Students with morning classes perform worse in universities: Local study
SINGAPORE - Researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School have found that university students who have classes in the morning have worse grades than those who have fewer or no classes in the morning.
The study looked at the scores of 33,818 students at the National University of Singapore (NUS) across six semesters between 2016 and 2019. The students were from all faculties except medicine, which has a different grading system.
Students' grades were lower when they had morning classes on more days of the week. The researchers defined morning classes as any class that starts before noon.
Associate Professor Joshua Gooley in the neuroscience and behavioural disorders programme at Duke-NUS Medical School, one of the co-authors of the study, said students who go from having no morning classes to having three or more morning classes may see their grades drop from an A- to a B+, or from a B+ to a B for a course.
The Duke-NUS study also found that students with 8am classes are more likely to skip class and have less sleep than those with classes that start later.
Researchers said the lack of sleep impairs one’s attention and memory processes, which may prevent students from reaching their full learning potential in class.
Singaporeans clocked only 6.6 hours of sleep on weekdays in 2020, with a final average score of 6.8 hours daily, down from 7 hours in 2019, according to the Philips 2021 global sleep survey.
Fatigue and oversleeping are also commonly why university students skip classes, another factor for the poorer performance, according to the Duke-NUS study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour in February.
Researchers found the attendance for 8am classes to be about 10 per cent lower than for all other classes that started later, according to the study.
These insights were drawn using the Wi-Fi connection logs of 23,391 students to estimate students’ lecture attendance rates as well as activity data from special sensing watches, which use a motion sensor to track whether the wearer is awake or asleep, of 181 students over six weeks.
To determine if early morning classes were linked with students getting less sleep, the researchers also analysed activity data with the day and night patterns of digital learning platform logins of 39,458 students.
The study stated that even though students frequently slept past the start of 8am classes, they still lost about an hour of sleep on average compared with days with only afternoon classes or no classes.
There have been calls by MPs and experts in the past to start schools later, but usually for primary and secondary students.
Prof Gooley said: “The take-home message from our study is that universities should reconsider mandatory early morning classes.”
He added that 10am would be a good time to start classes for most students and faculty members.
“There are some students, such as night owls, who would still lose out on sleep if classes were pushed back to 10am, but most students would be able to sleep in longer and reach class on time,” he said.
Researchers are also now studying the differences between class attendance, sleep, well-being and academic performance between early birds and night owls.