Wednesday, May 26, 2010


OK, how many people actually get to do crazy experiments on people, not very many but I did! It actually was a lot of fun and the results were really surprising, out of all the classes we tested, about 20 people out of a 25 person class wouldn't notice a brand new student when they'd been in that class all year! here's some info on what we found, just in case you're interested. We also put some work in here on other researchers information that we used, I'll put a summary up.

Topic Introduction
We are going to study the idea that student are unfocused or not paying close attention to their classroom environment. The idea is that when students are “distracted” by something they are unlikely to notice any other changes in the environment. We are interested in studying this because we think it is something that could possibly affect a student learning abilities and how they perform in the classroom.
The population will be students in a class of different sizes and grades. The sample will not be random; it will be taken from specific classrooms, ones that are the most available for the schedule. Our hypothesis is that when students are presented with a “distraction” such as a new student or observer they will not notice another new student un-introduced in their midst. The Independent Variable is the whether or not the students noticed the new student. This will be measured by an interview or a survey. The Dependent Variable will be the grade level, the subject and whether or not there will be a “distraction”. This will be measured against the control group which will be a mixed grade-level class without a distraction. The experimental groups will be the ones with a distraction; the control group is the one without. Some possible extraneous variables might be the class size and who the teacher is.

Hypothesis: If two researchers went into the classroom and one acted as an observer and was announced at the beginning of class while the other pretended to be a student and blended into the class as a student. We assumed that the students would notice the observer, but not pay as much attention to the “student”

Sample: 10th Grade Social Studies students

Dependent- researchers who came into the room
Independent- whether the students noticed them or not
Procedure Steps
STEP Œ- “student” researcher goes into class and finds an empty seat just like any of the other students
STEP - “observer” researcher goes to the front of the class and announces that they will be observing class today
STEP Ž- sit through a normal class period, with the teacher teaching normally and following normal plans.
STEP - at the end of the observation period; pass out surveys with measured answers to the questions that ask whether the students noticed any changes in their classroom.
STEP - pick up surveys, and de-brief students.

Components of Attention
The article, Components of Attention by Michael I. Posner and Stephan J. Boies talks about the division of attention into three components: alertness, selectivity and processing capacity. It starts off by explaining different senses of attention. The first one is the notation of alertness. Being able to maintain attention, in the sense of alertness, was the first test they did. This involved a human’s ability to perform in a long, boring task. They found out that giving the participants a warning ahead of time of the boring task they were about to partake in, they were able to stay more alert than those who didn’t get a warning. The second test they did was to test the ability to select information from one source or of one kind rather than another. In other words, they were testing the people’s selective attention ability. The third sense of attentions relates to the idea of a limited central processing capacity. They explain how its known that people have difficulty handling two different tasks and the same time, even when they wish to do so. This can interfere with attention and awareness in even a common environment, such a school.
This article relates to our experiment because we are testing children’s awareness in the classroom. It gives us information on different components of attention and goes into depth about how certain things affect our awareness. It talks a lot about how awareness is a large subject and there are many different things that can interfere with it. It’s not just one simple thing that can be detected or followed but instead, it is a wide idea. It gives us the idea that we need to be looking at other things such as selective attention, distractions, and stress levels that may change a person’s attention. Stress is a big factor in attention and awareness. If someone is stressed, they are less likely to be aware in a change in their environment. We will have to take this into consideration when performing our experiment. One big thing we learned was that when a person was warned ahead of time about a boring task they were about to partake in or about a change in their environment, they were more likely to pay attention and stay more alert. We will have to fit this into our experiment by telling some kids about our plan and then also keep some of them in the dark. This will give us a lot of different results; also it can help us determine the different types of awareness.

