How Professional Learning Impacts Student Progress in a Blended Learning Model

  • Home
  • How Professional Learning Impacts Student Progress in a Blended Learning Model

How Professional Learning Impacts Student Progress in a Blended Learning Model

School Context

Located in Doha, Qatar, this secondary school is an International Baccalaureate World School and a member of the Qatar Foundation family of schools. The school currently employs 114 teaching staff for an overall student body of 602. The Early Years Program (EY) and Primary Years Program (PYP) are situated on their own primary school campus serving Pre-3 through grade 5. The Middle Years Program (MYP) and the Diploma Program (DP) serve grade 6 through 12 at the secondary campus located approximately one kilometer from the primary school. The focus of this inquiry was the MYP and DP secondary school, consisting of 35 teaching staff serving 206 students.

Since the introduction of online learning, school leadership have continued to develop, redevelop, and modify their systems and schedules in order to meet the evolving educational requirements and standards surrounding COVID-19 safety measures developed by the country’s Ministry of Education as well as Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University office. Secondary school administration has implemented a blended learning program that serves their students in three ways: face-to-face, synchronous online, and asynchronous online. For the purposes of this inquiry, face-to-face is when students are attending classes at the secondary campus with their teachers, while synchronous online sessions are “real-time” online classes remotely with their teachers, and asynchronous online sessions are days wherein students’ complete individual online tasks off campus.

Each grade level within MYP classes is separated into 4 to 6 different cohorts in order to keep class sizes at 10 or less (any class that is 11-15 students uses the cafeteria, Creative Commons, or is divided into 2 rooms). A typical weekly schedule for a cohort of students attending grades 6 through 10 consists of a rotating three-week schedule that has students in face-to-face sessions Sunday and Monday, in asynchronous online sessions Tuesday, and in synchronous online sessions Wednesday and Thursday. Other cohorts will run an opposite schedule that has synchronous online sessions at the beginning of the week and face-to-face sessions at the end of the week. Due to the rigors of the Diploma Program, DP students have three face-to-face sessions per week and two asynchronous online sessions per week, with no synchronous online sessions (see Table 1).

Table 1:


MYP students stay in designated “bubble classrooms” as teachers rotate to them in order to keep student exposure to a minimum. The DP students rotate in the traditional fashion to their teachers’ classrooms. Within the classrooms all students from grades 6 through 10 are working on project-based, interdisciplinary activities in order to allow for more teacher collaboration on tasks as well as supporting content area crossover connections for students. Grade 6 is evaluated on their own project and MYP criteria, while grades 78, 9 and 10 work on parallel projects and criteria. This structure allows teachers to have some alignment in class preps and gives students additional peer support across grade levels.

Pedagogical Challenges:

An interview conducted with the school’s curriculum coordinator concerning pedagogical challenges encountered in the new blended learning system revealed the following concerns:

  • Timetable
  • Staff cuts
  • Increase from 2 classes per cohort to sometimes 6 classes
  • Repetitive class preps

According to the interview, the timetable challenge was something that took many reworkings in order to get it as it currently is shown in Table 1. This has resulted in a much “calmer” day. Connected to timetable challenges is the reduction in staffing that many QF schools experienced this year with the freeze on hiring that took place due to COVID-19 restrictions and budgetary redundancy reviews. Teachers are now required to have a minimum classroom prep load of 80%, while all coordinators, counselors, assistant principal and principals are also required to teach at least one class in order to assist with the larger number of cohorts.

COVID-19 safety regulations have required smaller class sizes, and this has resulted in additional classes across the grade levels an increase from the previous 11-12 across grades 6-12 to 23. This results in repetition when it comes to teachers teaching or presenting content and these repetitive class preps have had varying effects on teachers depending upon perspectives. Some teachers prefer to teach the same content repeatedly for each cohort, whereas other teachers prefer to teach different content across cohorts in order to minimize the monotony of repetition. (Curriculum Coordinator, personal communication, September 9, 2020). Additionally, the school principal stated that “many of our teachers also crossover between DP and MYP, which means they teach their MDU content as well as one or more DP classes, which either breaks up the monotony or adds to their workload. Either way, we are grateful that our staff is balancing the workload in order to accommodate the MOE mandates.” (personal communication, October 26, 2020).

