Disadvantages of Block Scheduling

Disadvantages of Block Scheduling

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In order to properly research a topic, first an adequate definition is required. Kellough (2003) defined block scheduling as:
The school programming procedure that provides large blocks of time (e.g., two hours) in which individual teachers or teacher teams can organize and arrange groupings of students for varied periods of time, thereby effectively individualizing the instruction for students with various needs and abilities. (439)
Traditionally, schools schedule six or seven 40- to 55- minute classes per day. These classes usually meet for 180 school days per school year. Block scheduling differs from traditional scheduling in that fewer class sessions are scheduled for larger blocks of time over fewer days. For example, in block scheduling, a course might meet for 90 minutes a day for 90 days, or half a school year. Block scheduling came along with many problems for school students and teachers. Disadvantages include attention span problems, retention problems, problems in transferring and difficulty when school is missed.
One of the first flaws of block scheduling is longer classes, which tend to lead to students loss of interest in the subject material. Queen found the average attention span of most

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students is between twenty and fifty minutes (online). After this time frame, students are fidgety and ready to do everything except learn. Instead of trying to cover twice as much material in a longer class period, the natural tendency is to water down the material to maintain interest, resorting to movies, games, and doing homework in class. Either due to attention span limitations or to the watering down of material, learning is likely to be less effective, especially in courses such as math and science.
Another disadvantage related to the use of block scheduling is retention problems. Students taking all of their English, math, science, or other topics in one semester may experience a gap of eight to thirteen months before taking the next course in that series, whereas students under traditional schedules experience the longest gap of four months which is summer vacation. The long gap in learning a particular topic may translate into poor retention and the need for more than the usual two or three days of review at the beginning of a semester. Many students take tests, like Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, Exit Exam, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, at the end of the school year on topics that were covered in the first semester only.

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This time gap of several months between the course and the test may hurt student performance on these standardized tests (Lindsay). Block scheduling has not been proven to increase performance on objective tests in any longitudinal study. In fact, Canadian studies have shown that block scheduling can hurt academic performance when assessed through objective tests (Schreiber & Veal).
Problems also arise when a student transfers in the middle of the school year from a school using block scheduling to a school using traditional scheduling and vice versa. Students may have missed half a year of material in required courses that they would have taken in the second semester under block scheduling, and they may needlessly repeat half a year of material
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for courses already taken (Queen).
Difficulty when school is missed also has been proven to be a disadvantage of block scheduling. For a given course, missing a week of school due to sickness under block scheduling can be like missing several weeks under traditional scheduling. If the course is a challenging, content-based course like math or foreign language, catching up may be extremely difficult for the student. Of course, since the total amount of material covered in a day of block scheduled classes will be no greater and perhaps even less than the average under traditional scheduling, the problem of missed classes would appear to be no disadvantage under block scheduling. However, when it comes to a few truly difficult classes, missing the equivalent of two or four weeks instead of just one can be devastating (Lindsay).
Implementing block scheduling in the classroom requires more than simply extending the class periods. Teachers must alter their teaching for the new system to be successful. For example, Joan Bush, a researcher with the Irving, Texas, school district, observed forty-eight randomly selected high school classrooms in her district. She found that teachers were still spending the bulk of their time either lecturing or monitoring students as they did seat work. Longer lectures paired with independent seatwork are not the point of block scheduling; rather, the goal is increased classroom interaction so students can spend more time on a subject and ask questions as needed (Abate et al.).
Another potential disadvantage to block scheduling is the resistance of teachers and the public to implementing a new system. Some teachers may be reluctant to alter their long-observed practice of school scheduling and calendars. The public, including parents and business leaders, sometimes resists upsetting patterns such as vacations and student-employment practices
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The elimination of a few class changes during the day reduces the amount of time that students socialize with their friends. Sometimes early adolescents, whose restlessness and hormonal surges make them function best within shorter parcels of time, can have trouble sitting for longer class periods. The transitions between classes, rather than being viewed as lost instructional time, become a moment for students to stretch their legs and clear their heads (Lindsay).
In conclusion, it seems that block scheduling has many disadvantages. Schools really need to see if changing from the traditional scheduling to block scheduling is really a change for the good. There are some good things about block scheduling, but before making the change educators at each individual school should ask themselves if it is really worth the risk. Block scheduling has a negative effect on students who have short attention spans as well as a negative effect on students transferring from one type of scheduling to another. It has not been proven to be beneficial in helping students on standardized tests; therefore; it is not really needed.

Works Cited

Abate, S., Baker, D., Cobb, B. Effects on students of a 4x4 junior high school block scheduling program. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 7(3), 1999. http:/epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n3.html. July 17, 2004.
Kellough, D. (2003). A resource guide for teaching (4th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill-Prentice Hall.
Lindsay, J. The case against block scheduling. 2002 http:/www.jefflindsay.com/Block.shtml July 17, 2004.
Queen, J.A. Block scheduling revisited. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(3), 2000. www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kque0011.htm July 17, 2004.
Schreiber, J., Veal, W.R., Block Scheduling: Effects on a state mandated test of basic skills. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 7(29), 1999. http:/epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n29.html July 17, 2004.

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