Unit 5 - Academic Achievement

General Purpose:  To understand the impact that media can have on
the intellectual and academic achievement on children and adults.

Unit Outline

I.   Media Use and Academic Achievement

     A.   Past Research

          1.   Mixed Effect for Exposure on Grades

               a.   small effect
               b.   large effect
               c.   no effect

          2.   Improving on Past Research 

II.  Potter's Study (Potter, 1987)

     A.   Goals and Methods - surveyed 500 teenagers on media use.

     B.   Predictors and Outcomes - linked the two data sets

          1.   Predictors - type and amount of TV kids watch in a
          2.   Outcome - standardized test scores of reading,
               math, science, and social science

     C.   Results

          1.   Type of Exposure Makes the Difference

               a.   If kids watched documentaries, they scored
                    higher on the achievement tests - small

               b.   If kids watched a lot of MTV, they had lower
                    scores on the achievement tests - small

          2.   Time Displacement Effects - as they watched more
               TV, does it help or hurt?

               a.   Low - 0-10 (scores got better)
               b.   Moderate - 10-30 (scores got better)
               c.   High - 30+ (reverse effect - scores got worse)

          3.   Effects of Late Night Viewing 

               a.   Watched a lot of Letterman then in the High

               b.   As they watched more Letterman, scores went
                    down - small effect.

          4.   Average Impact of Exposure on Achievement - see
               page 50

     D.   The Chicken and the Egg 

III. A Natural Experiment (Tannis MacBeth Williams, 1960)

     A.   A "Natural Experiment" and Causal Inferences - use a
          naturally occurring event and try to draw a causal

     B.   The Communities (Notel, Unitel, & Multitel) - Small
          northern Canadian communities with no TV, one channel,
          and multiple channels.

     C.   Design of Experiment - to capture the effect TV will
          have.  Constructed 3 measurement periods over 4 years. 
          Had two dimensions to work in (within community and
          between communities)

     D.   Areas of Study

          1.   Reading Skill - used word attack 

          2.   Creativity - alternate use test

          3.   Problem-Solving and Persistence - see page 179.

     E.   Results

          1.   Reading - within 4 years Notel and Multitel became

          2.   Creativity - same patterns as results of reading

          3.   Problem-Solving (Success 45/55; Persist 25/75) (TV
               Use 25/75) - pattern is the same but the size is
               small (starts out with a small difference).

IV.  Thinking and Watching TV (Armstrong & Greenberg, 1990) - lab
     study of college students

     A.   How Do We Think When We Watch TV?  no effect,
          interference, or improvement

     B.   Cognitive Tasks - had people perform tasks while watching
          TV - dual processing task

          1.   short term memory tasks 
          2.   problem solving tasks 
          3.   creativity tasks 
          4.   reading comprehension

     C.   Experimental Groups - divided people into 3 groups

          1.   Control - no TV on (just perform the tasks)

          2.   Ignore TV - turn TV on but ignore (just perform the

          3.   Dual Task - TV on (watch TV and perform tasks as

     D.   Results (35/65 effect size) - moderate effect (evidence
          of an interference effect)

     E.   Conclusions

          1.   Complexity of the information - bigger difference

          2.   No evidence that trying to do both helps

V.   Explaining the Effects of Media on Achievement

     A.   Time Displacement - TV pushes out study time.

     B.   Information Overhead - trying to do dual task processing 

     C.   Different Forms of "Skills" Required 

Back to Notes Table of Contents

Notes prepared by Teresa Jones, Spring, 1996. Page created April 21, 1996; updated on October 6, 1999. Edited by Mike Lowry Copyright © Teresa Jones and Steve Booth-Butterfield, 1996.