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MODi – Improve the Teaching Organization


The MODi (in Italian the acronym for Migliorare l'Organizzazione Didattica, which means Improve the Teaching Organization) experimentation involves abandoning the traditional and rigid organizational school model that sees the continuous alternation of teachers, in favor of greater respect for the student's learning cycles. Interrupting a topic to resume two or three days later, if not the following week, means that the student stratify non-coherent content with the consequence of excessive cognitive over-fatigue and, in general, of an overload of work.

Narrative, origins and objectives of the initiative

What kind of project is this? Please give a short description (summary) of it.

The term "teaching organization" refers to the distribution of the teachings over a period of time, usually taking the week as a comparison parameter.
In the Italian primary school, there are several possible models of teaching plans, which is divided into 24 hours or 27, 30 or 40 hours (full-time). Within the framework of a weekly time frame and in the duration of "school time", the concept of didactic organization is implemented, i.e. the distribution of the disciplines foreseen by the scholastic systems in a given time period.

The original inspiration of "full time" in primary school was aimed at proposing an integrated and organic number of activities for children and certainly not merely seven hours of ongoing lectures. The current didactic organization, with the consequent hourly distribution of the teaching subjects observed in many of Italian schools, determine the fact that the teaching of the disciplines is carried out during the afternoon too, and this is certainly another unfavorable circumstance to the detriment of the most fragile pupils.
Although a teacher can make efforts to adopt active strategies, cooperative learning, tutoring, adaptation of contexts, development of emotional competence, etc. the didactic organization does not facilitate learning and this aspect is not well considered.  Furthermore, the teaching organization should consider a fair alternation of activities that (principally) engage cognitive faculties and activities that involve manual skills or that however involve the corporeality as a whole.
The fact that teaching time is usually defined on an annual rather than weekly basis, allows to reformulate it on the basis of pupil needs rather than on study programs, applying the principles of pedagogy and psychology also to the didactic organization.

The experience conducted in different classes and schools has allowed this experimentation to develop a programming model based on the division of the various disciplines into homogeneous groups and on their development according to "rhythmic cycles". In practice, it is a matter of grouping together the learning of some study subjects in the same period.

Three groups are identified:

  • Literary cycle: language, history, history of art, botany, zoology, anatomy
  • Scientific cycle: mathematics, geometry, physics, chemistry, mineralogy, geography, clay works
  • Artistic cycle: poetry, music (choir), religion, sculpture, drawing (watercolor), foreign languages

The cardinal principles of the "rhythmic cycles" model are dual: the student must be able to face an argument until it is completed, without interruption, and not abandon it before having acquired it well; it is also necessary to respect the rhythms of learning, by punctually entering the student in the studying of certain contents, without overloading, and giving continuity to the didactic action.

In conclusion, two principles emerge from the experiments on the "rhythmic cycles" model already implemented in dozens of classes:

  1. alternating intellectual activities with manual activities so that cognitive data flow through the whole person, so that this can combine it with a part of himself, up to imprint it in the memory and in his personal history;
  2. that the teaching time is optimized so as to allow a sort of "full immersion" in the activity that is being conducted so that the student can concentrate, immersing himself and identifying himself in what he does, avoiding the tiring carousel of materials that change from hour to hour.

MODi project aims to identify effective tools to ensure well-being at school and educational success by acting on some strategic aspects as follows:

  1. compaction vs. fragmentation of the hourly scheduling of the disciplines
  2. the identification of the learning styles of the students
  3. physical learning layout intended not only as an internal arrangement of spaces but also as a way of organizing a lesson (frontal or interactive), by e.g. making the use of different learning materials possible as well as offering various interaction methods in class (verbal or experimental).

Please tell us why, in general, this project is considered a successful one?

The project proved to be very successful due to the positive feedback from teachers and families. Questionnaires elaborated by the Catholic University of Milan were used to interview the various stakeholders in 2017/18 and the desire to continue the project became apparent: there was an improvement in 80% of the students counsel perceived well-being, social relationships, concentration, autonomy and learning performance.

And why would you consider it a grass-roots initiative?

What challenges needed to be solved in this project?

  • The difficulty of sharing didactics and educational programming by teachers of different institutes, school levels and different classes
  • Recruiting of teachers keen to experiment in class counsel in lower secondary school
  • Preparation of the plexus (school building) timetable according to the classes participating in the trial

Is this initiative based on any particular theoretical framework? Which one?

The initiative is based on the proposal of Raffaele Ciambrone, a pedagogue working at the Ministry of Education, Directorate General for the student participation and integration, published in Psychology and School, November / December 2016 "Improving the Didactic Organization for distribution of the teachings centered on the person”.

The experiment involves abandoning the traditional and rigid organizational school model, which sees the continuous alternation of teachers in favor of greater respect for the student's learning cycles. Ciambrone believes that, interrupting a topic only to resume two or three days later, if not the following week, will give the non-coherent content with the consequence of excessive cognitive over-fatigue and, in general, an overload of work. This is why experimenting proposed by MODi tackles a topic without interruption and not abandoning it until it has been well acquired.

(Appendix) Is your intervention standing on its own or is it a part of a bigger and more holistic approach?

The MODi project implemented in Biella and Milan is part of a bigt national project that involves 22 schools and 90 classes.

Please describe the group(s) intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

Why has this group (have these groups) been chosen?

The target group of MODi is especially primary and secondary school kids. A context analysis showed an increase in demotivation with the risk of early school drop-outs, especially from the second year of low secondary school. Therefore the actions aim to curb this phenomenon through innovative and preventive educational strategies starting from primary school.


Could you please tell us something about the relative size of the (of each) target group, within the school/university population, region and/or country?

The project involves a network of 6 schools, with 11 primary schools and 5 low secondary classes with 37 teachers.

