Posted on March 22, 2017
Building A Collaborative And Student-Centered Instructional Environment
"Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination." - John Dewey
On Thursday, March 30th, the middle school community will begin a 2-week trial period of the newly adopted 80-minute trial block schedule (MS March-April Trial Schedule.pdf ), that will officially begin in August 2017. Block scheduling provides both students and teachers an opportunity to reorganize traditional middle-school classes into longer periods of time (usually 75-90 minutes) based on the overall structure of the instructional program. Specifically, this instructional framework is designed to provide a more in-depth study of subject specific topics; limit the day-to-day and class-to-class transitions associated with the traditional schedule; increase student-driven instructional flexibility; and enable more opportunities for interdisciplinary teaming (collaboration).
Although the final decision to adopt a block schedule was reached during the fall semester of 2016, the decision was not made in a vacuum. We worked in concert with our middle and high school faculty, parents, educational consultants, and parent community. The administration, over a 5-year period, believed that our students would be best served by breaking away from a traditional 50-minute structure. This move, to an outside observer, may appear to be a radical shift in practice. The opposite is true. For the past 10-years, our middle school faculty have routinely altered the schedule for grade-level projects, interdisciplinary teaming, project planning, and other activities designed to meet the instructional needs of students. The transition to the 80-minute block schedule presents an opportunity to codify the importance of the work currently being done. Additionally, it brings our middle school program into closer alignment with the current high school schedule and allows for cross-divisional collaboration between our students and faculty.
Since the most recent 80-minute trial period that occurred during the fall of 2016, our faculty members were tasked with chronicling the successes and challenges associated with the newly adopted schedule. To ensure a successful integration, our middle school faculty have divided into small collaborative groups. These small groups will also spend time with an instructional consultant, with an expertise in helping teachers transition to a block schedule. Specifically, our faculty will focus on designing and implementing student-centered instructional practices, researched-based pedagogical practices, and strategies focused on meaningful student engagement.
The implementation of the 80-minute block schedule is a demonstration of our ongoing desire to provide student-centered excellence for our middle-level learners.