Students’ attention in class: patterns, perceptions of cause and a tool for measuring classroom quality of life

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Neil Grainger Allison


Constructs such as engagement and FLOW have been well-developed and studied in education contexts. Sustained attention, a distinct but related concept, has been less studied, particularly in the language classroom and foreign language medium education. In a case study involving mixed methods, predominantly structured qualitative data, student attention was measured repeatedly during a university pre-sessional EAP course. The aim was to compare with previous research on the relationship between attention and time/stages of lessons and reveal any additional attention patterns based on interaction types (group work, individual work, full class). In addition, repeated surveys were used to reveal what students perceived as damaging to attention and also the perceived value of exercise breaks. Results suggested significance in attention changes over time and between teacher talking time, group work and individual interaction types. The study design itself forms a simple and effective tool to improve classroom life including teachers’ monitoring of class dynamics and for students, a means of self-reflection to increase learning performance. 

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