ArticlePDF Available


In the current climate of curriculum reform, the traditional lecture has come under fire for its perceived lack of effectiveness. Indeed, several institutions have reduced their lectures to 15 min in length based upon the “common knowledge” and “consensus” that there is a decline in students’ attention 10–15 min into lectures. A review of the literature on this topic reveals many discussions referring to prior studies but scant few primary investigations. Alarmingly, the most often cited source for a rapid decline in student attention during a lecture barely discusses student attention at all. Of the studies that do attempt to measure attention, many suffer from methodological flaws and subjectivity in data collection. Thus, the available primary data do not support the concept of a 10- to 15-min attention limit. Interestingly, the most consistent finding from a literature review is that the greatest variability in student attention arises from differences between teachers and not from the teaching format itself. Certainly, even the most interesting material can be presented in a dull and dry fashion, and it is the job of the instructor to enhance their teaching skills to provide not only rich content but also a satisfying lecture experience for the students.
A Personal View
Attention span during lectures: 8 seconds, 10 minutes, or more?
Neil A. Bradbury
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Chicago Medical School, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science,
North Chicago, Illinois
Submitted 12 July 2016; accepted in final form 19 October 2016
Bradbury NA. Attention span during lectures: 8 seconds, 10
minutes, or more? Adv Physiol Educ 40: 509 –513, 2016; doi:10.1152/
advan.00109.2016.—In the current climate of curriculum reform, the
traditional lecture has come under fire for its perceived lack of
effectiveness. Indeed, several institutions have reduced their lectures
to 15 min in length based upon the “common knowledge” and
“consensus” that there is a decline in students’ attention 10 –15 min
into lectures. A review of the literature on this topic reveals many
discussions referring to prior studies but scant few primary investi-
gations. Alarmingly, the most often cited source for a rapid decline in
student attention during a lecture barely discusses student attention at
all. Of the studies that do attempt to measure attention, many suffer
from methodological flaws and subjectivity in data collection. Thus,
the available primary data do not support the concept of a 10- to
15-min attention limit. Interestingly, the most consistent finding from
a literature review is that the greatest variability in student attention
arises from differences between teachers and not from the teaching
format itself. Certainly, even the most interesting material can be
presented in a dull and dry fashion, and it is the job of the instructor
to enhance their teaching skills to provide not only rich content but
also a satisfying lecture experience for the students.
lecture; attention; note taking; clickers
TED and the Goldfish
THE ENORMOUSLY POPULAR TED talks are a series of talks in
which speakers present their ideas on a wide range of topics
from technology to biomedical research to culture. One key
stipulation given to all speakers is that they have a maximum
of 18 min to present their material. The rule dictating 18 min
is based on the notion that 18 min is long enough to have a
“serious” presentation but short enough to hold a person’s
attention. With the broad spectrum of physiology teaching
from undergraduate courses to health professional and graduate
level courses, should a “TED” approach be widely imple-
mented in physiology curricula? Since the founding of Western
universities in the middle of the 11th century, the lecture has
been the traditional means of passing on knowledge. Indeed,
the 50-min lecture still holds sway at many institutions. De-
spite nearly a millennium of usage, the established lecture
format has come under more and more scrutiny. It is criticized
as being too long to hold a student’s attention based on several
authors’ claims that a student’s attention span declines precip-
itously after 10 –15 min. Such observations would support the
TED approach of an 18-min limitation. If, as is contended, a
student can mentally focus only in 15-min increments, it would
seem not only unreasonable but also grossly inefficient to
subject students to a 50-min lecture. Thus many authors would
make the case that a lecture session should last no more than
10 –15 min to accommodate the biological set point of a
student’s attention span. In 2015, a study commissioned by
Microsoft and discussed in Time magazine found that the
average attention span was in fact only 8 s. If indeed this is the
case, then even participating in a 15-min lecture would be
positively heroic. To place this in perspective, it was reported
in the same Time article, that goldfish, of the piscine rather than
snack variety, have an attention span of 9 s, one whole second
greater than humans! It is perhaps rather premature to opt for
an 8-s lecture format, as there are many caveats to the Time
article, not the least of which is that no one knows how to
actually measure a goldfish’s attention span. What has been
measured is goldfish memory, which, according to researchers
in the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, is
actually quite good (7). Similarly the 8-s attention span for
humans actually reflects the average time a person will spend
on a web page before looking somewhere else. So thankfully,
we can dispense with the 8-s lecture limit, but we are still left
with the idea that a physiology curriculum should only enter-
tain the concept of a 15-min attention span. However, despite
the perceived and agreed upon wisdom of this time point, are
there actually any data that would support such a thesis?
