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Graduate student researches impact of free periods on learning

May 15, 2013

  • Photo by Christopher Onstott, Portland Tribune.

When Amanda Jordan, who is earning her master’s in counseling this spring, needed a topic for her action research project, she drew on her role as a counseling intern at Grant High School for inspiration.

“Kids I talked to told me they were missing class in order to hang out with their friends during free periods,” Jordan told the Portland Tribune. Jordan also observed students getting poor grades in easy subjects because they skipped class if it was on the same day as a free period.

The resulting research question: Does a high selection of free periods (three or more) impact school engagement for juniors and seniors at Grant High School?

Jordan’s semester-long study examined the attendance, behavior, performance, and attitudes of Grant’s 1,548 students, 57 percent of whom were taking a full course load of seven classes. Grant’s free periods are 75 or 90 minutes, Tuesday through Friday.

What Jordan found was that upperclass students with three or more free periods had more absences than those with fewer than three free periods. Juniors with three or more free periods saw a steeper decline in their grade point average than those with no free periods.

“There’s a strong correlation between the students’ decline and the free periods,” Jordan said. “I can’t say causation, but there are strong indicators.”

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