Heather Altz by IJbF45


									           Heather Altz
         Inquiry Project:
Effectiveness of Study Hall Time
           Spring 2006
                 Effectiveness of Study Hall Time in the Middle Grades

       The hall bustled with activity. Students pushed each other back and forth

impatiently attempting to squeeze in to access their lockers. “These students are in for a

rude awakening next year in seventh grade,” sighed one colleague while standing in the

hall waiting for her students to gather there homework for study hall. “You would think

by March they would have this down to a science.”

       I student taught in a sixth grade classroom for my Field Experience II. Sixth

grade is a very important transitional year. Teachers begin to encourage their students to

take on an increased level of responsibility in their education and well as their behavior.

Teachers attempt to prepare the students for the challenges they will undoubtedly face in

seventh and eighth grade and later in high school. This task proves to be a difficult one

for many of the students who are used to being babied and treated as elementary students.

One of the main tools given to the sixth graders to help them on the road to the higher

grades is the study hall period. The main question I wanted to explore while fulfilling my

student teaching was whether or not students were using this time effectively.

       I have noticed that students did not seem to be taking full advantage of the study

hall time they were given three days a week. Upon learning that this time would be taken

away from them in the next academic year, I became curious about the implications this

would have on students’ study habits. Study hall or “Flex,” as it is called in this

particular environment is attended to by staff and students three days a week during the

last period of the day. The other two days of the week the students have a foreign

language class. Beginning in seventh grade, students will have foreign languages all five

days replacing the “Flex” time.
       During study hall, the students enter into their homeroom class fresh from their

cycle classes (gym, health, art, drama, technology, etc.). They are to sit in their seats as

one student lists the homework for each of the subjects (language arts, social studies,

math, science and reading) on the front white board. The instructor would then address

the class as a whole to look at the board and inform him/her whether anything was

incorrect or left out. When all of the assignments are listed on the board, the students are

let out of the room to visit their lockers and get anything they will need to work on during

this forty minute period. The students get what they need and come back into the

classroom where ideally they are permitted to sit wherever they choose by themselves,

with a partner or a small group. They are to do their work and do so very quietly,

whispering to partners when communication is necessary. If they need to use a computer

(for homework purposes only), there are six in each classroom that they may use. Should

they have a question about an assignment, they may ask permission to go visit other sixth

grade teachers to have their assignments clarified. Many teachers use this time to catch

up with students who have been absent or are in need of extra help with a concept.

Students are told to report to such and such a location in order to make up a quiz or get

notes that they missed.

       Many of the staff agrees that this time period could be of great use to their

students if they would only take advantage of it in the manner it was intended. However,

I have observed this time period to be just as much of a social hour as it is a study hall.

Students often need to be prodded to take something out to work on or to lower the

volume of their voices so the students actually utilizing their time to complete homework

assignments will not be distracted. Often I will advise a student who is having difficulty
understanding a concept to “come see me during Flex.” The students follow through

only about half of the time, and usually solely when they have something they need to

make up. Many students ask for permission to use the bathroom or go to the library in

order to get a little yellow pass which will allow them five minutes of roaming around the

halls and fooling around with others doing the same.

II. Literature Review:

       There is not a large wealth of information circulating about the effectiveness of

having time allotted for study halls during the normal school day. This is especially true

of the middle school level. However, there has been extensive coverage of the issue of

time management and study skills. I was also able to come across some information

regarding the effectiveness of giving students homework.

       During the early middle school years, time management is the most important of

the study skills. It has been shown that many students could retain more information and

earn better grades if they managed time more successfully (Glenn, 2003). After

observing the way in which my sixth graders used their “flex” time, I began to postulate

whether a study skills/time management class would be a better alternative to study hall.

According to the results of a study based on the study habits of college students, students

need to be helped to realize the importance of managing their time and approaches to

studying. When asked, students claimed to realize that they should begin projects earlier

and manage their time more efficiently; however, they claimed to have a lack of

knowledge of how to do so (Falchikov, Thomson, 1998). “We need to be able to offer

them strategies to help them to do this. Many universities are beginning to build in
generic skills training which may help with this (Falchikov, Thomson, 1998).” It is my

thought that such skills would have been useful in the early stages of students’ academic

careers as well.

       These skills would definitely come in handy for the transition to seventh grade.

According to the article, “Study Skills to Help Kids Use Time Wisely,” there are over a

dozen important fundamentals of time management that teachers should impart upon

their students. They are as follows: set objectives and priorities, think before you begin,

avoid procrastination, estimate how long a task will take, focus on one objective at a

time, reduce distractions, find a good location and the materials necessary to complete

task, make time lines for longer projects, divvy up large tasks, start early, use a daily

planner, start with the tough items, and take advantage of small amounts of time usually

wasted (Glenn, 2003). When reading these tips, I had to laugh at some of the anecdotes

that came to mind.

