Conference Papers

Academic boredom among students in higher education: a mixed-methods exploration of characteristics and consequences

Academic boredom contributes usually adversely towards student engagement, learning and overall performance across a diverse range of settings including universities. The formal study of academic boredom in higher education remains, however, a relatively underdeveloped field and one surprisingly neglected in the UK. Adopting contemporary perspectives rooted in Control-Value Theory, details of a mixed-methods exploration of academic boredom among 235 final year undergraduates attending a single university in England are presented. Quantitative data from the principal survey instrument employed included measurement using the BPS-UKHE, a revised boredom proneness scale developed for use across the sector. Qualitative data arose primarily from ten research interviews. Findings indicate that about half of all respondents reported experiencing the most common precursors of academic boredom at least occasionally (e.g. monotony, repetition, time slowing down, lack of desire for challenge, loss of concentration and motivation to learn, restlessness); traditional lectures with a perceived excess and inappropriate use of PowerPoint stimulating the actual onset of boredom more than other interactive forms of delivery. Coping strategies when bored included daydreaming, texting and turning to social media. Boredom also occurred during the completion of assignments used to assess modules. Quantitative and qualitative differences between those identified as more prone to boredom than others extended to self-study (fewer hours), attendance (good rather than excellent) and final degree outcome (lower marks and a lower proportion of first and upper second class degree awards). Findings are considered valuable empirically, as well as theoretically, leading to recommendations surrounding boredom mitigation which challenge cultural traditions and pedagogical norms.

Sharp, J. (2016) 'Academic boredom among students in higher education: a mixed-methods exploration of characteristics and consequences', paper presented to The 12th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 30 June-01 July, viewed 09 August 2020, <>