Academic Learning Time
An overview of Academic Learning Time and its role and impacts on student learning in public school education environments is presented. Also presented is a brief overview of the research substantiating appropriate Academic Learning Time and its relationship to specific subjects. Further analyzed are ways transitions impact Academic Learning Time and specific research based high probability and low probability task sequences are presented that offer options for success in learning environments. Applications that include roles and impacts on certain groups including students, teachers, and administrators are outlined. Solutions are offered to help them develop the most effective programs through consistent, research based methodologies that includes time-on-task, homework, and student achievement.
Keywords Allocated Time; High Probability Task Sequences; Low Probability Task Sequences; Student Engagement; Student Success Rate; Transitions
Academic Learning Time can be described as the amount of time a student spends engaged in an academic task that the student performs with high success (Fisher, Marliave, & Filby, 1979, p. 52). Academic Learning Time might also be described as relevant time a student spends engaging in academic tasks while performing those tasks with a high rate of success. Academic Learning Time tends to vary with the length of the school year, the number of hours in a school day, the amount of abseentism, and the time it takes to transition from one class to another and organize class activities (Brandt & Gunter, 1981, p. 151). The basic elements of Academic Learning Time include "allocated time, student engagement, and student success rates" (Fisher, Mariave, & Filby, 1979, p. 52). Central to understanding Academic Learning Time is how Academic Learning Time directly impacts student learning. Teachers are key facilitators in providing the most appropriate Academic Learning Time for each subject; therefore, teachers and administrators must understand the importance of these roles and plan lessons accordingly to maximize time-on-task behaviors by easing transitions and thereby increasing student success.
Academic Learning Time occurs when the conditions of allocated time, student engagement, and student success rates are applied simultaneously. These three ingredients of Academic Learning Time are essential to student achievement. In order to facilitate understanding of how each of these ingredients contributes to student achievement, a definitional understanding must be provided. First, allocated time for a given activity is typically a block of time that is set by the teacher. Allocated Time might be decided individually by students or jointly between the teacher and the student. Allocations of time may be different or individualized for specific students in the same classroom. Second, Engaged Time occurs during a portion of Allocated Time when students are paying attention. Typically, during Engaged Time, students will be "manipulating something, reading, thinking, interacting with other students, or in some way processing information about the task." Third, the Student Success Rate occurs when there is a strong correspondence between Engaged Time and the task the teacher is asking the student to complete. For example, if the task is so difficult that the student produces few correct responses, then limited learning will take place. In contrast, if a student produces many correct responses, then it would indicate that the child is learning (Fisher, Marliave, & Filby, 1979, p. 52). This would suggest that the evidence of student success is precipitated through multiple events occurring at the same time.
More current literature continues to support evidence of a strong correlation between time and achievement. However, some literature indicates that Allocated Time refers to the total number of days or hours students are required to attend school. Engaged Time refers to the part of the day when students are participating in learning activities. Student Success or Learning refers to the time during Engaged Time when the material is neither too easy nor too hard and instructional activities are challenging, but still allow for success. Despite the thirty years of consistent thinking that Allocated Time produces a strong connection to student achievement, research now suggests inconsistencies with this previous theory ("Making Time Count," 2001).
Academic Learning Time Today
In reconsidering the time element in student achievement, it has now been determined that other key factors besides time also influence student learning. These factors include:
• Improving classroom management in order to minimize disruptions or disciplinary actions;
• Ensuring developmental appropriateness of curriculum and instruction in order to maximize student thinking and match content with readiness for learning; and
• Increasing student motivation by offering instructional activities that maximize interest and limit repetitive activities ("Making Time Count," 2001).
Overall, each of these three interventions has been identified as key indicators for motivating students and constructing student success.
Additional evidence suggests that increased achievement is not necessarily derived from more time in school, but instead directly correlates with maximized Academic Learning Time. Another key factor that leads to success in academic learning environments is the possibility of extending the school day or school year, particularly for specific groups that may need intensive support. This factor alone has led to increased student achievement. Also, important to recognize, Engaged Time must also be maximized, because Allocated Time on its own does not lead to substantial achievement gains ("Making Time Count," 2001). In order to maximize student success; this evidence suggests that more than just three factors lead to student achievement. Rather than only three variables, research has now established the critical aspects of how time is spent and what happens during each aspect of the instructional day.
The most recent research has identified transitions and efficiency as key indicators of facilitating increased achievement. Given the current landscape of educational responsibilities, state mandated academic standards, and high stakes testing, educational professionals must be able to access evidence based strategies for helping children transition quickly and keep them engaged longer. Paine, Rosellini, Deutchman, and Darch (1983) suggested that “smooth transitions provide more time for academic instruction and reduce” behavior management dilemmas (in Lee, 2006, p. 313).
While multiple options exist for educators to use, one specific technique has produced evidence that helps students accomplish initiating tasks faster and stay engaged longer (Lee, 2006, p. 313). These involve high probability tasks and low probability tasks.
According to Lee (2006), High-probability (High-P) request sequences, when employed effectively, make it more likely that non-preferred behaviors will occur. To initiate this intervention, “a series of brief requests with a high probability of compliance is administered just prior to a request with a Low Probability (Low-P) of compliance” (p. 313). High-P requests include asking students to take out a pencil, write their name on a sheet of paper, and writing the date at the top of the paper. These High-P requests will be initiated just prior to requesting students to begin their math seatwork, which is arguably a Low-P request. Research from multiple studies suggests that engaging a series of High-P Requests just prior to initiating a Low-P Request will carry over and increase compliance to a request that previously resulted in non-compliance (Lee, 2006, p. 313). These High-P request sequences have been observed across populations and have included young children with behavioral problems (Davis & Reichle, 1996), special education populations (Harchick & Putzier, 1990), and general education students (Ardoin, Martens, & Wolfe, 1999). As outlined in Lee (2006), observed requests included:
• Self care (Mace & Belfiore, 1990),
• Communication (Davis, Brady, Hamilton, McEvoy, & Williams, 1994; Sanchez-Fort, Brady, & Davis, 1995), and
• Transition from activity to activity (Ardoin et al., 1999), and intervenors (Mace & Belfiore, 1990).
Experimentors include, but are not limited to,
• Classroom teachers (Ardoin et al., 1999),
• Parents (Ducharme & Worling, 1994), and
• Same-age peers (Davis & Reichle, 1996).
All of the results have previously been limited to self-care and communication and have only recently been used in school settings, which have...
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