To begin, this post is not about the 1 week vs 2 week debate. There are many pro’s and con’s for each and I will leave that discussion for another time and place. This post is about learning. There are many different ways to describe what learning looks like.
I recently had the opportunity to consider one view of learning when someone pulled me aside over the recent Spring Break and asked whether I thought a 2 week Spring Break was tough on students because “so many of them will have forgotten what they had learned prior to the break”.
What I am concerned with, is the notion that students could have “forgotten what they had learned prior to the break”. Regardless of the whether a break is 1 week, 2 weeks or 9 weeks – the thought that people will have “forgotten what they had learned ” is concerning to me. I would counter that if that is truly the case then the student (regardless of age) never learned the material in the first place.
What I think happens is that the students fall out of the routines that the shape their days while attending school. This forgotten patter is something we see in September when it takes a class or two (or in some cases a week or two) to settle into the routine of school and the current structures of learning found in schools.
This is very different than “forgetting what they had learned” especially when we consider the Learning Outcomes that are explored throughout a school year. In most subjects, and courses, the curriculum builds on material learned in the previous level. This material is not always restricted within the subjects, as a great deal is learned through cross-curricular instruction (basically instruction that covers many subjects for example writing an essay in Science will help develop skills learned in Humanities). When students can apply the knowledge and skills gained in a particular course or through a series of courses then have learned something. If this material is forgotten in a matter of weeks then it was probably never learned in the first place.
With this perspective of learning in mind, I believe, that after a break, students will be able to apply knowledge and/or skills acquired prior to leaving.