Kijoung Na

Kijoung Na

Asian Studies/College of Humanities

2010-2011

Wake Up! : Extending the attention span of students via media presentation of scenes from the natural environment

Faculty Mentor: David Derezotes - Social Work/Social Work

 

The purpose of this study was to explore the reaction of student groups to media presentations of natural scenery. “College students spend much of their time on campus engaged in activities that require sustained directed attention, which may lead to attention fatigue…[Directed attention] is vulnerable to fatigue and becomes less effective with sustained use, leading to reduced ability to focus attention, increased performance errors, and heightened irritability”(Felsten, 2009).

Students spend more in-class time in foreign language classes at the University of Utah than they do in most of their other classes, as these are four-credit hour classes. For example, the Intermediate Korean class meets twice a week for two hours each time. Moreover, 80% of the instruction is in Korean, as the best way to improve proficiency in a foreign language is to increase exposure time to that language. This can be very difficult for foreign language students, most of whom are native English speakers. Students report feeling bored, a lack of attention, losing track of the class, and even falling asleep due to fatigue. I have recognized signs of failing attention in my students, including such behaviors as watching the clock, using softer voices, shutting eyes, and even nodding heads at about the 50-minute mark.

According to psychological research, after college students view simulated images of nature, they perform better on tests of directed attention (Felsten, 2009). Furthermore, others have demonstrated that the process of listening to music can aid the listener in sustaining attention (Sridharan et al., 2007). Thus, to wake students up, I created two sets of DVDs with music and images of nature to play during the break. One set of DVDs was made with nature scenes from around the world, accompanied by well-known instrumental music. Another set of DVDs was developed with images of beautiful nature scenes specifically from Korea, with accompanying Korean traditional folk music.

 

Students who participated in this project reported experiencing enhanced mental calmness, and peacefulness. They also felt more effective and less distracted.

Although the folk music and the images of nature scenes from Korea are not correlated with the class materials directly, the foreign language students often take special interest in the culture, art, geography, and economy of the countries about which they are learning. Therefore the DVDs can be used as supplementary material in the Korean language class, not only to help alleviate wandering attention, but also to provide students with motivation to learn about the country and language.

The set of DVDs can be used for not only the intermediate level Korean class but also the beginning level and the advanced level class for the same purpose of recovering students’ attention and providing motivation to learn. Moreover, I recommend this tool for any class with 3 hours length or longer, a class without activities, an intensive class, or a class filled with theories and heavy topics. Non-Korean classes can use the set of DVDs with worldwide nature images and world-famous classical music. This tool is not only for any teacher who wants students to wake up for the whole class period to pay attention to the lecture, but also any student who wants to have better attention in order to not miss any class materials and to keep track of a lesson.

Felsten. G. (2009). Where to take a study break on the college campus: An attention restoration theory perspective. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29, 160-167

Sridharan. D., Levitin. D. J., Chafe. C. H., Berger. J. & Menon. V. (2007) Neural dynamics of event segmentation in music: converging evidence for dissociable ventral and dorsal networks. Neuron. Aug 2;55(3), 521-32