News & Blog
February 28, 2020
Ideal Study Time – Attention Span of Children and Adolescents
A general ‘day-in-the-life’ of a high school student typically involves waking up at 6:30am, having a nutritious breakfast targeted at stimulating brain activity and promoting a healthy lifestyle, getting showered and dressed, spending around 7 hours at school (with likely an additional 2 hours dedicated to extracurricular activities such as sport or music), and then coming home to hit the books again to try and maximise the time spent learning.
While traditional views would suggest this is the most ‘ideal’ means of developing school students’ educational capacities, more recent research suggests that bombarding students with extensive study time and tutoring may not be maximising academic performance outcomes quite as well as more targeted learning. This is due to two key factors: lack of active concentration, and stress from work overload.
While homework and tutoring are vital to the overall education and psychological development of students, excessive length of time students and parents are dedicating to additional study may not be providing maximal benefits.
Research has found that students who are able to concentrate without letting their minds wander have better academic performance outcomes. Further to this, study time has no impact on performance if the student is not actively concentrating or paying attention (Nonis & Hudson, 2010).
This means that regardless of how long a student is studying for, they are unlikely to find an improvement in their academic performance – only during times when they are engaged and actively concentrating are they retaining any of the new information they are learning.
Time management techniques, such as Pomodoro’s (Hawkins, 2016) recommend reducing study times to shorter 20-minute intervals, followed by 5 to 10-minute breaks. This allows students to be actively engaged in their study, without any distractions.
At DR. PROGRESS we have perfected techniques and approaches to maximising concentration and information retention amongst our students. We like to caution parents and families against blindly seeing value in the length of tutoring classes, and instead focus on the quality of the tutoring service. This is reflected in all our study programmes that have been uniquely designed to efficiently ensure we support students throughout their learning without overburdening families in terms of time commitment.
Indeed, active learning is the primary prerogative of all the DR. STUDY programmes, ensuring maximum benefits and outcomes are achieved for all students.
With increases to study time and academic pressure, comes unnecessary added stress which can have detrimental effects to academic performance.
To illustrate the relationship between stress and performance, we look to the Yerkes-Dodson Law (see figure below). This theory suggests that, as stress and pressure rise, performance usually improves, until it reaches an optimal point – also known as the ‘tipping point’. At this tipping point, if a student is enduring too much stress, they may actually see a decrease in performance and cognitive ability.
To minimise the pressure put on students, reducing study time to allow for greater focus and less stress can lead to an overall improvement in both academic performance, and overall health (Misra & McKean, 2000).
At DR. PROGRESS, these irrefutable results have been taken into consideration when formulating individualised programmes for our students. We recognise the need for students to engage in a multifaceted approach to their studies; one where potential stress factors are monitored and managed, individual needs are addressed and supportive systems are provided to ensure the best outcomes in terms of both personal and academic growth are achieved.
Saga Briggs, OpenColleges.com.au, compiled a list of ways in which parents, teachers, and academic providers can better capture and maintain students’ attention throughout their studies. Some key strategies include:
- Students need to feel motivated to pay attention – using real-life examples can help make concepts more applicable and understanding.
- Use multiple mode to teach – technology is at our disposal and can support visual or more practical learners.
- Engage the senses – children learn through their senses i.e. touch, smell, and hear.
- Involve students in lesson plans – this allows students to help cater their experiences to themselves.
- Make them laugh – a happy student is an engaged student!
- Capture ideas in a narrative – storytelling, as with motivation, helps link concepts to real-life examples. Stories are also more engaging, and students tend to remember more details.
- Make ideas concreate and relevant – don’t be too abstract. Stay on track with the necessary information you want the student to learn.
- Target students’ ideal zones of developments – if the content is too hard or there is too much to learn at once, their attention is likely to wander (Shabani, Khatib, & Ebadi, 2010).
These ideas have effectively been integrated into our range of study programmes.
Briggs, S. (2020). Tricks for capturing student’s attention. Retrieved from https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/30-tricks-for-capturing-students-attention/
Gregory, G., & Kaufeldt, M. (2015). The motivated brain: Improving student attention, engagement, and perseverance. ASCD.
Hawkins. (2016). Implementing the Pomodoro Technique & Classroom Management. In. St. Louis: Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.
Misra, R., & McKean, M. (2000). College students’ academic stress and its relation to their anxiety, time management, and leisure satisfaction. American journal of Health studies, 16(1), 41-51.
Nonis, & Hudson. (2010). Performance of College Students: Impact of Study Time and Study Habits. Journal of Education for Business, 85(4), 229-238. doi:10.1080/08832320903449550
Shabani, K., Khatib, M., & Ebadi, S. (2010). Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development: Instructional Implications and Teachers’ Professional Development. English language teaching, 3(4), 237-248.