A professor at Bishop Grosseteste University has been researching the reasons why university students become bored and whether or not it affects their final degree outcome.

Research carried out by John Sharp, Professor of Education at BGU, suggests that the final year grades of certain university students can be affected by their proneness to boredom. Boredom manifests itself in two forms: ‘trait boredom’ or the predisposition of an individual to becoming bored, and ‘state boredom’ or the actual experience of boredom in the moment. Professor Sharp’s study is mainly looking at trait boredom in the first instance.

“So far the findings of the study suggest that students identified as having a lower predisposition to boredom tend to perform better in their academic work, resulting in higher final degree grades in comparison to those for whom the opposite is the case,” said Professor Sharp.

To measure academic boredom and other related-factors, a sample of 324 final-year undergraduate students taking education-based courses and aged between 21 and 40 completed a series of questionnaires including a new boredom proneness scale. They were also asked to rate and comment on which modes of course delivery interested them the most or left them cold. Further interviews with a smaller sample were undertaken to enrich and shed light on the questionnaire data.

Professor Sharp is hopeful that the findings from his study will enable tutors to better evaluate and inform their teaching methods and to find strategies to keep their students who are prone to boredom engaged as well as to help students recognise and better understand the signs and symptoms of boredom to become more effective learners.

“Lecturers can use the information to minimise the number of students becoming bored during on-campus learning periods and ways to stay engaged during private learning,” said Professor Sharp. “The fact that we’re able to measure boredom and spot trends in outcomes is extremely useful, because it now gives us the opportunity to act and do something about it.”

A similar study in Australia is being co-ordinated by Dr Brian Hemmings at Charles Strut University in Australia. Professor Sharp and Dr Hemmings have collaborated on this and other projects over several years.

It is expected that Professor Sharp’s study will be published in four parts with the first currently under review at the Journal of Further and Higher Education. The full study will be completed in the next 18 months.

23rd September 2014