       Some might argue that it is not the time management or study skill piece that is

the problem. These persons might believe that students are given too much unnecessary

homework. If homework was eliminated or decreased, students would not need a study

hall period. When I was a student, I did not understand the concept of homework. In

most cases, it felt like a waste of my time. Asides from continued work on long term

projects, studying for tests and quizzes and perhaps practicing the day’s math concept, I

am still uncertain as to whether or not the homework I completed was necessary.

According to studies on the immediate effects homework has on student learning, it

fosters a deeper understanding of concepts covered in the classroom and aids ability of

students to think critically (Harycki, McBeth, 2003). Some long-term non-directly
academic benefits can also be attributed to the completion of homework, such as,

improved time management skills, self-direction, self-discipline and independent problem

solving. Also, the giving of homework gives parents the opportunity to see how their

child is doing and become involved in their learning. Studies show that middle school

students who received homework earned scores 35% greater overall opposed to those

who did not have homework (Harycki, McBeth, 2003).

       I can see the parent involvement piece in particular being the weak point in this

argument. Many of our students do not come from an environment where parents have

the time, ability or desire to help their children with homework. This is why, as

educators, we need to be cognizant of the amount of work we are assigning our students

to take home with them. The more time students spend on homework, the better there

scores. However, it does not benefit students to have too much homework. Harycki and

McBeth find that a maximum of two hours is suitable.

       One of the biggest stress points of homework for parents and students alike is that

teachers are most often inaccessible during the homework completion hours. Parents

express their concerns about a lack of ability to assist their children with homework or

answer questions (Harycki, McBeth, 2003). One would think that providing students

with a designated time to do homework receive assistance, as well as, the opportunity to

have their questions answered by highly qualified teaching professionals would prove to

be invaluable. In a survey completed by 26 principals from middle schools in Wisconsin,

80% reported that their schools have some type of study hall on a daily basis. Only 10 of

the 26 principals (38%) said that they believed students to be utilizing these study halls

efficiently. Most indicate that the study halls are effective only for the motivated
students (Harycki, McBeth, 2003). According to the survey these researchers conducted,

comments received from principals reflected strongly negative opinions on the subject of

study halls. For example they stated that study halls “nothing more than holding pens

and discipline disasters, a waste of the educational time” or that they are “inappropriate

for this (middle school) age group” (Harycki, McBeth, 2003).

III. Methods:

       In order to gather some additional information to work with when considering my

question, I decided to both interview some of the teachers in the school as well as create a

survey to administer to some of the sixth graders. I first began by informally talking with

my cooperating teacher and others when meeting as a team. As a new addition to the

school community, I wanted to know the purposes of the study hall and how various

teachers ran the period. I became very interested in the differences between staff and

student perceptions of the time’s usefulness and received mixed reactions.

       The interviews with the sixth grade teachers were more along the lines of

informal conversation. I explained to them what I was doing and they were more than

happy to talk to me on the issue. In order to gather information from the students, I

printed up 100 surveys as I am aware of my own mathematical inferiority and wanted to

make things easy on myself. There are 96 students on my 6th grade team that come into

my classroom on a daily basis. I was able to administer the survey to them in the last

couple minutes of class on a given day. With the remaining surveys, I asked a few of the

students from the other sixth grade team if they would not mind helping me out and

filling out a survey. As there are a few of these students that enjoy coming up to me in
the hall to chat every day, this was not very difficult. Please see attached Appendix A,

the sample survey given to the students, for an idea of the types of questions they were


IV. Findings:

         I found that most of the teachers I spoke with believed the study hall time was in

the students’ best interests. However, all of them thought that at least some of their

students could be using this time more efficiently. There are a total of eight homeroom

teachers on the sixth grade team. We had team meetings every other day prior to study

hall. My colleagues would whine and utter phrases similar to “I don’t want to go,” “isn’t

the day over yet,” and “why can’t they have foreign language every day.” Whether or not

they found the time to be valuable, they disliked it enough to frequently mention their

discontent with having to watch over it.

         While I had talked to all of these teachers informally about study hall, I asked the

most questions of the four teachers on my half of the team. When asked whether she

liked or disliked the study hall time, one teacher reported this last period of the day, as

“the absolute worst part of the day.” Another stated that he did not necessarily mind

study hall, however, he said “the students who need this time the most are the ones that

refuse to use it to their advantage.” He followed by giving me an example of one student

saying, “I constantly prod, tell him to take something out, but he’s not going to use the

time until he realizes getting work done in here is more important than the social piece.

