One of the things I noticed a big change in between high school and college is how scheduling classes is handled. There’s probably some pretty big differences just between one college and another, but I think the difference between high school and college is more extreme.
If your high school was anything like mine, it probably had a full day of classes from 8 am to 2:30 pm (or something similar). The day always started with homeroom, which when I look back on it, was a COMPLETELY pointless period. You sat there for fifteen minutes while morning announcements were made and attendance was taken. Really, it seems like a waste of time. No one ever paid attention to the announcements, and attendance got taken every period, so taking it in homeroom too was kinda redundant.
Then the day was divided into eight class periods, each somewhere around 45 minutes long. Somewhere in the middle was a lunch period, but other than that it was back to back classes for a solid six hours or so. You had the same classes the entire school year, and by the end of the year, you had probably forgotten half of what you learned back in September.
College sets things up very differently. Most Rowan students probably only take five classes per semester (as opposed to the seven I had in high school). Classes normally meet twice a week in 75 minute sessions (or once a week for two and a half hours). If you add that up, then not counting time spent on homework, and average student spends 12.5 hours a week sitting in a classroom. If we discount gym class and lunch period, my high school had us in a classroom for more than twenty hours a week.
Maybe high school students would perform better if their classes were divided up more like college classes. I know that after sitting through seven periods in a day, most students were burnt out by the eighth and didn’t pay as much attention. There were no breaks in between, whereas at Rowan I often set my schedule up with an hour or more between classes. It gives time to catch up on school work or just to rest and unwind between classes.
I think maybe kids would cut school less often if their days had more breaks in between. A few hours in the morning, followed by a good hour or so off before afternoon classes. Little kids get that break with recess, but that was gone by junior high.
Another difference is how many classes you have to take all in one day. It’s hard to focus on math, English, history, science, computer class, and Spanish all in the same day. Rowan’s classes are spread out so that each one meets twice a week, but for about twice as long as a high school class meets. I wonder if high school kids would learn better if they only had, say, English and history on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then math and science on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and whatever else leftover on a Friday. The classes could cover more material each day, and there would be less homework if you’re only in two or three classes a day. It works for college students, so why not high school students? People talk a lot about “short attention spans” these days; well, I’d find it easier to pay attention to two or three longer classes in a day instead of six short ones that force you to shift gears to another subject every 45 minutes.
Another difference is that college classes only last half the year at a time. I think this serves several advantages. First, it’s easier to focus on the smaller amount of material, instead of trying to remember everything going back nine months. The second semester could be a continuation of the previous one, picking up where the previous one left off, but it would focus on the new material more than the old. Then any key points from the previous semester could be covered in reviews or reinforced by applying it to the new material (something which a lot of college courses in the same major do).
Second, you wouldn’t necessarily have to have the same classes each semester. At Rowan, as a Writing Arts major, I would usually take writing classes in both spring and fall, but other classes would be divided up. I might take a math class for my gen ed in fall and then a history class for my gen ed in spring. Other students might take different combinations, depending on their major. This might make certain courses easier by allowing students to focus more on their stronger subjects. A certain amount of math, history, and so on should always be required, but students with different majors take a different ratio of certain subjects.
There’s a lot of possibilities, but considering how drastic the difference is between schedules in high school versus college, you have to figure that one might be more advantageous than the other. Maybe there are high schools out there that do it very differently than mine did. In any case, some changes might be a good idea if it could reduce drop-outs and improve the education system.