Foundations of Blended Learning in Early Childhood Education

In a traditional classroom model

An early childhood education (ECE) instructor provides direct instruction on evaluating the quality of a preschool classroom. Students listen, take notes, view images and ask questions. They are provided with formative checks for understanding and given opportunities to discuss and collaborate.

In a blended learning classroom model

The ECE instructor becomes a true facilitator of learning. Students guide their own learning via LMS and synchronous online learning sessions. There are many opportunities for the teacher to conference individually with students. Students must connect with adults other than the teacher. They must learn to self-report and pace themselves to meet the deadline.

Learning is aligned to the needs of a 21st century workforce.

The ECE teacher begins the lesson with 20 minutes of direct instruction to establish the overall project.

“Every ECE program’s responsibility to young children and their families is to ensure their health and well-being while providing high-quality instruction for cognitive development. Choosing the best ECE program is an important decision with several variables. Your first project involves learning about the many components involved with preschool program evaluation.”

The driving question:

Can we rank the quality of area preschools in a fair and credible way to help parents make the best decisions for their families?

This project-based learning assignment works with the cooperation of preschool staff that agree to partner with an early childhood education student during a six-week period. Staff members are asked to support students with phone, in person and email conversations, and to provide feedback on five standard areas: compliance, health and safety, nutrition, multiple intelligences, and storytelling.

The preschool evaluation assignment begins with email introductions and follows:

  1. The quality child care web search
  2. The health & safety research presentation
  3. Nutrition — weekly menu design
  4. The storytelling experience
  5. Multiple intelligences are alive and well
  6. Your choice! Students will select an evaluation criterion. Challenge them to write a brief justification for the choice.
  7. The comprehensive summative assessment can take the form of a slideshow or video. Conclude the weeks-long assignment with presentations and open dialogue on how difficult it is to suspend our original judgements and make careful evaluations.

Remember to always pause for reflection. Remind students of the driving question; how do we provide fair and credible analysis? How does each task inform our analysis? Ask students to verbalize their observations and growth in a professional capacity. Here might be a good opportunity to lead them in an exercise on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.


  1. As students work on each task independently, they will continue learning from their teacher and classmates via:
    • Teacher lectures and discussions — virtually and/or in class
    • Textbook readings
  2. A key feature of Blended Learning is the flexibility of pacing for students to progress and monitor their own learning. In addition, this approach will create more opportunities for you to conference one on one with students to gain a more accurate sense of their level of understanding and clarify errors in thinking.
  3. Some students will move through tasks much faster than others. Nevertheless it is important to set weekly due dates for accountability.

For more from Sandra Adams, ACTE members can read her article, “Blended Learning: A Foundational Approach,” in Techniques‘ September 2020 issue.

Sandra Adams is a teacher and instructional coach with the Career Academy, Fort Wayne Community Schools. She co-wrote the ACTE-supported book But I’m NOT a Reading Teacher!: Literacy Strategies for Career and Technical Educators with Gwendolyn Leininger. Email her.