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New research from Berkeley says that students’ grades are suffering because of class times. More specifically, this study “3.4 million real-world learning management system logins reveal the majority of students experience social jet lag correlated with decreased performance” found that a student’s success in school relies heavily on how their class schedule matches up with their natural biological clock. For example, “night owls” perform better in afternoon classes than they do in early morning classes.

To reach these findings, the researchers looked at data from personal daily online activity profiles of 15,000 college students. They analyzed these students’ habits and then categorized them as “night owls,” “daytime finches,” and “morning larks.” The next step was to look at and compare their class times to their academic successes. Ultimately, this led them to discovering that students whose circadian rhythms didn’t match up with their class schedules received lower grades thanks to a condition called social jet lag.

People who suffer from social jet lag experience difficulties at work, school, or in other demanding areas, because their peak alertness falls outside of that scheduled time. Benjamin Smarr, the study’s co-lead author and postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley, explains how this appears to affect the students of their study: “We found that the majority of students were being jetlagged by their class times, which correlated very strongly with decreased academic performance.”

While social jet lag can have several harmful effects on its sufferers—such as an increased risk for obesity and excessive alcohol or tobacco use—there is a way to combat its impact on learning, according to the study’s co-lead author Aaron Schirmer: “Our research indicates that if a student can structure a consistent schedule in which class days resemble non-class days, they are more likely to achieve academic success.”

It’s especially important that night owls follow the researchers’ advice and model their non-class days after their class days, as they appear to be the most vulnerable victims to social jet lag. This comes as no surprise, considering night owls are known to stay up later and classes are typically held earlier. “This mismatch hits owls the hardest,” Smarr says, “but we see larks and finches taking later classes and also suffering from the mismatch.” These findings prove that different students benefit from learning at different times of the day. And there is no “one-time-fits-all solution for education,” as Smarr puts it.

Sources:
UC Berkeley (2018, March 30). Poor Grades Tied to Class Times that Don’t Match Our Biological Clocks. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved March 30, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/grades-circadian-clock-8711/

Smarr, B. L., & Schirmer, A. E. (2018, March 29). 3.4 million real-world learning management system logins reveal the majority of students experience social jet lag correlated with decreased performance. Retrieved March 30, 2018 from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-23044-8

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