Study Hall or Study Schmall?

The students walk into the main study hall room and sit in their assigned seats. They fire up their school-issued Chromebooks and open their notebooks to complete their assignments. As the clock ticks by, the students frets over whether or not they budgeted enough time to complete the assignments. Perhaps, they think, they could have done the whole thing at home.

“There are two types of students in study hall,” said Mr. Matt Dempsey ’96. “There are the efficient and the inefficient. Most of the people that come into study hall want to get their work done so that they have less work to do at home. However, there are students that will find a way to let themselves be distracted and to be not focused. Oftentimes, though, those students are the ones who need that time the most, because they slack off in their other classes.”

Mr. Bryan Jones, who teaches Algebra I & II in addition to monitoring sixth period study hall, notes that he would have used such a time had it been offered when he was a student. “I was a student who definitely would have utilized that time,” he said. “I did baseball in high school, and one of my least favorite things to do was to go home after practice or a game and do homework.”

Mr. Jones also says that study hall is not present in most schools. “Not many schools have a study hall,” he said. “But that dedicated quiet time, in a school where you do not have access to your phone, is something that you will want when you are an older person. I really hope that all the students can really get to understand and know that.”

This school is different from many other schools not only in the presence of a study hall at all, but in the presence of a structured study hall, a program meant for freshmen to learn study skills that they will carry throughout their academic career. “I took [structured study hall] my freshman year because I thought it would help me with my studying and organizational skills,” said junior Essa Kassissieh. “That class was very useful, and I have since used the strategies that I learned there in all of my subjects.”

Many other students that have taken structured study hall take notice of the benefits. “I took structured study hall mainly because my mom wanted me to do it,” said freshman Miles Atkinson. “However, I also thought it would be a good idea to do that. I think it has definitely benefited me, particularly at the beginning of the year, as it has helped me get organized.”

While students in study hall may report that the presence of that period helps them to limit their homework load and get better grades, this is not an effect that is felt by students across the United States. In an article entitled “Attitudes toward Study Hall as Related to Grades,” Warren S. Blumenfeld and H. H. Remmers found that “Less time spent in study hall and more time spent doing homework outside of school were associated with better grades.” In addition to this finding, they also found that “Moderate amounts of time spent doing homework at school tended to be associated with better grades. Unfavorable attitudes and perceived unfavorable attitudes toward study hall were associated with better grades. Preference for serious studying at home was associated with reports of better grades. It was concluded that the better students did more homework; but study hall was neither the time nor the place of their choosing.”

This blasé attitude towards study hall is not isolated. In the book The Study Hall in Junior and Senior High Schools, the authors argue that the study hall is present in schools as an administrative device. However, even this function is not entirely negative, as the study hall allows for an easy way to locate where students are, as well as allowing for a place for large announcements to be made.

The book also makes further reference to the study hall as a “catch-all” class, as students are often sent there due to a teacher sickness, or for one or another reason. This, the book puts forward, is the problem, as this can put undue stress on the room as a whole, the quiet study environment the room is meant for, as well as the teacher monitoring the students.

Even though there is some (although not overwhelming) evidence to the controversy, there is little chance of the study hall going away apart from a personal choice. The choice to drop a study hall is one that several students take, and is not a decision that should be made lightly, according to Mr. Dempsey.

“I never dropped my study hall when I was a student,” he said, “so I always tell students to be very careful when they come to me because they want to drop their study hall. In particular, the student really needs to consider if they want to take out their dedicated study time and replace it with another academic class.

“Oftentimes, though, those students know what they are doing, and they just have to be able to manage their time very efficiently. For instance, if a teacher finishes lecturing and there is some time left in class, that student can take advantage of those few minutes and get some of their homework done while at school.”

Mr. Dempsey has also had students that have come to him because they are taking a sport, and they want to drop their study hall in order to take another academic class. This is a very important distinction, according to him, as students often say that they are “dropping their study hall for a sport.” He views this differently. “You take your sport as an elective, and then you may decide that you want to drop your study hall and take another academic elective,” he said.

The choice to drop a study hall is not for everyone. “I think that only certain people should drop their study hall,” said  Kassissieh. “It comes down to knowing yourself, your schedule, and your workload. I know people benefit from it.”

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