is what blended learning can do for teachers to aid in their effort to provide an optimized learning experience for each child. Teachers are—and will remain—absolutely critical to the success of children, and blended learning can enhance their impact.

As schools shift to delivering core content and instruction online, it can free teachers from delivering whole-class instruction to a cohort of students who all may have different comprehension levels. Instead, teachers can spend far more time on the critical learning functions that too often get short shrift in schools today—or are done without students having the core knowledge base to take advantage of them. For example, teachers can spend far more time working with students one-on-one and in small groups, helping students work on meaningful projects, leading Socratic discussions, and developing their critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity skills—tools that help students discover their passions.

Additionally, blended learning can unlock the motivators that help teachers fulfill their personal passions to succeed in their jobs—factors that society has neglected for far too long in many schools.

Reward vs. Recognition
To explain, it’s important to understand the research findings in one of the most popular Harvard Business Review articles ever. Frederick Herzberg’s 1968 article, ‘‘One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?’’ debunks the idea that job satisfaction is one big continuum, with very happy on one end and absolutely miserable on the other. The surprising finding is that employees can love and hate their jobs at the same time.

This is possible because two sets of factors affect how people feel about their work. The first set, which is called hygiene factors, affects whether employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. The second set, called motivators, determine the extent to which employees love their jobs. Importantly, in Herzberg’s categorization scheme, the opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction, but just the absence of dissatisfaction. Similarly, the opposite of loving your job is not hating it, but the absence of loving it.

The motivators, in order of their impact on satisfaction, are achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement, and growth. The hygiene factors, from highest to lowest impact, are company policy and administration, supervision, relationship with supervisor, work conditions, salary, relationship with peers, personal life, relationship with subordinates, status, and security.

So what does this mean? Allowing employees to find places to achieve, gain recognition, exercise responsibility, and have a career path has a greater tendency to motivate employees than do salary levels, corner offices, or vacation time. But conversely, these other factors can make people quite dissatisfied with their jobs. To improve teacher motivation, in other words, schools should work on improving the motivators; financial incentives and the like will not do much.

The traditional teaching job lacks many of the essential motivators. Teachers often work in isolation from other adults, which means there is little or no opportunity for recognition for their efforts. Opportunities for increased responsibility and career advancement are slim. Aside from becoming the head of a department, the only other way for most teachers to move up in this line of work is, in fact, to stop teaching so they can be ‘‘promoted’’ into an administrative job. And aside from occasional workshops or required training programs, teachers have limited opportunities for growth in the job after the first few years.

But blended learning creates an opportunity to blow apart that construct; if the blended program is designed well, the role of teachers can amplify motivators in ways that are difficult in the traditional, analog classroom.

Blended Models That Motivate
Great teachers who use Edmodo to collaborate with their peers and touch the lives of students in far-off schools and classrooms are extending their reach and gaining achievement and recognition for their work. Similarly, schools can help teachers feel the sense of achievement, recognition, responsibility, and advancement that comes from posting a Flipped Classroom lecture for others to use, managing an online community of practice, serving as lead guide in a large Flex studio with far more students than in a typical class, or leading a professional development webinar about a topic of expertise.

The growing number of online learning options is also causing an unbundling of the teacher role, which creates opportunities for teachers to specialize, which, according to Herzberg, unlocks the motivators of responsibility, growth, and advancement. In the factory model, teachers are responsible for everything that happens in the classroom; in blended models, students often experience multiple learning modalities originating from multiple sources. This creates opportunities for teachers to specialize, particularly in schools where teachers teach in teams.

Teachers can be content experts who focus on developing and posting curriculum, small group leaders who provide direct instruction as part of a Rotation model, or project-based learning designers, mentors, evaluators, data experts, and more. Even teachers who continue to be solely responsible for their students’ progress begin to specialize in a way, as they are often no longer responsible for lesson planning and for delivering a lesson to an entire class of students; they can now specialize in working one-on-one with students and in small groups, mentorship, facilitating discussions and projects, and so forth.

