Study Reveals College Students Perform Better in Later Classes
Falling asleep in class? It's not laziness; it's biology.
By Kathryn Knight Randolph
April 28, 2017
If you’re a college student, the above headline is a very obvious no-brainer. Of course students perform better in courses that take place later in the day, yet every college across the country continues to offer 8 a.m. courses. What’s the deal with that?
Last month, a study conducted by Mariah Evans and Jonathan Kelley at the University of Reno as well as Paul Kelley of The Open University in the U.K. showed that college students would profit more from a course at 10 or 11 a.m. versus 8 a.m., according to NPR. Not only were students more likely to stay awake in class, but they performed better academically. Their study cited that 83% of students performed at their best when they were allowed to choose their daily start time for a six-hour day.
Evans states that the issue at hand is not laziness; rather, it’s a matter of biology. She told NPR, “There has been evidence over time from specific studies indicating that teenagers’ body clocks are set at a different time than older folks. Medical research suggests that this goes on well into your 20s, so we decided to look at college students.”
But this doesn’t just apply to college students.
In the past few years, a number of studies have attributed later school start times to better performing students. In December of 2016, a Los Angeles Times op-ed highlighted a variety of benefits for later school times based on various study results:
- Absences in Bonneville County, Idaho dropped 15% after pushing the school start time back an hour.
- A Colby College economist found that delaying school by an hour can increase math and reading test scores by 3%, indicating that the biggest jump in performance was seen in the lowest-scoring students.
- A Santa Clara University economist stated that starting school one hour later is the equivalent of shrinking the class size by a third.
- Student athletes are less likely to get injured given that sleeplessness has been tied to a stronger likelihood of injury during practice or game.
- In Lexington, Kentucky, car accidents to and from school dropped over 16% in the two years following a time change, keeping students in that city much safer during their commute.
Obviously, starting school an hour or two later results in a myriad of benefits, all of which contributes to a greater sense of well-being for students. Yet, a majority of schools across the country continue to start classes early. Despite suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control to begin school at 8:30 a.m. (or later), only 17% of schools adhere to the proposed time and 40% meet before 8 a.m., according to the Los Angeles Times.
Whether schools make the change is yet to be unseen, but students and their families can be the biggest advocate for a later start time.
Which do you prefer – an early or later start time? Why?
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