Genesis of the 10-Min Attention Span
The academic literature is replete with articles and books
supporting and propagating the conclusion that lectures should
adhere to the 10- to 15-min attention span that is characteristic
of modern students. In the book Tools for Teaching, Davis (5)
states that “...student attention during lectures tends to wane
after approximately 10 –15 minutes.” Similarly, Wankat (20)
argues that “Although student attention is high at the start of a
lecture, it has reached a low point after 10 –15 minutes.” In
essays honoring the psychologist Wilbert J. McKeachie, Ben-
jamin (1) asserts that “When the lecture begins, most students
are paying attention, and for most students that attention lasts
for about 10 minutes.” Indeed, McKeachie (13), in Teaching
Tips (8th Ed.), has maintained that “Attention typically in-
creases from the beginning of the lecture to 10 minutes into the
lecture and decreases after that point,” a sentiment still echoed
by this author more than 20 yr later in the 14th edition of the
book (19). Several points are noteworthy regarding these
publications. First, all of them agree on a quantitatively precise
10 –15 min time course for a variable (attention) that is nebu-
lous and never quantitatively defined. Second, evidentiary
discussion for such a precise time span is negligible. Third, all
of the above reports do not provide any primary data on
attention but are content to all cite the same single initial report
as the basis for the 10- to 15-min attention span assertion. For
example, McKeachie (13) states that “Hartley and Davies’
Address for reprint request and other correspondence: N. A. Bradbury, Dept.
of Physiology and Biophysics, Member Master Teacher Guild, Chicago
Medical School, 3333 Green Bay Rd., North Chicago, IL 60064 (e-mail:
Adv Physiol Educ 40: 509–513, 2016;
5091043-4046/16 Copyright © 2016 The American Physiological Society
by on December 24, 2016 from
review of research on attention of students during lecture
reports that attention typically increases from the beginning of
the lecture to 10 minutes into the lecture and decreases after
that point.” Thus, the propagated concept of a 10- to 15-min
attention span ultimately appears to rely on a single key
manuscript published in 1978 (10) describing the waning of
attention during a lecture.
Note Taking
If all of the citations for a 10- to 15-min attention span
originate with a 1978 article by Hartley and Davies (10), then
a thorough examination of this article is clearly warranted.
What is remarkable regarding this publication is that attention
span is not actually the subject of the article; rather, the subject
of the manuscript is in fact “note taking.” This article itself is
also not a primary data source, but it reviews the literature up
to that point regarding the taking of notes in class by students.
Although this publication concerns note taking and not atten-
tion span, perhaps note taking is a reasonable surrogate marker
for attention. Indeed, the review by Hartley and Davies (10)
contends that the amount of notes taken declines over the
course of a lecture, consistent with “attention” decline after the
first 10 –15 min of a lecture. Certainly, a review of prior
literature, even work by Hartley and Cameron (9) and Maddox
and Hoole (12), argued for a connection between a 10-min time
point and a decline in note taking. Unfortunately the decline in
note taking was observed during the last 10 min of the lecture
and not the first (9, 12). Moreover, the decline in note taking at
the end the lecture was not caused by a lack of attention or
mental exhaustion on the part of the student but rather reflected
a drop in lecture content during the waning few minutes of the
presentation (12). In fact, the rate of note taking appears to be
relatively constant throughout the course of a lecture, and
changes in note taking appear to reflect whether the lecturer is
making key points rather than student fatigue. However, the
question still remains: is note taking a good surrogate for
attention? The answer appears to be no. Hartley and Davies
(10) concede that there is a waxing and waning in attention
span during a lecture but that measuring note taking was not an
indicator of attention. Indeed, citing the author’s own work (9)
and that of Maddox and Hoole (12), Hartley points out that
note taking is not necessarily indicative of attention at all. So,
note taking is not a good proxy for attention whatsoever, and
even if it were, it does not support a 10- to 15-min limit on
student engagement.
Personal Assessment
As discussed above, observations of students note taking has
been imputed as a surrogate for student attention. Yet as we
have seen, this is unreliable and not even supported by authors
who were studying note taking. If note taking is not a useful
metric, then what other approaches can be used to study
student attention spans? A study by Stuart and Rutherford (18)
attempted to discern attention of British medical students by
asking the students themselves what their attention level was
during a lecture. Every 5 min during a lecture, a buzzer would
go off and the students would record their own perceived
attention level ona1to9scale. The results showed that
attention rose rapidly during the first 10 –20 min and then
slowly and steadily declined until the end of the 50-min
lecture. Attention span did decline after 20 min, but the decline
was slow and never went below the initial attention level
observed in the first few minutes of the lecture. Interestingly,
although the attention level at the beginning of a lecture was
not different between second- and fifth-year medical students,
the attention level observed at the end of the lecture was
significantly greater for fifth-year students compared with sec-
ond-year students. Had senior medical students somehow
learned to pay more attention in class? Were senior students
acquiring new skills and techniques to enable them to be alert
for longer periods of time than their junior colleagues? In
reality, a review of the data shows that the entire difference
between second- and fifth-year students was all due to the fact
that one class for fifth-year students was taught by an experi-
enced lecturer who did not present to second-year students.
Thus, differences in attention appeared to be related to indi-
vidual lecturers’ teaching styles and not related to the student’s
individual abilities to remain attentive. A finding like this
should be axiomatic. We have all experienced lectures where
the lecture has been so awful and jejune that 10 min of lecture
has been 10 min too long, yet for other lecturers 1 h seems
wholly inadequate.
Direct Observation
Johnstone and Percival (11) attempted to evaluate attention
span not by utilizing the student’s own evaluations but by
employing two outside observers, whose job it was to watch
the class and record the times of perceived attention drift. Out
of 90 lectures given, the lectures “...were attended by at least
one of us observers,” state the authors. Although gratifying that
at least one of the authors usually turned up to observe the
class, in fact observation by both authors occurred only 13% of
the time, with 87% of all subjective data collected by a single
observer. Johnstone and Percival (11) reported that attention
dropped during the first 5 min of class, with another attention
lapse 10 –18 min into the class, a finding seemingly consistent
with prior observations. However, there are several problems
with the methodology that raise concerns about the validity of
the findings. Although it is stated that when both authors
observed the same lecture they were in agreement as to when
attention lapses occurred, there was no definition as to what
was an attention lapse. A person looking away from the teacher
may be reflecting on the material and integrating it with prior
work. A student fixedly staring at the teacher may be thinking
about last night’s dinner.
