TKIS The Kooralbyn International School


One of the objectives of the Kooralbyn School is to do everything in its power to ensure the optimum result for every student. This objective demands that we look at every aspect of education, from the quality of teaching, to the value of the curriculum, to the effectiveness of the learning environment. As such, every process of schooling, human management and governance has been analysed and assessed from the perspective of how it can contribute to a 'best outcome' for our students.

This analysis revealed some strange results. For a start it concluded that many of the 'traditional' processes employed within schools, were apparently chosen because they made life easier for (or suited) the teachers and administrators...not necessarily because they improved the effectiveness of the school as a provider of education.

An example of how most schools have drifted away from a 'student-centred learning focus' can be found in something as simple as School Timetables.

Though continually swapping from one subject to another in short disjointed classes suits the shorter attention spans of younger children, there is now evidence from the USA and Canada that a better than 16% improvement in learning and retained knowledge outcomes can be obtained for secondary school aged children (and adults) through an 'optimal student-centred problem-based learning' process that is simplified as follows...

  • STEP 1 :: Identifying a major problem that needs to be solved
  • STEP 2 :: Ensuring that the student understands the challenges of the problem and most importantly, that they are truly motivated to solve it (i.e. that they can see the direct benefits to themselves personally in solving it.)
  • STEP 3 :: Allowing the student to submerge themselves in the processes, knowledge and skills required to solve the problem. (This typically takes the form of traditional classroom lectures, tutorials, practical workshops, self-paced interactive computer programs, private and group research, homework, etc).
  • STEP 4 :: Allowing the student to STAY submerged and focused on this problem until its solution is found. (Since the 'problems' are based around the curriculum requirements for each subject and it is estimated that a student will require between 15 and 20 hours per term to meet these requirements (i.e. solve the problem), then it stands to reason, that for 'optimal learning' to occur, the student should be allowed a similar amount of time to 'totally submerge themselves in the problem', preferably in a single, uninterrupted block of time (concentrated into say two weeks of school).
  • Since 1984, secondary schools in the UK, USA and Canada, who have been employing these uninterrupted block (referred to as 'horizontal block' or 'Copernican') timetables, have been reporting an overall average of 16% improvement in...

    • Understanding of principles and concepts

    • Retained knowledge

    • Abilities to apply that knowledge

    • Depth of discovery

    • Abilities to demonstrate obtained knowledge and skills (i.e. through tests and assessments, etc.)

    Other advantages of this approach to timetabling include...

    • Since the Block subjects virtually 'own' at least one day in each of their alloted two week 'camps', it is more efficient for teachers to schedule field trips, special presentations, etc, because there will be only minimal disruption to other subjects

    • It has been proven in school's who use this type of timetable, that not only is it much more difficult for a student to 'tune-out' of a subject for a whole two week camp, but that by being submerged in it for an extended period of time and 'owning' its problem, students who formerly disliked a subject can find a whole new understanding and appreciation for it.

    • School's who have demonstrated the most success with this type of submerged horizontal or Copernican timetable are those who established a 'Science camp', (or 'Maths camp', 'English camp', 'Music Camp', etc), image in the minds of their students. This 'two week camp' model is obviously the one that is used here at TKIS. It involves setting up resources, challenges, games, activities, etc, all focused on discovery and solving the 'problem at hand'.

    • By reducing the number of teachers that an individual student comes in contact with in any two week period, teachers and students can develop deeper bonds and better relationships.

    • It is also argued by schools who use this system, that the longer control periods can make it easier to accommodate interdisciplinary (inter-subject) projects. 

      HOWEVER --- To say that all other school timetables are totally inefficient, would clearly be inaccurate, because it is also well documented that there are some subjects...those that demand acquired psycho-motor (physical) and linguistic skills (like learning to play a musical instrument or learning a foreign language or training to become physically fit)...that still clearly benefit from the traditional approach of short, regular classes throughout the entire term.

      So what's the solution?

      The solution we developed here at The Kooralbyn International School is a combination of 'submerged' block (often referred to as COPERNICAN TIMETABLES) and regular classes, depending upon the subject material being taught. We call it the 'Kooralbyn System Timetable'. This solution allows subjects like English, Maths, Science, SOSE and I.T. (subjects that benefit from the 'extended submersion process' described above), to be taught in enriched, concentrated 2 week camps. The remaining subjects (Art, LOTE and HPE) are taught traditionally in a number of regular short lessons throughout the entire term.

      By the end of each term, each subject has been covered to the degree prescribed by the QCAA curriculum and each subject has been allotted the appropriate number of classroom contact hours. Students participating in our 'block' subjects however, have benefited from an additional 5% to 8% of gained 'useful' contact time, because the first few minutes of every lesson aren't wasted on revision and the general disruptions of class 'change-over', etc, AND the depth of their discovery, the degree to which the subject could be explored and the retained level of knowledge in relation to the subject have all been enhanced.

      This 'best of both worlds' approach, is what we call 'The Kooralbyn System Timetable'.

