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Hopkins Considers Changing Daily Schedule

Saira Munshani '20, Assistant News Editor
Established two years ago, the Academic Policy Committee Schedule Subcommittee strives to examine student life and ways that the schedule can be improved upon in order to meet the needs of the Hopkins student body and faculty.
This year, the committee is in the process of analyzing daily student routines at Hopkins, through teacher-student shadow days, and using the data to create a potential new schedule this upcoming summer. David Harpin, Dean of Academics, explained the rationale behind this investigation: “People who have been here a long time still call it the new schedule, and it’s never been evaluated. It has never gone through a systematic, rigorous examination.”

Elizabeth Gleason, Head of the History Department and Chair of the Academic Policy Subcommittee on the Schedule, explained, “It [scheduling] was a topic that appealed to many people on the APC. I had just become chair of the History Department, and I was interested, so it just made sense for me to chair it, given other people’s responsibilities.”

The schedule that is currently in place has been used for over ten years. Doing an evaluation and creating a new schedule is the purpose of the APC Schedule Subcommittee. Lisa Lamont, Director of Innovation and Technology, added, “The idea is to see whether the daily schedule is meeting the needs of the community, and if it is letting us do what we want, along with transitioning physically across campus and also mentally between.” Finding a balance between enough class time and passing periods plays a big part into constructing a new schedule.

Keeping energy and relaxation in mind is an important objective in building the schedule; the Subcommittee wants to optimize the school day while avoiding student and teacher burnout. Peg Connolly, in the Health and Science Departments, emphasized, “The flow of the day and the week has so much to do with how people feel, both kids and teachers. It really affects energy levels and ability to do what they want to do.”

To help understand what the daily schedule of a Hopkins student looks like, members of the Academic Policy Committee and teachers who are not associated with the APC Schedule Subcommittee have embarked on the process of shadowing students. One teacher-shadow duo, Ian Guthrie, of the History, Health, and Science Departments, and Kaitlin Forman ‘20, both had positive experiences. “I felt the intensity of what students go through on a daily basis. On my busiest day, I only have three classes. Kaitlin had one free, whereas I’m used to three,” said Guthrie.

Forman added, “It was like having a regular shadow who asked questions instead of being intimidated and overwhelmed. My shadow [Guthrie] was very engaged and interested. He wanted the true Hopkins experience.” The Subcommittee believes this is the best way to gain student feedback, and perspective on possible alterations.

The next step is this upcoming summer, when the APC Schedule Subcommittee will have a better insight into future changes, and a group of faculty members will meet for what Lamont called a “Design-Thinking Challenge.” Faculty members will create schedules based on the data collected from the shadow days and community needs, and once the finalists are determined, “We may do a two week trial of a different schedule with the students. This may be some time second semester next year. That might happen, but the decision hasn’t been made yet. There might be two finalists, alternatives, and we might be able to audition one or two of those during the school year,” said Harpin. Harpin also added that there are certain non-negotiable aspects of the schedule, such as the lunch periods and athletic blocks. These will be taken into consideration, and will offer a skeleton for the new schedule.

The evaluation is happening for various reasons, but most notably because the schedule has been used for thirteen years. Gleason added, “Anecdotally, a lot of people have heard the same themes come up, such as time for extra help and course planning. It is worth fnding out where there are patterns.” It is diffcult for teachers to meet and course plan, especially with non-traditional courses, such as the new Humanities Symposium. Harpin said, “We do see a need for teachers to be collaborating with each other more often during the day, so a goal is to create a time for that, which is something that I can imagine is, at the very least, a tweak to the schedule.”

In terms of future changes to the daily schedule, Gleason emphasized that, “The goal is to find out how people feel about the schedule and calendar. Any changes made to the schedule will be driven by what we’ve learned from the school community.” Although the members of APC will have a deeper understanding of the key changes after the shadow days have been completed, the main engineering of the new schedule will be done in a few months. Harpin said, “It is possible that we could have a very different schedule. There are a range of possibilities. There is a very different schedule, from that extreme, to almost the same type of schedule with some modifcations.”

Furthermore, the Academic Policy Committee Schedule Subcommittee members highlighted that the school’s mission is at the forefront of planning, along with student-faculty experiences during shadow days. Lamont said, “Our hope is to present the schedule that arises from this challenge to the faculty next fall.” Though this may seem close, a new schedule will likely not be in place until the 2019-2020 year. Connolly said, “ One of the hardest tasks is to try and figure out what we can fix, because we can’t fix everything. How that will happen is yet to be determined.” Connolly added, “One thing I really appreciate is that we are exploring different kinds of ideas, and that we have been given the freedom to look outside the box. It’s exciting.”
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