Teacher Perspective: Are Year Long or Semester-Long Classes

Dr. Dane Fisher, Science Teacher at BECHS

In considering this question, I have to share my experiences.  Many of them cloud  or strongly inform my opinion.  Having been a college biology professor for 17 years, followed by my position as a secondary science educator at BECHS for a total of 5 years, I have mixed feelings about this question. Courses that I took as  a science student in college and in graduate school were, of course, all semester based.  During that time I learned to manage learning material on a short time schedule and how to plan and schedule ahead for exams, laboratory reports, and other assignments.  I learned that being organized and using repetition to learn key vocabulary would put me in a position to tackle several courses in the same semester.  This was a necessity for how college education and graduate education was performed. This part of me says having semester-long courses in high school is best to prepare students for college and beyond. Also, it prepares students to learn in a concise manner as a “lifelong learner.” Then, there is the teacher in me….

     Year long courses would allow me as a science teacher to incorporate more long term and engaging “hands-on” projects in my science curriculum.  It would mean that courses just might be more applicable to Standards Based Learning, with students moving at alternate paces.  Students might have more time to design their own experiments.  Of course, this means probably that this could only be applied to courses that were not EOC exam courses with very regimented curriculum goals, or at least it would be easier to apply year long experiences to non-EOC courses.  Then, the teacher in me also thinks this:  Would year-long courses  mean students would just fill the extended time with procrastinating activities and not learn to accomplish things in a timely manner?  Would they not gain the skills of time management so necessary in our world?  Hence my mixed feelings.