Block scheduling

Block scheduling

Block scheduling is a type of academic scheduling in which each student has fewer classes per day for a longer period of time. This is intended to result in more time for teaching due to less class switching and preparation. It also allows for a student to take four electives, rather than two, or three.

In some cases, such as in medical school or other intensive university program, a block schedule means taking one class at a time, all day, every day, until all of the material is covered. A normal university course might then be completed in three or four weeks of focused effort on a single topic. When used as a supplement to a normal academic term, instead of the normal schedule, this approach is sometimes called a "mini-mester".

Conversion to block scheduling became a widespread trend in American middle schools and high schools in the 1990s.Fact|date=February 2007 Prior to that, many schools scheduled classes such that a student saw every one of his teachers each day. Classes were approximately 50 minutes long, but under block scheduling, they became approximately 90 minutes long.

However, many American High Schools still use the traditional seven- or eight-period day.

Part of the motivation for block scheduling is to prepare students for taking end-of-grade/end-of-course standardized tests used to measure student achievement (and in some school districts, teacher pay and school funding). Another is social--to foster cooperation among students. This is done by having students work in groups (called "cooperative learning") to help them learn from each other, rather than have classes that focus on teacher-delivered content, as some experts believe that students learn better from peers than from professionals.


One way of doing block scheduling, called A/B block scheduling, is shown in the example table. Instead of taking six classes every day, students attend three classes every other day and spend twice as long in each class. The example given here reverts to a six-period day on Fridays. Another way of distributing the classes would be to have "A" and "B" days on alternate Fridays, or to alternate "ABABA" weeks with "BABAB" weeks.

Another common block system exists in which students spend up to 100 minutes per class, and earn four credits each semester. Excluding very rare occasions, students at schools using this system take two core classes and two electives per semester. Some schools modify this system further to use one of the mid-day periods for students to take optional year-long classes (usually band) that take half of the period length and take another year-long class during the rest of the period (such as math or journalism). Under such a system most of the classes taken on a year-long basis have all students participating, however it is not uncommon for journalism or yearbook classes to operate under the normal system and only have a few student who leave or arrive half-way through the period.

A method called 4x4 block scheduling splits the academic year into quarters, and uses a four-period day. [] This leaves eight slots available for classes during a semester (four classes in each of two quarters). The 4x4 method is somewhat more flexible in that students can take two sequential classes (such as Algebra 1 and 2) in the same semester (in different quarters), which would not be possible on a traditional schedule. This also allows students in their final year to fail a third-quarter class but repeat it in the fourth quarter in order to graduate.


A study by the College Board found that students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses on a 4 x 4 block schedule score lower than do students taking the same AP course on a traditional full-year schedule. [ Block Schedules and Student Performance on AP Examinations ]

Some schools have compensated for this by making AP courses last for the entire school year, providing essentially double the instruction time of normal classes, but this results in a dramatic reduction in the number of courses a student can take. Some schools that make AP courses year long offset this by having students always choose a pair of AP courses during class registration. The student will go to the first AP class one day, and the other AP course the next day. Therefore, the student takes the same number of courses as other students, but both AP classes last for the duration of the year.


Block scheduling has been criticized as resulting in class periods that exceed the attention span of students, resulting in less retention and watering down of the material to maintain interest. It may result in gaps of weeks or months where students are receiving no instruction in a specific subject like math or history, and critics say this results in retention problems and the need for more remedial review. [ "The Case Against Block Scheduling"] by Jeff Lindsay]

Students who miss a block-scheduled day will miss a considerable amount of material in a single subject, possibly making it more difficult to catch up. Mid-term transfers between schools with different schedules is problematic due to the need to repeat certain material while other material has been missed.

Furthermore, many programs suffer from lack of daily exposure to subject matter on an A/B block schedule. Courses like mathematics, foreign languages, and music benefit from daily practice and suffer from a lack thereof.

A University of Virginia study of 8,000 college students found that students who had block scheduling in high school performed worse in college science courses. [ "Block scheduling: Not helping high school students perform better in college science"] by Robert Tai]

ee also

Flexible modular scheduling


External links

* [ "Block Scheduling Revisited"] by J. Allen Queen
* [ Collection of web links] about block scheduling
* [ Block Scheduling] - by Karen Irmsher of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management
* [ Block Scheduling: Is this Right for America’s Public Schools?] - by John W. Cooper

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