Possible Solutions

The leadership team spent many hours over the summer creating and revising timetables that would accommodate the staff cuts and the COVID-19 health and safety requirements. The choice to have all staff members, including leadership, absorb additional teaching hours shows their flexibility and commitment to student learning and support.

School leadership have also established a team of teachers and school leaders to research and develop the most effective and appropriate blended learning program. Current literature on blended learning expresses that “little research exists that examines trends in blended learning and the challenges and possibilities of utilizing this method of instructional delivery at the K-12 level” (Kumi-Yeboah, 2014). As further explained by Joanna Poon in the MERLOT Journal of Online Teaching (2013), “blended learning is a fundamental redesign of the instructional model with a shift from lecture-centered to student-centered instruction where students become active and interactive learners.” This secondary school has adopted a project-based approach as a basis for the blended learning program which aligns with the understanding that this new method of online delivery requires students to become the leaders of their own learning, while teachers increasingly take on the role of facilitator and resource provider.

Teaching and learning online requires teachers to upskill in areas that may or may not be familiar to them. One such example of these needed skills and tools has been made visible by Pulham & Graham (2018) by way of a blended teaching matrix that identifies categories of interactions (see Figure 1). Considering the varying technological and learner interactions displayed in Figure 1, it is important to note accompanying skills required for each quadrant (see Table 2).

Figure 1:


Blended teaching matrix identifying categories of interactions (Pullham & Graham 2018, p. 413) [accessed Sep 16 2020]

Table 2:

Q2: This quadrant requires the skills for teachers to interact online with their students and to facilitate meaningful online interactions between/among students. Interactions in this space can happen either synchronously or asynchronously and at low or high fidelity (e.g., text-based vs video).

Q1: This quadrant requires skills of working with digital tools and content. Digital content is increasingly dynamic and data rich. Thus, teachers working in this quadrant need to strengthen their skills for working with real-time data generated by adaptive or personalized learning software.

Q3: This quadrant requires the skills for engaging in in-person teacher-student interactions as well as facilitating student-student interactions in whole class and small group settings.

Q4: This quadrant requires the ability to use and manage traditional classroom materials.

K–12 Blended Teaching Readiness: Model and Instrument Development. Available from: Click here [accessed Sep 16 2020].

One example wherein school administration has demonstrated their understanding of need for staff upskilling is their willingness to participate in ongoing professional learning support from a collaboration project between the school and a WISE EdTech Testbed project that aims to address the following question:

How can the adoption and implementation of an EdTech solution (e.g. Smart Science) enable teachers to identify specific challenges (e.g. flow, assessment, differentiation) and make data-driven decisions for practice that support student progress and improve student outcomes?

Additionally, WISE EdTech organizers have created session content that addresses use of EdTech not tools to inform practices. The process of the collaboration will include:
  • Engaging in reflective practice (w/ technology)
  • Integrating technology into classroom learning through content-based tasks / applying benchmarks & standards
  • Assessing student progress
  • Developing student action plans
  • Communicating student progress
  • Communicating student progress
  • Encouraging reflective practice in students

Leadership at this school understands the importance of developing professional learning opportunities for their staff to better understand the dynamics of blended learning while also providing the knowledge and tools required to support student learning.


Graham, C. R., Borup, J., Pulham, E. B., & Larsen, R. (2019). K-12 blended teaching readiness: Model and instrument development. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 51(3), 239–258.

Kumi-Yebaoh, A. (2014). Blended learning in K-12 schools: Challenges and possibilities. Practical Applications in Blended Learning Environments: Experiences in K-20 (pp. 25-42).

Poon, J. (2013) Blended learning: An institutional approach for enhancing students' learning experiences. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 9(2), 271-288.

Jay Arduser

Lead Trainer
Education Development Institute