New Models of Time: Intensives

While UPrep's day schedule changed for the current 2017-2018 academic year, we are planning to adopt a new term schedule that includes intensives in 2018-2019.

Richard Kassissieh, Academic Dean and Director of Strategic Program Initiatives

Time is a precious resource for educators and students. No surprise, then, that assessing our schedule emerged as a priority in the UPrep strategic plan. After much outreach and development, UPrep announced a new school schedule last January that we are adopting in two phases. The day schedule changed for the current 2017-2018 academic year, and the term schedule will change in 2018-2019 (assuming readiness—see below). Early results suggest that the new day schedule is achieving its objectives to reduce the number of class meetings per day, promote depth of study, increase predictability in the school day, dedicate time to social and emotional learning, and uphold student leadership and community activities.

The changes to the term schedule have a similar spirit. With student and family input, we set the following goals:

  • Reduce the number of classes students take concurrently
  • Maintain students' ability to take a wide range of elective classes
  • Better align the school year to vacations
  • Increase opportunities for interdisciplinary study
  • Create more student experiences beyond campus
  • Support innovation in learning design

The new term schedule introduces intensives, three-week terms during which students take one class full-time.The first semester ends in December, the first intensive runs in January, and the second takes place in May-June at the end of second semester.

semesters + intensives

Each semester has six periods rather than the current seven. The maximum number of classes per year remains unchanged, because each intensive counts for full credit.

The new term structure accomplishes the schedule goals in several ways. Reducing the semesters from seven classes to six requires concurrent focus on fewer subjects. Students deeply immerse themselves in one topic for three weeks. The first semester ends before winter break, allowing students to truly relax while on vacation. Interdisciplinary collaborations, off-campus experiences, and student projects that are not possible in a semester schedule are ideally suited to intensives. Our teachers are truly excited to bring their innovative ideas for memorable, deep student learning to this new time structure.

While the idea of taking a single class full-time may seem unfamiliar at first, educators have long recognized the value of immersion learning. Languages are best acquired within an immersion environment, and academic summer programs consider two- to three-week courses standard. We visited Hawken School in Ohio, which has run for-credit intensive courses for nine years with similar purpose and vision, and the Bay School in San Francisco, which is launching intensives in the same timeframe as us. Our respective teachers are sharing their course ideas. 

dance

The new schedule will maintain the total number of classes students can take at UPrep while providing even more breadth to the subjects that students can pursue. Students' ability to take a free period or sequence classes in the semesters will be unaffected. The vast majority of courses will continue in a familiar form, with the instructional time for semester classes remaining the same, as we rotate through six periods instead of seven. Global Online Academy classes and semester away programs will line up better with the new term schedule.

Intensive courses will earn full credit and appear on the UPrep transcript just like semester courses. While we prefer to measure our effectiveness by learning instead of time, one intensive does include 78 hours, significantly more than the 53 hours in a semester course. An intensive course assigns less homework than a semester course, and there is less time to meet with teachers outside of class, but the design of experiential courses does not depend on homework or extra help to make learning effective.

Some of our existing courses already feel constrained within the semester format and will flourish as currently taught in an intensives format. Other courses will be improved by moving them from semesters into intensives, but will be transformed into a new course format to fit the full days. Intensives have also inspired entirely new courses that will replace some of our semester offerings. Here are some examples of potential UPrep intensive courses that have come up during our planning meetings. This is not a final list of course offerings.

Move in Current Form

Move and Transform

Create New and Replace Old

Civics
Art and Social Change
Visual Arts
Environmental Ethics
Computer Science
Lifetime Activities
Student Produced Works

Washington State History
Eighth Grade Capstone
Biology
Storytelling
Creative Writing
Filmmaking
Chamber Music
Advanced language  classes
Precalculus

BC Calculus
Mobile Apps for Social Good
Duwamish River through Art and Science
Engineering
Marine Biology
Radio Production & Technology
Theâtre Français
Social Justice in Colombia

Will students find all-day classes engaging? Teaching methods in semester courses are constrained by 70-minute periods and the need to cover a significant amount of content. Given the increasing importance of learning thinking skills (analysis, creativity, collaboration) and habits of mind (curiosity, resilience, optimism, collectivism) to thrive in today's world, teachers are eager to organize transformative learning experiences in the intensive format. The activities in an all-day class will bear little resemblance to those in a 70-minute period. We have seen this in action at other schools. Student-designed projects, internship and mentorship, visits to organizations in town, wilderness trekking, and travel will feature as teachers design learning moments not possible in a semester schedule. Intensives will promote student leadership, collaboration, and community engagement and de-emphasize homework, solitary study, and isolated subjects.

We are committed to creating new opportunities for transformative learning experiences at UPrep while also preserving what we know works well. The move to intensives provides a new type of time container to support bold learning innovation in a portion of our curriculum. The UPrep community wished for it during the design of our strategic plan, and we are excited to develop these new courses.

Please note the following key dates with regard to the development of intensive course offerings. As we proceed into the winter months, we will address our readiness to launch for 2018-2019, based on the number of course proposals submitted and their ability to cover the full student body.

Faculty full-day workshops and course proposal development

September 21, October 12, 13

Upper School assembly presentation and group meetings

October 16-24

Middle School assembly presentation and group meetings

November 6

Parent Council presentation and Q&A

November 13

Teachers develop and approve course proposals

October - February

Course of Study updated for 2018-2019

March

Student course requests submitted for 2018-2019

April

If you would like to further discuss intensives with us, please contact Richard Kassissieh, Academic Dean and Director of Strategic Program Initiatives.



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