13 Block Scheduling Pros and Cons

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Block scheduling is the process of scheduling an educational day within a school, district, or place of employment. It replaces a traditional format of scheduling that provides 6-8 blocks of 35-50 minutes for each time period with longer “blocks” of time, up to 2 hours in length. Every school, district, and organization can create their own block variations to ensure the needs of their students, teachers, or workforce are clearly met.

Here are the key pros and cons of block scheduling to evaluate.

List of the Pros of Block Scheduling

1. It allows teachers to spend more quality time with their students.
In a block scheduling format, teachers will see fewer students over the course of their day. That allows them to provide more individualized attention to students who may need extra help. It also creates more opportunities to form positive relationships within the classroom environment that can make learning more fun.

2. It permits cooperative activities to be used in the classroom.
Instead of being forced into a lecture-based teaching style, block scheduling permits teachers to utilize small groups, cooperative activities, and skill-based practicums more frequently. Students in a lecture-based environment may retain as little as 5% of the information they are presented. When small groups can be used within an educational setting, up to 80% of the information presented may be retained. Immediately practicing new skills can boost information retention as well.

3. It permits students to stay focused on core daily subjects.
The human brain is not well-suited to multitasking. Just 2% of people have the ability to multitask without experiencing production loss. Within a block scheduling format, students have fewer classes to worry about each day, allowing them to stay focused on core materials without the need to change tasks repetitively. Every class change can cause a loss of productivity or information retention of up to 15 minutes.

4. It creates less daily homework for students.
Students using the block scheduling format usually come home with less homework because they are in fewer daily classes. With a longer time in class, there is more time for teachers to work with students on the actual curriculum instead of being forced to have the students learn it at home. Less homework means there is more time for extracurricular activities or relaxation after a tough day at school, reducing overall student stress levels.

5. It allows teachers to work with students all along the learning spectrum.
Added time in the classroom allows a teacher to adapt their teaching style to help all students instead of just a few. Some students may have learning difficulties or disabilities in certain subject areas. By having time for varied instruction, more students can stay in the traditional classroom environment, avoiding the stigma of being labeled a “special needs” student.

6. It gives teachers longer planning periods.
Teachers benefit from being able to stay focused for longer time periods as well. Because block scheduling provides longer planning periods to teachers, they can get more done within the confines of their regular schedule. That means less after-hours work and more time with their families.

7. It allows student grades to improve.
Block scheduling is more forgiving to students who may be struggling with their grades in certain courses. Students who fail in one semester or quarter often have the option to take a “trailer” course the next semester, allowing them to stay on-pace for graduation. They can catch up while staying with their peers.

List of the Cons of Block Scheduling

1. It causes students to lose continuity.
Students focus on core subjects and retain information based on their exposure to it on a frequent basis. By reducing student contact hours on a daily basis, some students can lose the continuity of their knowledge base during their off days. It’s like the summer vacation reduction in knowledge retention that occurs at the end of one grade and the beginning of another. More time might be given to teachers in block scheduling, but more of it is used for review work, not teaching new materials.

2. It forces students to lose multiple days of work.
Students are going to need a sick day here and there. It happens. Under the block scheduling format, a student who is out sick for the day is losing more than one day of learning materials from each class. They could be losing the equivalent of two days, three days, or even more, depending upon the structure of the class. That can put students at a disadvantage, especially if the sick days occur near a period of testing.

3. It means teachers cover less material instead of more.
Even if all students attend every class under a block scheduling format, the reality is that the teacher spends more time in review to ensure everyone is on the same page. When the time over a semester is added up for each class, most teachers under this time format structure cover fewer materials and teach less information to their students. In modified block schedules, this problem grows even worse.

4. It can speed up the class process to the point students forget what they have learned.
In some block scheduling formats, an entire class may need to be taught in a single semester or quarter instead of over the whole school year. In high school, there may be sports-related interruptions, committees, band, choir, and other interruptions that take students out of class in an authorized way. That means teachers lose the time they’d normally gain with their students, forcing both to work after hours anyway to catch up on the required course materials.

5. It may not even work.
A 1999 evaluation of block scheduling in the state of Texas, schools reported no change in dropout rates. Some schools see improvements in school attendance and tardiness, while others see decreases while using this type of scheduling format. In 1997, a review of 10 studies involving education-based block scheduling showed no conclusive answers regarding impacts on attendance or morale.

6. It does not encourage teachers to change their teaching style.
Proactive teachers can do a lot of good stuff with a block scheduling format in their classroom. In reality, many teachers don’t take advantage of this opportunity. One of the biggest complaints that students have with block scheduling is that their teachers do the “same boring things” for longer periods of time.

These block scheduling pros and cons indicate that it may be helpful for some students and employees. It may also be harmful to some. That is why each community must evaluate this type of scheduling with their own unique needs that must be met to determine if it is the correct idea to implement.