College students might want to leave their smartphones and tablets behind when they head to a lecture, new research suggests.
Otherwise, the distraction might translate into a lower grade on the final exam.
For the study, researchers followed 118 cognitive psychology students at Rutgers University in New Jersey. For one term, electronic devices were banned in half of the lectures and permitted in the other half. When the devices were allowed, students reported whether they had used them for non-learning purposes during the lecture.
Having an electronic device wasn’t associated with lower students’ scores in comprehension tests within lectures, but was associated with at least a 5 percent (half-a-grade) lower score in end-of-term exams.
The study was published July 27 in the journal Educational Psychology.
“These findings should alert the many dedicated students and instructors that dividing attention is having an insidious effect that is impairing their exam performance and final grade,” said study author Arnold Glass, a professor at Rutgers.
“To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention — not only for themselves, but for the whole class,” Glass added in a journal news release.
The National Education Association explains how some teachers use smartphones in the classroom.