Block Scheduling and the Flipped Classroom | Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter


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In the 1970s and ’80s, a series of commercials were run for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups featuring situations in which two people, one eating peanut butter and one eating chocolate, collided.  One person would exclaim, “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!” and the other would exclaim, “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!”  They would then sample the mixture and remark on the great taste, tying in with the slogan “Two great tastes that taste great together.”

“Block Scheduling and the Flipped Classroom are to education what peanut butter and chocolate are to Reese’s.”

Combining the time advantages of Block Scheduling with the instructional value of the Flipped Classroom provides an invigorating learning opportunity for students and a gratifying educational experience for the teacher.

Blocked Scheduling

An advantage of Block Scheduling is the additional class-time available for group assignments and collaborative projects that serve to reinforce learning  and improve critical thinking skills, particularly evaluation and creativity.

Robert Lynn Canady, an expert on Block Scheduling, recommends that teachers on a block schedule spend their days “coaching” rather than lecturing.  Canady is co-author of the book Teaching in the Block: Strategies for Engaging Active Learners.  He advocates teachers shift from talking all day to students, to planning for students to work all day.

In his book, Canady suggests an approach based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.  The process involves three steps:

Explanation.  This is the Remembering and Understanding steps on Bloom’s Taxonomy.  This would typically involve traditional forms of lecture and content delivery.

Application.  This is the heart of the block schedule according to Canady.  This is where the students are most active and where most of your class time should be used.  This is where “the teacher moves to the sidelines,” Canady says.  Students are Applying and Analyzing the content discussed in the Explanation step.

Synthesis.  The final step is where the students are Evaluating and Creating.  This is where the better discussions take place and the students higher thinking skills are engaged.

The purpose of Block scheduling extends the class period so that student involvement can increase and higher levels of critical thinking and creative application can take place.  However, teachers who are accustomed to a traditional schedule will often expand their “lecture-style” teaching by talking twice as long, and then allowing the students the remaining few minutes of class as a “head start” on their homework.

The Flipped Classroom

The Flipped or Upside-Down classroom provides a simple and workable addition, or replacement, for the lecture or “mini-lecture” typically utilized in a block class session. By “flipping” the typical lecture-style process, two functions that are critical to increased learning are accomplished.

One, the teacher, instead of a parent or sibling, is directly involved with the student during the time when a student is most likely engaged in higher thinking skills.  By watching a podcast of the lecture or presentation at home, the students are able to gain the foundational knowledge during “homework” and can then apply that knowledge during class, where the teacher is available to provide the coaching encouraged by Canady.

Secondly, students are engaged in higher thinking skills in class, where they are less likely to be distracted and where the setting is more conducive to learning.  Having a student watch a video or listen to a podcast while at home, where the possibility of distractions are greater; and employing critical thinking skills in the classroom, where the environment is well-ordered and focused, increases the likelihood of a deeper understanding of the subject.

Block Scheduling provides the necessary time for project-based instruction.  The Flipped Classroom provides a more controlled environment for learning.  By combining these educational strategies, teachers provide students what they desire most – even more than chocolate and peanut butter – an opportunity for intellectual exploration and discovery under the guidance of an experienced mentor.

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