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Research Spotlight on Block Scheduling

NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education

Found In: teaching strategies

Schools throughout the United States are adopting block or modular scheduling in dramatically increasing numbers. In contrast with the traditional daily six-, seven-, or eight-period schedule, a block schedule consists of three or four longer periods of daily instruction.

The three most common forms of block scheduling are:

  1. alternate day schedule - where students and teachers meet every other day for extended time periods rather than meeting every day for shorter periods
  2. "4x4" semester plan - where students meet for 4 90-minute blocks every day over 4 quarters
  3. trimester plan - where students take two or three courses every 60 days to earn six to nine credits per year.
    Block Scheduling: A Solution or a Problem? (Education World)

Pros and Cons of Modified Schedules


  • Teachers see fewer students during the day, giving them more time for individualized instruction.
  • With the increased span of teaching time, longer cooperative learning activities can be completed in one class period.
  • Students have more time for reflection and less information to process over the course of a school day.
  • Teachers have extended time for planning.


  • Teachers see students only three to four days a week which fosters a lack of continuity from day to day.
  • If a student misses a day under the modular schedule, that student is actually missing two, or sometimes even more days.
  • In a 4x4, all of the information normally taught in a semester course has to be covered in one quarter.
  • It is difficult to cover the necessary material for Advanced Placement courses in the time allotted.
    Modular [Block] Schedules (

Current Research on Block Scheduling

  • Prisoners of Time – Most notable study regarding time and learning by Milton Goldberg when he was with the Department of Education. It is the best-researched piece for arguing for longer school days, a longer school year, and more time dedicated to learning. (National Education Commission on Time and Learning, April 1994)
  • Block Scheduling Web Site - The Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) is a collaborative organization that brings the resources of the College of Education and Human Development and the University of Minnesota to bear on educational issues in Minnesota and across the nation. (University of Minnesota)
  • Block Scheduling Revisited- J. Allen Queen (PDK, 2000) provides guidelines for improving scheduling formats so that they might offer better potential for student success.
  • Block Scheduling (ERIC Digest, No. 104) - Karen Irmsher (1996) explores the question What's wrong with the traditional six- or seven-period day?



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