The Adaptability Test: A Fifteen Minute Mental Alertness Test for Use in Personnel Allocation
In the article, The Adaptability Test: A Fifteen Minute Mental Alertness
Test for Use in Personnel Allocation by Joseph Tiffin and C.H. Lawshe. Jr.,
we learned about this adaptability test that measured one’s mental adaptability or mental alertness. The test had a fifteen time limit and was useful in helping to place people. The test was used to place people in jobs that require rapid learning and/or development of independent judgment. It also helped locate the people who do not readily adapt to new situations but who would be satisfactory employees on simple jobs. The test consisted of one hundred and twenty test items. These were prepared so as to sample those types of items which have been used in mental ability tests. The participants had to choose different objects and depending on what they chose, they were placed into certain groups. Based off the items each chose, it showed what kind of attention they had. They did this test on the Marines and many other groups showing surprising results. People were placed in jobs based on their test results and showed more positive attitudes because they were more comfortable doing their new job.
This article relates to our experiment because it helps us learn that we do better in different environments based on our awareness and attention span. The results from the article showed that people with a short attention span did better in jobs that were repetitious. It was easier for them to learn things if they were short and repeated constantly. People with a wide attention span were able to partake in jobs that were more complicated and required the employee to learn different tasks constantly. Once we read this article and found out the results, we realized everyone is different and we will have to take that into consideration when performing our experiment. This article sort of went off base with what were going for but we did manage to pull some important information that we will have to be thinking about during our testing. It showed us different variables and different ideas that we didn’t think about before.

Using Acupressure to Modify Alertness in the Classroom: A Single-Blinded, Randomized, Cross-Over Trial
The article Using Acupressure to Modify Alertness in the Classroom by Richard E. Harris, Joanne Jetter, Paul Chan, and Peter Higgins was about the sudy aimed to determine whether two different acupressure treatments have opposing effects on alertness in a classroom setting. The experimenters gave the experimental group, a classroom of children, two different types of acupressure treatments. They hypothesized that the acupressure will help the children toward their alertness in the classroom. As the weeks went by, it turned out that the children who did receive one type of acupressure treatment did do considerably better in the classroom than those who received a different type. Not only did the experimenters look into acupressure as a cause to poor awareness in the classroom. They also noted that fatigue and hunger were also major factors in why the kids were not attentive. They came to realize that if a child’s basic needs were not fulfilled prior to entering the classroom, they were less likely to pay attention because they were preoccupied with hunger or fatigue.
We can apply the findings in this article to our own experiment by seeing which of the kids have had a goodnight’s sleep and which have had a good breakfast. If some have not fulfilled their body’s basic needs then we can already predict they will not do well in our alert and awareness experiment. This article provided some good information and some more ideas for us to consider while we perform our test. We will have to take a lot of our findings into mind as we design and perform our own awareness tests in the classroom.

The Restless Mind
This article called The Restless Mind by Jonathan Smallwood is about mind wandering. His hypothesis is that mind wandering does not occur intentionally but it does require executive permission to occur. Secondly it can only occur when the task is simple and does not require too many resources from the brain because mind wandering also requires resources. He has another theory that mind-wandering occurs because we have a list of goals in our mind of things we need to accomplish. This can lead to mind wandering because a new goal becomes available distracting us from our present goal. The researchers used two methods to measure the participant’s awareness: self-caught and probe-caught. Self-caught is when the participants stop in the middle of their thought process and examine how much they notice about their environment and about their thoughts, then they compare them with what they are supposed to be thinking or doing to examine how far off their mind had wandered. Probe-caught is when the researcher tries to examine what the participant had been thinking or what they were processing at the moment. The study studies participants mind wandering during reading. They would have participants begin to read a boring text then have them use self-caught methods to measure their awareness of their reading assignment. They also used probe-caught methods because it would be greater to ensure that participants are not distracted from their natural attention by trying to self-asses their thoughts.
This will relate to our study because it teaches us a lot about how we can assess our participants’ attention span during the study and it has taught us how to assess the reasons for their mind wandering. This can help us to alter the variables in our study to assess if these reasons are actually true in our study. Because it talks so in-depth about extraneous variables they encountered in their study so that we will be better able to avoid them and to account for them in our research. The biggest thing though that this experiment has provided for us though is that we will be better able to understand the reason for the mind wandering and will be able to use the different methods of examining the thought process.

