I think we should break up - class, that is

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Electrical and Computer Science

Conference Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition

Date of Presentation

Summer 1-1-2022


Class time, whether in a physical or virtual setting, is a valuable component of the learning process. However, time in class does not always equate to time on task. Class periods can vary in length from 50 minutes to 3 hours or more, but how much of that time are students paying full attention, thinking critically about the material, and engaging with course concepts? Additionally, how might these differing time periods equate to a difference in student engagement, and what can be done to ensure that class time is effective? One potentially effective tool is to provide class breaks at regular intervals. A number of different methods have been used in K-12 education, such as “brain breaks,” to exhaust excess energy, break up classes, and allow students to refocus while in an extended class period. In college classrooms, however, any type of break seems to be far less common, and the effectiveness of breaks and acceptance among engineering students has not been evaluated extensively. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of using class breaks as a pedagogical tool and determine how commonly breaks are deployed. Coauthors at five different universities included a variety of break types and lengths in different engineering courses. The courses varied from first year to graduate level and were offered in-person and hybrid during the Fall 2021 semester. Students were asked to complete a voluntary survey to determine whether breaks helped them stay engaged in the course and what manner of breaks they preferred. The results indicate that about 50% of students have never had a formal break in an engineering class until the one administering the survey, but about 80% of students surveyed said a break somewhat or greatly increased their ability to focus and learn. Only 6% percent reported a reduction in their ability to focus, and 4% reported a reduction in their ability to learn as a result of the break. Recommendations are provided on what types of breaks work in different classroom settings as judged by the faculty and students, the students' perceived ability to focus in classes with breaks, and the students' perception of learning when accompanied by a class break.


2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition