The other very valuable piece in the current ISM Ideas and Perspectives is their report on the ideal student schedule for 21st century learning. ISM offers this advice:
- Recognize that today’s students are different.
- Understand that we must teach for depth, not breadth.
- Prepare students for a knowledge, not industrial or service economy.
- Students do not have a short attention span, teachers must engage them, however, to sustain their interest.
The practical outcome of these assertions is that teachers must teach in longer periods. We are now recommending that upper and middle schools move to class periods of a minimum on 75 minutes.
This is a topic on which I am passionate. One of St. Gregory’s great appeals to me as I looked at schools all over the country was that it has such a healthy, 21st century school schedule, with four block periods a day of 75 minutes (exactly as called for!). When, last fall, I visited 21 high schools, spending at each an entire day shadowing students, I perceived the difference between traditional, 7 45 minute period blocks, and 4, 75 minutes blocks, was huge. Longer blocks meant more active learning, more time for reflection and synthesis, more time for participation and problem-solving, more time for thinking. Shorter periods felt choppy and inconsistent and rushed. ISM is right: 21st century education demands longer teaching blocks, and 75 minutes fits a school day and a learning program quite well.