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Lesson Plans

Re: Re: Block scheduling

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 18:46:04 -0700 (PDT)

While block scheduling may [and apparently does] work well for fine arts and some humanities and
social science, the devastating effects on typical students taking math and science for the
first time under the double-speed pace of block scheduling makes such practice certainly
questionable and probably deleterious. Abstract concepts of mathematics, chemistry and physics
cannot "gel" fast enough in the minds of students encountering them for the first time.
Typically,the material is presented with minimal explanation ["We have to move on if we are
to complete the list of state competencies."] so the students are unsure of the concepts, have
trouble figuring out homework problems, and learn not to ask questions [You'll just have to
figure it out and learn it on your own."]

I know the difficulty college students have in tackling chemistry, math, and physics at an
accelerated rate [compared to what they used to do in high school; it is inconceivable [to all
but the teachers and "professional" educators] that middle and high school students encountering
it for the first time can make sense out of it. They don't have enough time between topics to
think about it, have it sink in and begin to make sense. The teachers point to Clarence who was
born thinking, if not doing, math and physics and brag about how well he is doing, ignoring the
fact that Susie and John simply are overwhelmed and lost. They dismiss Susies and Johns as
exceptions when in fact they are the norm; Clarence is the exception. But when it means fewer
preparations and a more relaxed day [not that teaching--real teaching--is ever really relaxed
for us] for the teachers, block scheduling is favored over a schedule with a learning pace which
favors the majority of non-mathematician, non-abstract science students. The public welfare of
the students is sacrificed for the personal desires of the faculty.
Why not have a mixed program so that students could select the pace that favored learning for
them. Match the teaching style more closely to the learning style needs of the students. Serve
the public interests.

I was told that California abandoned B/S as worthless some 12 years ago. A learning specialist
colleague was astonished that our local schools were even considering the practice, let alone
implementing it. When students who were invited to share their opinions at a school board
meeting did so, but presented the negative aspects for math and science, they were severely
chastised by faculty the next day at school [How dare you interfere with what we want?!] Perhaps
special funding for "innovative" B/S programs provides additional inertia. With teacher interests
and funding dollars at stake, there may be little chance of reversing this wholesale B/S trend.
And like other educational experiments of the past, our children as guinea pigs will be the losers.

E. Lee Hadden, Ph. D
Professor and Chair, Department of Biology
Father of three children who, while no idiots,
have trouble with the B/S pace in courses
they would do OK in at a reasonable pace.