Clickers and Attention
Recently, Bunce et al. (4), attempted to address the question
of student attention using “clickers.” Nonchemistry majors
taking chemistry classes were asked to self-report using three
possibilities: with students asked to press button no. 1 for
attention lapses of 1 min, pressing button no. 2 for attention
lapses of 2–3 min duration, or pressing button no. 3 for
attention lapses 5 min. The authors noted that students did
not engage in consistent levels of attention but rather went
between phases of attention and inattention throughout the
entire lecture. Interestingly the examples the authors give for
attention lapses argue not for deficits in attention but rather for
attention directed toward things other than the lecture. As
examples of the kinds of things that were classified as attention
A Personal View
Advances in Physiology Education doi:10.1152/advan.00109.2016
by on December 24, 2016 from
lapses, the authors reported that button no. 1 was pressed by
students glancing at and paying attention to the clock, button
no. 2 was pressed by students paying attention to and respond-
ing to text messages, and button no. 3 was pressed by students
paying attention to homework from another class. All of these
so-called attention lapses are extrinsic to whether a student is
losing attention in the present lecture due to mental fatigue.
Recall and Retention
One of the arguments in favor of a 10- to 15-min lecture is
that material covered in the lecture is not retained during
lectures lasting 15 min. Data in support of this contention
were presented by Johnstone and Percival (11), who attempted
to test knowledge of material covered during an apparent
“attention lapse” during subsequent tests. The authors report
that students performed poorly on recall of material covered
during an “attention lapse,” a finding that was “....statistically
highly significant.” Yet what statistical analyses were per-
formed, what method of data collection was utilized, and what
the criterion for significance was were not elaborated upon in
the article. McLeish’s report (15) of the work by Trenaman
argued that there was an inverse relationship between the
length of the lecture and the retention of the material covered
in that lecture. In these studies, students listened to a recorded
lecture (what would now be called a podcast) and were eval-
uated immediately following the lecture on their retention of
the material. Trenaman found that students listening to only 15
min of lecture had immediate retention of almost 41% of the
material compared with students listening to 40 min of mate-
rial, who only retained 20% of the material. Although this
study might seem to highlight the concept of diminishing
returns, there are several flaws in the analysis that preclude any
hard interpretation of the data. Clearly, more material is cov-
ered in a 40-min session compared with a 15-min session, so it
is not surprising that retention percentage is reduced, and this
can be fully accounted for by the number of testable items
covered in the two sessions. Even if the outcome from this
study does define an inverse relation between lecture length
and material retention immediately following the lecture, is
this in any way a meaningful analysis? No physiology course
director would expect students to immediately take examina-
tions on the material just covered in a lecture. No one can
imagine that immediate testing following exposure to material
would in any way be a reasonable assessment of learning and
comprehension. Indeed, to do so would likely incite a minor
revolt, or at least a robust complaint to the Dean. Attempts to
replicate Trenaman’s data have not been satisfactory. McLeish
(15), utilizing a live lecture format, rather than Trenaman’s
recorded format, found that there was no difference nor decline
in retention rates of material between live lectures of 25, 40, or
50 min. It is ironic that in today’s student preference for
listening to recorded rather than live lectures, the most parsi-
monious solution to the difference between Trenaman and
McLeish’s studies would argue that recorded material is infe-
rior to live lecture in content retention.
This article started by looking at note taking and has mean-
dered to material retention. Therefore, it would seem fitting, to
ask whether there is a correlation between note taking and
content recall. Fortunately, such an analysis was performed by
Scerbo et al. (16) in 1992. Consistent with previous reports,
there was an observed decline in note taking during the length
of a lecture. However, the decline in note taking had no impact
on the retention of covered material during subsequent evalu-
ation. That is not to say that note taking is not an important
skill for students to acquire, but as would be expected, it is the
quality of the notes being taken, not their quantity, that is
important. One critical point made by Scerbo et al. (16), which
should be taken into account by teachers, is that written cues
are recorded more frequently and better retained than state-
ments preceeded by spoken cues. Whether using chalk boards
or PowerPoint, the conclusion is clear, that key points should
always be highlighted in writing as well as spoken.
Objective Assessment of Attention Span
As discussed, the concept of attention is somewhat nebulous
and the working description for student attention ill-defined.
Given the subjective nature of many publications on attention
assessment, there appears to be clear need for an objective
determination of student attention, but what physiological
variables are amenable to easy and minimally invasive data
collection? At least two factors can be associated with atten-
tion: arousal and motivation. Arousal refers to a general level
of activity and a measure of nonspecific stimulation of a
student’s cerebral cortex. Heart rate is one indication of arousal
that is fairly easy to collect. Bligh (2) monitored 16 students’
heart rates every 5 s during a lecture using a pulsemeter. Heart
rates steadily declined by ~14% from the start to end of the
lecture, with a modest rise toward the end of the lecture.
