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Hybrid Models of Instruction: Not Just for College Students?

An alert reader (thanks, cousin B!) sent me this article, about the efficacy of "hybrid" educational models--specifically, a blend of computerized course-work and in-person education with a teacher. In a study involving students at six public universities, findings indicated that students who utilized the hybrid model (working on the computers and meeting with instructors one hour a week) performed the same as students who received only face-to-face instruction.

I wondered if these findings would have applications at the high school level. I admit I have some innate resistance to the hybrid model, in that--at the end of the day--it definitely makes my job less necessary. Fewer hours of in-person instruction requires fewer teachers. Moreover, at the secondary school level, some aspects of high school are social: learning to work well in groups, having class discussions about abstract issues, making friendships of both genders. I'm unclear whether these skills could be developed as strongly in advance of college if students spent less time with teachers. (Although, perhaps I'm missing the point--maybe they'd be doing hybrid-model instruction in groups, in front of a computer, with friends. I suppose that could work too.)

The main practical application I see for such technology at the high school level is for students who, because of physical or emotional issues, are unable to attend school in a regular way. Truancy issues, in inner city high schools particularly, are a huge problem: In NYC schools, there is a special grade of "45" on report cards for students who have never attended. Every term, 8-10% of the students on my roster receive this grade because I never see their faces. In some cases, this is a registration error--the kid has been transferred to another school, or moved to another state, and the proper paperwork hasn't gone through. In other cases, however, it's that for whatever reason the traditional high school environment is not "working" for this student.

Last year, I had a tremendously bright student who suffered from severe depression. He read a lot on his own, and the few times he came to school, he would show up at my desk during my free period and regale me with his encyclopedic knowledge of the manga "Death Note" (which he knew we both liked.) However, he attended so infrequently that despite his intelligence he failed all of his classes. He just missed all the work; some terms, he never even showed up once. The student in question is no longer enrolled in our school, and it is my hope that (if he has not found a more suitable high school setting) some type of hybrid education program might have been implemented for him. Especially in the case of an intellectually capable student like he is--and moreover, a kid capable of self-direction--such a model might provide a better learning outcome than he experienced in a traditional school setting.

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