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Block scheduling is a type of academic class routine used in schools. This system is scheduled with fewer classes for longer periods so that teachers can conduct extended activities such as presentations and students can be involved in more sustained in-depth learning activities.
The majority of schools operate on a traditional seven-period schedule, with each class lasting between 40-50 minutes. These traditional schedules have frustrated teachers as they have less time for preparations, and instructions. Block scheduling, a popular alternative for some schools, has fewer students. It can mean differently to different people as they can benefit some and can be obstructive to others.
If you step in the shoes of the students over the course of a school day, you’d see that they’re exhausted by attending 7 classes and by the rush of information from several subjects. The entire traditional education system and schedules are known to pressurize students but it is now changing with block schedules.
Changing schedule of school education is a contentious and enormously complex task but once changed, the block scheduling can make the active hours most productive. The instructional limitation of a traditional schedule with shorter class periods is that, they have frustrated teachers. This has led to the adoption of the latest technique. This gives teachers a little more flexibility in the instructional strategies and planning of subjects. The teachers get longer periods of time, which allow for deeper thinking and project-based instructions.
Block scheduling or blocking is a type of academic class routine used in schools in the American K-12 system, in which each pupil has fewer classes per day. A block schedule is a system for scheduling the middle or high-school day, typically by replacing the traditional schedule of six or seven 40–50 minute daily periods with 90 or 120 minute class periods that meet fewer times each day and week instead of daily.
Block Schedules are different in different schools, but the most common formulations include:
1. 4 x 4 Block Schedule
In this system of block schedule, students take four 90 minutes classes every day and finish a course in one semester rather a full school year.
2. A/B or Alternating-Day
An “A/B” block schedule in which students take eight 90 minutes classes that meet every other day.
In a “trimester” schedule students take two or three core courses over three ‘60-day’ trimesters - with each class meeting daily.
In a “75-15-75-15” schedule, students are provided with 75-minute classes every day. The aim is to finish courses in a semester, following by an intensive 15-day learning-enrichment course or remedial program. Another variation is the “75-75-30” schedule, in which a single 30-day intersession is conducted rather than two 15-day intersessions.
In a “Copernican” schedule, the students have longer classes during one half of the school day for core academic subjects and shorter daily classes during the second half of the day for subjects such as physical education or music.
Discussion on Block Schedule
The following are a few representative arguments that may be made against or for of longer instructional periods and block scheduling:
Fewer class periods with longer class sessions can compensate for the amount of time that teachers spend on routine administrative or classroom-management tasks-such as taking attendance, handing out and collecting materials, or preparing for and wrapping up activities. In block scheduling, students get more amount of time to be engaged in more meaningful and productive learning activities. In a traditional eight-period class per day, students spend more time in the settling down and moving between classes, which further reduces the total amount of productivity during a school day. These traditional methods of scheduling school education days also increase disciplinary issues.
In block schedule, when class periods are longer, teachers are able to utilize it more to provide varied or innovative instructional techniques. They can cover more content with fewer interruptions; give students more attention and support. Moreover, the teachers can engage students in more sustained, in-depth learning activities, including sophisticated projects or teamwork-based exercises, that could not be completed in traditional scheduling systems. Also, in traditional schedules, there are more students, so teachers cannot provide the time and attention to each student. It may also disturb student-teacher relationships, as they may not be as strong with students with learning needs or disabilities. They may not get personal attention and support they may need to succeed in a course. Scheduling fewer classes per day reduces the burden of moving from one class to another on both teachers and students.
In a traditional eight-period day, the teachers need to prepare for up seven to eight courses and possibly double the number students. As a result, teachers may be forced to hastily plan and organize lessons, rush the grading of work and provide less feedback to students. Students must also prepare for more classes each day, which can be hectic and can have an adverse impact on learning. Homework and assignments may need to be light and should not be a burden to students since teachers have to consider the time taken by students to complete them.
Advantages of the Block Schedule
Advantages to Teachers
The benefits of block scheduling for teachers can be divided into two categories: Organization of the school day and delivery of instructions
Organization of the School Education System
The 4x4 block schedule is a more manageable schedule, both for teachers and students
- Teachers have to make fewer preparations and can spend more time on planning. If they have three classes of 90 minutes, 30% of their time can be devoted to planning.
- The average class size may drop which gives more time for the teacher to assist each student.
- Teachers have fewer papers to grade in a 4x4 schedule, as there will possibly be fewer students within a semester.
- Block scheduling shows improvement in discipline and decrease in drop rate.
- There are fewer disruptions between classes as the number of class changes is reduced.
Delivery of Instructions
- With fewer students to teach, the teacher gets more time to know their students better, to focus on their needs and to advise them as needed.
- There is more time for quality education because there is less wasted class time.
- There is more class time to conduct extended activities such as presentations and projects.
- The reduced workload on teachers frees time for improving the delivery of instruction and develops cooperative teaching strategies.
Advantages to Students
Organization of the School Education System
- Students can take four courses per semester instead of 3, therefore earning more credits toward graduation.
- Students get twice as many times to complete the required courses if they fail in a subject.
- Students have a limited number of class changes, therefore the disruption and disorderly conduct outside the classroom is decreased.
Delivery of Instruction
- Students have fewer tests, homework and assignments to complete as their study load drops from six to four classes daily.
- Students get benefit from multiple instructional strategies used to address the variety of ways in which they learn.
- There is more time for the development of a meaningful relation between students and teachers.
- Students benefit from less fragmented class schedules.
Block schedule may be adopted in every school but there is also a question of whether the teachers will actually teach differently when classes are longer or whether they will make the most out of longer periods. Since block scheduling requires changes in way lessons are structured and taught, teachers may find it hard to resist the traditional schedule.
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