Initially, such data would seem to confirm the notion of a
steady decline in attention during a lecture. However, Bligh (2)
found the same decline in heart rate when the teaching format
was a discussion class, and not a lecture. If heart rate is indeed
a relevant measure of attention, these studies would imply that
a drop in attention during so-called passive learning sessions,
such as a lecture, is no worse than the drop in attention during
active learning sessions, such as group discussions. In addition,
Bligh (2) was unable to find any overall correlation between
declining heart rate and retention of covered material. What
little correlation did exist showed that student retention of
material (as measured by immediate testing) was highest dur-
ing the last 20 min of the lecture, when arousal (at least as
determined by heart rates) was supposedly at its lowest. The
observation that material covered during the latter half of a
lecture is more readily retained is a finding previously noted by
Giles et al. (8). In a study of medical student retention, Giles et
al. (8) found that information presented between the 15- and
30-min time segments was recalled best, whereas material
presented during the first 15 min had the worst retention.
Interestingly, the seating position of the student in the lecture
hall had as much impact on material retention as the placement
of material within the lecture. Students sitting at the front,
middle, and back of the lecture hall scored 80, 71.6, and 68.1%,
respectively, on tests given immediately following the lecture.
However, these findings likely reflect motivational factors
(another component of attention) that determine where a stu-
dent sits, rather than the seating position by itself.
Factors Affecting Attention during Lectures
In the book What’s the Use of Lectures?, Bligh (2) outlines
several factors affecting attention. The author argues that there
A Personal View
Advances in Physiology Education doi:10.1152/advan.00109.2016
by on December 24, 2016 from
is no reason that lectures should be “solo performances,” with
paired faculty dialogues or group presentations being equally
valid. As part of the physiology curriculum in gastrointestinal
physiology at our medical school, one section is devoted to
pathophysiology. This section is taught in clinical vignettes by
four faculty all in attendance during the lecture session, each
presenting a clinical case in rotation. This seems to be appre-
ciated by the students and also serves as role modeling for how
faculty interacts with each other in a professional manner.
Similarly, there is no reason why students attending a lecture
cannot be part of the lecture. This is probably best exemplified
by the use of “clickers” that allow the students to answer
questions posed by the teacher. This can give a lecturer
immediate feedback on how well the students are comprehend-
ing the material. Of course, such two-way dialogue does not
have to rely on electronic devices but can be achieved by
verbal responses from the students. Stimulation can also come
from auditory and visual cues. One eminently useful aspect of
the internet is access to incredible graphics and videos. Teach-
ers are no longer consigned to devising their own crayon or
pencil drawings of tissues or organs but can avail themselves of
great images (subject to appropriate copyright usage) to illus-
trate dynamic physiological processes. Despite it being an old
adage, it is nonetheless still true that a picture is worth a
thousand words. Students quickly pick up on the idea that if
faculty are unwilling to take the time to provide the best
possible graphics for their lectures, then students are unwilling
to devote attention and time to that lecture; and who can blame
them? Attention by students can also be seriously hampered by
teachers merely reading long tracts of projected text. To the
extent that lectures are a performance in front of an audience,
teachers should actively take measures to alter rates of speech,
cadence, and style. In this regard, watching videos of motiva-
tional speakers can be very illustrative. Equally if not more
illuminating is watching videos of one’s own lectures. This
allows a teacher to see the lecture from a student’s viewpoint
and can be a great guide for improvements. Although all of the
above aspects of attention and how teachers can impact that
attention are discussed by Bligh (2), it is curious that Bligh (2)
omits mentioning student motivation as a critical aspect of
Has the Sun Set on the Day of the Lecture?
Many arguments have been raised against the utility of the
lecture format, although many seem to be straw men, rather
than reasoning based on findings. Clearly, the notion that
lectures should be dismissed because students have only a 10-
to 15-min attention span is erroneous and has little if any data
to support it. The lecture format has been deemed a “passive”
learning experience, with the current trend in “active” learning
being focused on activities such as “flipped teaching” and
“small problem-solving groups. A further argument against the
lecture approach is that the lecture represents a form of edu-
cational Luddism, which is not student-centered and focusses
on the “sage-on-the-stage”. It is informative to look at the
definition of a sage. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines sage
as “wise through reflection and experience, or characterized by
wisdom, prudence and good judgement.” It is surprising that
such qualities are deemed unworthy or passé in a good teacher.
In fact, recent studies show that the lecture can be an effective
way to help students acquire new knowledge. Perhaps this
comes to the heart of the issue and requires an answer to the
fundamental question of what is the purpose of a lecture?
Certainly, one aspect is the conveyance of information, for
which the lecture is an effective method (2). There are mani-
fold online sources for information from which the student can
collect; however, determining which sources are reliable or just
plain wrong or discerning what information is salient vs.
minutiae still requires a sage. The quoted dichotomy of “sage-
on-the-stage” vs. “guide-by-the-side” is often used to disparage
the lecture format. In reality, this contrast is nothing more than
a sophomoric debating sleight, displaying the fallacy of the
false choice. The construct implies that these are the only two
options available, yet a minimal amount of thought reveals that
this is clearly not the case.
Is this article meant to imply that the 50-min lecture is the
preeminent or only means of conveying information? Certainly
not. Multiple approaches can and should be used to help
students not only to remember material but also to have a deep
comprehension of physiological processes and mechanisms
and be able to utilize such knowledge in various applications.
