The exam though it's validity as a barometer for academic preparedness for higher learning is contested, is a means of examining the factors which have been shown to be directly related to the outcomes seen with this strategy. Block scheduling has been shown to correlate directly to mathematics, language, and critical thinking in terms of improving scores. Also, the application of this evaluative comparison across a variety of students and academic settings may resolve the existing questions regarding the relative failure of an otherwise successful technique to raise writing skills. The test will be administered at the conclusion of each trial period in the fashion it would be administered in its intended use. The scores of each student will be compared with their previous score. The overall bell curve of scores between conditions will also be compared as a means of determining both specific and general efficacy.
Description of Research Sample
The research sample will be comprised of American high school students in public school in grades 10 and 11. First years and final years will not be included in the study because of increased external influences which may have a negative effect on the study data. The reason that public schools were chosen is that their national funding would facilitate the timely completion of this project. If the researchers were to achieve national sponsorship it would allow for the collection of data from a representative sample of ethnic, social, and economic classes. It also allows for the uniform dissemination of information as opposed to approaching schools individually.
One of the primary purposes of this study will be to determine the relative efficacy of block scheduling to national public high schools. The data used to ultimately make such a large scale decision consequently must come from the same population sample. It is important that despite the inherent difficulties in attempting to implement experimental conditions in hundreds of independent locations, that the test successfully include at the very least all major cities in the United States. While it may seem that regionally schools should be similar within districts and further within regions, that is not necessarily the case. It is possible for there to be vastly different socioeconomic representations within a single town. The same is true of larger districts or regions. In order to determine accurately whether or not block scheduling will work across the country, all instances must be tested.
Education is an exceptionally difficult field in which to perform actual experiments. Necessarily, the effects on actual students must be taken into account in any instance of manipulation of variables. This study will not ultimately cause undue harm to the participants because both methods of scheduling are currently successfully in effect. Block scheduling is a standard feature of higher education, and it has been successfully tested in high schools previously. The standard method of scheduling is currently in effect in the majority of American high schools. The single unique and potentially stress inducing feature of the entire construct is the addition of testing beyond that which the students would normally encounter. However, it is fairly common practice for high schools and SAT preparation programs to utilize old tests in the coaching of students preceding their sitting of the actual graded exam.
Description of Instrument Used
The SAT is a three hour and forty five-minute proctored exam which assesses writing, mathematics, and critical thinking. There are breaks built into the exam which allow students to consume snacks, generally unwind, and use the restroom. Each section is scored independently on a score out of 800 possible points. The SAT is a nationally accepted measure of academic preparedness for higher education. It is standard procedure as discussed above for high schools, college preparation programs, and even SAT preparation programs to utilize older versions of the exam for training purposes.
The SAT has come under scrutiny recently in that it assesses primarily reasoning skills as a measure of academic preparedness. Although the exam itself may not be an accurate assessment of individual subjects, it is an accurate and accepted representation of the ability to integrate and synthesize information in real time. These skills have been deemed necessary for the purposes of matriculating to higher education. Inclusion of the writing portion of the revised exam will allow for the assessment of block scheduling in a known area of weakness. This inclusion will help to determine whether the scores seen in the original assessment were localized or whether there genuinely is an inferiority in the integration of information regarding writing skill when block scheduling is utilized.
The SAT answers are recorded with the exception of the writing sample on a multiple choice scantron sheet. The ordering of questions is staggered throughout the booklets to minimize the possibility of cheating. The use of a scan-tron sheet makes the margin for incorrect grading extremely slim thus producing very accurate data for analysis. The written portion of the exam must be evaluated individually, however given that faculty members familiarity with the students being tested the margin for handwriting being a potential systemic error. The emphasis of this experiment is not to determine the accuracy of the SAT, rather it is to utilize the SAT as a means of understanding the relative success of block scheduling in increasing positive educational outcome.
Explanation of Procedures Followed
This experiment will have a duration of one academic year. In the summer months before the beginning of the program school administrators will be called into regional seminars in which they will be instructed in the techniques which they in turn will pass on to the teachers under their purview. The seminar lasting approximately two days will include an explanation of the theory behind the experiment as well as the most effective ways of presenting material in both conditions. Based on national school identification numbers, schools will be chosen at random to be in either condition A or condition B. Though random within counties an effort will be made to balance the samples so that there is an equal representation of both conditions within counties.
The use of this strategy minimizes the necessity of personnel specifically for data collection or for the actual running of the experiment. Rather, teachers will be able to instruct students normally and proctor an exam which would normally fall under their purview to proctor. This adherence to normative roles increases the validity of the study in that there is no risk that teachers are altering their performance. Students also will not be experiencing a significant variation in their normative school experience. Though the schedule will be different there will be no overt additions or changes to their routine. Though of course they will be informed of their participation, the manipulation is not such that it will inherently generate anomalous behavior.
Discussion of Internal Validity
For the purposes of understanding the relative efficacy of block scheduling to traditional scheduling this is perhaps the most effective method of testing. Within each individual school, students will act as their own control with a nationally accepted measure of effect. The variable manipulated is the time distribution within a school day which will still be the length students have always experienced. The potential for internal confounds has been relatively eliminated in that students from grades 10 and 11 are being assessed. 9th grade students experience an undue amount of pressure as a result of their status of newcomers to a social setting. 12th grade students are experiencing stress related to graduation as well as college application and acceptance.
As discussed above, the proposed procedure minimizes intrusion as well as overt manipulation in the context of the actual real conditions. Teachers and students are all experiencing their education as they would normally. The measure used is also one which is a test students of the cohorts age group and educational status are generally exposed to. There will be nothing aside from the difference in time management internally interfering with the results of this proposed experiment.
Discussion of External Validity
External validity is addressed in that this study is indicated for implementation across the entire United States. This will ensure that the results are directly applicable to the intended populations. A further benefit of this wide spread implementation is that potentially outlying results will be more immediately confirmed as instances for further investigation, than in instances where the effects of an individual community may have been at work. The use of two grades also corrects for the effects of age, or residual effects of college stress or lingering experience of entering a new social and academic environment.
Gruber, C. & Onwuegbuzie, A. (2001). Effects of block scheduling on academic achievement among high school students. The High School Journal, 84, 32- 43.
Evans, W. Tokarcyzk, J., Rice, S., & McCray, A. (2002). Block scheduling an evaluation of outcomes and…