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Time-on-Task: A Pedagogical Measure To Assesses Differences in U.S. and Indian Engineering Curricula and Outcomes

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2012 ASEE International Forum


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 9, 2012

Start Date

June 9, 2012

End Date

June 10, 2012

Conference Session

International Forum Poster Session & Welcome Reception: Sponsored by Quanser and Cypress Semiconductors

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ASEE International Forum

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Page Numbers

17.51.1 - 17.51.8



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Roman Taraban Texas Tech University

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Roman Taraban is Professor in the Department of Psychology at Texas Tech University. He received his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. His interests are in how undergraduate students learn, and especially, how they draw meaningful connections in traditional college content materials. This research was supported by a Fulbright-Nehru Research Award.

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Time-on-Task: A Pedagogical Measure To Assesses Differences in U.S. and Indian Engineering Curricula and OutcomesIn the educational literature, time-on-task has typically been applied as a measure of the timestudents dedicate to a learning task. In the cognitive literature, time-on-task has validity at anumber of levels. At the neurological level, long-term potentiation is responsible for changingsynaptic connections in the brain that reflect learning. At a behavioral level, increasing practicetrials results in greater learning. The goal of this research was to assess differences acrosscultures in the allocation of time to academics, to relate these to students’ academic achievement,and to use these data to inform curriculum decisions.Self-reported times were collected from 211 Texas Tech and University of Wyoming studentsand 313 Indian Institute of Technology students for doing homework, reading textbooks, readingother printed materials (e.g. novels, handouts), answering assigned questions from the textbook,writing papers, and working on projects for classes. Additionally, Indian students reported timesfor attending lectures, attending tutorials, studying with friends, and reading for entertainment orpleasure. Relatively equal numbers were sampled from freshman to senior (FR-SR) years. Basedon information in the popular culture (e.g., Two Million Minutes, Broken Pencil Productions,2007) and the excellent reputation of Indian Institutes of Technology with their focus onengineering basics, we predicted that Indian students would spend more time than U.S. studentson homework, reading textbooks and other printed materials, and solving textbook problems, andthat Indian students would follow the Golden Rule for study time, which is two hours of studyoutside of class for every hour in class. We also predicted that both groups would spend less timeon textbook problems from freshman to senior years and transition to projects.The data revealed that U.S. students significantly exceeded Indian students in homework timeand time solving textbook problems, contrary to predictions. Indian students significantlyexceeded U.S. students in reading textbooks and reading other printed materials, consistent withpredictions. The two groups did not differ in time writing papers and working on projects. Giventhat U.S. students spend about 15 hours per week in lecture and Indian students spend about 23hours, U.S. students were closer to following the Golden Rule than Indian students, but neithergroup followed the rule. The data were further examined for changes in use of time fromfreshman through senior years (FR-SR) and associations with cumulative grade-point averages(CGPA) (see table below). U.S. students spent significantly more time on homework andsolving textbook problems from FR-SR years, contrary to predictions; Indian students spendsignificantly less time. Indian students spent significantly less time reading textbooks and otherprinted materials; U.S. students did not change. The prediction that both groups would spendmore time on projects was fulfilled, but there was a significant decline in writing for both groups.Doing homework and solving textbook problems were positively associated with CGPA for U.S.students. Working on projects was positively associated with CGPA for Indian students.In conclusion, the data showed significant differences in how U.S. and Indian students allocatedtheir time as they progressed through their respective programs. The differences in study timeand the patterns of correlations with CGPA signal significant differences in the trainingprograms for U.S. and Indian students and the effects that those curricula have on the skills thatthese students ultimately gain through their education.Table 1. Means (in minutes) for Daily Study-Time Questions by Academic Level, SpearmanCorrelation Coefficient (r), and p-Value (shown as superscript).Activity Country FR SO JU SE r-credits r-CGPA .010 .026Doing homework US 112 121 133 124 .128 .111 INDIA 48 51 34 37 .012 -.019 -.142Reading textbooks US 38 29 43 36 .028 .038 .007 INDIA 51 43 36 33 -.153 -.065Reading other printed materials US 22 17 18 22 -.044 -.066 .046 INDIA 38 27 35 27 -.113 .021 .001 .039Answering textbook questions US 46 72 84 72 .212 .103 INDIA 32 23 13 15 .001 .042 -.359 .006Writing papers US 28 14 10 16 -.135 -.05 INDIA 17 14 11 12 .002 -.015 -.173 .001 .031Working on projects US 28 22 33 43 .238 -.107 INDIA 18 20 51 54 .001 .001 .350 .254 .001Attending lecture INDIA 213 229 186 169 -.279 .078 .001Attending tutorials INDIA 91 41 34 34 -.486 .006 .004 .025Studying with friends INDIA 37 26 32 20 -.161 -.127 .002Reading for entertainment INDIA 59 73 68 78 .172 -.063 .001Reading newspapers INDIA 17 22 28 39 .256 -.079Notes. FR: Freshman, SO: Sophomore, JU: Junior, SE: Senior. r-credits is the correlation ofcompleted college credits with the amount of time spent in the related activity. r-CGPA is thecorrelation of cumulative grade-point average with the amount of time spent in the relatedactivity. When the correlations are significantly different from zero, the p-value appears as asuperscript.

Taraban, R. (2012, June), Time-on-Task: A Pedagogical Measure To Assesses Differences in U.S. and Indian Engineering Curricula and Outcomes Paper presented at 2012 ASEE International Forum, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--17066

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