Working Memory and Flexibility in Awareness and Attention
This article studies students awareness of the environment surrounding things. The students were tested by giving each one a test that had them read words relating to three categories: animals, body parts, and tools. Each category had a related color. The participants were then prompted to remember the words with the prompt for that category like ANIMALS? BODY PARTS? Or TOOLS? Either in a neutral color not related to a category, like black, or in the color relating to that category, or with a mismatched color. The hypothesis was that if they were prompted with a color relating to that category they would be better able to name the words. They were hoping that the color gave it a semantic meaning while the words themselves gave a concrete meaning. This was to test the participants’ awareness of their surroundings and their unconscious awareness of cognitive cues. It was also trying to test whether the colors relating to or non-relating to distracted the participants. The results to their first trial supported that when the participant was distracted they scored worse on their test.
This article relates to our experiment because it assesses students awareness when they are distracted and the availability of their working memory while performing tasks. It helps our experiment because it gives us ideas to test and how think about their distraction. Its slightly different than what we are trying to test but it has a similar idea to test the distraction of their working memory. This study can also help us to determine how we might test their awareness with a test similar to theirs. It might hinder our experiment a little bit because if we focus too much on this one it could distract us from the original idea we wanted to test. Secondly, this study could potentially enable us to better understand how we could distract our participants and how we could test that distraction.
Population, Sample, Procedure
Our population will be various high school classrooms with mixed groups of males and females. For our experiment we would like to test the differences between various age groups so we would like to study classes that have single age groups, then at least one class of each grade. This will give us sample of about one-hundred with four classes—one of freshmen, one of sophomores, one of juniors, and one of seniors. We would like to study how the different ages may notice things around them, like if a freshman is more aware of his/her surroundings of if a senior is more aware, or if there is no difference at all. We are also interested in studying the differences between males and females, then crossing those with the grades to test things, like if a sophomore male is more aware than a female junior.
The sample will not be random because not all classrooms will be available for our use and we do not have every period available. We also will need to select the grade which limits how many choices we have for classes. Once we have a couple of classes that meet our requirements, we will randomly select one to test.
Our experiment will be to test how students notice differences in their environment. We will do this by going into a classroom that we are not normally in and pretend to be just sitting in that class. We would find a seat and try to blend in by not appearing too outstanding, but also not trying to hide. We would like to see if people notice us, and we would like to test how people react. Another part of our experiment would be to have two people go into the classroom and have one person introduced as an observer in the class then have the next person just come in separately and sit in the class like they have always been there. We would do this to test if the “observer” distracted the students from the other observer, to see if they paid less attention. After the whole thing we would like the teacher to give out a paper survey and ask the students what differences they noticed in the classroom. We will then collect the data and analyze the results. We are also interested in testing people through verbal interviews and asking what they noticed, and what they thought or assumed.
The overall idea is to see how people react to a change in their environment and how aware they are of their surroundings. The idea is that we would like to know if being more or less aware of their surroundings could possibly affect the students learning. To test this we would like to add in one question from something that the student should have learned from the day that we sat in on their class and see if it has any correlation between their amount of awareness and how well they can answer the question.


YES noticed: 5 (4 males 1 female)

NO didn’t notice: 10 (7male 3 females)

YES noticed things other than me: 8 (4 males 4 females)
Total: 15 males 8 females (23 students)

Looking at the results of our experiment, we found out that 18 out of 23 students did not notice when a new person was among them in the classroom. Of those 18, 8 did notice something was different when asked (usually something on the wall had changed or behaviors were different) but all failed to notice the new person. We noticed that some things may have interfered with the results of our experiment such as the fact that there were more boys in the classroom than girls and possibly even the fact that we tested on a Monday so people’s mood might differ. As we review our results, we can come to the conclusion that high school students, when in the working environment of the classroom, are not very aware of their environment.

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