April 16th, 2008

The Effects of Class Session Length


Have you ever wondered how class session duration impacts students and learning? Is it better for students to meet in hour class sessions three times a week, hour-and-a-half sessions twice a week, or once a week for three hours?

Four marketing professors went in search of an answer. They queried students (across majors but with special attention to those enrolled in marketing) about their preferences, looked at their grades, and analyzed how they evaluated their instructors in each of these three class session formats.

Across a range of majors, students preferred classes that meet twice a week. They reported that classes that meet only once a week resulted in lower levels of learning. Despite those beliefs, the faculty researchers found that “class format had only a marginal impact on students’ grades.” (p. 19). Grades were a bit lower in the classes that met once a week and a bit higher in those classes that met three times a week. But the effect sizes were small.

On the other hand, their results revealed “significantly higher” ratings for instructors teaching classes that met twice a week. They explain that finding this way: “When students believe they learn more from a given class, this belief is related to higher instructor evaluations.” (p.19)
Perhaps. . .it might be something to look for in your rating results data.

Reference: Reardon, J., Payan, J., Miller, C. and Alexander, J. (2008). Optimal class length in marketing undergraduate classes: An examination of preference, instructor evaluations, and student performance. Journal of Marketing Education, 30 (1), 12-20.

–Maryellen Weimer