Literature Review Chapter: Block and the Response

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[. . .] Some of the advantages to the block scheduling aspect, at least on the high school level, include the fact that there is a positive and significant relationship and a positive trend in the four academic subject areas as studies, however, that was offset by the lack of significant relationship between years in block scheduling and ACT scores (Trenta, Newman, 2002). Using the block schedule, according to Trenta and Newman, did not relate in a significant manner to average attendance (by grade) nor did it seem to have any significance regarding tardiness, but that overall block scheduling seemed to be perceived by students and teachers as a much more positive factor in their school day.

One of the main problems presented by current literature is that the RTI seems to be geared more towards early intervention than block scheduling is, and in fact, RTI may be much more effective in the early grade school years as compared to the high school years that are the focus of this study.

It might be more conducive, at least according to the current literature, to determine whether block scheduling can be addressed at the younger age groups in order to complement the RTI instructional methods being used. In a book published by Canady and Rettig, they wrote "High school teachers are under tremendous stress simply trying to deal with the large number of students passing through their classrooms each day. As a result, many teachers report they are unable to teach using more effective, active learning methods; in the interest of survival, instructional compromises are made" (Canady, Rettig, 1995, p. 5). According to Canady and Rettig using RTI may not make any difference at all at the high school level, they purport that effective use of the block scheduling at the high school level would be of more significance than any instructional design, including (by inference) RTI.

According to these two authors, exposing students to the entire curriculum leads to teacher dependence on lecturing, which of course is affects the overall class, not the individual students, the exact opposite of those who use RTI would hope for. However, the authors also explained in their book that an advantage of block scheduling was that teachers were more likely to have the opportunity to use a wide variety of instructional approaches. One of those approaches, of course, could be RTI.

Overall there are a number of aspects to block scheduling that are of a positive nature according to teachers and students who enjoy block scheduling.

One study showed results from block scheduling "were complementary and mutually supportive aspects of school reform" (Weller, 2000, p. 209) and another study showed that at the middle school level "if the principles of middle education (personalized learning environment, flexible time usage, a focus on coherent academic experiences) were truly realized these achievement declines would dimish" (Flowers, Mertens, Mulhill, 2003, p. 55).

Two of the three; flexible time usage and a focus on coherent academic experiences, are the objectives of block scheduling, while the third, personalized learning environment, is conducive to RTI instructional design. Could the three be successfully combined in the high school environment? Or would it be more likely that the RTI would only be successful in identifying those students with learning disabilities, but not be successful in possibly sidetracking the potential of those disabilities, since they are already firmly established by that time?

Some experts have asserted that block scheduling works better in some educational areas as compared to others, and it is certainly true that areas such as library media centers in secondary schools that use block scheduling seem to get more use than media centers that are still using traditional schedules and according to a 2005 study more classes are routinely scheduled into the library media center in block-scheduled secondary schools (Huffman, Thurman, Thomas, 2005, p. 4). The Huffman et al. study showed a number of positive aspects between library media center use and block scheduling that should be taken into account in a study such as this one. Library media centers are oftentimes much more accessible today so these aspects should not be surprising.

The aspects include; the students in block schedule schools spend more time in the library conducting research and team activities, library media centers in secondary schools that feature block scheduling often open earlier and close later allowing for additional use by students and faculty, library media center have more technology available, library media centers have more room and seating available for students and larger book and periodical collections, and schools that have block scheduling also have students that use the library media center for bigger and higher-quality educational projects than their counterparts that do not have block scheduling. Finally, library media staff in block scheduled schools are more likely to collaborate with the teachers in developing curriculum and studies than the library media staff in schools of traditional format (Huffman, et al., 2005). If those figures are correct, they make a strong case for switching to a block schedule, especially since the current high school educational environment focuses on research, writing and projects, all things that can be accomplished in the library media centers.

Another area that seems to flourish under block scheduling is the physical education department. The Rikard, Banville study is one such study. As stated above, physical education teachers in eight different high schools found that they were under less stressful conditions, experienced fewer student absenteeism and tardiness, and fewer student behavioral problems in p.e. classes once they switched to block scheduling. Sixty six percent of these physical education teachers also perceived that "students learned more in blocked vs. traditional classes" (Rikard, Banville, 2005).

Just because the physical education teachers perceived it does not necessarily make it true, but oftentimes perception is reality even though (in this case) they did not have any documented evidence that it was so.

However, many teachers over the last decade have had a new focus on collaboration which is the key to RTI. If physical education teachers are able to use blocked scheduling to teach in a more effective manner, then it is also possible that they could use RTI to help identify those students who may need the additional intervention that RTI offers them. Since RTI is a "three-tiered process designed to increase early intervention in an effort to decrease academic failure" (Mahdavi, Beebe-Frankenberger, 2009, p. 65) it is possible that it can be adapted for use at the high school level as well. There is not a plethora of literature available on whether it would such adaptation would work at the high school level, but it could be tried or at least experimented with to determine whether such use is effective or not.

According to Fuchs et al. The common principles of RTI include a proactive educational process that emphasizes early preventive supports, a systems-level approach for aligning curriculum with efficacious instruction in order to address individual student needs and the use of data-based decision making (Fuchs, Fuchs, Stecker, 2010, p. 303). These are all principles that can be applied at various educational levels and too some extent at least can be applicable in the high school setting (except for perhaps the early preventive supports). Another study appeared to address that concern by implementing RTI intervention through online and video game interactions.

The researcher's premise was that the middle school and high school aged students were wary of intense intervention techniques and would shy away from such actions, but that video games could be the bridge between such wariness and the intervention that can take place during the game play. What the study concluded was that video game intervention can include "technology-based scaffolds that augment classroom practices by diversifying instruction and assessment" (Marino, Beecher, 2010, p. 310). The researchers found that highly specialized content can be presented in a way that engages the middle school and high school aged student through the use of three-dimensional environments that are unobtainable when using traditional print-based curricular materials. The study also concluded that video games can provide students with assistive and instructional technologies through an easy-to-use interface (Marino, Beecher, 2010).

This type of study is exactly what is needed to gauge whether RTI can be used effectively at the high school level and it seems as if the study has found that it can be, but with qualifications. Developing an RTI program for high school aged students that engages their attention and keeps them occupied while learning has been a troublesome arena for decades, but by using technology and video games perhaps a breakthrough can occur. However, the results must be weighed against the overall effectiveness when compared to how many students it will affect at that level. RTI is used extensively at the elementary level because it is designed as a preventive type of educational instruction.

Taking RTI… [END OF PREVIEW]

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