If you’re thinking about how your school year will be structured at your new school, there’s a chance you’ve been thinking about how to set up semesters or other terms to best meet the needs of your students. Scheduling can be one of the most challenging logistics your school will encounter as far as operations go, so spending some time thinking it through now will certainly pay off later.
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to setting up school academic schedules: traditional semester-long courses, and shorter course terms.
- Semester-long courses are probably what most of you experienced as a student. Courses run for a semester or a year, and students attend course each day or some combination of days each week, with the material spread out evenly throughout the semester or year.
- Shorter course terms are used when a school operates on several smaller and abandons semesters altogether. Rather than take 6 classes, each for a few hours a week for a whole semester, a school using shorter course terms may have students take 3 classes for the first half of a semester but spend more time each week in the same class. The second half of the semester would be spent doing the remaining 3 courses. Student are getting the same number of instructional hours per course, but they are distributed though the year differently.
There are, of course, pros and cons to each of these types of schedules. For instance, many teachers like having longer class periods, because it gives students more actual class time. With students taking fewer classes at once, class periods tend to be longer each day. In an hour-long class, the first few minutes are often spent getting settled, and it can take up a large part of the school day as students move around. Spending more time in one class limits the disruptions and allows for more learning.
Shorter course term schedules can be a disadvantage if schools aren’t careful with scheduling. For example, if a student completes their math credit for the year in the first two terms of the year, they will go from January until August without a math course, which can have negative impact on students’ retention of knowledge.
Like most decisions you’re making about starting your school, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to weigh the pros and cons and determine what system will work best for your school and your educational goals.
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