Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Flexible Scheduling Supports Personalized Learning

"Flexible scheduling and mixed ability or heterogeneous grouping can help personalize the learning environment and enhance all students’ ability to excel.” (High School Flexibility Enhancement: A Literature Review (2009). Cushman, 1989; Smith, 2008; Clark, 2006; Garrity et al, 2007)

Almost 20 years ago, the authors of Prisoners of Time (Report of the National Commission on Time and Learning, 1994) concluded that the century-long reliance on the Carnegie unit as the organizing principle for high school schedules was a detriment to achieving the kind of educational transformation that educational experts have long espoused. More recently, others have observed that flexible scheduling—length of school day, school year, daily classes—is a key element to truly personalizing the student experience.

Unfortunately, progress in this area continues to be slow. However, it was encouraging to come across two examples of schools that have adopted a progressive stance to the use of time in high schools. In 2011, the Alberta government launched the High School Flexibility Enhancement Project. This project involves 16 high schools from throughout the province. Essentially, the schools are working together “to develop an approach to school organization that does not necessarily equate time with credit. “ The group expects to release its findings later this year.

One other example comes from Hawken School in Ohio. Among the novel approaches adopted by Hawken is allowing students to take one course for a three-week period at two points in the year. By focusing solely on one course (which the school refers to as “intensives”), students can engage in deeper inquiry and incorporate a higher degree of out-of-class learning without disrupting other classes, which is what currently happens in a traditional high school schedule.

Needless to say, here at Greenwood we are looking closely at these practical examples of innovative approaches to the use of time, as well as the underlying research related to flexible scheduling, so that we can better understand how we might modify our current approach to best serve our students and our ongoing commitment to student centered learning.

Allan Hardy

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