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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  (  PDF, 161 KB, 17 pgs)
  • Block Scheduling Revisited - J. Allen Queen (  PDF, 129 KB, 16 pgs.) 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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