High School Physical Education Teacher Perceptions of Block Scheduling

By Rikard, G. Linda; Banville, Dominique | High School Journal, February-March 2005 | Go to article overview

High School Physical Education Teacher Perceptions of Block Scheduling


Rikard, G. Linda, Banville, Dominique, High School Journal


In recent years, the blocked class schedule has replaced the shorter traditional schedule in high schools throughout the United States. In order to study this change, these researchers examined physical education teacher perceptions of their experience teaching on a block schedule compared to the traditional schedule. The views of fifteen physical education teachers from eight high schools located in a southeastern school district in the United States were obtained from individual interviews at their school sites. Teachers reported several changes in their AB class formats including the daily class emphasis on fitness, the use of several class transitions during their 90-95 minute lessons, and the use of a limited variety of teaching strategies in blocked classes. Consistent with previous research findings, teacher perceptions indicated their reduced stress levels, a decline in student absenteeism and tardiness, and reduced student behavior problems after changing to block scheduling from a traditional format. Sixty six percent of teachers perceived that students learned more in blocked versus traditional classes but they had no documented evidence of that conclusion.

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A reform initiative began in the 1970's to redistribute the allocation of time in secondary schools. For nearly a century, secondary school students attended six to seven classes daily for 50-55 minutes. This form of class scheduling in high schools, typically known as block scheduling, has been configured in different formats, including the 4 x 4 and AB formats. Under the AB format, students attend classes for approximately 95 minutes on alternate days, while on the 4 x 4 format students attend the same four blocked classes each day for 90 consecutive days once per year.

According to Rettig and Canady (1999), about one of three high schools have adopted some form of block scheduling, with certain states, such as North Carolina, having as many as 75% of its high schools using block scheduling (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 1999). Proponents of block scheduling claim benefits for students and teachers (Canady and Rettig, 1995; Shortt and Thayer, 1999; Wild, 1998). Existing evidence suggests that student discipline problems and absenteeism declined once blocked classes were adopted (Black, 1998; Bryant and Claxton, 1996; Bukowski and D'Antonio Stinson, 2000; Rettig, and Canady, 2001; Shortt and Thayer, 1999). This is due to increased student awareness of missing more content and class time when absent from blocked classes compared to traditional classes (Bukowski and D'Antonio Stinson, 2000). When asked about the impact on the curriculum, teachers indicated that they could cover course material in greater depth while noting that the scope of the curriculum might be compromised due to having half the number of classes meetings (Benton-Kupper, 1999, Hurley, 1997, Staunton, 1997).

Several researchers have examined the relationship between changes in scheduling and teaching effectiveness (Hackmann and Smith, 1997; Marshak, 1998; Queen, 2000; Thomas, 2001). These researchers emphasized the importance for teachers to adjust teaching strategies to better utilize interactive teaching to match the extended time frame. Less direct teaching strategies might include student problem solving, peer tutoring, and portfolio development. Hackmann and Schmitt (1997) stated: "[teachers] cannot take the simplistic approach of using the same method they did before, only for a longer time" (p.1). These types of strategies are gaining wide-spread use in physical education as well (e.g. Byra, 2004; Kinchin, 2001; Kirk, 1997; Rohnke, & Butler, 1995)

Goodlad, Klein, and Tye (1979) described the importance of teacher perceptions of daily life in classrooms. According to these authors, "at any given moment, the most significant perceptions probably are those of the teachers" (p. 62) because of their direct influence on shaping daily school curriculum. …

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