Block Scheduling in Secondary Physical Education: East Compared to West Coast United States of America

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study presents findings that investigated the effects of block scheduling (90-120 minute periods) on sixth-to-twelfth grade students attending secondary physical education classes located in the northeast and west-coast United States. Quantitative methods of data collection were utilized. Results found students spent more time "waiting" and in "management" and less time in "activity." Furthermore, although the proportion of appropriate to inappropriate responses to tasks was in the right range, the number of opportunities to respond was low. Therefore, even though it seems there are advantages in adopting block scheduling, including the provision of a larger block of time to carry out state and national learning standards, this study also raises several questions concerning it's effectiveness. Consequently, suggestions that will help improve teaching strategies of teachers, including how to keep the students involved in active learning activities throughout the 90-minute class period, are discussed.

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Numerous middle and high school physical education programs in the United States are based on the traditional seven-to-nine, 45-50 minutes period school days. Researchers have found that students spent at least 25 percent of the traditional 45-minute physical education period dressing and waiting (Claxton and Bryant, 1996). Moreover, the physical educator found it difficult to teach sport concepts, improve fitness and sport skills, cultivate a sense of fair play, and develop a lifetime commitment to physical activity (Siedentop, et.al., 1994).

Therefore, secondary administrators are looking at changing the traditional arrangement of the school day in order to improve teaching and learning at the middle and high school level. Block scheduling offers a new and more efficient way to organize the school day (Canady and Rettig, 1995a, 1995b; Edwards, 1995; Rettig and Canady, 1996). It allows students to spend greater periods of time (e.g. 90-120 minutes) concentrating on fewer subjects during any one day. All blocks can be the same length, or some blocks may be longer than others (Table 1).

The block schedule, in its simplest form, requires each student to take the same four courses every day for an entire semester and then switch to four new courses the next semester. In another variation of this schedule, courses are taught on alternative days. That is, a student might enroll in English, Physical Education, History and Foreign Language courses on Monday's, Wednesday's, and Friday's, and Math, Music, Science and Health courses on Tuesday's and Thursday's.

Research concerning block scheduling indicates that the system has many advantages over traditional scheduling. For example, a concentrated class time allows teachers to focus on enriched content (Bukowski and Stinson, 2000; Staunton, 1997). Additionally, Bukowski and Stinson (2000) reported teachers felt rushed when planning during the traditional 50-minute planning period, especially when they were trying to accomplish any major project or task. Block scheduling allows for larger blocks of uninterrupted planning time. Researchers have also found students on a block schedule appear to have more opportunities to participate in in-class discussions (Thomas and O'Connell, 1997).

Unfortunately, research on the effects of block scheduling on physical education has been neglected. In one of the few articles that considers the implications for block scheduling in physical education, professionals are urged to "... use extensive networking because the professional literature and undergraduate/graduate teacher preparation programs have yet to adequately provide the information needed by practitioners," (NYSAHPERED Link, 1996). Bryant and Claxton began researching the effects of block scheduling in physical education in 1996. Bukowski and Stinson continued the research in 2000. However, their research was limited to the South-East and Mid-West school districts in the United States. …