Instructors’ views and use of differentiated instruction in blended learning.
Flexibility through blended learning
The implementation of blended learning in higher education is increasing, often with the aim to offer flexibility in terms of time and place to a diverse student population. However, specific attention for the diversity of this group, and how to cater individual needs, is still scarce. Therefore, this study explores instructors’ strategies for and beliefs about differentiated instruction in blended learning, together with how the differences between instructors can be explained.
A total of 20 instructors working in two adult education centers participated in semi-structured interviews focusing on their (a) use of strategies for differentiated instruction, and (b) beliefs about designing blended learning to address student diversity.
Three instructor profiles
The findings reveal that the most commonly used differentiated instruction strategy in a blended learning context was providing students with additional support throughout product development. In addition, three instructor profiles about designing blended learning to address student diversity emerged from the data:
(1) disregard: instructors considered no additional support in the blended learning arrangements to match students’ needs;
(2) adaptation: instructors believed that increased support in the existing blended learning arrangements was sufficient to match students’ needs, and
(3) transformation: instructors thought that blended learning arrangements should be designed in a completely different way, and be tailored to the characteristics of the students.
The results show that half of the instructors considered a transformation of their blended learning arrangements in response to student diversity.
Furthermore, instructors’ beliefs appear to be strongly connected to the organization and trajectory in which they work.
A major implication of these findings is that professional support focusing on instructors’ beliefs is of crucial importance to unlock blended learning’s full potential. As such, it is important for organizations to develop a clear stance on this issue, which pays explicit attention to responding to learners’ needs in blended learning contexts.