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Tool: Blended Learning Research Clearinghouse

Existing historical evidence and new K-12 blended learning research (published May 2015)

Key Take-Aways

  • The research on blended learning specifically is still emerging. 
  • There is, however, a large, rigorous, historical body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of personalized learning and learning for mastery, both of which blended learning can enable at scale. 
  • Studies can have different:
    • "types": the underlying research design that was used in the study, and indicates the rigor of this design in supporting causal claims.
    • “likelihood of replicating results": the strength of the research design in supporting the idea that the intervention described in the study "caused" the findings that were reported.
    • "alignment": the extent to which blended learning as described by the authors of the study was implemented as a model/framework for improving teaching and learning, with sufficient detail that anyone who read the study could replicate implementation.

Overview

This report provides insight into the current body of knowledge around blended learning, including historical evidence for personalized learning and a summary of the implications of the K-12 blended learning research that has been promoted to date.

Most studies of effectiveness (defined in this resource as “improvements in intended outcomes when implemented in real life settings under ideal or routine conditions”) associated with blended learning have focused on online learning as a unique learning environment, often in fully online or "virtual learning” settings, and/or with older adolescent or adult learners in higher education or industry settings. Because of this, there is no clear research evidence to date in public K-12 settings of the effectiveness of blended learning as an instructional model that integrates digital and face-to-face instruction in order to personalize learning and enable competency-based progression.

There is, however, an established body of evidence for personalizing or individualizing learning and facilitating student agency to foster self-regulated, intrinsically motivated learning, all of which blended learning can enable at scale. In addition, there is a growing number of studies that demonstrate that blended learning can in fact be successfully implemented in public K-12 school districts, and can be effective in meeting academic and non-academic goals for both student and teacher outcomes.

The Learning Accelerator’s blended learning research clearinghouse is intended to provide a summary of the implications that can be gleaned from the K-12 blended learning research that has been promoted to date. The studies included here focus more on the effectiveness of blended learning implemented as a model or framework for improving teaching and learning, thus we have included few studies that focus on isolated elements of blended learning (such as Internet connectivity, or particular software, for example). In addition, we have included studies that are highly likely to be shared through public media or promoted as evidence for the effectiveness of blended learning.

Our goal is to provide those wishing to learn more about the evidence around blended learning with guidance on how to interpret this evidence, in order to facilitate understanding and continued measurement within the ecosystem.

The studies included here represent a range of research designs, and therefore a range of “research rigor.” Because of this, not all of the findings are broadly applicable to all situations, and not all of the designs used can support “causal inferencing” (the reasoning that any of the reported findings or effects were caused by the program or intervention that was studied). In order to help readers more fully understand the implications of these different types of studies to their own context, we have included three indicators along with the descriptions of each study’s implications.