A new Rutgers University study finds students who used phones, tablets or other devices for non-academic purposes during classroom lectures performed worse on end-of-term exams.
Lead researcher Arnold Glass, a professor of psychology at Rutgers, worked with graduate student Mengxue Kang to test whether allowing students to divide their attention between electronic devices and the lecturer affected performance on tests taken during class as well as the end-of-term exam.
The study found that students who did not use electronic devices in class but attended lectures where their use was permitted also performed worse.
The experiment, conducted over one term, included 118 cognitive psychology students at Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus. Laptops, phones and tablets were banned during half of the lectures and permitted during the other half. When devices were allowed, students were asked to record whether they had used them for non-academic purposes during the lectures.
The study found having a device did not lower students’ scores in comprehension tests within lectures but did lower scores in the end-of-term exam by at least 5 percent.