An Examination of the Impact of Block Scheduling

The current interest in block scheduling arose in part out of two landmark publications, Prisoners of Time, produced by the National Education Commission on Time and Learning (1994), and Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution, a report from the National Association of Secondary School Principals (1996). These reports suggest that the quality and quantity of classroom time are of particular concern, given the fact that U.S. students spend significantly less time in core academic subjects than their counterparts in Germany and Japan, countries that outperform the U.S. in international assessments.

Some educators argue that altering the arrangement of instructional units and changing time parameters for teachers could increase the likelihood of reforming teaching practices and programs. Larger blocks of time might lead to more project and problem based learning activities, and to increased opportunities for student collaboration and individualized learning. An increase in integrated and interdisciplinary instruction might be another indirect result.

A review of the literature presents opposing views. On the one hand, O’Neil (1995) suggests that block scheduling can improve a school’s overall climate and can be a catalyst for innovation in the classroom. Likewise, Buckman, King, and Ryan (1995) indicate that schools can expect to observe significant changes in the instructional approaches employed by teachers with the adoption of block scheduling. Mathews (1997), on the other hand, suggests that not all schools will benefit from block scheduling arrangements, and calls for more rigorous studies to substantiate claims of effectiveness.

In order to ensure a thorough assessment of the new model, district educators looked closely at outcomes from other schools where block scheduling had been adopted, and formulated a few expected outcomes into three general categories: (a) changes in instructional approaches used by teachers; (b) changes in the curriculum experienced by students; and (c) changes in the climate of the school.

Teacher Survey

Major findings from the Teacher Survey include changes in teacher perceptions related to the following:

– Classes involve more learning activities.

– Teachers are more willing to try new strategies.

– Students spend more time working with each other.

– Opportunities for independent projects are more plentiful.

Student Survey

Many positive findings were noted by the Student Survey:

– Students spend more time working with each other.

– Classes involve more learning activities.

– Teachers use more and different methods of instruction.

– Teachers seem to know students better.

– Students are more involved in learning activities.

– Opportunities for independent projects are more plentiful.

– Students are given more time to understand concepts.

School Records

The percentage of students earning honor roll status during each marking period increased substantially for academic year. Over-all, the percentage of students on the honor roll increased during the period in which block scheduling was implemented. An increase in final grades in all core academic subjects for all grade levels was also notable.


From the perspective of the teachers and students, the most significant changes that accompanied implementation of block scheduling were related to instructional practices, assessment practices, and student involvement in the instructional process. Evaluation results for this implementation period suggest that numerous and substantial positive changes have occurred in the high school as a result of implementing block scheduling.

School data related to specific outcomes suggest that the academic environment of the school has improved as evidenced by enhanced grades, particularly in the core academic subjects, and decreased failure rates. In conclusion, the results indicate that meaningful changes have occurred in the instructional approaches used by teachers and in the classroom experiences of
students, indicating that block scheduling can be a catalyst for positive change.


Buckman, D., King, B., & Ryan, S. (1995). Block scheduling: A means to improve school climate. NASSP Bulletin 79(571), 1-65.

Kane, C. M. (1994). Prisoners of time. Washington, DC: National Education Commission on Time and Learning.

Mathews, L. (1997). Alternative schedules: Blocks to success? NASSP Practitioner 53(3), 11-15.

National Association of Secondary School Principals. (1996). Breaking ranks: Changing an American institution. Reston, VA: Author.

O’Neil, J. (1995). Finding time to learn. Educational Leadership 24(1), 1-3.

Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.

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