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2016 Podcast: 2-Minute Teaching: Research

Boredom Negatively Impacts Learning:
The Role of Control and Value


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Podcast Text: Boredom is generally an unpleasant emotion, composed of a lack of stimulation and physiological arousal. Unfortunately, boredom is often associated with the academic setting of attending class and studying. That said, while academic boredom may be present in higher education, do we care?

Researchers from the Universities of Munich, Konstanz, Alberta, and Manitoba, as well as Laval University, completed five studies examining academic boredom. Across the first four studies, undergraduate students reported that boredom, when attending class or studying, was deemed a low intensity emotion that was experienced quite frequently. In addition, students reported that they became bored when they perceived a particular task as having little or no value to them, or when a task was perceived as being too difficult or too easy for them to complete successfully. In addition, students reported that boredom resulted in decreased attention to the task, motivation to perform the task, and application of effort. In the fifth study, the authors, using structural equation modeling, determined that bored students performed academically more poorly.

As stated by the authors, “the evidence in our studies suggests that boredom typically impairs attention, motivation, behavioral strategies, and performance in achievement settings. The pervasiveness of the boredom experienced by many students, coupled with its deleterious effects, clearly implies that educators, administrators, and policy makers responsible for the design of academic settings should pay more attention to this emotion.”

The authors recommend that faculty members, in order to reduce boredom and its potential negative effects, “focus on increasing the perceived value of activities in achievement settings,” and attempt to better align the difficulty of academic tasks with students’ abilities. This study was published in Journal of Educational Psychology in 2010.

When students are academically bored their attention, motivation, and effort suffer, resulting in decreased academic performance.

Reference(s): Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., Daniels, L., Stupnisky, R., & Perry, R. (2010). Boredom in Achievement Settings: Exploring Control-Value Antecedents and Performance Outcomes of a Neglected Emotion. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(3), 531-549.       (download)

Bibliography: Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Beyond boredom and anxiety. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Farmer, R., & Sundberg, N. D. (1986). Boredom proneness—The development and correlates of a new scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 50, 4–17.

Hamilton, J. A., Haier, R. J., & Buchsbaum, M. S. (1984). Intrinsic enjoyment and boredom coping scales: Validation with personality, evoked potential, and attention measures. Personality and Individual Differences, 5, 183–193.

Harris, M. B. (2000). Correlates and characteristics of boredom proneness and boredom. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30, 576–598.

Maroldo, G. K. (1986). Shyness, boredom, and grade point average among college students. Psychological Reports, 59, 395–398.

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