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Classroom distractions: stories, statistics and solutions

ASU students discuss classroom distractions and how they handle them

Classroom Distractions
"Sometimes it's hard to focus in class." Illustration published on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017.

For students across ASU, classroom distractions can be a serious problem. 

There are many types of distractions students experience. According to the VARK model, there are four main learning types: visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic.

Depending on their learning style, students could be more prone to distractions from sights, sounds, words or movements. So, despite the Arizona Board Of Regents' Student Code of Conduct, there will always be the possibility of disturbances.

Yazan Krimly, a communication sales and marketing junior, said his biggest distraction comes from other students using social media on electronic devices.

“That grabs my attention to look," Krimly said. "Especially laptops because they’re a bigger screen, you know?”

A 2016 study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that college students check their devices an average of 11 times a day while in class. The study found that students are more distracted than ever due to the availability of phones and laptops.

Krimly said the issue isn’t always solved by teachers, who either may not be aware of the problem or don't want to derail the lecture.

“Well, the teacher usually doesn’t know or he’s busy giving a lecture, so he doesn’t know what’s going on exactly," Krimly said. "Or he knows but he tries not to make a scene for that guy who’s using social media or something, you know what I mean?”

However, Krimly said he can intentionally ignore distractions.

“If I want to not care about it, I can because that’s just a distraction, you know? If you just kind of ignore it, it’s not there, even,” Krimly said.

Although this may not work for everyone, sites like CollegeXpress and Cengage Brain have other useful suggestions. For example, both sites advise turning off devices, leaving them at home or keeping them in a backpack. Although this may be difficult, the absence of a device can reduce the temptation to surf the web during class.

Ashlee Coffman, an interdisciplinary studies senior, said she doesn’t get distracted by screens, but struggles to focus on lectures that lack visuals.

“I’m a visual learner, not a hearing (learner), so I have to visualize what he’s saying in order for me to get it,” Coffman said.

Coffman said her ability to pay attention can be depend on the topic and class. 

“If the topic’s not interesting to me, I don’t pay much attention,” she said. “I do, but not in depth. If it’s something I like, like history, I like to pay attention to it because that’s what I’m interested in.”

Melissa Leon, a microbiology freshman, said her personal distractions come from other students.

“Maybe just the people around me,” Leon said. “Some people don’t pay attention and that distracts me because I get distracted by people … Just like, playing with a pencil or being on their phone, that’s distracting for me.”

Leon also said she remembered a specific time when another student brought her attention away from the task at hand.

“This student was crumpling papers,” she said. “I was trying to study and he didn’t let me because he was making a lot of noise with the paper. And I think that was really distracting.”

She said her tactic for staying focused was finding a quiet place or, when necessary, commenting on the issue.

“If I learn in class, I would just move to another place that’s quiet; a study place,” she said. “Or just put my headphones on, tell him to stop. It’s annoying.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @TrevorMHutchins on Twitter.

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