Data Mining Finds Lessons About Procrastination

The Hechinger Report
Jill Barshay
July 11, 2015
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Researchers at Knewton, an education technology company, recently released a report showing that students who procrastinate do worse on assignments. Students who did their homework the night before it was due scored, on average, three percent lower than the class mean. The best results came from starting three, four, or five days before the due date. Researchers looked at data from over 5,000 students completing chemistry assignments using Knewton's educational software.

We should be careful, however, to not assume too much from these findings. Procrastinating didn't necessarily cause students to do worse—it may just be that those who have a shakier grasp of the material are also more likely to procrastinate. It would be more revealing to go person by person, looking at their grades when they worked ahead and comparing that to their grades when they did their work at the last minute.

As technology becomes increasingly present in the classroom, there is more and more data on how we learn, allowing us to better study which practices help or hurt students. It becomes important, though, to understand what the numbers do—and don't—say.

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