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Journal Article Critique

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Journal Article Critique

Multitasking in the University Classroom


Lydia Burak's "Multitasking in the University Classroom" describes the extent of multitasking engagement and examines the relationship between multitasking, academic performance, and risk behaviours in the university classroom. Accordingly to a study conducted by the author in university classrooms, the results show that a majority of students have a lower GPA and increased risk behaviours when they multitask in classrooms.

Burak has conducted intensive secondary research to support her view. She cites an fMRI study on the brain showing that multitasking affects the learning process, especially when learning new knowledge. She also points to research conducted on media multitasking, which concludes that media exposure is negatively related to academic performance outcomes and positively related to risk behaviours.

Burak also conducted primary research using a survey to exam multitasking in university classrooms. She wanted to determine the extent of multitasking and the consequence of multitasking activities. Her research results showed that multitasking was prevalent among the population studied and that multitasking was associated with negative outcomes on GPA and risk behaviour.

Burak recognized her research had many limitations as the sample was not randomly selected, the data was self-reported, and the design was correctional. Due to these research limitations, her research findings may not be adequate to apply to a university student population in general. Nevertheless, her research provided a good foundation and solid starting point for further research on the effects of multitasking in university classrooms.


Burak (2012) states that university students are constantly engaged in multitasking and that this really distracts them from learning. Students who do school work, texting, emailing, internet searches simultaneously do not pay full attention to the instruction going on in the classroom. As a result, multitasking leads to poorer academic performance and difficulties with the learning process. Burak backs up her belief in the adverse effects of multitasking on student learning with the following research findings: 1) fMRI research by Poldrack and Foerdes (as cited in Burak, 2012) showing the brain's learning process changes and people have a harder time acquiring new knowledge if they multitask during the learning process; 2) a study by Ellis, Daniels, and Jaurequi (as cited in Burak, 2012) showing non-texting students obtain significantly better grades on quizzes than texting students; 3) a survey by Kraushaar and Novak (as cited in Burak, 2012) showing that students who used their laptops distractively (i.e., visiting non-course-related websites) during lectures performed much worse on all performance evaluations than those who engaged in less distractive multitasking; 4) a study by Bowman, Levine, Waite, and Gendron (as cited in Burak, 2012) showing that students take longer to complete academic tasks if they engage in multitasking while performing these tasks.

Based on my own observation and experience as an instructor at a post-secondary institution, I strongly agree with Burak's opinion. For instance, in my MS Access class, the lecture and lab is conducted in the computer lab where the students have the internet access. Students evaluation records certainly show that students who do not multitask (no website surfing, no texting or Facebook activity) during lectures and practice lab sessions obtain higher grades and have less difficulty performing the required exercises than those who multitask. Ellis, Daniels, & Jauregui, (n. d.) found that the quiz scores of texting students were significantly lower than non-texting students. Their research results provided evidence that multitasking may result in lower grades. Similarly, Fried (2006) found that students who used laptops in class spent considerable time multitasking and were distracted from the learning process. Fried's research found that laptop use was negatively related to student learning, including among those respondents who self-reported their understanding of course material and overall course performance.

Burak believes multitasking among young people mostly involves electronic devices. Furthermore, she contends that a majority of young people often engage in multiple media use simultaneously. She believes theses classroom media multitasking behaviours not only compromise learning; they might also closely associate with high risk behaviours. She supports her statements with the following studies: 1) a research finding from Junco and Cotton (as cited in Burak, 2012) concluding that over 90% of the college students watch television, texting, and other electronic activities at the same time; 2) studies by Foehr and Carson, Pickett, and Janssen's (as cited in Burak, 2012) on youth showing that higher media usage multitaskers are closely linked to higher incidences of risk behaviours, such as drunkenness, drug use, the non-use of condoms, etc.

In order to exam the extent of multitasking behaviours in today's college and university classrooms



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