Classroom Technology

Parents’ Support for Blended Learning Slips, Poll Finds

By Leo Doran — August 25, 2016 3 min read
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Skepticism of blended learning is on the rise among parents, according to researchers who poll the public on the subject every year.

According to findings from a poll conducted by Education Next, an academic journal issued by Stanford’s Hoover Institution, 51 percent of parents think students should spend 30 percent of their time or more receiving instruction on a computer—down from 57 percent who held that view a year ago.

In general, while teachers are more bearish on blended learning—with only 42 percent saying students should spend at least 30 percent of their time learning from devices—the statistic is not a significant departure from the 41 percent of last year.

This year, after criticism from some blended learning circles, the pollsters experimented with asking a subset of respondents a slightly different wording of the question. When asked how much time students should spend “learning independently” on devices rather than “receiving instruction,” support from parents remained unchanged, while a greater number of teachers (48 percent) showed support for blended learning with the alternate wording.

[UPDATE: Some blended learning advocates have criticized the survey’s methodology and questioned the group’s conclusion that support for blended learning is waning. Critics include ed-tech consultant Douglas Levin, founder and president of EdTech Strategies, who raised concerns about whether the survey could be used as a referendum on blended learning generally, while in practice, pollsters were only asking about ideal practices in high school settings.

He noted that the questions posed to measure support for blended learning— “About what share of instructional time in high school do you think students should spend receiving instruction independently through or on a computer?"—could be misleading.

Furthermore, Levin questioned the Education Next survey’s definition of blended learning, arguing that the metric the researchers were pointing to—the percentage of parents who think students should spend at least 30 percent of time in class on a device—utilized an arbitrary cut-off. In other words, he said, is it fair to suggest that a parent who thinks that students should spend 25 percent of their time in class on a device is an opponent of blended learning?

You can read Levin’s full blog post on the Education Next survey here.

Paul Peterson, a co-author of the survey, defended the poll. He cited disagreements between experts over the exact definition of “blended learning” as the reason why pollsters intentionally wrote the question to measure the “mushy concept” obliquely.

Peterson dismissed Levin’s argument that the poll doesn’t actually measure support for blended learning. “There is no question we could ever ask to fully satisfy this criticism,” he said.]

The Education Next survey found that in general Democrats, Hispanics, and African Americans tend to be more receptive to students spending more time with tech in schools, while Republicans and whites tend to be more skeptical of blended learning.

The full report polled the public and teachers on a host of other education-related topics including common core, teacher tenure, charter schools, public school spending and the relative perceived performance of schools locally and nationally.

The study was compiled from responses by 4,181 adults, including 609 teachers and 1,571 parents of K-12 aged children.

Source: Screenshot from Education Next’s interactive charts

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.