However, part of an overall balanced portfolio of instructional
tools can include the lecture. Indeed, recent studies show that
the lecture can be an effective way to help students acquire new
knowledge and may have benefits over flipped or small group
learning (17). In the book Teaching Naked, Bowen (3) articu-
lates aspects of teaching suited particularly for lectures. Lec-
tures are useful for introducing students to content. A quick
search on Google for “gastrointestinal physiology,” for exam-
ple, generates 1,400,000 hits. Which of these sites provides
accurate information, which of them are relevant to undergrad-
uate students with a minor in physiology, and which of them
are relevant to medical students? It is unlikely that a student
can adequately assess these options for themselves (at least
initially). Lectures provide a good entry into a topic; they
provide context and the level of detail and comprehension that
are required for a particular class. These aspects are things that
rely on a teacher’s accumulated experience and wisdom or,
dare one say it, on the teacher being a sage.
If a student can get the identical learning experience viewing
a YouTube video in bed just as they can attending a lecture in
person, why is this assumption not evident in other aspects of
life? We all have access to virtually unlimited recordings of
music; we are able to watch shows on television when it is
convenient for our schedule. If a virtual experience is indeed
identical to a real experience, then no one need go to a live
music concert, no one need to go to watch a live play or
musical, no one need go to hear a distinguished speaker give a
talk, and no one need attend a football or baseball game at a
stadium. Yet such venues are often quickly sold out. What is
different between a live and recorded event is the emotional
buy-in. Certainly books, or even videos, can be excellent media
for conveying content, but a live teacher can inspire a student
to think more about a subject and delve deeper into content
than can be achieved by passive media alone. Motivational
speakers know this very well, and many make a remarkably
good living by giving live presentations. Certainly charisma
helps in generating excitement about a subject in students, but
probably the biggest aspect of inspiring students is passion for
the subject on the part of the teacher. Lectures are one place
where a teacher can model intellectual, personal, and moral
A Personal View
Advances in Physiology Education doi:10.1152/advan.00109.2016
by on December 24, 2016 from
values. They are usually one of the few places where students
meet faculty in person, allowing students to interact with
teachers and pose questions; it is critical that faculty acknowl-
edge when they don’t know the answers. In this way, faculty
can provide a broader education in terms of modeling respect
and care for students. Indeed, Dr. Martin Luther King stated
that “...intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true
education.” Lectures can also be used as a platform to allow
questions to be raised that can focus attention on areas of
physiology that are not well worked out. Textbooks by their
very nature are considerably out of date by the time they are
published, and although many things remain true (e.g., the
heart pumps blood, the pancreas secretes hormones and en-
zymes), the mechanistic understanding of these processes is
continuously evolving. Thus, a lecture can be a good launching
point for discussions on what is not known about physiological
processes or areas in which there is considerable disagreement
about mechanism. We tend to think of lectures as only passing
on fixed content, but they can be a valuable tool in showing
uncertainty and developing the intellectual processes for han-
dling disagreements. Fortunately, there are now many sources
to help teachers improve the quality of lectures and move the
lecture beyond merely conveying information but also to in-
spire, motivate, and open doors to new ways of thinking. In this
regard, there are many books that help faculty encourage
critical thinking by their students, even within a lecture format
(3, 6, 14).
As scientists and physiologists, we are called on to provide
evidence for our research and data backing up our assertions.
Yet when it comes to attention span, an unsubstantiated mantra
of 15 min is chanted, with no support other than “That’s what
I’ve been told.” With the current educational trends of “life-
long learning” and “evidence-based teaching,” if we insist on
dogmatically applying a 10- to 15-min limit on lectures, we are
implying that we really don’t care about evidence. Beyond that,
it still behooves teachers in physiology classes to do as much
as possible to increase student motivation by showing the
relevance of material and providing a context for what is taught
as well as eagerly displaying a passion for the subject. Physi-
ology is a wonderful science, and students should expect
nothing less than having physiology taught with passion and
enthusiasm. What could be better for the future of the disci-
pline of physiology than to have students wanting to be in class
and eager to spend as much time as they possibly can in the
I thank Dr. Ann Snyder, Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Cellular and
Molecular Pharmacology at the Chicago Medical School, for many helpful
discussions and encouragement.
N. Bradbury is a member of the Master Teacher Guild at the Rosalind
Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Dr. Bradbury’s research on
Cystic Fibrosis and Prostate Cancer is supported by a grant from the National
Institutes of Health (1-R01-HL-102208).
N. Bradbury receives funding from Abbvie Pharmaceuticals.
N.A.B. edited and revised manuscript; N.A.B. approved final version of
1. Benjamin LT, Jr. Lecturing. In: The Teaching of Psychology: Essays in
Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie and Charles L. Brewer, edited by Davis
SF and Buskist W. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002, p.
57– 67.
2. Bligh DA. What’s the Use of Lectures? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass,
3. Bowen JA. Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of the Class-
room Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass,
2012, p. 327.
4. Bunce DM, Flens EA, Neiles KY. How long can students pay attention
in class? A study of student attention decline using clickers. J Chem Educ
87: 1438 –1443, 2010. 10.1021/ed100409p.
5. Davis BG. Tools for Teaching. San Franciso, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
6. Forsyth DR. The Professor’s Guide to Teaching: Psychological Princi-
ples and Practices. Washington, DC: American Psychological Associa-
tion, 2003.
7. Gee P, Stephenson D, Wright DE. Temporal discrimination learning of
operant feeding in goldfish (Carassius auratus). J Exp Anal Behav 62:
1–13, 1994.
