Hybrid Language Teaching in Practice; Perceptions, Reaction, and Results
By Berta Carrasco & Stacey Margarita Johnson (2015) Springer
By Sue Shanley & Kara Mac Donald
Hybrid instruction was a common model for language courses prior to the pandemic, and in some educational contexts, its use may increase as we enter the new reality, post-pandemic. The authors wrote the book for secondary and postsecondary teachers responsible for hybrid instruction, but teachers in other contexts may benefit from its accessibility and relevancy as it focuses on how to design a hybrid course, technology considerations with pedagogy in mind, learner feedback, the authors’ perspectives on hybrid language teaching, and advice for teachers and students.
Chapter One is an introduction that provides background on the authors and describes how they made their methodological choices and the contexts in which they would be applied. One author/instructor had more trepidation about going hybrid in her college-level language class. She had misgivings about spending less face-to-face time with her students and not being able to control her curriculum as much as she was used to. The other, also teaching a university-level language course, had more experience in online teaching and was more concerned about her digital materials connecting with her students in the f2f setting. Given their difference in perspectives, the colleagues agreed that although their planning would line up, their practice would look slightly different.
The authors then go over the definition of hybrid teaching, including the definitions of other key terms. They define hybrid instruction as not just teaching a course partially online but using digital resources and technologies as inherent to hybrid pedagogy. The benefits include students will be able to work at their own pace in the online context; various learning styles can be engaged; and physical classroom space can be freed up for other classes and purposes.
Per their methodology, the authors use case study research taken from specific experiences of teachers and students within the hybrid course model, intertwining research on the practice. Their study is also action research; these instructors are also researchers as they reflect and report on their subjective “lived experiences” while hybrid teaching. Through conducting this research, the authors state they were looking for the answers to the following:
- How does a hybrid course change our teaching?
- How does the hybrid course affect student-learning experiences?
- What technology-based activities are most effective in our hybrid course?
Chapter Two is a step-by-step description of how an instructor can go about designing a hybrid course. This is the most practical section of the book. If a teacher is already sold on the hybrid model or is required by an institution to conduct a course in this way, s/he could immediately go to this section of the book for advice.
The first step the authors suggest is taking stock of the available resources an instructor can utilize through her institution and textbook(s). Of course, an instructor must become familiarized with the learning management system, LMS, her institution utilizes. They examine how choice of textbook will dictate many hybrid course design decisions.
The second step is creating the syllabus. According to the authors, creating a syllabus for a hybrid course is not unlike making one for a traditional f2f course. They provide specific examples and advice in creating a hybrid course syllabus.
Step three is building the course. The authors use their research and own experience to recommend best practices for building a hybrid course. Advice such as being consistent, training students on how to the use LMS during the first week of class, making content user-friendly and accessible, and being realistic about what can be accomplished over the semester (i.e., not overwhelming students) are well-considered and backed up by their own experience and outside sources.
Step four is managing the course. The authors discuss how the roles of instructor and student are different in the online setting. They stress the heightened importance of being prepared as a hybrid teacher, anticipating glitches, and having a backup in case of technological problems. Making students feel the instructor’s presence by giving quick feedback to online assignments helps students feel less alone.
The final step is assessment and data collection. They note it is important to manage the expectations of students regarding the kind of feedback they will receive in a hybrid course. They suggest limiting assessments to those that are closely aligned with learning objectives. An important feature of the online learning environment is data collection, as a LMS will allow instructors to run reports on student performance.
In Chapter Three, the authors concentrate on the technological aspects of the hybrid classroom. They focus on three specific activities: video production, online discussions, and oral presentations. Through their experiences, they have found conducting these activities in the online environment versus in the traditional f2f classroom greatly improves learning outcomes and student performance. Examples of rubrics and checklists by which to assess these activities are provided.
Also discussed here are the theoretical frameworks upon which the authors base their pedagogy to deliver effective hybrid learning. M-learning
, basically any kind of mobile learning, is the primary theory they explore. The authors explain that it does not have to be using a mobile phone during learning, but must be spontaneous, informal, portable, personal, and context-driven. The authors understand the reluctance of some teachers in incorporating extensive technology in their courses. With this in mind, they state their three guiding principles for choosing and utilizing technology in their language courses: technology should be used as an interactional tool between students; used to access the wider world by students through engaging with authentic content on the internet; and used to engage in asynchronous critical reflection about the synchronous technological learning activities students have participated in.
Chapter Four first shares the most and least beneficial activities and components based on student results and feedback. The most beneficial are: the authors’ resources of authentic input and output, such as the teacher presenting his/her own cultural experiences and encounters (i.e., authentic input) and student produced videos or presentations (i.e., authentic output). Moving on to what students found least beneficial, the authors share the technology itself, as it can fail and be overwhelming and stressful for students. As for activities specifically that were disliked, there was taking selfies in a culturally sensitive location. They also didn’t favor the use of English as part of classroom instruction or non-authentic/semi-authentic recorded language as part of instruction. Even if the native authentic language was more difficult due to vocabulary, grammar, speed, or accent, they preferred the authentic language over semi-authentic modified or staged content. Second, the chapter examines the impact of students’ experience in participating in hybrid language learning, where students express the value of cultural content and intercultural competencies acquired. Some students had a little cultural content in their previous language classes, and those who had felt that it was disconnected to the course content, and therefore, less meaningful. The authors discuss some resources for teaching culture utilized in their classes that made cultural instruction effective.
In Chapter Five, the authors offer their perspectives on hybrid language teaching and begin by suggesting that hybrid teaching as a model should remain eclectic and not be informed by a unified model. Teachers enter hybrid teaching with different levels of experience with technology and the strength of each instructor is better leveraged by permitting each one to draw on his/her professional skill set. The remainder of the chapter is divided into two parts in which each author shares her experience in learning how to teach and how technology and hybrid teaching has informed their language instructional approaches. The two sections are set up with identical questions for each author and then a short narrative response to each question. The format makes the content from the authors’ experiences accessible, as they chat
with readers. And despite different experiences and approaches to hybrid teaching between the authors, they have a lot of qualities in common.
In Chapter Six, the goal of the book to fill a gap between theory and practice is restated and sets the stage for offering advice for teachers new to hybrid language instruction, as well as advice for hybrid students. As part of their action research process, they identified that the existing body of literature on hybrid instruction is informative and reflects the dynamics of such instruction. There were few studies that would guide instructors new to hybrid teaching in how to approach the process from beginning to end. Their work fills this gap in the field and so, the chapter closes with advice to readers. As in the previous chapter, the authors present questions that are followed by narrative responses, making the content dialogic and very accessible. The chapter closes with the findings presented in the book, as an outcome of their research, and suggestions for future exploration.
The book is a roadmap and tool kit for those embarking on designing, developing, and delivering a hybrid course for the first time. It also offers insight for those who may have had some experience in hybrid instruction, but do not yet feel they are fully comfortable in this model of instruction. The specific desired content is easily accessed based on the book’s structure within each chapter. It can be read cover to cover, or used as a resource, entering at any chapter that is most relevant for the reader.