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.
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.