8. Giles RM, Johnson MR, Knight KE, Zammett S, Weinman J. Recall
of lecture information: a question of what, when and where. Med Educ 16:
264 –268, 1982. 10.1111/j.1365-2923.1982.tb01262.x.
9. Hartley J, Cameron A. Some observations on the efficiency of lecturing.
Educ Rev 20: 30 –37, 1967. 10.1080/0013191670200103.
10. Hartley J, Davies IK. Note taking: A critical review. Program Learn
Educ Tech 15: 207–224, 1978.
11. Johnstone AH, Percival F. Attention breaks in lectures. Educ Chem 13:
49 –50, 1976.
12. Maddox H, Hoole E. Performance decrement in the lecture. Educ Rev 28:
17–30, 1975. 10.1080/0013191750280102.
13. McKeachie WJ. Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research and Theory for
College and University Teachers. Lexington, MA: Heath, 1986.
14. McKeachie WJ, Sviinicki M. McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies,
research, and theory for college and university teachers. Boston: Houg-
ton-Mifflin, 2006.
15. McLeish J. The Lecture Method. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Institute of
Education, 1968.
16. Scerbo MW, Warm JS, Dember WN, Grasha AF. The role of time and
cuing in a college lecture. Contemp Educ Psychol 17: 312–328, 1992.
17. Schwerdt G, Wuppermann AC. Is traditional teaching really all that
bad? A within-student between-student approach. Econ Educ Rev 30:
365–379, 2010. 10.1016/j.econedurev.2010.11.005.
18. Stuart J, Rutherford RJ. Medical student concentration during lectures.
Lancet 312: 514 –516, 1978. 10.1016/S0140-6736(78)92233-X.
19. Svinicki MD, McKeachie WJ. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies,
Research and Theory for College and University Teachers. Boston, MA:
Houghton-Mifflin, 2013.
20. Wankat PC. The Effective Efficient Professor: Scholarship and Service.
Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2002.
A Personal View
Advances in Physiology Education doi:10.1152/advan.00109.2016
by on December 24, 2016 from
... In HE, lectures generally last nearly 45-50 min; however, there is evidence suggesting that students' attention span is 10-15 min, and Bradbury (2016) indicated that the lecture time should be limited to this duration. However, the undergraduate dental curriculum presents complexities, uncertainties, and challenges due to the nature of clinical practice and the required applied knowledge to achieve the learning outcomes, which were set by the General Dental Council (GDC) in the UK (The General Dental Council [GDC], 2015). ...
Full-text available
In today’s educational landscape, active learning is often overlooked during lectures, seminars, and tutorials. The aim of this study was to investigate perceptions of online and face-to-face lecture formats and their impact on the learning experiences of undergraduate dental students in Years 3–5. This qualitative study was conducted to investigate the effectiveness of different lecture formats at the Institute of Dentistry for undergraduate dental students in Years 3–5. There were two specific questions asked to dental undergraduate students with additional free-text questions. In total, 120 of 221 undergraduate students participated in this study between October 2019 and February 2020, and only 42 participants included the free-text comments. Three core themes related to the blended learning approach were identified: (1) scheduled versus recorded lectures, (2) duration of academic lectures, and (3) neurodiversity and learning experiences. The results showed that the learners perceived the traditional didactic lectures as the least effective format. There is not a “one fits all” lecture format that would accommodate a neurodiversity-based approach that focuses on the strengths, abilities, and interests of students. Hybrid lecture formats in combination with online teaching coupled with small group tutorials could be suggested. There is a unique challenge in the post-COVID-19 era for both educators and learners due to the lack of clinical practice and heavy reliance on online methods of teaching in Dentistry. Therefore, the implication of these results on the planning and financing of programmes could be discussed in Higher Education.
... For at least 45 years [1]- [5], the rule of thumb for optimal learning task-duration has been about 10 minutes, maybe 15 or 20. However, the lack of data behind previous attempts to offer a standard duration for learning tasks has come under critical examination [6] [7]. More recently, open and distributed learning (ODL) video engagement data has suggested that six minutes is a useful duration for watching e-learning video [8]. ...
Full-text available
This paper investigates the problem of estimating optimal task duration. The study specifically focused on e-learning, higher education, language learning and self-study contexts. The problem of duration was approached through secondary analysis that made use of an intentional activity framework. This was supported by a small classroom learning analytic study of mobile multiple-choice intentional duration. The research’s value was exemplified through the further creation of an original model that estimates maximum task duration by deconstructing task complexity within open and distributed learning (ODL) contexts. The model uses six basic building blocks to enable the timing of any given intentional learning task. It will provide organisational clarity to conference presenters, EdTech developers, lecturers, materials designers, and teachers. It can help to predict the phase in the lecture or lesson cycle when well-intentioned learners go off task. It is likely the framework can be applied to broad categories of activity, such as, ODL, sports, traditional education, and the workplace. The study supports both the six-minute e-learning video rule and the ten-minute rule for lectures, providing insight as to why these rules generally seem to be effective. This is the optimisation of engagement and can be applied to any scenario in which engagement is a key metric. In addition, the framework may be beneficial to the field of human activity detection.
