We all know the feeling of being rushed for time in the classroom. For students it can mean hurried lessons, where there is barely time to take things in or ask questions, while for teachers it can mean a race against the clock to get a class settled, teach what is required, and get ready for the next lesson. With a little extra time for each lesson, it could be argued, lessons would go better, with students given enough time to discuss and really digest the information. Teachers, meanwhile would have enough time to ensure that everyone took in what was being taught.
However, it seems that longer lesson times may not have as great an impact on learning as more effective teaching. A recent study in the United States looked at the effects of increased lesson times versus more dedicated and better-prepared teachers. The study took 17 schools and gave them different methods of improving learning – more time in class, more technology tools, and a focus on academic concepts were among the practices used to try and improve results.
While longer lesson times was found to have some effect it was deemed marginal, especially when compared to greater professional training techniques and teacher collaboration. It seems that giving teachers better resources and more time to work together to plan lessons is better than making lessons longer.
Maria Ferguson, executive director of the centre that hosted the research, noted that, “Any effort to expand learning time should go hand in hand with a plan for improving the quality of instruction.”
However, academic administrator Petra Callin went further, stating that, “When people are looking at improvement for schools, I don’t think that (lengthening the school day or school year) is the central strategy. I think it is a peripheral strategy. I would never say that giving kids more time is a bad thing, ever. It’s a great thing. …I believe other strategies … are more important. … I think the two things that make the most sense to really focus on are the instruction that happens in the classroom during the school day — the quality of that instruction — as well as safety nets for when kids are falling through the cracks.”
The study showed that, overall, more effective teaching had a greater positive impact on student learning than increased lesson times. Giving teachers time to cooperate and create strategies to determine what the students need to work on was found to be the best way to improve performance.
According to this study, at least, it seems that it is not the students who need more time in class, but the teachers who need more time out of it!