You can’t force him to buy into it.” This particular then began to talk about his students’

lack of organizational skills and how this being the case was detrimental to them. It was
here that I began to think about how a study hall at this age would be better utilized if

there were some occasional study habit/skills or time management technique instruction.

       According to the results of my student survey, 72 of the 100 students surveyed or

72% of students believe they are using the allotted study hall time to their advantage.

This figure could be large for a number of reasons. Students may believe that they are

using the time efficiently regardless of whether they complete their homework; students

may have answered in this manner to please me; or it is possible that they were under the

impression that my study would have some bearing on their access to this “Flex” period.

In my own observations, I do not believe that 72% of the students are using time

efficiently. However, only 6% of the students surveyed reported that they use flex to

complete homework assignments. Most students (95%) indicate that they see a teacher to

ask a question or catch up on missed assignments at least once a week. On a given day in

flex it would seem that half of the class is out at any given time on what I call an

academic errand (visiting another teacher for some reason or in the library).     Only 5% of

the students surveyed claim to never use study hall time to visit one of their teachers for

help. In a given week, 37% of students report having to be told to quiet down, stop doing

something they should not be doing or reminded to get to work at least once. In a given

week, 64% of students surveyed report that they have asked to use the bathroom facilities

or get a drink from the water fountain at least once, while 14% of students report doing so

on a daily basis. Despite the figure of 95% of students claiming to go on academic

errands, 22% of the students surveyed said that they do ask to leave the room when they

do not actually have to use the facilities or visit a teacher at least once a week. Eight
students surveyed, or 8% admittedly do so two or three times a week. Please see the

attached sample survey. I have included the percentages.

       I visited multiple study hall rooms and found all but one to showcase the same

student behavior. I found that when students were given “silent” study hall due to

misbehavior or inappropriate noise levels they got much more accomplished.

V. Conclusions and Implications:

       After observing the sixth grade students in action, researching and looking at the

results of the surveys, I do not believe the study hall time is being used effectively by all

of the students despite the figures gathered via the survey that suggest that about ¾ of

students believe they are using time efficiently. Through my observations of multiple

study hall classrooms only some students do use their “Flex” time efficiently, but are

more than likely the students who are intrinsically motivated to succeed. I hear the

teachers, on a daily basis, comment that their students are not prepared to enter into the

seventh grade due to underdeveloped maturity and organizational skills. While I do not

find students to be taking advantage of study hall in general, I do not believe this time to

be a waste. If some small changes were made to the way in which this period was

operated, I think it would be useful to more students.

       If I were to follow up on this study in an actual classroom setting, I would attempt

to implement some study skills instruction into the allotted study hall time. For example,

in a given 40 minute study hall period, 20 minutes might be a lesson featuring a method

of note taking or a mandatory time to go through folders and notebooks and organize

them. I think that having mini-lessons on certain study skills in the beginning of this time
period will settle students down and into the frame of mind that this period will be one in

which they will be working, not socializing. Also, the lessons will benefit even the most

motivated student as they begin to move onto seventh grade. Organizational skills seem

to be a big problem across the board for these students.
                                      Works Cited

Falchikov, Nancy and Thomson, Karen (1998). "Full on until the sun comes out": the

       effects of assessment on student approaches to studying. Assessment &

       Evaluation in Higher Education. 23 (4), 389.

Glenn, Robert E. (2003). Study skills to help kids use time wisely. Teaching for

       Excellence. 23, 51-53.

Harycki, Dave Braun y and McBeth, William (2003). Do students need study halls?

       Retrieved 3, 2006, from Richland.html Web site:

                         Appendix A – Student Survey Questions

1. Do you believe you are using “Flex” time appropriately?

       Yes     72%            No      28%

2. How often do you use “Flex” to complete your homework assignments?

       Never            Once a week         More than once a week       Daily

       4%               51%                 39%                         6%

3. How often do you see another teacher during “Flex” to ask a question or make up

something you have missed?

       Never            Once a week         More than once a week       Daily

       5%               51%                 36%                         8%

4. During “Flex,” how many times a week does someone have to tell you to quiet down,

stop doing something you should not be doing or to get to work?

               0              1             2                3

               63%            19%           14%              4%

5. During “Flex,” how many times a week do you ask to use the bathroom or get a drink

of water?

               0              1             2                3

               36%            22%           28%              14%

6. During “Flex,” how many times a week do you ask to leave the room when you do not

really have to leave?

               0              1             2                3

               78%            14%           6%               2%

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