CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Down With 8 A.M. Classes: Undergrads Learn Better Later In The Day, Study Finds

NPR Ed : NPR: Mariah Evans, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, began to notice a trend in her morning classes: Her students were falling asleep.

While this would make most feel discouraged in their teaching abilities or agitated over their students' idleness, Evans instead was curious. Was there more to this than just laziness?

18 comments:

Claire Krueger said...


I’ve read dozens of articles like this time and time again, later starting classes are good for students. This isn't really new news. In my hometown when this research first made its rounds the school board had a meeting to discuss changes in class times. The elementary, middle and high school’s start/end times are staggered with high school starting first and elementary starting last. The study proved younger students had higher functioning in the morning and high schoolers were higher functioning later in the day. Also the parents prefered an earlier pick up for the elementary students because they couldn't leave for work until their kids were at school. Despite the combined forces of crabby parents and scientific evidence the board decided they wanted the high school classes to start early so athletics had as much time as possible in the evening. So long story short athletics were more important than the students, so no matter how many of these studies I read I can't help but wish it would actually cause something to change.

Simone Schneeberg said...

I don't really get why these studies keep getting done. Nothing changes. There are studies that lecture based lessons are actually the worst way to learn, but lecturing still dominates in universities. They really don't mean anything, but let's say they did and we pushed classes back to never start before 10am. The pure amount of things we have to do in a day and the amount of material we have to learn would only mean we would be done with classes later, doing out work later, and staying up later. There are studies that show that the most restful sleep is during the early hours of the night - that 10pm to 4am is more restful that 2am to 8 am (for example) even though it is the same amount of time. How do we balance these studies? Which is more important, which carries more proof, or has more evidence? There are just so many "studies" out there that are so ungrounded and/or contradict each other that I'm really not surprised nothing changes; especially when it's not really what is most important, but what is most convenient for those deciding to do.

Kelly Simons said...

I remember when I first came to college ad my earliest class was at 9 am. I had been waking up for zero hour classes, which started at 6:30 am the past two years and thought a 9 am would be a breeze. Wow, was I wrong. I think college does that to students, we stay up later each night more than before, and then have a hard time waking up in the morning without your family. I found it was interesting when the article mentions early birds versus night owls and when these trends crop up in our lives: "There has been evidence over time from specific studies indicating that teenagers' body clocks are set at a different time than older folks," she says. "Medical research suggests that this goes on well into your 20s, so we decided to look at college students." I’m always happy when planning my schedule to see my first classes starting after 10 am.

Annie Scheuermann said...

I agree with the other comments, that this is really not new information, which the article does mention that they know this was not some ground breaking study. To be honest as much evidence their is for late teens early twenty adults that their bodies don't function well until later in the morning, I doubt anything will change in scheduling on the institutional level. While calling people in early in the morning might just suck, having people stay late into the night hours looks worse. Their are also just so many hours in a day, so if the time frame for college students was moved to start at 10 or 11, then the late hours of studying is just going to go from ending at 1 to ending at 3. I do have to say that freshmen year when my classes started at 8:30, I was very sleepy and for sure did not get all I could out the class because I was still waking up. Now that this semester my classes begin at 10:30, I am much more awake and present for class. I think if we had the option most people would choose to be able to sleep in more than wake up early no matter what age they are, but practically that just is not possible.

Vanessa Ramon said...

This has always been an interesting dilemma to me. I have herd of several studies and pieces of research that have proven that teenagers and young adults don't really to their best learning until later in the day, but yet there is not enough time in a single day to simply wait around until 10am to start classes. Especially in a field like ours where most of our work goes deep into the night and even early morning, 8am classes are almost impossible to be effective but also they are the only time in which we can have classes. I am not going to try to convince you that I have all the answers because this one is a tough-y. It doesn't come sown to the fact that students want to sleep and teachers want to teach because we all want the best, especially when students want to get all they can out of their education. I think a possible solution to this could be structuring the early classes to kind of ease the student into the learning of the day. Maybe the first class could be yoga or start with a brain exercise and then go into the lesson for the day.

Helena Hewitt said...

We already know this information. Yet, as Simone mentioned, nothing ever gets done. Because what a large institution claims to care about, such as their student’s health and wellbeing, and what those in positions of authority might individually care about, rarely translates to how the institution behaves. Of course, right now, many students can make their own schedule and therefore can choose to not take 8 am classes. However, my friend the other day was telling me that in certain classes a small number of quizzes and assignments are given half-weight. This is so that students understand that sometimes life happens and it is ok to turn in a shitty homework assignment. You could argue that we shouldn’t be so hung up on our grades and a student could do that anyway, but having in it the official writing of the course says something and changes the environment of the course as a whole. Having no classes before 8 am would put the often proclaimed care for the students into the actual official language of the institution.

Delaney Johnson said...