Teaching in teams in and of itself unlocks many motivators, and many blended-learning schools are taking advantage by knocking down the walls between classrooms and creating learning studios with multiple teachers working in a variety of roles with many more students. Although many say that those who become teachers do so expressly to work in a solitary environment where they can close the classroom door and be the star, with all eyes on them during their lecture performance, something different seems to be at play. Just as Herzberg’s research suggests, many teachers savor the feeling of recognition for their achievements with students that comes from their fellow teachers. The existing teaching environment all too often isolates them from opportunities to experience those feelings on a frequent basis. Working in a team environment not only creates those opportunities but also unlocks a variety of opportunities for advancement, such as to create master teachers within a team and other roles, as discussed earlier.

Finally, the very process of designing and implementing blended learning can give teachers wide leeway to innovate. Herzberg found that when organizations remove some controls while retaining accountability, the motivators of responsibility and achievement skyrocket. The Digital Age is beckoning schools to innovate, and that fact in itself gives leaders the impetus to create broad growth opportunities for teachers.

As blended learning grows, students stand to benefit from teachers shifting away from top-down, monolithic instruction and toward filling the many other gaps that exist in students’ lives. If designed well, blended-learning programs can also unleash powerful teacher motivators, such as the opportunity for achievement, recognition, and intrinsically rewarding work, fundamentally improving the quality of teachers’ critical jobs.

To hear more of Michael’s ideas on blended learning, register for EdmodoCon 2015, where he’ll be presenting the closing keynote on August 4.

Michael Horn leads a team that uses its research to educate policymakers and community leaders on the power of disruptive innovation in the K-12 and higher education spheres. He’s also a published author and has written several white papers about blended learning, as well as articles for numerous publications including Forbes, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Huffington Post, and Education Week. Tech&Learning magazine named him to its list of the 100 most important people in the creation and advancement of the use of technology in education. Michael was also selected as a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow to study innovation in education in Vietnam and Korea.

79 responses to “How Blended Learning Increases Teacher Job Satisfaction & Retention”

  1. Greg Macer says:

    I can’t agree more about the need for Blended Learning and ownership being spread around instead of focused on one individual. And as for teachers working together instead of in isolation, I could only wish I saw this more often. As a support for teachers in 14 different school districts I am constantly trying to find ways to bring teachers together (edmodo being an essential part of that equation), but so often it is hard to do because of the amount of administrative work that they have to do. They always think of it as “extra” work, even when it is demonstrated otherwise. While trying to bring teachers together to collaborate and lighten their load comes with it’s roadblocks there are still many successes of those teachers that take the “collaborative leap” and find success in the partnership. Lucky for me these are teachers that are enthusiastic, motivating and out-spoken. Just the ones you need to infect this collaboration to their more hesitant peers.

    I look forward to hearing more about blended learning with Mr. Horn.

  2. Mary Jo Heiberge says:

    I have been trying to implement a blended learning model in my classroom. I haven’t got it fully off the ground yet. I can’t wait to hear more from Michael

  3. Cecilia Monserrat says:

    This article is really inspiring! I’d LOVE to teach in collaboration with other teachers and reach many more students through distance learning.

  4. Pam Hubler says:

    I love what you said about blended learning, “Additionally, blended learning can unlock the motivators that help teachers fulfill their personal passions to succeed in their jobs—factors that society has neglected for far too long in many schools.” After reading Teach Like a Pirate, this means a lot more to me. Looking forward to hearing your presentation.

  5. ready to see the presentation and looking forward to you sharing your ideas.

  6. Sandy King says:

    Really looking forward to hearing you speak at Edmodocon15! Your message is inspiring! 🙂 Connect with me @sandeeteach

  7. Alexa Minett says:

    Bringing blended learning to my classrooms and department is one of my aims for this academic year, so really looking forward to finding out more.

  8. Emily says:

    I have learned a lot from reading your blog and I look forward to learning more during your presentation.

