Sunday April 20, 2014

Consider individual when organizing school time

In your editorial Extended Break Doesn’t Add Up (The Daily News, Dec. 17),  you look at learning “instructional time” in terms of  two minutes 15 seconds  added “to each course” rather than the quality and age-appropriate instruction.

The editorial reduces instructional time to reinforcement only, and ignores how  schools are managed and how classroom instruction is organized and delivered.

In order to give validity to your conclusions, the measure of instructional time and its relationship to learning must look at the school as a whole and the classroom composition, which you ignore.

Reinforcement of new concepts is important so children can relate what they learn in class and apply it to what they do outside of the classroom. In order to do this effectively, it’s the teachers who must manage the multi-dimensional concept of instruction in the allocated time within the mandated organizational structure of each school and grade level.

At every level, from kindergarten to Grade 12, it’s not the nine minutes of time that determines learning, it’s the teachers who effectively manage their time and understand their students’ knowledge level that is the driver in learning progress of children. Even though learning is a function of time spent doing the task, repetition to learn a math concept for some students is not the same as repetition to learn a concept in other content areas.

Instructional time is organized to reflect these differences.

Reinforcement or repetition is like the economic concept of diminishing returns — the more you consume something (repetition), the less utility one gets from the last unit consumed.

Since children learn differently, instructional time must be organized to suit the individual rather than the group. Time to learn a concept is not the same for each
individual, so this is where quality of instruction is important.  

Schools and educators have struggled with the meaning of instructional time  and its effect on learning ever since public education came into being. In your conclusions you ignore the fact that K-12 instructional time is organized in an age-appropriate fashion.

This tweaking, which the editorial dismisses as a “free gift” to teachers, seems to be another go round which you compare to your classroom experience of a timetable divided into 40 minutes of instruction per course.



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