Multi-tasking during class: Not worth it

One day last year, I sat at the back of the room while a guest speaker gave a lecture in my undergraduate course. Some students were listening attentively, while others were doing all manner of other things on their laptops. One even appeared to be studying for an exam in another course. In the digital age, this type of classroom activity comes as no surprise – and many of the faculty I know have resigned themselves to this inevitability. Death, Taxes, and Students Surfing the Web While in Class.

Given this widespread practice, perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that my colleagues and I have been noticing more and more graduate students working away on something unrelated while sitting in a seminar. But in fact it is surprising, since grad students are generally motivated to make a good impression on faculty – and since it’s fairly obvious in a seminar when a student is disengaged.

In a prior blog post, I contemplated whether multi-tasking is ever a good idea. In this case, the answer is clearly no.




About Silvia Bunge

I'm a tenured faculty member, and the head graduate advisor in my department.
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