I completely agree with this article, as I can see the evidence in my own life. I know what you’re thinking. She's just a whining student wanting to sleep in, but the truth is not about sleep. It is about readiness. I can see a difference in my ability to intake information in the morning opposed to the afternoon. In the morning, I’m groggy and I write both slow and without taking in information properly. My notes are often messy and disjointed for my morning classes. I also find myself doodling or looking around the room to stay focused during my 8 am classes. However, in the afternoon I actually understand and digest what I am writing. I am also better able to focus on what the professor is saying resulting in better notes. This has been said for years though. It is not a new revelation. So, what are we going to do to change it? Knowing a problem is not enough when almost every student at this university has one or more morning classes.

Julian Goldman said...

I’ve been seeing these article talking about studies that show adolescents biologically have a later sleep clock. My high school actually pushed its start time later the year before I started there because of it. I haven’t heard it discussed much in terms of college though, mostly high school. I think it is a bit more of a complicated question with college because, at least typically, college students have more control over their individual schedule than high school students. I know plenty of people who do their best to schedule their classes in a way that avoids early morning classes as much as possible, and often they can avoid them entirely. Then again, the fact that almost everyone I know avoids classes at those times is telling, and sometimes people do need to take early morning classes because it is the only way to fit the classes they need to take into their schedule. I think a case could be made for not having classes before 9 or 10 am offered at all, but then again, some people might prefer trying to keep all their classes early in the morning to have more of the afternoon available for other things.

Galen shila said...

This is not necessarily new news. Many studies have been done showing that students are at a major disadvantage waking up to learn at 8 or even earlier in the cases of many schools. In a good majority of american public schools. They begin at 7 this can mean students waking up at as early as 5 to catch a bus to school everyday. This is a huge problem because kids are not built to wake up and learn that early. I just think of how many of my peers where disciplined or held back from academic opportunities because they where so tired in the morning. Now simply moving starting time back dose not really work. A large number of the american work force have work at 7 or 8 am so school has to line up with that so that parents can drop off and pick up their kids. This problem is not an easy one to fix. unless you have your own car or live on campus. Thats why it dose not make sense for me to start classes at 8. I myself am usualy not super tired but i know that my peers suffer because of it.

Marisa Rinchiuso said...

Yet another study on early mornings and learning. Although I am a huge fan of the idea of starting later, I would probably be considered an early bird by most standards. To play devil's advocate, I would say the good in starting classes early, perhaps not 8am early, is that it teaches students rigor and sets us up for the real world. Unfortunately, most jobs start between 7-9am. I think it would be a disservice to students to have classes start at 11am for years only to realize that at our first jobs, we will probably be expected in hours before that. Also, I feel like when I wake up early, I have a better outlook on the day. I have more time to process the day. Of course, I do not believe in all that I play devil's advocate for. I'm looking forward to having a start time of 9:00am and 10:30am next year as opposed to this year.

Lauren Miller said...

Can I use this article as an excuse for any bad drafting I may (or will - lets be honest) produce in the future? Anyways, I actually disagree that its the time of day that is the heart of this issue. This summer I started work most days at eight in the morning. However (and here's the catch) I got off work at five and was asleep before nine every evening. Mornings have literally never been easier than they were a year ago. In comparison to school, my first class is, on tuesdays, at 8:30, and every other day at 10:30. Due to living off campus (in a desperate effort to be happy with my surroundings) I have to leave the house at least 40 minutes early (and power-walk to school) to get to class. My last class (crew...) ends at 10:30. On days off, I work until 6:30. On a Tuesday with crew my span of day is 14 hours with an 90 minute break for lunch. And sometimes I stay up unreasonably late to do homework (before dropping the elective from hell this semester, I was consistently up until 4am every night. It was not time-management). So guess what, I run on fumes in the morning. Waking up on school days has become nearly impossible. I have no purposed solution to this problem nor do I think there is one for this program.

Megan Jones said...

I'm so thankful that my earliest my classes this semester all start at 10:30am, and I've really noticed a difference in my alertness. Freshman year it was always a struggle to get to drafting at 8:30am twice a week and I almost fell asleep more times than I'd like to admit. I tend to go to bed around midnight so to get the full amount of sleep I need I get up around 8:00. This means that classes after 9:00am will always work better for me purely because of my sleep schedule. However, this isn't the case for everyone. I know many people who go to bed early and get up at the crack of dawn that really don't mind 8:00am classes. I think that the reason that students tend to do better in these later classes is because most of them go to bed late. Sometimes this is because they're doing homework, and sometimes they're up watching Netflix. Structuring my class schedule to match my sleep schedule has been very beneficial for me, and I advise other students to do the same. This is obviously difficult when we don't have much control over when our mandatory classes are scheduled for, but then we just have to adjust our sleep schedule to match that. I didn't do that my freshman year and I really regretted it.

Cosette Craig said...

So you mean to tell me that having 8:30 am classes 3 mornings a week after mandatory crew calls that last until 10:30 pm the night before isn’t good for me? I couldn’t tell judging from the fact that over half of our class is usually dead asleep during drafting, sweetly dreaming of forced perspective while they are openly drooling on their desks, softly snoring with no attempt made to even turn their faces from Dick Block’s watchful stare. I snorted my iced tea when I got to the part about a regular day being just six hours long, but regardless this article contains THE FACTS.

