Block scheduling is an approach to school timetabling in secondary schools. It typically means that pupils have fewer classes (4-5) per day, for a longer period of time (70-90 minutes). The three main types of block schedules found in the research are:
4×4 block scheduling: 4 blocks of extended (80–90 minute) classes each day, covering the same 4 subjects each day. Students take 4 subjects over 1 term, and 4 different subjects in the following term.A/B block scheduling: 3 or 4 blocks of extended (70–90 minute) classes each day, covering the same 3 or 4 subjects on alternating days. Students take 6 or 8 subjects each term.Hybrid: a hybrid of traditional models and 3/4-class-per-day approaches. Students have 5 classes per day, of between 60 and 90 minutes.
There are two recent meta-analyses which have looked at the evidence of the impact of timetabling and scheduling changes on students’ learning but these rely on a small number of studies which have limited security.
Timetabling mainly affects secondary schools, though the time spent on different areas of the curriculum is also relevant at primary level. The research has mainly looked at impact on mathematics, English and science.
The costs of making alterations to the timetable are mainly in terms of organisational effort and time and involve minimal financial outlay.
Before you implement this strategy in your learning environment, consider the following:
Timetabling changes alone are not sufficient to improve learning.
Teachers need to alter the way that they teach, and should plan and organise different kinds of learning activities to obtain benefits.
Have timetabling changes been matched to curriculum goals and teaching and learning objectives (such as longer lessons for science experiments)?
Have you considered how longer lessons may provide opportunities for other promising approaches, such as improving the amount of feedback that students get from the teacher or from each other?