Regular Attention Recuperation/alx

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Regular Attention Recuperation
Contributors Christian Köppe, Joost Schalken-Pinkster
Last modification May 16, 2017
Source Köppe and Schalken-Pinkster (2015)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain
Regular Attention Recuperation-alx.png

You have the Suitable Content Selection (Suitable Content Selection)and are now starting to identify the elements and structure of the specific lectures. You also (partially) have the Suitable Delivery Form Selection (Suitable Delivery Form Selection).


Students often find it hard to follow your lecture over a longer period. They fade away in their thoughts or start to do other things. Everything you tell or do at such moments is very likely to be fruitless.

Monotonous Voice. Whatever someone is saying, if it’s done with a monotonous voice it is hard for listeners to not fall asleep.

Attention Span. People have difficulties with paying attention for longer periods.

Text Slides. Many teachers tend to put as much information as possible on the slides, resulting in large amounts of text. Even if people are interested, it is nearly impossible to read the slides and at the same time listen to the teacher.

Student Passivity. Students who are not intrinsically motivated to make use of the lecture for their learning are likely to be passive during the lecture. This often results in inattention and being busy with non-lecture activities like surfing the internet or text messaging with their peers.


Therefore: Include delivery forms and activities in your lecture that help with regaining the attention of the students. Vary in the sorts of activities/delivery forms and involve the students actively in these attention refreshments.

Attention span has long had the attention of pedagogical researchers. In 1976, Johnstone and Percival noted that the attention span of students dissipates in cycles of 10 to 15 minutes, after which the students let their attention lapse, after which they pick up their attention.[2] A recent study by Bunce et al. from 2010 shows that the attention span cycle is closer to five minutes and decreases as a lecture progresses.[3] This time-slot therefore gives a good indication of the maximum duration of a period after which students need an attention refreshment.

Bunce et al.[3] also showed that “student-centered" learning and active-learning methods positively influence the attention span of students. In the study, the two most frequently used active-learning methods were questions and demonstrations. All students in the class answered questions, posed by the lecturer, using a clicker. Bunce et al. discovered that during the student-centered parts of the lecture, fewer attention lapses occurred, when compared to those reported during lecture parts. In addition, the researchers found that there were fewer lapses in attention during lecture parts that followed immediately upon a question or demonstration, when they compared this to the attention during lecture parts prior to the active-learning activities. This finding indicates that active-learning methods have dual benefits: engaging student attention during the parts when the lecturer uses these methods as well as “refreshing" the student’s attention immediately afterwards.

There are many ways of implementing this pattern and it can be combined with many other patterns in order to increase its benefits.

One of the most important aspects for keeping the students’ attention is to make use of Digestible Packets (Digestible Packets). These are typically shorter than the attention span. The different packets should comprise Different Approaches (Different Approaches)[4] and make use of the Suitable Delivery Form Selection (Suitable Delivery Form Selection). It also helps to Change Media (Change Media)[5]on a regular base.

Making use of some concrete representations of abstract concepts makes it easier for students to follow and therefore helps them to keep attentive (see Colorful Analogy (Colorful Analogy)[6] or Consistent Metaphor (Consistent Metaphor) (AKA Analogy (Analogy))[4]). If these analogies are covering multiple concepts, then they could used multiple times during a lecture and be interwoven in a Module's Story (Module's Story)[6]which also supports Imagination Stimulation (Imagination Stimulation).

Questions are a good way of engaging students actively during lectures. There are two distinguishable applications. The first is asking questions to the students, which encourages them to think about the answer and therefore requires their attention. Patterns that help with this application are Carefully Crafted Questions (Carefully Crafted Questions) and Simple Answer (Simple Answer)[7]. Important hereby is an Uninterrupted Listening (Uninterrupted Listening)[7] to show the students that their complete answers are valued and not taken over by the teacher. A Pregnant Pause (Pregnant Pause)[7] helps if students do not immediately answer a question. The second way of using questions in lectures is to have students asking questions, which implicitly includes that they are actively thinking about the content and therefore attentive. This is difficult to plan in advance or to include in the planning. However, the students should be made aware of that you Honor Questions (Honor Questions)[4].