Personal Fact 1) I feel better and learn better on days that start at 10:30.

Personal Fact 2) I was in class from 8:30-4:30 and then crew until 10:30 consistently for 4 straight weeks this semester during which three out of four of those Saturdays I was at work calls from 8am-5pm.

Personal Fact 3) I had two options: start my outside-of-class work after during lunch and dinner breaks, start it after 10:30 pm (when we had 8:30am classes the next day), or skip classes throughout the day to finish work I deemed more important than attending a lecture or interp.

What is similar abut all of these options? Hint: They’re all unhealthy, unproductive, and harmful in one way or another. Something needs to change. This program is about making people the best artists they can be but art cannot and should not be treated like a medical residency.

Alex Talbot said...

This has been said time and time again, and still I feel like nothing has been done about it, despite that. I am so glad that this was posted on this page, but I fear little will change, at least at Carnegie Drama, just based on how I see the faculty treat mental health and workload at the school. This year, drafting, easily for many the most complex and aggravating courses, starts at 8:30am. I found, throughout the year, that just because of the time alone, it was very hard to pay attention and understand the concepts we were discussing. By the end of the semester, I finally got my footing, but after a lot more work and concentration. I'm not suggesting we make everything easier on students, but with crew hours for mainstage run crews going until 12am, and all the work that has to happen between then and the next day, it still amazes me that I was able to get it all done.

I think this university, especially the School of Drama needs to take a serious look at what toll this timing takes on the students. While 8:30 classes are clearly needed for schedules to work out, things then maybe need to change on the crew end, or the workload end, to not drive students crazy. Overall, I hope over the next few years, that the faculty looks at exactly what the scheduling does to students. I think Cosette summed it up nicely--this is not a medical residency, it's an art school, and while rigor is important, it should not take a serious toll on mental health. Something needs to change, and there's no simple solution to it.

Emily Lawrence said...

This is not the first article, nor will it be the last, that I have read revolving around classes starting to early in the day. It is going to sound cliche, but I can tell you from experience that I do not retain as much from my morning classes as I do my afternoon classes. This became incredibly apparent to me once I had drafting at 8:30 in the morning and found it difficult to wake up and stay awake after a long night of work. I find myself spacing out a lot during class, which leads to me missing things that cause me to get very far behind very quickly. There have been a countless number of studies, not only for undergrads but for people in general, including high schoolers. I understand why it would be difficult for high schools to change it due to the way their schedules work, but there is no reason for undergrads to have to start at 8:00am when there are classes that are till 9:00pm on the same day. It would be easy to work around getting rid of 8:00am classes, it is just whether it will actually get down or not. 

evan schild said...

None of the information in the article has provided any new information. I think most people know at this point that starting classes later in the day boosts productivity. But yet, the schools do nothing to change this. I understand that it would be harder to fit in all of our classes with later start times but there has to be a better solution. “starting time for a regular six-hour day”, this quote was very interesting to read as a student whose work days are usually 12-14 hours. I think we need to re-evaluate how many hours we are spending and how we can get more sleep. When people are on crew till 10:30 and then have class at 830 am the next day it is very hard to learn. I know Carnegie has been trying to find solutions. It is hard to figure out the right balance. Hopefully they will find a solution that works for everyone.

Sarah Boyle said...

My high school did move start times to be later because of studies like this. Of course, they didn’t pitch it as learning better, they pitched it as getting more sleep. But when class is the same amount of time, it just means that you go to sleep later. I hated it because it threw off my schedule with extracurricular activities starting to run into dinner. I can’t just wait to start my day until prime learning time, I don’t have enough hours. If the article proposed scheduling more important or difficult classes to start later, that might make sense, like being half asleep through global histories and then fully awake by drafting. I can’t really take any of the ideal sleep schedule kind of research that seriously because I don’t do the first part of any good sleep schedule, getting enough sleep every night. I know that I feel better on days when classes start at 10:30 instead of 8:30, but that’s in part because I got 2 more hours of sleep.

Mark Ivachtchenko said...

Like many others have stated, this isn't new info and serves as a restatement. I know some schools are taking the initiative to get rid of earlier classes but it's going to be a lengthy process. In college it's especially great because you can choose your own classes but lots of the morning classes are never taken or struggle to fill up because nobody wants to take a class that early. I've seen this first hand and some days it's even hard for me to wake up for morning classes that I really enjoy. Besides this, 10 am is roughly the time when humans become most efficient in the day and it would make so much more sense for classes to be pushed further back. Although drafting is a really good way to wake you up, it's really frustrating in the morning at 8:30 am and honestly, I usually spend the first half hour trying to wake myself up anyway so I can do basic math and mark out basic measurements. I think a good change in the freshman curriculum would be to either push back drafting or to replace it with a less demanding course. In terms of the university in general, they should shuffle classes around to meet the demands of sleepy students.