Block teaching advocates team up after ‘explosion’ of interest

Supporters hope to spread benefits of the model, for years the preserve of a few progressive institutions, worldwide

January 9, 2023
Source: iStock

Advocates of “block teaching” are teaming up in an attempt to hasten its adoption by universities worldwide.

Although the model – which involves intensive teaching of modules over a four-to-six-week period – has been around for 50 years, the past five years has seen an “explosion” of interest globally, according to John Weldon, the inaugural president of the newly formed International Block and Intensive Learning and Teaching Association (Ibilta).

Several universities across the UK, North America and Australia have abandoned the semester model in favour of block teaching, including Dr Weldon’s own institution, Victoria University, where he played a leading role in the process as head of curriculum for its first-year college.

But he said the sector was yet to mine the full potential of the approach and the formation of Ibilta – which will host its first online conference on block teaching in February – was a chance to bring people together to share ideas and experiences.

THE Campus resource collection: What is block teaching? 

“Universities are, I think, inherently quite conservative. The semester has been around for hundreds of years and it does require a great effort to change entirely how your institution delivers its material to its students; it is a huge deal of work,” he said.

“I think it has been very slow over the last 50 years or so, with the odd school taking it on here and there since Colorado College went to the block-teaching model in 1969. In the last five years, we’ve seen a real explosion. There are a number of universities looking at more student-friendly ways to interact with their enrollees.”

Victoria introduced block teaching in 2018 and its students now study modules in four-week blocks, completing all the work and assessments needed in this time frame before they receive a grade at the end, Dr Weldon explained.

There had been an uptick in student outcomes such as retention and pass rates since block teaching’s introduction, he said, as students are given feedback and grades almost from day one, as opposed to the semester model, whereby assessments are not generally returned until much later in the year.

Dr Weldon said although he could not foresee all universities – especially older, highly prestigious institutions – adopting block teaching, it was an opportunity for smaller institutions to become more student focused and differentiate themselves from competitors.


Print headline: Block teaching advocates build specialist bloc

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Reader's comments (2)

I have designed and taught modules in block teaching. We were not stressed and had plenty of time to work on our research. If designed properly with staff input, it is the way to go!
Yes, block teaching is good for universities, financially. However, learners hate block teaching. Yes, students who want a paper degree for social status or otherwise may agree with block teaching. There is enough psychological research available on this topic that when too much information bombarded on learners in a short period, it goes in vain. It does not get retained by the learners. There is a strong relationship between period and knowledge retention. I wish, universities start focusing on students instead of financial profits.