Is Blended Learning a Threat to Doug Lemov?

By Liana Loewus — July 25, 2012 1 min read
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I’m going to venture to say that not too many teachers are reading Forbes.com, because otherwise this post would be steeped in teacher comments. ...

In it, Michael Horn, cofounder of the nonprofit think tank Innosight Institute, makes the argument that many of the teaching techniques comprising Doug Lemov’s popular guide Teach Like a Champion, will soon be “rendered irrelevant” due to the growth of online learning. (For more information on the book, see our book club discussion with Lemov from last year.) Horn explains:

Take the first technique in the book, for example: No Opt Out. As Lemov writes, "One consistency among champion teachers is their vigilance in maintaining the expectation that it's not okay not to try." In essence, students aren't allowed to opt out by muttering "I don't know" and seeing the teacher move on to the next student. ...This is smart, raises expectations, and makes good sense. But in a blended-learning environment where each child is moving along in an online curriculum likely at her own path and pace, it's also irrelevant, as this good practice should be embedded naturally. That is, a student should not be able to move on to the next concept until she has fully mastered the current concept, which means that there is a natural environment that doesn't let anyone opt out.

Further, the Forbes contributor contends, Lemov’s techniques regarding curriculum, including the assertion that teachers need to choose rigorous material, will be largely unneeded because teachers will no longer all be designing lessons. “Some will continue to play this role, but the majority will not, as there should be a flourishing of roles for teachers, from mentors to content experts that help tutor to those that focus on non-academic problems,” he claims.

This kind of expectation—that computers will become knowledge conveyers and teachers revert to “helper” status—tends, not surprisingly, to rile up educators. It has also led to some dubious instructional methods.

Also, it’s worth noting that Horn’s vision recognizes Lemov’s techniques as purely academic tools—while teachers are likely to also see them as more nuanced classroom-management and character-building tools. Having a computer prevent a student from moving on until he has mastered a skill is very different from having a teacher insist that the student persevere. There’s an obvious larger life lesson being taught in the latter case—and one that I’m fairly certain will still be important in the age of blended learning.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.