... Pelbagai kemungkinan yang menyebabkan murid berprestasi rendah dalam matematik termasuklah faktor afektif yang mungkin menghalang prestasi dalam matematik sekaligus menyumbang kepada ciri-ciri asas kesan emosi (Marshal, 2019) seperti persekitaran bilik darjah yang tidak selesa serta peluang yang ditawarkan kepada murid untuk menguasai kandungan matematik melalui pelbagai aktiviti yang berbeza mengikut aras penguasaan mereka. Bradbury (2016) menyatakan bahawa cara pengajaran menjadi penyumbang kepada penglibatan murid apabila antara 25% hingga 60% murid melaporkan bosan akibat tempoh masa belajar menjadi terlalu lama. Pendekatan pengajaran guru yang bosan dan tidak menarik semasa pembelajaran turut menyebabkan murid kurang berminat untuk belajar matematik. ...
Pembelajaran matematik adalah satu usaha kompleks yang melibatkan proses kognitif serta dipengaruhi oleh emosi termasuklah pembelajaran dan ingatan. Justeru, kajian ini bertujuan untuk mengenal pasti tahap emosi positif, tahap emosi negatif serta tahap memori murid dalam pembelajaran matematik. Selain itu, kajian ini turut mengenal pasti hubungan antara emosi positif dan emosi negatif murid terhadap memori dalam pembelajaran matematik. Kajian ini dijalankan dengan menggunakan reka bentuk kuantitatif melalui kaedah tinjauan. Sehubungan itu, kajian ini terdiri daripada 232 murid tahun 6 di sekolah rendah yang terdapat dalam daerah Timur Laut, Pulau Pinang. Kajian ini menggunakan persampelan rawak mudah dalam memilih sampel murid untuk dijadikan responden. Dua instrumen soal selidik yang bersesuaian digunakan dalam kajian ini terdiri daripada instrumen ‘Achievement Emotion Questionnaire’(AEQ) dan instrumen Questionnaire of Memory’(Q-MEM). Hasil dapatan menuujukkan tahap emosi positif (min=3.73; sp=.66) berada pada tahap tinggi, tahap emosi negatif (min=2.41; sp=.53) pula berada pada tahap rendah manakala tahap memori (min=2.71; sp=.75) berada pada tahap sederhana. Selain itu, terdapat hubungan yang signifikan antara emosi positif dan memori dalam pembelajaran Matematik (r = -.544, p < .01), begitu juga terdapat hubungan yang signifikan antara emosi negatif dan memori dalam pembelajaran Matematik (r = .683, p < .01). Dalam konteks kajian pada kali ini, emosi murid memainkan peranan penting kepada proses pembelajaran yang berjaya serta berkait rapat dengan strategi pembelajaran, penglibatan kognitif, tingkah laku dan pencapaian akademik. Walaubagaimanapun, sedikit tekanan perlu diberikan kepada murid dalam memastikan murid bukan sahaja gembira melalui proses pembelajaran, malah turut menguasai konsep serta kemahiran dalam Matematik dengan baik.
... For example, game designers can optimize the pace and rhythm of gameplay. Previous work demonstrated that humans have limited attention spans [4] and can become fatigued or lose interest if gameplay is monotonous, lacks variety or is no fun [23]. To keep players engaged and avoid monotony, methods and findings of cognitive psychological research on timing and temporal perception (e.g., [24]) may inform designers to better adjust the pace and timing of gameplay elements to the players, such as optimizing the timing and frequency of cues, required actions, new challenges, rewards, or environmental changes. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Time is omnipresent in virtually all video games, shaping their design and mechanics. Players harness these temporal components to gain an advantage over their opponents and the game. The ability to use temporal properties stems from time being an essential aspect of human cognition and perception. In this position paper, we explore the potential synergies between the study of temporal cognition and perception and the study of video games. In particular , we highlight how fundamental research in these fields can benefit from analyzing temporal cognition in video games. By investigating the interaction between players and temporal elements in game environments, researchers can gain valuable insights into the mechanisms of human temporal cognition. Conversely, we also shed light on the reciprocal relationship between these findings and video game design. Incorporating knowledge from temporal cog-nition research, may allow game designers to enhance the overall game experience and improve player performance. This symbiotic exchange between research and video game development has the potential to foster innovation and create more engaging and immer-sive gaming experiences. Overall, our position paper emphasizes the interconnection between video games and temporal cognition research. By leveraging the ubiquitous nature of time in games and its fundamental role in human cognition, both fields can benefit from each other's insights and advances.
... One critique of the instructional video literature is that videos in studies are typically short in duration. This could be, in part, due to findings showing shorter videos are more engaging (Guo et al., 2014) and the common perception that students cannot focus their attention for more than 10-15 min, although the literature establishing this timeframe has been critiqued (Bradbury, 2016;Wilson & Korn, 2007). Shadiev et al.'s (2021) review found that a variety of 360 • video durations existed in the literature, but most were relatively short. ...