  9. Stacy Roberts says:

    “Teachers…can now specialize in working one-on-one with students and in small groups, mentorship, facilitating discussions and projects, and so forth,’ is the quote that struck me hardest from this post. Specialization in these areas is where I am spending my time learning and growing. By becoming a facilitator in my classroom (and with my colleagues in a blended environment), has shown me that letting go of the traditional classroom model encourages students to own their learning, take responsibility for their thinking, and be risk takers and problem solvers. These skills are what we teachers really need to model and encourage in our students, no matter the age. 🙂 Thanks Michael! Well said.

  10. Jody Urbas says:

    Blended learning is the answer. Looking forward to your talk for even more ideas on how to help keep the motivation ball rolling.

  11. Looking forward to hearing the ways you can use the blended learning approach with edmodo!

  12. danesensei says:

    Michael is a great teacher. I participated one of his MOOC. I learn a lot about blended learning.

  13. Dae says:

    I’m interested and excited. I really want to properly implement this in my classroom.

  14. Oscar says:

    It’s sad to see other teachers who refuse to collaborate. The teaching profession is changing and we need each other. I liked hearing your ideas on blended learning and how to it works in a classroom. Looking forward to see your presentation.

  15. Harly Umboh says:

    love it, I looking forward to hearing more about blended learning at the event

  16. Jennifer Brooks says:

    Looking for ways to help my teachers incorporate blended learning into their classrooms. Can’t wait to hear what Michael has to say.

  17. Gracias por su ponencia! Espero aprender mucho de su plática. En mi país los profesores se llenan de actividades administrativas, tantas que acaparan su tiempo de enseñanza, y en muchas ocasiones, el trabajo del docente frente a los estudiantes es lo menos considerado en su desempeño, por lo que si una herramienta facilita este trabajo, sería genial y muchos colegas profesores les encantará la idea de manejar su clase de forma distinta y dedicar tiempo de calidad con sus estudiantes. Saludos!

  18. Thank you for your presentation! I hope to learn much of their conversation. In my country, teachers are filled with administrative activities, so that monopolize their time teaching, and in many cases, the work of teachers in front of students is at least considered in performance, so if a tool facilitates this work, it would be great teachers and many colleagues will love the idea of managing their class differently and spend quality time with their students. Greetings!

  19. Conchetta says:

    Co-teaching and collaboration can be so enriching and engaging for both students and teachers.

  20. Dorene Bates says:

    Blended learning is something that I have been interested in for a while. I am very interested in listening to your keynote.

  21. Ed Bonhaus says:

    I’m doing a session on Thursday at our district training event on Blended Learning. I’m going to incorporate this into my session. Great read!

  22. Elizabeth Kohut says:

    This blog post could not be more timely for the educators and administrators in my school district. We are embarking on a 1:1 laptop initiative which can be overwhelming to on its own. Teachers will need to find ways to deliver instruction in a new “digital environment” which poses new challenges to the day to day instructional process. I think that teachers adn administrators could benefit from the use of blended learning (for instruction or for PD) to maximize their support for their students. I am really looking forward to learning ways that we can get this started in my school district. Thanks so much for sharing!

  23. Andrea says:

    I love the blended learning and how it allows for students to take back more control of their learning beyond deadlines and due dates. My school district has been progressively entering the 1:1 world over the last couple years and is struggling on how to make it all work. I think blended learning is such a great way to do it. Can’t wait to hear more.

  24. Nicole Bogunovich says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the effectiveness of blended learning! We need more teachers to full understand how effect this method is for today’s students. Best of luck to you tomorrow! Thank you for sharing some great information.

  25. […] teaching is now immensely popular among teachers due to its efficiency and the fact that it is much less time-consuming as compared to conventional […]

  26. Don Brown says:

    Implementing blended learning is SO MUCH EASIER using a full resource (such as Odysseyware). Teachers should be able to modify content but should not have to create it from scratch. Odysseyware also is easy to chunk for different learners – whether it’s basic ELA or intervention work.

  27. Alfonso Fernandez says:

    Like others who have posted their comments, I’ve been trying to implement a blended learning model in my class but first I need to make my bosses see the benefits of it in a conservative, teacher centered atmosphere

  28. Ah doesn’t exist And also speaking from someone who had the game when the ah was there I never used it so I don’t see how it ruined games

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