by Zuzanna Kaczmarek
After 7 weeks of online school, on May 4th the ASW Board of Trustees decided to remain in online school for the remainder of the school year. Along with this decision, the administration chose to change the Upper School schedule by spreading one full school day over two consecutive mornings. Every Wednesday and Thursday in the month of May will be a half day where students have individual study time from 1:30 pm onwards.
However, how has this schedule change affected DP students and teachers with the already shortened school year?
If you have recently looked at the grade 11 assessment calendar, you would have noticed that there are up to 6 different assessments, resembling DP finals, planned on a single day all throughout the month of May. Most assessments have been planned for weeks, but this schedule change rearranged the rotation calendar and removed approximately 2 class periods from every subject.
Based on interviews, the shortened schedule had little effect on DP classes that are not content dependent. According to Ms Ranado, the DP Lang & Lit teacher, the grade 11 English classes “proceeded with assessments as usual.” Moreover, Mr. Taylor added that “we have not had to reduce any specific content” as the Lang & Lit classes “have been ahead of the required course pace all year.”
On the other hand, teachers of content heavy subjects have had to cut assessments due to the shortened school year and new schedule. According to Mr Cokerdem, the DP Psychology teacher, he had to trim “away some assessments in the final months of school [to] free up needed time to ensure the Year 1 content could be covered.” Moreover, some assessments have been moved to the beginning of the 2020/21 school year, as subjects like DP Biology and DP HL Math A&I scheduled exams resembling finals after summer break.
Similarly, Mr Taylor, a DP TOK teacher, told Warrior News that the schedule change caused him to “accelerate the pace of the [TOK] presentation planning” and that the “TOK presentations will be a bit rushed.”
This schedule change has affected not only assessments, but also the content that subjects have to cover in the two-year course. According to a year 1 DP HL Physics student “in physics, this year we will not have time to finish another unit, which we planned to finish.” The student expressed that that is one of the classes where they “would definitely need more actual class time.”
With the altered schedule, how are the students using the individual study time?
Some of the 11 grade DP students use the study time to catch up on work during this stressful period. According to Abaigeal L., a grade 11 DP student, she takes advantage of her individual study time to “work on IAs and bigger projects.” Another student, Avi K., added that he has “a lot more time to focus on summatives” as right now Juniors “got to do a lot of work… surprisingly.”
The study period is also used for a variety of activities beyond just school work. Other students use this time for physical activity, to relax, and to do chores around the house. In general, the students expressed that the extra time helps relieve stress and is beneficial to DP students, as according to Sara F. “it gives [her] more flexibility to do more work.”
Lastly, according to the email from the Upper School Principal, Mr Sheehan, one of the reasons the schedule was introduced was to provide students and parents with “the ability to schedule a meeting with your teachers to ask questions or receive help on classwork.”
However, the teachers communicated that they had only a few meetings during the office hours, with Mr Cokerdem mentioning that “sign-ups have been minimal so far.” In contrast, Mrs Ranado said that she has “varying degrees of participation in office hours from students –some days [she will] have 5 or 6 students, some days none.”
When talking to grade 11 students, most expressed that neither they nor their parents have or are planning to schedule meetings with teachers during their office hours. Instead of a one on one meeting Sara F. explained that she communicates with her teachers through email correspondence and that during the office hours “the teachers reply much quicker.”
Although this schedule might create the illusion that right now we are more productive as we have more time to complete our work it has robbed both students and teachers of two class periods per subject. It might seem that we all have a chance to catch up on work, but in reality we just have less work as teachers are cutting assessments and moving content to next year. Upon asking DP 11 grade students, none of them could agree with the statement that this change has enhanced their learning in any way.
So if the new schedule did not enhance our learning in any way why was this such a necessary change?
An ASW teacher who asked for anonymity in order to speak frankly about the topic told Warrior News: “When I think about the impact on student learning, I really wonder if the benefit is worth the cost.” And personally I really hope that it is.