Exposure to even mild classroom disruptions lowers the academic achievement for all students in a class, including those who are highly motivated or top-performing, according to new research in the AERA Open journal.
Researchers Carmel Blank and Yossi Shavit of Tel Aviv University used 5th- and 8th-grade test score data and classroom climate survey responses for some 2,400 students at more than 60 public schools in Israel to measure the impact of classroom disruptions on academic achievement. The researchers focused on classroom-specific factors rather than the overall school climate. Student perceptions of classroom disruptions were assessed with questions about their classmates’ behavior (including talking in class), the level of respect students showed when talking to teachers as well as whether it took a long of time for students to settle down at the start of a class.
Results showed that classroom disruptions were more strongly tied to student achievement than student engagement or students’ perception of the fairness of school-disciplinary policies.
The researchers found the average student would score more than 4 points higher in a relatively well-behaved classroom than he or she would in a classroom with a high level of perceived disruption. This 4-point difference was only 1 point smaller than the reduction in scores that occurs when a student is late or absent on a regular basis.
In their study, the researchers controlled for historic student achievement, student demographics, parental education, gender, school and class size, as well as the number of violent incidents and disciplinary infractions schoolwide.
Blank and Shavit say their findings indicate student disciplinary policies that support an orderly learning environment in every classroom have the most impact on educational outcomes.