Changing Multitasking Intention with Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs)

U. Yeliz Eseryel, John R. Drake, Deniz Eseryel
Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning  •  Volume 16  •  2020  •  pp. 143-165

This article aimed to design and evaluate a pedagogical technique for altering students’ classroom digital multitasking behaviors. The technique we designed and evaluated is called course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE). With this technique, the students wrote a research article based on a multitasking experiment that the instructor conducted with the students. The students conducted a literature review, developed their own research questions, they analyzed experiment data, and presented results. This study evaluated the how the CURE contributed to student multitasking behavior change.

Multitasking is defined as doing more than one thing at a time. Multitasking is really the engagement in individual and discrete tasks that are performed in succession. Research showed that students multitasked very often during courses. Researchers indicated that this was a problem especially for online teaching, because when students went online, they tended to multitask. Extant research indicated that digital multitasking in class harmed student performance. Multiple studies suggested that students who multitasked spent more time finishing their tasks and made more mistakes. Regardless of students’ gender or GPA, students who multitasked in class performed worse and got a lower grade than those who did not. However, little is known about how to change students’ digital multitasking behaviors. In this study, we used the transtheoretical model of behavior change to investigate how our pedagogical technique (CURE) changed students’ digital multitasking behaviors.

Using a course-based undergraduate research experience design, a new classroom intervention was designed and evaluated through a content analysis of pre- and post-intervention student reflections. As part of the course-based undergraduate research experience design, the students conducted a literature review, developed their own research questions, they analyzed experiment data, and presented results. This study evaluated the how teaching using a course-based undergraduate research experience contributed to student multitasking behavior change. Transtheoretical model of behavior change was used to investigate how our pedagogical technique changed students’ digital multitasking behaviors.

The paper described how teaching using a course-based undergraduate research experience can be used in practice. Further, it demonstrated the utility of this technique in changing student digital multitasking behaviors. This study contributed to constructivist approaches in education. Other unwanted student attitudes and behaviors can be changed using this approach to learning.

As a result of CURE teaching, a majority of students observed the negative aspects of multitasking and intended to change their digital multitasking behaviors. Sixty-one percent of the participants experienced attitude changes, namely increased negative attitude towards multitasking in class. This is important because research found that while both students and instructors believed off-task technology use hinders learning, their views differed significantly, with more instructors than students feeling strongly that students’ use of technology in class is a problem. Moreover, our study showed that with teaching using CURE, it is possible to move the students on the ladder of change as quickly as within one semester (13 weeks). Seventy-one percent of the students reported moving to a higher stage of change post-intervention.

Faculty wishing to curb student digital multitasking behaviors may conduct in-class experimentation with multitasking and have their students write a research report on their findings. Course-based undergraduate research experiences may make the effects of digital multitasking more apparent to the students. The students may become more aware of their own multitasking behaviors rather than doing them habitually. This technique is also recommended for those instructors who would like to introduce academic careers as a potential career option to their students.

Researchers should explore changing other unwanted undergraduate student behaviors with course-based undergraduate experiences. Researchers may use the transtheoretical model of change to evaluate the effectiveness of techniques used to change behaviors.

The negative outcomes of digital multitasking are not confined to the classroom. Digital multitasking impacts productivity in many domains. If techniques such as those used in this article become more common, changes in multitasking intentions could show broad improvements in productivity across many fields.

This paper constitutes a pilot study due to the small convenience sample that is used for the study. Future research should replicate this study with larger and randomized samples. Further investigation of the CURE technique can improve its effectiveness or reduce the instructor input while attaining the same behavioral changes.

digital multitasking, research-based learning, experiential learning, content analy-sis, behavioral change
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