Pedagogical criteria in timetables

Each academic institution may establish guidelines to direct the implementation of its timetables. These are not always formally expressed, but there is often a document describing the directives to be followed, in accordance with the school’s objectives. In other cases, they may be established by the school management or the head of studies during their elaboration.

Some of these criteria for class units could be:

  • Avoiding overlapping all weekly class units of a particular subject:
    • Early in the morning, late in the afternoon or after the break.
    • On consecutive days.
    • At the same time of day.
  • Preventing classroom changes for students or teachers, or follow certain preferences for the allocation of classrooms, workshops, gymnasiums, etc.
  • Ensuring that certain subjects are taught at earlier times or, by contrast, that others are more appropriate to be taught at later times. In other words, establish which subjects will be taught in certain time slots.
  • Avoiding having a subject that finishes late one day and starts early the next day.

Other pedagogical criteria attributable to the teachers’ timetable would be:

  • Balancing the teaching load or daily workload.
  • Avoiding more than a certain number of class units in a row, attendance before or after break time, etc. in order to allow for rest intervals.
  • Ensuring that teachers’ timetables are compact, etc.

Whether or not these formalised directives exist, it is necessary to consider the need for them and the weight to be given to them in each particular educational institution. Once we know what we are looking for and to what extent, we should be able to find, in practice, a timetable that satisfies an optimal compromise, which, while meeting academic requirements, observes pedagogical criteria as far as possible.

The question therefore is, can the pedagogical criteria to be followed be shaped in order to optimally fit the required academic timetable, as far as possible?

The answer is yes. With GHC, each school will be able to model its own pedagogical criteria, giving them weight and adjusting flexible preferences on the different elements that make up the timetable. The solutions provided by the GHC engine will be an optimal solution according to the criteria and preferences established in each case.

In order to achieve the best results, it is necessary to provide enough flexibility in the possible solutions. If strict conditions are used, they may make it difficult to observe the criteria when optimising the outcome. For example, if a pedagogical criterion determines that certain groups of students should preferably be taught in P.E. late in the day, but on the other hand, either the gymnasium or the teachers who teach P.E. are forbidden to do so in the curriculum, the pedagogical criterion will be impossible to satisfy.

For this reason, it is essential to define the strict conditions to be imposed on the solutions in the beginning. As a premise, we can state that no more strict conditions should be imposed than those that are really justified, otherwise the necessary flexibility to observe the pedagogical criteria will be restricted. It is important to allow the optimisation process to achieve the best solution.

In summary, we can affirm that GHC will observe the pedagogical criteria that each educational institution weighs up and will do so in an optimal way, taking advantage of the flexibility that exists in the solutions. In order to find the best timetables, it is preferable to take advantage of this capacity, avoiding more strict conditions than those that are really necessary.

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