Block Periods – Enabling Deep Level Learning

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece for this blog relating to the length of school days and the debates going on about what is ‘right’.

Here is a further aspect of the whole debate, which really has its roots in the kind of learning experiences we believe our children need to prepare them to succeed in the 21st century. This is an interesting article about a private school in New York that has fundamentally changed the way in which time is allocated to learning.

New York Times Article – Longer Classes

To me, such ideas are certainly worth exploring seriously for a number of reasons;

a) We need an approach to learning which addresses all levels of learning skills (see earlier blog post on Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning),
b) Education needs to shift from its ‘content-centric’ processing of a body of knowledge to the development of genuine skills for all students (this cannot be a realistic proposition in 30-minute bites of learning,
c) There was always a fundamental artificiality in the idea that a student should learn different ‘subjects’ in bites joined together through the day, when those subjects require them to use their minds in fundamentally different ways,
d) Learning and knowledge don’t fit in to neat compartmentalized boxes and the sooner educators acknowledge that, the sooner we will get some ‘relevance’ in education. Cross curricular approaches allow for far deeper levels of learning and thinking,
e) Students are becoming ever more bored by the irrelevant, mundane and overbearing controlled nature of what passes for school, especially in the secondary years. They believe themselves to be far more ‘grown up’ than previous generations at the same age. As a result, they want learning environments that give some respect to their self-determination, that allow them to make at least some of their own decisions (even when the learning comes from mistakes in those decisions).

Such changes in the way learning is ‘done’ in school shouldn’t be simplified down as being to make things fun, reduce stress etc. learning should be rigorous and such block periods are no lightweight option. In fact, they bring the processes of school learning one step closer to the way people spend their time and learn in the real world.


2 Responses

  1. I am so relieved to read your post on ‘ Block Periods- Enabling deep learning’. In fact this brings me to share the idea that has consumed my mind and thrown it into total disarray is of organizing /equipping our classrooms into a lab or a learning center where kinesthetic, visual, inter-personal, intra- personal etc.types of learning can be facilitated and students move around to various classrooms for different subjects.This provides them a much deserved movement and change. It will give them an opportunity to step into the realms of actually acquiring life skills like being more responsible, punctual etc. Besides, this is when ‘ holistic’ learning in its true sense can take place!
    I sincerely feel the restlessness of my students who are starved of ‘space’ to move and explore and the ‘time’ to learn and express themselves as they would like to by spending more time on a topic. As a teacher I always feel so strapped of time every time we begin to discuss questions thrown in during a class by students.Stepping into class 5 has given me the opportunity to become more and more aware of this as we have to wrap up the academic session by March.Therein creeps up this frustration…will I be able to lead/meet/satiate every student’s desire to learn more and acquire a deeper understanding of a topic…..The answer would have been ‘YES’ if we had more ‘block periods’!!…..

  2. My 15 yr old nephew who studies in a well known boarding school in grade XI in Madhya Pradesh went to Germany for a month long exchange programme. He mentioned that they had block periods of One and half hours and only three periods a day totalling to about 4 and a half hours of academic periods and then they had sports and extra curricular activities etc. Interesting thing was that though he comes from this regular CBSE school, he he did not find sitting for one and a half hours for a class difficult there. He said they had lot of discussions, the teachers were passionate and he simply loved the Maths and Physics classes which are his favourite subjects anyway and he also felt lot more independence was given to the students to study.

    Block periods could give a chance to students to explore his or her interests.

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