Here's a sampling of details from a recent survey that asked students and faculty a variety of questions about their use of cell phones (including smart phones), their perceptions of the effects of doing so and their estimation of the effectiveness of faculty phone policies.
The 384-student sample included participants from six institutions representing 20 different majors.
The nearly 100-member faculty sample represented 11 institutions and 19 academic fields.
- Less than 8% of the students reported that they always power off their phones while in class. (p. 64)
- Less than 20% of the students reported that they did not typically check their phones during class; almost 38% said they checked once or twice during the class period; almost 24% checked three or four times, and 20% said they checked more than five times. (p. 65)
- Only 8% of the students thought that their use of their phones had negative effects; 11% said the use of phones by others negatively affected their own perform. However, 31% said they had missed important information in class because they were checking their phones. (p. 65)
- “While less than 10% of students claimed that their phone use had negatively affected their performance, our analysis indicates that students that use their phones more frequently during class often have lower GPAs than their peers.” (p. 66)
- Only 6.5% of the respondents admitted that they'd used their phones to cheat on a quiz or exam. (p. 66)
- Almost 75% of the students agreed that checking their phones during class sessions was acceptable or sometimes acceptable. (p. 67)
- Less than 10% of faculty do not include a cell phone policy in their course syllabi. (p. 67)
- “Though faculty members report a wide range of negative policies, when students report being reprimanded for cell phone use, the most frequent reprimand is a verbal warning with no additional consequences (reported by 75% of the reprimanded students).” (p. 68)
- When asked to evaluate the effectiveness of their policies, in general faculty reported that they were effectively reducing cell phone use. (p. 68)
- “Of the students who were previously reprimanded for cell phone use in the classroom, only 40% reported that the reprimand prevented them using phones in the same class, and a mere 11% said it would prevent them from using phones in other classes.” (p. 68)
- Students rated a university policy, a syllabus policy, and a glare from the teacher as the three least effective methods of prevention; they reported that confiscating their phone, lowering their grade, and removing them from class were the most effective ways to stop cell phone use. (p. 69)
- If the class sessions are long, if they're large classes, and if it's near the end of the period, students are more likely to use their phones. If it's a small class, a majors' course, and there's group discussion, they are less like to be checking phones. (p. 69)
Several important takeaways for teachers emerge from these details. Students need to be made aware of the significant number of studies now documenting the negative impact of cell phone use on GPA and more importantly on learning itself. This articles cites a number of these studies.
How would you rate the effectiveness of your policy at curbing cell-phone use? Is that rating based on your perceptions or have you collected data from students?
Surveys like this offer benchmark data from samples larger than most of us teach. However, these are not responses from your students. The article contains most of the questions asked and they could be used to generate data from your students. If not that, consider using some of these details as talking points for a class discussion of cell phones and there in classes.
Reference: Berry, M. J. and Westfall, A., (2015). Dial D for distraction: The making and breaking of cell phone policies in the college classroom. College Teaching 63 (2), 62-71.