Summary of “The impact of screen-free zones in an undergraduate psychology classroom: Assessing exam performance and instructor evaluations in two quasi-experiments”

Summary of Rhinehart, L., Vazquez, S. R., & Greenfield, P.M. (2021). The impact of screen-free zones in an undergraduate psychology classroom: Assessing exam performance and instructor evaluations in two quasi-experiments. Teaching of Psychology,

Many undergraduates look at screens during lectures. The instructor in Psychology 133G, Prof. Patricia Greenfield, and two long-term TAs, Dr. Laura Rhinehart and Salvador Vazquez, became concerned about the distraction produced by screens in class and decided to address the issue through both research and practice. Two quasi-experimental studies in Psychology 133G, Culture and Human Development, explored results of restricting screens to one area of the classroom on exam performance and instructor evaluations. Their results have been recently published in Teaching of Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association. (

In both studies, these policies improved exam scores in the class. Students who chose to sit in the screen-free zone did better on exams. Horizontal division of the classroom where students could use their laptops only if they sat in the back few rows of the classroom produced student pushback in the form of qualitative comments on their evaluation forms and lower evaluations in quantitative instructor ratings. In contrast, vertical division of the classroom where one side was for screens and the other side was a no-screen section was accepted without comment by students. Together, these studies show that students who sit in screen-free sections tend to do better on assessments. Additionally, students accept vertical division of a classroom into screen and screen-free zones. Now that we are returning to classroom teaching, these studies can be useful for students and instructors alike; they imply that students will do better if they attend at least some lectures in a screen-free section. While screens are of course central to remote learning, the findings also imply that students should listen and view remote lectures with notifications turned off and without multitasking online, like checking email or social media.

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Research Collaboration Highlights the Role of Undergraduate Research in Building Career-Related Skills for Humanities and Social Science Majors


New research published in the summer 2021 edition (Volume 4, Number 4) of the journal Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research (SPUR) highlights the important role that participating in undergraduate research plays in helping humanities, arts, and social science students develop important skills desired by today’s employers.

While many studies on undergraduate research outcomes are focused on STEM fields, the widely variable experiences in the humanities, arts, and social sciences are less known and harder to study. The structure and standardization of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP) and Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP), both offered through UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Center – Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (URC-HASS), however, provide a unique opportunity to study the outcomes of these students. Compared with a quasi-control group of non-research students, students engaged in research reported statistically significant better outcomes on average in attaining skills related to critical thinking/problem solving, professionalism/work ethic, and oral/written communication, three of the top four competencies desired by hiring employers, as ranked by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

This study and publication are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the URC-HASS and the Center for Educational Assessment (CEA). The authors of the paper are Drs. Kelly Kistner (Assistant Director, URC-HASS), Erin M. Sparck (Postdoctoral Scholar, CEA), Amy Liu (Research Analyst, CEA), Hannah Whang Sayson (Assistant Director of Data Analytics, CEA), Marc Levis-Fitzgerald (Director, CEA), and Whitney Arnold (Director, URC-HASS).

The full article can be accessed on the Council of Undergraduate Research’s website for Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research (SPUR) in Volume 4, Number 4.