What is Block Scheduling?

If your child’s school is considering a transition to block scheduling, you may be confused about the change. What is this type of scheduling, and how will it affect your child? Educators are still debating the benefits, but the preliminary information on student and teacher satisfaction seems to indicate arranging classes this way is successful.

What is Block Scheduling?

Normal class scheduling, especially in middle school and beyond, is six classes of about 50 to 55 minutes each. By the time students are in their seats and prepared for class activities, ten minutes of that class time are expended. In contrast, scheduling in the block format results in fewer classes per day, with longer class sessions. There is usually a half-hour lunch and a planning period for teachers as well.

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Familiar Kinds of Scheduling in Blocks

One basic type of the format is the 4X4. This is four classes taken over a quarter, within a four-quarter framework. Students in the 4X4 can take eight classes in a semester. That enables them to take sequential classes in a shorter time. Another type is Intensive scheduling. Students in this form take one class every day until they cover the material. This is often seen in medical schools. The AB format allows students to take six classes one day and three the next, spending double the class time the second day. It is possible to create a hybrid of the blocks as well.

What Students and Teachers Like About the System

Teachers like having fewer classes each day because it means less time spent in preparation for them. Fewer classes also might translate to less homework at night and fewer examinations. With fewer class periods, teachers see fewer students. Class sizes are smaller, and there is more time for student-teacher interaction. Students see that as an advantage as well. In middle school, many of the discipline problems occur during transition between classes. Longer class periods mean there are fewer opportunities for behavior problems to emerge. The longer class periods allow time for science experiments and other projects. In addition, completing four classes each quarter enables high school and college students to earn more credits.

Disadvantages of the Scheduling

Although the classes are longer, students spend less total time in class. A class time of 55 minutes over the course of 180 days of school is 165 hours of instruction. In contrast, the block format of 90-minute classes 90 days a year equals 135 hours of instruction. Teachers may have to plan for fewer classes, but more planning is needed for the longer class period. Students who are absent from a particular class one day have a harder time making up the work when classes are not held each day. Although there are fewer classes that assign homework, extended class time might result in more time spent in homework for each class. Since classes are not offered every day, there may be a disconnect, or loss of continuity. Students must usually complete each course in a quarter. If he or she is involved in sports or other activities, it may be difficult to complete all work in that time.

The debate is still going on. Since all educators do not agree on the benefits of this type of scheduling, it is not universal. If your child’s school has decided to implement Block Scheduling, you have a basic idea of the concept and can help your child adapt to the new format.