      A TYPICAL SCHOOL TIMETABLE forces all subjects to be taught in short disjointed lessons whether they benefit from that system or not. Every week of each term is exactly the same. (Though excellent for 'acquired skills' subjects like HPE, Music and Foreign Languages, this format wastes a great deal of time each lesson and fails to provide optimum learning outcomes, depth of understanding, etc, for subjects like English, Maths, Science, I.T. and SOSE).

      TRADITIONAL TIMETABLE (Example Year 8)


      The KOORALBYN SYSTEM TIMETABLE is hopefully a 'best of both worlds' solution that allows those subjects that benefit from submerged blocks to be taught through that process (in 'problem-solving' two week camps) and those subjects that benefit from regular 'acquired skills' training, to have regular classes scheduled every day or so.

      A KOORALBYN TIMETABLE (Example Year 8) :: There are 5 BLOCK SUBjects - English, Maths, Science, SOSE and I.T. Each BLOCK subject is taught in a TWO WEEK CAMP format (28 total lessons), then replaced by the next BLOCK subject and so on for the ten weeks of a term.


      This scheduling provides for 16% better education outcomes (in terms of retained knowledge, application of knowledge, test results, depth of discovery, etc) for the BLOCK subjects when compared to a traditional timetable.

      To see an actual example of a Kooralbyn System Timetable, go to TIMETABLES in the STUDENT menu above.

      FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - About the Kooralbyn Timetable System

      Is it accepted by the Queensland Education Dept?

      Yes, of course. The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority make no recommendations regarding the way schools should structure their individual timetables. They only recommend minimum classroom contact hours per year (or level) that should be allocated to the various subjects being taught. The Kooralbyn System allocates more than the required minimum classroom contact for every subject.

      My child is already having concentration problems and attention difficulties...wouldn't the longer block periods cause even more problems?

      No, it has been well documented that apart from students with dietary (blood sugar) and diagnosed learning disorders, the four main causes of attention and concentration problems in adolescents are...

      1. A lack of motivation to learn the material in the first place (i.e. they don't OWN the problem, it is not personal to them)

      2. They have dropped off the learning escalator (i.e. they are missing prior knowledge or skills that are required for further understanding and development in the subject)

      3. General fatigue or lack of fitness

      4. The classes are not presented in a manner that stimulates, engages and rewards the student

      The Kooralbyn System is designed to ensure that students 'own' the problem, they see its solution as effecting their own futures and their work throughout the course reflects this 'movement towards a goal' approach designed to instill self-motivation, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-belief and personal achievement.

      Working in small class groups and in extended sessions, allows our teachers to firstly identify areas of 'required prior-knowledge' that are missing and secondly to work with each student individually to 'fill in the gaps' and get the student 'back on the learning escalator'.

      Taking an holistic approach to education, means that TKIS is partly responsible for the fitness levels of its students. We take this responsibility seriously. Nutrition (while at school), exercise, skills training and twitch fibre response training, eye muscle exercises, posture, aerobic fitness and guidance regarding adequate sleeping habits are all areas of importance to us. An unfit student is unfit to learn.

      Our teachers work hard to ensure the 'fun and entertainment level' of all classes. We do this not by telling jokes or allowing students to dictate their own codes of behaviour, but primarily by exciting students about the prospect of learning, succeeding, achieving and 'solving the problem' for their own benefit. When young people can see the future in front of them and are given an opportunity to take control of their own destinies...they are capable of amazing things.

      If it's so good, why don't other schools use the Kooralbyn System?

      We can not speak for other schools of course, but we should point out that it's much harder to organise and coordinate a 'horizontal block or Copernican' timetable compared to organising a timetable around short 'capsules'. The overlaying of regularly scheduled weekly classes for subjects that benefit from repeated contact throughout the term adds a further degree of complexity to the task. The crucial allocation of classrooms, teachers and related resources around this type of timetable has involved a major commitment from the management and teaching staff of TKIS. We make this commitment to our students because we see its advantages in educational outcomes as far outweighing the difficulties and costs involved. 

      In all fairness to other schools, we should also mention, that it is virtually impossible to cost-effectively employ a horizontal block timetable in large schools that have teachers covering multiple subjects (e.g. an Art teaching having to teach Grade 8 English classes, etc). At TKIS we have the luxury of firstly being a small school and secondly, of having teaching staff who specialise in only ONE subject area each and thirdly of establishing our entire program around this structure. 

      Will our child be disadvantaged if coming from a school who don't use the Kooralbyn System?

      No, whether a school uses a traditional timetable or a Kooralbyn System timetable, the end result is that the prescribed curriculum materials should have been covered by the end of each term. So as long as a student enters at the start of a new term and is coming from a school that is up-to-date with the QSA (Queensland Studies Authority) curriculum levels, then they should be familiar with the general level of the class they are entering at TKIS.

      Isn't it all just a bit too much trouble to go to - I mean it's just a timetable?

      Yes, but it's a timetable that generates a 16% better outcome for our students. There's nothing else that we're aware of that can return the same documented kind of improvement. So in other words...we believe it's worth the effort.

  • Ph +61 7 5544 5500 Fax: +61 7 5544 6108 ADDRESS: TKIS, Ogilvie Place, Kooralbyn, QLD 4285, AUSTRALIA
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