Influences of Time of Day on Teaching and Learning of Adolescents in Secondary School
This study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the possible influences of time of day on the teaching and learning of adolescents in secondary school. School scheduling has always been an issue within schools with problems mainly centring on the availability of teachers as well as other factors such rooming issues, part-time staff, etc. and is usually considered as an administrative duty with very little focus on the effects it may have on student behaviour and learning. Many researchers consider that students’ performance varies during different times of the day and research also indicates that this varies between age groups (Allen, 1991; Barron, Henderson & Spurgeon, 1994; Dunn, 1995). This idea provided the starting point for this investigation into how the time of day affects student attention and achievement. This study was split into four phases. Phase 1 reviews the importance of sleep and the possible effects it may have on the school day. Through the use of quantitative methods, the average sleep duration, bedtimes and wake up times were identified and the impact it may have on student’s alertness, behaviour and learning during the school day. The finding from phase 1 reveal that overall the students in this study are getting significantly below the recommended amount of sleep needed for adolescents, especially the older students, suggesting that students may face issues to a greater extent than indicated in previous studies, and as a result their performance in school could be affected. Phase 2 reviews the effects time of day has on short-term memory and problem-solving activities and whether the period (time of day based on school timetable) can influence the performance in these two areas. Based on the findings in this phase, students’ performance significantly varied at different times of the day. In both the short-term memory and problem-solving tests students were able to recall more information and perform better in the afternoon in all age groups as compared to the morning. Phase 3 investigated the time of day and its effects on behaviour and ‘perceived learning’ (perceived learning refers to the learning taking place during a lesson as perceived by the classroom teacher, it includes factors such as behaviour, participation and amount of work completed). For this research, we explored whether the time of day can influence the way students learn as perceived by both students and teachers. Firstly, students completed a learning style inventories at different times of the day. Based on the findings there were significant discrepancies in the way students completed the inventories in the afternoon as compared to the morning. The second part of this phase was completed by the teacher. Using a coding system teachers recorded the perceived learning scores of students during every lesson throughout the academic year. Results indicated significant changes in perceived learning at different times of the day for all year groups. Finally, phase 4 was a collaborative study involving participants in focus groups. The focus groups discussed and compared the results from the previous three phases and along with the data collected in the student and teacher interviews, to help understand and identify any connections and draw conclusions from the findings. This phase included some qualitative methods. The overall findings in this study reveal that students’ academic performance, behaviour and ‘perceived learning’ significantly varied at different times of the day, indicating that there is a strong correlation between time of day and students’ academic performance for different age groups, and therefore every effort is needed to incorporate these findings into the planning and scheduling of lessons to help maximise students’ potential.
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