Maintaining focused attention in the classroom is considered an important factor for successful learning. Loss of instructional time due to off-task behavior is recognized as a significant challenge by both researchers and practitioners. However, there has been little research into the factors contributing to off-task behavior.
This paper reports results from the first large-scale study investigating how elementary school children allocate their attention in classroom environments and how patterns of attention allocation change as a function of gender, grade level, and instructional format.
Consistent with prior research, children were largely on task: 71% of children’s observed behaviors were on-task. As seen in Table 2, three of the most common types of off-task behavior observed were Peer distractions (45%), Self- Distractions (18%), and Environmental distractions (16%).
The findings indicate that instructional format is related to off-task behavior in elementary school students.