Block scheduling: Instructional practices in high school science classrooms

Date of Completion

January 2003


Education, Secondary|Education, Sciences|Education, Philosophy of




Proponents of block scheduling perceive this approach to be a ‘structural lever’ to invite and impel teachers to change their teaching (Marshak, 1997). This desired shift is supposed to be manifest in movement from the traditional classroom structure, focusing on the teacher as lecturer or transmitter of subject matter, to that of teacher as coach with students as active learners, engaged in a variety of activities involving them individually and collaboratively in their education (Canady & Rettig, 1995). Block scheduling changes the formal structure of the school day, but does it really change pedagogical practices in high school science classrooms? ^ Fraser's Individualized Classroom Environment Questionnaire (ICEQ) the instrument used in this study of science classes in five block-scheduled high schools in Connecticut, incorporates the tenets for an enriched classroom environment in its five scales or constructs: Participation—Extent to which students are encouraged to participate rather than be passive learners; Personalization—Emphasis on opportunities for individual students to interact with the teacher and on concern for the personal welfare and social growth of the individual; Investigation—Emphasis on the skills and processes of inquiry and their use in problem solving and investigation. Independence—Extent to which students are allowed to make decisions and have control over their own learning environment and behavior; Differentiation—Emphasis on the selective treatment of students on the basis of ability, learning style, interests, and rate of working (Fraser, 1990). ^ The results and conclusions from this research study suggested that the block-scheduled high school science classes that participated in this research do promote, to varying degrees, those tenets that define an enriched classroom environment. Both the teachers and their classes of students perceived opportunities for Participation, Personalization, and Investigation constructs as prevalent in science instruction. However, Independence and Differentiation, although existent to some extent, were perceived to occur less by both the teachers and the students in their classes. The provision of more class time alone was not enough to drive the tenets of these two constructs significantly. ^