Which social characteristics are taken into account and what is the geographical area covered?

The social context is heterogeneous and the schools participating in the network come from the three different provinces in the north of Piedmont - Verbano, Cusio, and Ossola (VCO). Special attention was given to the high percentage of the economic and social situation of the schools and to families in charge of social services: as for the National Statistic Office (ISTAT) in 2015 there is a ratio of 1:18 adults and 1:14 if we consider only children. Finally, in the above-mentioned area (VCO), there is a percentage of students with learning difficulties equal to 8% of the entire school population compared to a national average of 2%.

On which level is the project implemented?

Please describe the political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

Did the initiative have political support?

The initiative has the technical support of Dr. Ciambrone, the patronage, and collaboration of the local department of the Ministry of Education and the advice and supervision of the Catholic University of Milan.

How did it fit with local, regional or national policies?

The MODi project is in line with the improvement objectives of the schools identified by the Ministry of Education at national and regional level:

  • "Promote teaching and organizational autonomy, research, experimentation, and development that is consistent with the principle of autonomy of educational institutions"
  • "Implement training initiatives - on-line or in-school - aimed at teaching innovation and linked to the priorities indicated by the school in institutional documents”

Who are the stakeholders supporting the initiative?

The initiative is supported by the families, the local department of the Ministry of Education, local authorities and the university.

Are there particular demographic changes present that are influencing the project?

No, there were no particular demographic changes that could affect the project.

What is the institutional strategy and culture of the (educational) organization?

The identity of the institute, as explained in the multi-year planning, coincides with the multi-year project “Star Bene a Scuola” (Feel good at school) intended as the main vehicle for learning and scholastic success.

To what extent does the initiative have an influence on institutional policy (or potential influence) of the (educational) organization?

The first results of the project have already had a significant impact on the entire institute as they stimulated other teaching teams, not yet involved, to learn about the new teaching model. Internal training courses were organized that encouraged the participation of families involved and the interest of parents of new students.

(Appendix) Is there public support for your initiative and the issue it addresses?

(Appendix) What other factors do you think have been important for the success of this initiative?

Please describe the overall initiative design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

Please describe the specific activities carried out.

The MODi project is articulated in different activities:

  1. Training, Self-training and Action Research for Teachers
  2.  Subdivision of teaching for disciplinary fields: Literary cycle, Scientific cycle, Artistic cycle and hourly compaction with the preparation of work plans to be able to tackle an issue until it is completed by experimenting it through manual work and any other form of artistic expression (clay, watercolor ...)
  3. Preparation of the class space as a laboratory for learning
  4. Identification of learning styles through observation and drawing (watercolor technique)
  5. Design of diversified strategies for personalized teaching aimed at enhancing the skills of each one
  6. Preparation of material in order to study of the history - starting from the biographies
  7. Preparation of 4 interdisciplinary learning units

What were the key roles (teacher, student, management team etc.) within the project?

The MODi project included several actors as follows:

  • Local Department of Ministry of Education: promoted dissemination and coordinated the project on the provincial territory - both in the training part and for the connection with the Catholic University.
  • School Principal: promoted the project  through the teaching staff, the Institute Council and in the families; prepared organizational measures for the implementation of the trial; involved the staff and the Secretariat in the administrative management of the project; identified the reference figures for Primary and Secondary; promoted and coordinated the Provincial Network.
  • Teachers: supported a training course of 35 hours and participated in confrontation with the teachers of other schools on the net; took care of periodic meetings of restitution to families; gave questionnaires of perception of their parents' experience in class; set up 4 interdisciplinary learning units and drafted a logbook.
  • Catholic University of Milan: supervised monitoring, offered supervision, training.

What ideas, tools, theories, models, methodology (etc.) have been used to reach the goals?

MODi project reaches its goals through several tools:

  • methodology laboratory;
  • study of history through biographies;
  • hourly compaction;
  • limited frontal lessons in the morning and presentation of the topic of the day;
  • grouping the learning of a study subject in a continuous period (reducing fragmentation on topics):
  • development of fine motor skills as a prelude to the writing;
  • interdisciplinary approach.

What are the final revenues of the project?

Please describe if your project ensured its sustainability

If so, how did you ensure the short-term impact of the project?

A three-year network agreement was signed among 5 other schools in the province to optimize human and financial resources.

And how did you ensure the long-term impact of the project?

The MODi sustainability strategies are the following:

  1. Renewal of the network agreement
  2. Involvement of the main school for the National Digital Training Plan for the funding of teacher training
  3. Renewal of collaboration with the Catholic University of Milan and involvement of other bodies that can support and enhance the project
  4. Activation of contacts with other schools in Italy that conduct the same experimentation for an exchange of good practices

Has your project been replicated elsewhere?

Please tell us about the resources used in this initiative

What was the budget for the initiative?

The budget for the first year was approx. 4000€

How much did the initiative depend on volunteers?

How were the costs perceived by the public/the sector/other stakeholders?

To what extent did the initiative achieve its objectives?

Please describe the evidence to support the success of your initiative.

The MODi methodology shows that:

  • 92% of students are interested in the activity carried out at school and share it with their families
  • 80% of students say they can concentrate at school during the morning and afternoon activities
  • 70% of students say they have good relationships with their classmates and teachers
  • 80% of students declare that they are self-reliant in their activities and homework
  • None of the 20 pupils in the pre-secondary class reported shortcomings in the second quarter evaluation sheet.

Did the intervention lead to any unintended (positive) outcomes?

An unexpected and positive result was the positive impact on teachers that were not involved, who found the motivation to rethink their methods through the proposed methods of the MODi program.

What indicators (quantitative and qualitative) have you measured to demonstrate success?

(Appendix) How did you evaluate/monitor this intervention?