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The Big Problem with Little Interruptions to Classroom Learning

Narrative accounts of classroom instruction suggest that external interruptions, such as intercom announcements and visits from staff, are a regular occurrence in U.S. public schools. We study the frequency, nature, and duration of external interruptions in the Providence Public School District (PPSD) using original data from a district-wide survey and classroom observations. We estimate that a typical classroom in PPSD is interrupted over 2,000 times per year, and that these interruptions and the disruptions they cause result in the loss of between 10 to 20 days of instructional time. Administrators appear to systematically underestimate the frequency and negative consequences of these interruptions. We propose several organizational approaches schools might adopt to reduce external interruptions to classroom instruction.

Interruptions, Classroom Observations, Learning Time, Absences, Tardies, Intercoms
Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)

This EdWorkingPaper is published in:

Kraft, M.A., & Monti-Nussbaum, M. (2021). The Big Problem with Little Interruptions to Classroom Learning. AERA Open.

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Kraft, Matthew, and Manuel Monti-Nussbaum. (). The Big Problem with Little Interruptions to Classroom Learning. (EdWorkingPaper: 20-227). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University:

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