What if we removed the course schedule?

What if we removed the passive course-to-course drudgery of the school day? What if there was no schedule? What if students were left with a list of coyly worded benchmarks targeted at creating quality humans, and we just waited to see what they could do? What if teachers were seen as mentors for projects designed to help students meet those benchmarks?

Shawn Cornally via http://www.good.is/posts/why-it-s-time-to-eliminate-class-schedules

8 Responses to “What if we removed the course schedule?”

  1. Interesting idea! Pragmatist that I am, I immediately think of challenges to this…but non of them seem insurmountable. I think the payoff of a more highly-engaged student body working on projects of personal relevance would be worth the work of arranging things.

    How much pre-assessment do you think there would have to be for this sort of scheme to work out well? Post-assessment seems pretty straightforward here…and I love the idea of teachers-as-mentors along the way.

  2. I’ve tried this when I was running THINK Global School. tGs has no building to call home. Instead, we took students and faculty to live and study in three different international cities each year. We used iPhones, iPads and MacBook Pros instead of bricks and a custom-built LMS in place of mortar. We had the great luxury of starting from scratch and tried our best not to let preconceived ideas about how things should be done get in our way.

    Each Sunday students and faculty would meet to plan the week ahead and could just as easily schedule math at 7:30 after Thursday dinner or Hostory on Sunday morning.

    While the idea of a schedule-less schedule was appealing, we found that humans have a need for some structure, so we found it necesary to schedule discreete teaching time. I was working with a group of 14-15 year olds and my hunch is that younger kids would need even more structure. Older kids likely could do with less.

  3. I remember trying part of this the first time back in the early 1990s with one of my middle school classes. At that time, I did it with a bi-weekly “task list”, which was essentially a set of benchmarks and suggested ways to document their learning. I then set up some “stations” around the room (some I came up wit, but soon students suggested others). These are things like: the recording studio, the research center, the writing center, etc. I led 5-10 minute talks in different centers based upon student need and interest. Eventually, students started leading and co-leading some of these as well. It was great fun, and set me on an almost 20 year experiment of moving the arbitrary fences that we’ve established in schooling cultures. Thank you for a good and thought-provoking post.

  4. For a baby step , let’s get rid of the schedules at elem school and naturally blend the subject areas across “big ideas.”. Speaking of big ideas…..why don’t state Ed commissioners advocate for big ideas through their curriculum?

  5. Another thought…can RTI support PBL? Sped services and RTI impose a major effect on scheduling at elem level

  6. Idealistic thinking like this painfully targets those students who hardly need formal schooling to succeed.

    Hence I wonder: What if there were no compulsory education laws? Then, those students interested in physically attending our schools would, while those craving less structure would (continue to) seek other avenues of learning – or not.

    In the end, I think the results would likely come close to those imagined by Shawn in your snippet above. The haves would have more – and with greater ease – and the have nots would flounder through lack of sufficient motivation and structure. Would our society be any better because of the change? Or would the capable simply succeed with fewer restraints while those that struggle continue to lag further and further behind?

  7. First off, let me say that I’m not a formally trained teacher… I am a parent. A very curious, book loving, web searching, thought collecting person who loves to learn.

    I often struggle between wanting to homeschool full time and wanting to work on my dreams full time. Currently, my kiddos go to a “project-based learning” school that doesn’t give me grief if I pull the kids out of school to attend a new exhibit at the museum… Or hang out at home working on stuff they love (for the boy, it’s working on stop animation for the girl, it’s working the tools in her artist box).

    I totally agree that grades have WAY overstepped heir boundaries. The way we look at testing (at home… school still feels the need to hand out those crazy letters) is as feedback: this is what you’re doing very well. This is what I see you struggling with. Are you good with that? If not, what do you think you could do differently?

    In my opinion, this is more lie the way it works in the “real” world…

    As far as open schedules… Sounds an awful lot like our homeschool. I agree with Darren… All fine and well for us here in middle-class suburbia… But what about the have-nots? School does a crappy job remediating kids who are falling behind now… will the less structure open up time for teaches to do remediation?

  8. I am taking a teacher education class where we have begun writing lesson plans and I found your idea of getting students involved in lesson plans very interesting. Writing standards, learning goals, objectives, assessment, activity etc. makes you really think deeply about the lesson. Going beyond that teaching is the best way to gain a full understanding of the topic.
    I think that getting students involved in the lesson planning process could help them learn but getting them involved in lesson planning for others would help them learn so many skills.
    Also a deeper understanding of material helps you make connections between the material and real life.

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