... Another motivating factor is student engagement, as some students in intensive English programs may be studying for 3-6 hours in a block, and such long periods of study time can result in boredom and low engagement, as well as ineffective learning (Kornell, Castel, Eich, & Bjork, 2010). The aim of including collaborative learning segments in this situation would be to promote in the lessons a feeling of it being a more varied sequence of different learning experiences rather than one very long class taught in the same manner throughout, as this is more suited to the student attention span (Bradbury, 2016). Thus, instead of using collaborative learning for the entirety of the lessons, it can be used strategically in portions of the lessons where it can hopefully be most effective, or where there is perceived to be opportunity for it to increase student engagement and participation (Law, Chung, Leung, & Wong, 2017). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Applying collaborative learning methodologies in the classroom is an important component of teaching practice and is especially important in EFL lessons where students need to practice the language, they are learning to improve their abilities. However, collaborative learning does not always fit well in each lesson and is not always effective or successful with each type of activity a teacher may use to target specific skills. The objective of this study was to explore the effectiveness of collaborative learning in an EFL classroom at the university level, and to raise questions regarding specific circumstances where it may be more or less appropriate to implement. It was conducted as a participant observation study, with observations of the effectiveness of collaborative learning in the classroom experience being the key data in the paper. Results indicated that collaborative learning does have advantages and disadvantages, and may be more effective when used strategically in well-designed activities that capitalize on its value.
The use of scenarios in police education has a long history, within both formal curriculum outlines to the informal use of war stories as a means of making theory relevant to practice. Unfortunately, the learning and teaching techniques associated with the delivery of these scenarios have usually been ineffective, inconsistent and opaque, whilst the scope of these scenarios has often been narrowly focused on legal-investigative concepts that neglect how police should act with integrity. A lesson structure and facilitation techniques are evaluated against Shulman’s framework to identify signatures of policing practice and maximise the potential of scenario-based learning.
The advent of structured police education stems from Peel’s reforms over a century ago, ushering in the era of modern policing. However, in spite of this improved vision of policing in democracies, regressive militaristic and behaviourist approaches in police academies set a tone and trend that have continually undermined decades of attempted reforms aimed at introducing evidence-based adult learning methods. An evaluation of the traditionally dominant lecture method against the signature pedagogy framework further highlights its inadequacies within a police academy environment.
Full-text available
All too often in our practice of distance education we overlook the history of the field and our theories as we embrace new technologies or, as in the past year, when we are forced to adapt to a regional or global crisis that necessitates a temporary move to a remote learning scenario. When we set our theories aside, this approach can lead us to recreate the wheel in our pedagogical approaches, and ignores the unique pedagogy of distance education and the unique characteristics of learners studying at a distance. This article looks at why our distance education theories continue to be critically important for us to constantly return to and reflect on. Our theories help us to keep focused on the learner, learner characteristics, and the individualised nature of learning, while we undertake design and development work in partnership with faculty and other members of the design team. Our distance education theories remind us to ask the hard questions about what we are trying to accomplish and to what end for the learner, and through which design strategies.
Full-text available
Mental fatigue has shown to be one of the root causes of decreased productivity and overall cognitive performance, by decreasing an individual’s ability to inhibit responses, process information and concentrate. The effects of mental fatigue have led to occupational errors and motorway accidents. Early detection of mental fatigue can prevent the escalation of symptoms that may lead to chronic fatigue syndrome and other disorders. To date, in clinical settings, the assessment of mental fatigue and stress is done through self-reported questionnaires. The validity of these questionnaires is questionable, as they are highly subjective measurement tools and are not immune to response biases. This review examines the wider presence of mental fatigue in the general population and critically compares its various detection techniques ( i.e ., self-reporting questionnaires, heart rate variability, salivary cortisol levels, electroencephalogram, and saccadic eye movements). The ability of these detection tools to assess inhibition responses (which are sensitive enough to be manifested in a fatigue state) is specifically evaluated for a reliable marker in identifying mentally fatigued individuals. In laboratory settings, antisaccade tasks have been long used to assess inhibitory control and this technique can potentially serve as the most promising assessment tool to objectively detect mental fatigue. However, more studies need to be conducted in the future to validate and correlate this assessment with other existing measures of mental fatigue detection. This review is intended for, but not limited to, mental health professionals, digital health scientists, vision researchers, and behavioral scientists.
Technology is changing higher education, but the greatest value of a physical university will remain its face-to-face (naked) interaction between faculty and students. The most important benefits to using technology occur outside of the classroom. New technology can increase student preparation and engagement between classes and create more time for the in-class dialogue that makes the campus experience worth the extra money it will always cost to deliver. Students already use online content but need better ways to interact with material before every class. By using online quizzes and games, rethinking our assignments and course design, we can create more class time for the activities and interactions that most spark the critical thinking and change of mental models we seek.
This paper aims (1) to determine why students take notes, (2) to survey the research findings available in the current literature, (3) to identify inadequacies and omissions in this literature in order to suggest more profitable lines of research for future study, and (4) to suggest guide‐lines for both teachers and students which will exploit more effectively the potential of note‐taking.
The lecture process was studied systematically with the following objectives: to reexamine the effects of time upon note-taking and immediate retention, to compare the relative effectiveness of spoken and written cues, and to investigate cuing schedules. Students were asked to view one of a series of videotaped lectures in which certain statements were highlighted by either spoken or written cues. The contents of students' notes and assessments of immediate recall and recognition provided the dependent measures. Students recorded increasingly less information in their notes over the course of the lecture, but retention of material from different portions of the lecture was essentially the same. Written-cued statements were recorded more frequently and retained better than statements preceded by spoken cues. Finally, the different schedules of cuing were shown to have subtle effects upon note-taking and recall.
Contrary to much published opinion, little evidence was found of decrement in the performance of students in a University lecture. Decrement was measured by the percentage of “ideal” notes recorded by students in the course of an expository lecture. Nevertheless the students’ notes although taken under the best of conditions, were so imperfect as to provide further condemnatory evidence against the descriptive lecture.