Tuesday, December 16, 2008


From the Chronicle of Higher Education

Late to Rise Seems to Make Students Wise


When college students refuse to sign up for early-morning classes, parents and faculty members sometimes give them sermons or stale quotations from Benjamin Franklin. But those students might actually have the right instincts, says a new study by two economists.

The study, whose results appear in the December issue of the Economics of Education Review, found
that students earn higher grades in courses that are offered later in the day. The effect is small but unmistakable: For each hour after 8 a.m. that a class begins, students' average grades are 0.024 points higher, on a 4-point grading scale.

The most likely reason, the authors say, is sheer exhaustion. Nineteen-year-olds find plenty of reasons not to go to bed before midnight. And even when they get adequate sleep, adolescents' brains tend to fire up later in the morning than adults' brains.

The effect is partly counteracted when classes meet frequently. Throughout the day, but especially in early-morning classes, students earn higher grades in classes that meet three times a week than in classes that meet only once or twice. Over all, however, the time-of-day effect is stronger than the frequency effect.

The authors-Angela K. Dills, an assistant professor of economics at Mercer University, and Rey Hernández-Julián, an assistant professor of economics at the Metropolitan State College of Denver-analyzed more than 100,000 course grades that were earned at Clemson University in the fall of 2000 and the spring of 2001.

Because their cache of data was so vast, the authors say, they were able to deal with certain challenges that have confounded previous studies of course scheduling. For example, they say that
they were able to partly or entirely eliminate the possibility that professors grade more leniently in their late-day classes than in their break-of-dawn classes, or that the most difficult courses happen to be scheduled in the morning, or that stronger students are the first to register for classes and are thus more likely to enroll in courses that start later in the day.

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