When it comes to the number of classes taught during a school day, there are different schools of thought. Some schools use “block scheduling,” where they do four classes per day at twice the usual amount of time. One day students go to four classes of 90 minutes each, and the next day they go to four different classes of the same length. Every two days, therefore, students attend eight different classes. The system is supported by those who believe that longer class periods lead to more in-depth learning and less time wasted in reviewing previously-covered material.
The other school of thought is centered around traditional course scheduling where students attend 6-8 classes every single day. These classes, between 45 and 60 minutes apiece, are typically taught at the same time each day, Monday through Friday. This system is supported by those who believe that shorter, more frequent classes prevent student burnout and are less confusing to students. School districts may switch back and forth between the two systems over time.
Optimally, a school should have more classes per day due to low student attention spans. According to the New York Times, research indicates that youth attention spans are decreasing. A quick peruse of statisticbrain.com reveals the shortness of the human attention span. Since technology outside of school is decreasing attention spans inside of school, it makes little sense to fight against the society-wide trend by demanding longer classes. For best student performance, classes should be tailored to emphasize efficiency, necessitating shorter but more frequent periods of study.
Eight classes of 45 minutes each, therefore, is far superior to four 90 minute classes that are taken every other day. Instructors can focus on tailoring lessons to highlight important material and not have to spend lots of time on less-interesting material. Though some subjects may benefit from 90 minutes of instruction at a time, it is difficult to keep students focused for that long. Lengthy class periods are therefore more likely to feature student apathy and attention-seeking behaviors as children and teens “act out” due to boredom.
Shorter classes may be additionally advantageous in breaking material into manageable “chunks.” It may be easier to teach in many small increments than in several large increments, especially if a large increment can only be partially covered during a class period. Three 15-minute activities may be preferable to three 35-minute activities because the third 35-minute activity gets interrupted by the end of class. Shorter, higher-intensity learning may be more interesting and rewarding than longer, lower-intensity learning.