Overcoming boredom

September 1, 2011 By Jamie Hanlon, University of Alberta

“I’m bored.” It’s a line that parents likely hear throughout the year. But, as students prepare to head back to classes for the start of a new school year, one University of Alberta researcher says these understimulated learners may hold the solution to their own problem.

New findings by University of Alberta researcher Lia Daniels indicate that boredom may be an internal issue for the student no matter how interesting the class may be.

She says that, while the responsibility is often placed on the teacher to make the class more interesting, the students must also use strategies to overcome their feelings of boredom in order to maximize their learning opportunities.

“As instructors, we know that no matter how interesting your lesson is, there are some students in there that perceive the situation as boring,” said Daniels, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education. “We wanted to put the onus on students—what are they themselves doing?”

Students come in threes

Daniels and her German colleagues from the University of Konstanz found from their research that students fall into three categories: re-appraisers, criticizers and evaders. Daniels says the re-appraisers are the most resourceful of the three as they are able to adapt and find challenges in their classes on their own. Another group, the evaders, follow true to their name and tune out of class work in favour of finding other ways to entertain themselves.

Daniels is particularly interested in the middle group, the criticizers, a label that she says may be hard for many of that group to accept. However, she says that this coterie can possibly bring about effective change in the class delivery. The caveat, of course, is finding the best way to communicate the need for change to the teacher.

“They are the students who might say to a teacher, ‘you know, this isn’t particularly challenging. Can I read a different book; can I do some extra research on this? How can I change this so that it is not as boring for me as an individual,’” said Daniels. “I actually think that could be a very adaptive strategy if it was well-received within learning environments. However, finding the right place and the proper context for those discussions are very important.”

Learning a valuable lesson?

The evaders are perhaps the most challenging group, says Daniels, and one of the main reasons this group gets bored is that they don’t see value in what they are learning. In this case, she says, and teachers need to find ways to constructively help them understand the real value in their learning, something that may alleviate their negative view of their work.

Determining the root cause of boredom is key, she says, and is the crucial first step for parents who want to help their children overcome their academic ennui. The issue may be that they are under-challenged in the class or that the material is too difficult and they are unable to understand the concepts necessary to do the work. Many parents may be inclined to go to the teacher first, but Daniels cautions that without knowing where the issue lies, making a beeline for the school may be a wasted trip.

“As parents, we need to stop and think, ‘why might my child be bored? Is it the work or are they bored because they tend to be bored by everything that’s in their life,’” she said. “Identifying the source of is one of the things parents can do that can help them understand whether that’s something that they can help their child work on or whether it really is an issue to take up with teachers.”

Explore further: Bored? This is anything but tedious

Related Stories

Bored? This is anything but tedious

May 25, 2011

Boredom: Children are quick to distastefully proclaim it and adults are quick to deny it. But University of Calgary Greek and Roman Studies professor Peter Toohey says there is nothing wrong with boredom after all. In fact, ...

Coping with back-to-school anxiety

August 11, 2011

Many children feel nervous about going to school for the first time or returning to school after a summer off. Here are tips for kids – and parents – on managing the back-to-school jitters.

The kids are alright

May 26, 2011

Children should be seen and not heard... who says? A Philosophy academic at The University of Nottingham is challenging the adage by teaching primary school children to argue properly.

See something? Tell the teacher

November 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Many school districts are pushing principals to spend more time in classrooms observing and evaluating teachers but few are using the information they gather to improve education.

Recommended for you

Study sheds new light on ancient human-turkey relationship

January 17, 2018

For the first time, research has uncovered the origins of the earliest domestic turkeys in ancient Mexico. The study also suggests turkeys weren't only prized for their meat—with demand for the birds soaring with the Mayans ...

Lifting barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants

January 15, 2018

Taking the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony is an emotional moment for many immigrants, and for good reason: it is the culmination of an often arduous process and many years of striving. Citizenship also opens ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2011
Yes! Our children must learn to make the best of the skills and talents they have, for their own benefit, and that of their society/community. We must assist them in this.
2.7 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2011
Identifying the source of boredom is one of the things parents can do that can help them understand whether thats something that they can help their child work on or whether it really is an issue to take up with teachers.

.. and whats the point of taking it up with teachers that have no interest in adapting to a childs needs. Here, the teachers simply follow the curriculum and have no incentive to help kids grow. Cynical I know - but most schools are simply about social control and not about learning. The pressure to achieve and perform put onto the children borders on abuse. Let them have a childhood and happy fun memories. In later years life becomes complex enough without losing their carefree childhood. Nothing wrong with being average. Hey teacher - leave them kids alone.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.