attentionAs a teacher, I found it rather depressing to read that the typical student’s attention span is about 10 to 15 minutes long. You often hear that all of us are becoming less and less attentive.

Research is often done on students and you would have to assume that things like motivation, emotion, interest in a topic and the time of day would all influence attention, but the general belief persists that students especially have “short attention spans.”

Some research I was reading suggests other things. One finding was that lapses of attention were short – one minute or less – and that short breaks in attention are more common than longer breaks.

The researchers were studying students during a university lecture – not the most exciting of situations. They found that the first lapse occurred just 30 seconds into a lecture segment, next at 4.5 to 5.5 minutes into the lecture, then at 7 to 9 minutes and at 9 to 10 minutes.

They describe this as a “waxing-and-waning” pattern continued throughout the lecture, with attention lapses occurring more frequently as the lecture progressed.

We love to blame technology for attention “deficits” but there are also arguments on the other side that as change the ways we process information, we need to change the ways we present information.

Many teachers have discovered that it is more effective to “break-up” lectures with periods of active learning. It is a technique that probably works outside of classrooms and probably one that we self-employ in our own work habits.