A monotonous voice and sticking gesture-less to one place in front of the class does not help getting and keeping the attention of the students, so take care of the Teacher's Language (Teacher's Language) [4]. Show your Teacher Enthusiasm (Teacher Enthusiasm)[8] and try to keep the Minimum Distance (Minimum Distance)[7] to the students if possible. Students tend to be more attentive if something really happens during a lecture instead of only static content being presented. A couple of patterns help with including such a dynamic aspect, e.g. Show It Running (Show It Running)[9], Simulation Games (Simulation Games)[6], or Make Them Make It Their Problem (Make Them Make It Their Problem)[9].

The need for attention recuperation might become less if special attention is paid to interactivity during lectures. The interactivity patterns proposed in Köppe and Schalken-Pinkster (2013)[10] help hereby.

For the lecture on database performance optimization, the suitable content was chosen together with accompanying delivery forms. The content was presented using varying delivery forms, whereby all parts were no longer than 15-20 minutes. In the beginning a photo of a record collection was used to reactivate existing knowledge about database design. This was achieved using questions, which requires the attention of the students. The answers of the students were written down on a whiteboard. Then some slides were used for introducing the concepts of basic performance measurement (as requirement for performance improvement). After this introduction a tool was used for making these concepts concrete. Here again questions — like “what do you think happens when I do this" — were used to actively involve the students and to gain their attention. After sufficient demonstration and explanation of this subtopic a new subtopic was introduced, again using the analogy of records. A photo with two piles of records was shown, and it was asked to the students how they would approach the task of finding all duplicates in these two piles. This led to a discussion — again actively involving the students — and the results where summarized on a whiteboard. This was followed by presentations about different strategies.

This way the whole lecture included changes in delivery forms, made reuse of collaboratively gathered knowledge (written down on the whiteboard), and involved the students in different ways. The combination of all these things helped to keep the attention of the students during the whole lecture.


  1. Köppe, C., & Schalken-Pinkster, J. (2015). Lecture design patterns: laying the foundation. In Proceedings of the 18th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Program (EuroPLoP 2013) (p. 4). New York:ACM.
  2. Johnstone, A. H., & Percival, F. (1976). Attention breaks in lectures. Education in chemistry, 13(2), 49-50.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bunce, D. M., Flens, E. A., & Neiles, K. Y. (2010). How long can students pay attention in class? A study of student attention decline using clickers. Journal of Chemical Education, 87(12), 1438-1443.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Bergin, J., Eckstein, J., Völter, M., Sipos, M., Wallingford, E., Marquardt, K., Chandler, J., Sharp, H., and Manns, M.L. (2012). Pedagogical patterns: advice for educators. Joseph Bergin Software Tools.
  5. Fricke, A., & Völter, M. (2000). SEMINARS: A Pedagogical Pattern Language about teaching seminars effectively. In Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2000) (pp. 87-128). New York:ACM.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Anthony, D. L. (1996). Patterns for classroom education. In Pattern languages of program design 2 (pp. 391-406). Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc..
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Larson, K. A., Trees, F. P., & Weaver, D. S. (2008). Continuous feedback pedagogical patterns. In Proceedings of the 15th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2008) (p. 12). New York:ACM.
  8. Olson, D. (2008). Teaching Patterns: A Pattern Language for Improving the Quality of Instruction in Higher Education Settings. ProQuest.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Schmolitzky, A. (2007). Patterns for Teaching Software in Classroom. In Proceedings of the 12th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2007). New York:ACM.
  10. Köppe, C., & Schalken-Pinkster, J. (2013). Lecture design patterns: improving interactivity. In Proceedings of the 20th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2013) (p. 23). The Hillside Group.