Blurting out answers in class can be good for learning
(2 February 2012)
Pupils who blurt out answers in class often learn more than their quieter classmates, according to new research.
Test results from hundreds of schools across England show a surprising advantage for pupils with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); pupils who shout out answers attain better results than pupils who have similar symptoms but remain quiet and interrupt less.
Experts from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University looked at assessments of 12,251 schoolchildren in England and found there was a 9 month advantage in reading and maths for those who continuously blurted out answers compared with those pupils who never did so but had similar levels of inattention.
The findings show that there could be a good side to what can appear to be disruptive classroom behaviour and raise questions about learning and how best to engage and manage children with ADHD symptoms.
Researchers analysed primary school teachers' ratings for four to five year old pupils at the end of the children's first year in school. The results were gathered from PIPS (Performance Indicators in Primary Schools), an optional test administered by teachers.
Lead author, Professor Peter Tymms, Head of the School of Education, Durham University, said: "Children with ADHD symptoms who get excited and shout out answers in class seem to be cognitively engaged and, as a result, learn more. Perhaps those children also benefit from receiving additional feedback and attention from their teacher."
Co-author, Dr Christine Merrell, Director of Research and Development at CEM, Durham University, said: "Although it may seem disruptive, blurting out of answers clearly helps these pupils to learn. We need to look more closely at this behaviour and how the interaction can be managed in the classroom."
Children are assessed by their teachers at the end of their Reception year with PIPS; these assessments include measures of pupils' reading, mathematics, attitudes and behaviour.
There are three main symptoms of ADHD: hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention and teachers often have to deal with class behaviour issues linked to ADHD symptoms in pupils.
As part of the PIPS assessment, teachers are asked to rate pupils' behaviour in class in relation to the following impulsivity statements:
1. Blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
2. Has difficulty awaiting turn.
3. Interrupts or intrudes on others, e.g. pushes into conversations or
The researchers found that inattention was strongly linked to under-attainment whilst impulsivity was positively related to attainment for similar levels of inattention. The item "Blurts out answers" on the teachers' rating scale was particularly important. When impulsivity acted as a clear sign of cognitive engagement it seemed to have a positive function.
Test results for pupils from 556 English schools were analysed by the research team and the findings are published in the journal Learning and Individual Differences.
Professor Peter Tymms added: "Managing and responding to pupils' different needs and abilities within a class is a challenge for teachers. We're not suggesting that classrooms become free-for-all shouting matches but if this positive learning relationship can be harnessed, it could help teachers and learners."