Public Relations Today

Do Students Know How Much Work They Have?

Chalkup Staff wrote this on May 26, 2016

This essay comes from our four-part email series on student stress and time management in the 21st century. Get the whole series delivered to your inbox here.


Our first two stories on student time management (here and here) spent a lot of time asserting that student stress is a real problem, and it’s possible that educators and parents aren’t always on the same page about how much work is on their child’s plate. This makes it hard to impart valuable time management skills and flag instances in which hours of work veer into unhealthy territory.

Maybe by now you’re feeling a “shame on you, adults!!” vibe. Well, perhaps today’s deep dive into a student’s role in developing healthy, balanced scheduling skills will change that. Students, especially those in high school, are ultimately responsible for their learning and creating balance in their schedule. How do we help them do that?

What Students Need to Understand About Time Management

Time management skills aren’t just a tested method to cope with academic pressure. They’re life-long skills that separate great employees from mediocre ones. What students need to understand about time management is that someone who is able to plan and balance responsibilities is building healthy habits that span beyond academia.

In our last essay we asked if adults knew how much work students had on their plate. Today, we’re asking if students do. Can they assess how long it will take to do tonight’s homework? Do they know how to prioritize items on their to-do list?

Strategies for reducing student anxiety via time management skills must empower the student. Methods that combat stress solely by removing responsibilities - or shifting onus off of the student - fail in one big way: they communicate that a student is not in control of their workload.

This doesn’t mean that students who are coming home with more work than there are hours in the day shouldn’t be bringing this to the attention of instructors or dropping classes to create a more balanced schedule. This means a solution should put the student in control of dropping or adding classes, switching up the way they study, or talking with teachers when demands on their time are too intense.

Giving Students Tools to Succeed

So as we see it, pushing for student time management training does not necessarily mean asking students to do less. Not at all. The Chicago Tribune recently ran a piece that linked higher academic success to students who took part in sports and clubs. Students interviewed felt that the array of activities reinforced scheduling and time management. (And these are the kids with jam-packed schedules!)

The key is empowering students to take control of their schedule, prioritize tasks, and recognize how their time is being spent across the day.

We read up on the research that’s been done in the last two decades about teaching time management (full disclosure, there wasn’t a ton dedicated solely to time management skills). One report caught our eye. A quasiexperimental study examined time management intervention - introducing students to goal-setting, prioritizing, delegating, and so on - among high school students.

The key is empowering students to take control of their schedule, prioritize tasks, and recognize how their time is being spent across the day.

Big picture: students who received the time management intervention appeared to have a better perception of their skill level, and perhaps a better understanding of how long it took to complete tasks. However, both groups of students who were tested showed improved performance. The authors posited that the time management treatment was useful, but learning the expectations and routine of high school also positively contributed to a student’s skills. It’s also worth noting that the experiment was tested on groups of elite, high-performing students who were less in need of such an intervention.

There’s a lot to unpack in the report - limitations of the study, analyzing the performance of each group, etc. - but what sticks out to us is the reported drop in stress and anxiety among the group of students who received a time management intervention.

There is certainly more to be studied about supplying students with time management tools. But when we do it, good things seem to happen.

As for the actual time management interventions: there’s no shortage of “10 time management hacks you need to know right now” articles floating around the web. A trusted, academic model has yet to fully emerge, and more research on the efficacy of time management training is needed (and was recommended in every report we read).

What we can agree on is this: making time to talk about goal setting and priorities is good. Making students aware of how they divvy up their time - and how long it takes to complete certain tasks - is good. Learning how to delegate and set a schedule is good. And the more experimenting we can do with successfully imparting these ideas so others can benefit is even better.

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Topics: Student Engagement, time management