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Monday, July 30, 2018

Classroom Multitaskers Get Poorer Grades

Despite students’ claims to be adept at dividing their attention, their use of phones, laptops, and tablets during classroom lectures does have a negative impact, according to a just-published study by researchers at Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ.

Rather than testing college students against a control group of their peers, the researchers tested two sections of an upper-level psychology course—118 students in all—against themselves. The students were permitted to have their electronic devices out during half the lectures, but were prohibited from using them during the other half. Immediate retention of information was assessed with daily quizzes, and longer-term retention by three unit exams and a final exam.

Students’ scores proved to be “significantly worse” on device-approved days, even for those who opted not to use their electronics, demonstrating how devices’ capacity for distraction extends beyond just the actual user. In addition, the study posited that what was—and wasn’t—learned in the classroom influenced the quality of students’ out-of-class studying for exams.

“Dividing attention between an electronic device and the classroom lecture did not reduce comprehension of the lecture, as measured by within-class quiz questions,” the authors pointed out. “Instead, divided attention reduced long-term retention of the classroom lecture, which impaired subsequent unit-exam and final-exam performance.”

Professor Arnold Glass, the lead researcher, told Insider Higher Ed that he recommends other faculty follow his lead and call out students they see using their devices during lectures, “not because I’m tremendously offended by this, but because I know it negatively affects them.”

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