Does the time of class affect your performance?

This past week was the main week for scheduling classes for the spring semester. Most college students want to avoid one big thing when they are making their schedule, 8 AM’s. To many college students, that phrase is synonymous with exhaustion, absences and fear. As a current freshman, I picked my classes on one of the last days possible. Because of this, I now have an 8 AM Wednesday and Friday next semester. This scared me mainly because in high school some of my lowest grades came in the classes I took currently in the morning. Currently I don’t have a class before 10 AM, and I love it. On the same hand I don’t end classes till 4:30 on four out of five days a week, and I see myself losing focus later in the day. This conundrum makes sense to me, but I wanted to see if there is actual scientific proof to back up my hypothesis. That hypothesis is that the time of your class affects your performance.

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The null hypothesis would be that class time does affect a students performance. The alternative hypothesis would then be that the time of the class does not affect the performance of students. A confounding variable could be an unbalance in the intelligence of the students during the respective times of classes. This subject could suffer from the file drawer problem due to a lack of research done on the problem.

A study conducted by Nolan G. Pope of the University of Chicago looked into the performance of middle school and high school students grades 6-11 in relation to the times of the classes they took. The two subjects he specifically looked at were english and math. He observed the results of these students for six years from 2003-2009, in total 1.8 million students grades were taken into account. The average math score on the CST (California State Test) for students who took the subject in first or second period was 309.8. He compared these numbers to the group of students who took math in periods five and six. Their average math score on the same test was 304.5, a full five points lower than the average of those taking it in first and second periods. Additionally, on average the same students who took the subject in the first two periods of the day got an average of .11 higher of a math GPA. The results were similar for english students, according to the same study. For those who took english in periods on and two their average english score on the CST was 334.32, this is a full three points higher than the average score of a 331.04 for those who took the class in periods five and six. Similarly the average english GPA of students taking the class early in the day was .10 higher than those taking it in the afternoon (U Chicago).

A separate article from the New York times backs up the evidence found by Pope in his study. According to the article, earlier start times may in fact help college students raise their grade point average. The article includes findings from a study conducted by two psychology professors from St. Lawrence University in New York. The study came to the conclusion that students who enrolled in classes with earlier start times were rewarded with better grades as a result. According to the study for every hour earlier the class start time was, a .02 increase in grades was observed. So over a three hour period that number would be .06. The reasoning behind this according to the co-authors could be attributed to better habits that come with an earlier start to your day. Habits such as going to bed earlier, completing your work more efficiently, and refraining from drinking on school nights came along with students who started class early in the morning. This article could suffer from the Texas sharpshooter problem due to only positive effects of earlier class times, with little mention of some possible negative effects.

Overall, just because the findings of these studies state that earlier start times can improve your grades does not necessarily mean that you should rush to schedule an 8 AM next semester. Neither does starting earlier mean you will develop some of the good habits that are mentioned in the second article. You have to find what works for you in all aspects of your college life.


6 thoughts on “Does the time of class affect your performance?

  1. Benjamin R Tuohey

    I liked this post a lot. I personally do not mind waking up early and going to class early. I like being done at an earlier time and then having a lot of free time to do with what I choose. I feel like it is different for everybody though some people would rather sleep in and go to class later. I personally agree with what you said it is all up to the individual and when they feel as if they work best and are most efficient

  2. Brian A Vargas

    Great post, I was drawn to your it as I am the same way. Almost every 8am class I have had I ended up dropping. Right now my earliest class is at almost 11am, with my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes starting at 4pm which I love. But on Mondays I have a three hour, one day a week class back to back with my 4pm class. This has proven to be very similar to my 8am classes, I rarely go or end up leaving at the midpoint break. Lucky Ive had the professor before so I knew what to expect, and the subject comes naturally to me. I also do believe everyone is different, which is why we get the option to chose what time we start our school day. This is something that was not possible in middle or high school, which is a topic that has been debated with some school districts starting at later times. Check out this
    article goes into depth on why its important to start classes a little later in the day and how important getting enough sleep is. Its based on high school students but I think it still relates as some of you are just out of high school.

  3. Nicole Paniccia

    I like this topic because I have 9 ams everyday. I feel like since they are so earlier I miss them more often than my classes in the afternoon. I am definitely not a morning person so when I go to these early classes I am still half asleep. I am doing better in my classes that are in the afternoon because I can always make them and are attentive during them. Here is an article I found that says how early start times hurt students and impedes on their performance

  4. Emma G Schadler

    What a relevant post! This semester I have only had classes after 10am, like you, but next semester I had to schedule a 9am class for three days in the week. Although I prefer not having to wake up early for classes, I don’t believe the time of classes affects how well I perform in them. It may be a slight factor, but I think the main factors that have an effect are my interest in the class, what kind of professor I have, and the general atmosphere of the classroom. For example, I think my 9am class next semester may even end up being one of my best grades, since my interest in the course is very high. I personally enjoy classes where I can feel engaged in the lesson and feel comfortable speaking to the professor and classmates about the coursework.
    I found this article, written as an Honors Thesis at Western Michigan University, that includes several ideas and stances on classroom behavior that I agree with, mostly involving grade school education since most of the proposals revolve around classroom setup, positioning of the teacher’s desk, etc. But it’s always best to start early!

  5. Akhil Dharmavaram

    I completely agree with the dread of having 8am classes. My freshman year, I had an 8am class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for both Fall and Spring semesters. As much as it really sucks having to wake up so early, get ready, and go to class, I did notice that my focus and attention was generally higher in those classes. The interesting thing is that I am by no means a morning person but I still found that I was able to learn better in my early classes. I would love to see biologically or psychologically why this happens. This is another interesting read that says that different people have different times during the day that they are able to learn best.

  6. Connor Edward Opalisky

    I like this topic because of how relatable it is to our audience. Something that i thought of while reading the study done on college students was whether it could possibly be the result of a confounding variable, one that causes an earlier schedule and higher grades. In college we get to pick our schedules, making it very possible that students who tend to work harder schedule the earliest classes possible. As a result, the better students would take earlier classes and get better grades than other students. It is entirely possible that harder working students have earlier classes and better grades, therefore i think it is worth considering that time and grades are caused by a confounding variable such as work ethic.

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