During even the most normal school year, there are a lot of little interruptions to teaching and learning each day—a tardy student walking into class, an announcement over the loudspeaker, a call to the classroom phone.
Those interruptions can add up to the loss of between 10 and 20 days of instructional time, a new study finds. And as schools across the country prepare to welcome back students in the fall after a disrupted spring, they will need to address what is expected to be significant learning loss. Reducing external interruptions in the classroom could be one way to do that, researchers say.
"As educators and humans, we dismiss things when we can't conceptualize the sum total, when each individual instance is very small," said Matthew Kraft, an associate professor of education and economics at Brown University and an author of the working paper. "Oh, an interruption takes 20 seconds—given the huge challenges our education system is facing, why would we focus on that? We, for the first time, provide a more precise accounting of the frequency of these interruptions, the nature of these interruptions, ... and the duration of these interuptions and the disruptions that they cause."