The Block Model: What You Should Know

Graphic by Sidney Stablein, Designer and Social Media Coordinator

Story by News Editor Ellie Youngs

This fall, Aquinas College will be piloting a block model for classes. Upon starting the semester, students will be able to indicate whether or not they wish to be considered for this experiment. Students who are picked to enroll in this model will be taking their classes in the block format for the duration of the year, and professors who volunteer will be teaching their courses under this model for the semester. 

Dr. Molly Patterson, a professor of political science at Aquinas College, was able to give further insight on this topic, as well as why it is important for students and faculty to be aware of. To start, why is Aquinas trying the block model in the first place? Patterson explained that one reason is this: “If the core of college is being a student, it seems like we should be putting more of our emphasis on creating the best educational experience we can.” The block model could be a way in which students can create more meaningful and valuable connections with their professor as well as with their peers and it would also address the growing need to make adjustments to the different pressures that students face. 

“The block model of scheduling is really trying to maximize the learning that students do both inside and outside of class,” Patterson said. “Inside of class, we are trying to create a more varied and active environment. Outside of class, we are hoping to free up some “brain space” so that students possibly spend more time reflecting on what is happening in class.” 

Patterson also addressed some of the concerns that have been brought up in regards to this experiment:

  1. What about students with jobs or other competing commitments? Patterson explained that the block model offers a more consistent schedule that is easier to plan around. 
  2. What if a student gets sick or needs to miss class? While it is true that missing a week of a block class will make passing significantly more difficult, it is also true that as of right now, if a student misses a week of class, they are behind in multiple classes. “Faculty and students at other schools that use this schedule say the impact of illness or family emergency is more easily managed because it is usually confined to a single class, rather than impacting all of the classes during a semester,” Patterson said. 

There is unfortunately not a consensus among faculty as to whether or not this system would be beneficial. Some are on board and ready to dive in, others are cautiously optimistic, and others are quite skeptical about the whole thing. Only the upcoming semester will give us any real answers.