Ask SMUS: “Why Did the Senior School Timetable Change?”

Denise Lamarche

Earlier this year we introduced changes to the timetable at our Senior School. From my view as Director of Academics, it was a small change that has a great impact on our students.

The morning schedule was rearranged. Instead of students having Period 2 sandwiched between recess (9:15-9:35) and chapel/homeroom (10:40-11:10) – as we have done in previous years – those blocks are now arranged:

Chapel/Homeroom
Recess
Period 2
Period 3

9:15-9:50
9:50-10:10
10:10-11:10
11:10-12:15

The simple answer to the question, “Why did the timetable change?” is because it creates a new opportunity for deeper student learning. Periods 2 and 3 can become a double block. Every class is now together for two hours once in the 10-day cycle.

The slightly more in-depth answer requires me to delve a little deeper into what led to us making this change.

For the last couple of years I’ve had teachers request a period in the cycle when they can have students in their class for more than an hour. We all see how students can benefit from lengthier periods, particularly in courses where they engage in lab work, projects, artwork or seminars. Like in Mrs. Johnston’s science classes when they work on a thermonuclear project, students could certainly benefit from a double block once every couple of weeks.

Last year as we started to look at changing the timetable, Mr. Curry and our heads of department, in conversation with the rest of our faculty, wanted to discuss the idea. We all understand the benefits that such a change would have on student learning. The additional time would provide opportunities for deeper learning such as experiential field work, projects, student collaborations, research and lab work.

We know that given the recent B.C. curriculum redesign and the province’s emphasis on competency-based learning, we need to consider the impact our timetable has on learning. We have seen success with timetable changes made at our Junior and Middle Schools that give students more time for collaborative, project-based learning. It is exciting for me to consider how these changes can impact our One School.

Now that we’re four months into the Senior School timetable change, we’re actively seeking feedback from students, teachers and parents. We’ve already heard from the student-run Academic Council that students enjoy the double block in some – but not all – of their classes. We will continue to have the conversation about the purpose of the two-hour block and how it can support students. Even with small changes, we need to ensure everyone knows why we make these changes and how we can best take advantage of the new timetable.

Our conversations will likely result in more changes in the coming years. Beyond creating a double block, we need to look at how the structure of the school day and the full academic year impact student learning.

Some of the questions we are asking are: “What does the best timetable look like to support learners from K-12?”, “Do we need to consider changing school start times? Or having longer blocks?”, “Do all courses need to be full-year offerings?”

Ultimately, what we’re asking is: “Can we design a better school day or a better school year that benefits each student?”

We’re looking at how other schools and districts are evolving, too. We’re engaging in research around timetable changes and other elements of school life that impact learning. All of this helps better inform our discussions and helps us explore these topics more deeply.

And parent feedback around the changes we make are just as important. In a time of rapid change in education, we anticipate big changes in areas like schedules, communicating student learning (ie. grades and report cards) and how we equip our learning spaces. As our educators plan together, we also look to our students and parents along the journey.


If you have feedback on the timetable change, please get in touch with me.

I hope to use this blog as a way to provide clear, easy-to-digest information about what we’re doing at SMUS and – more importantly – why we’re doing it.

What questions do you have for me about our academic program? Please comment below with your questions (or email me) and I’ll use those as topics for future blog posts.

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Denise Lamarche
Denise Lamarche is Director of Academics at St. Michaels University School.

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