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Should Students' Use of Leisure Time Matter to College Educators? Critical Conversation #4

May 7, 2016

Critical Conversation Question #4:  Should students' use of leisure time matter to college educators? Why or why not?

College students spend more time in non-academic activities than in all of their formal academic activities (attending class, studying, homework, etc.) combined. This troubling fact has led educators to seek new ways to encourage students to devote more time to academics and to utilize their leisure time in college in more educationally purposeful ways. 

Focus Authors
Hsin-Yu Chen & Careen Yarnal are the JCC Focus Authors for May 2016. They authored along with co-authors John T.P. Hustad and Damon Sims "Take a Selfie of Life: A Qualitative Exploration of College Students’ Self-Reflections on Free Time Use and Personal Values" in the Journal of College & Character May 2016 issue.

Their Response
Yes, student leisure time use matters to college educators.

1. College students make time allocation decisions about various daily activities, such as studying, doing homework, sleeping, hanging out with friends, volunteering at local shelters, exercising, drinking and/or smoking marijuana—the list is endless. Many of these decisions occur during free or leisure time, when students have a remarkable level of free choice and self-determination. College students have considerable leisure time, 42 hours a week on average, which is almost twice the 24 hours devoted to academic-related work. Some students engage in leisure activities that foster mental and physical health, build relationships, and promote personal growth, academic enhancement, and civic engagement. Other student choices, however, lead to physical inactivity, social isolation, illicit substance abuse, boredom and apathy, and academic and community disengagement. Yet, given that free time is about 25% of the college student’s week, why not do more to help students understand the important role of free time?

2. One possible avenue is to take a more intentional approach to providing students with knowledge about why it is beneficial to engage in positive leisure pursuits, and how that engagement enhances skills development, personal growth, and wellness.

3. We therefore purposefully developed a class to help students learn about leisure and wove an innovative three-phase time diary (TD) project into the course to intentionally encourage self-reflection. This design shows potential as a low cost, scalable, and transferable approach to foster widespread understanding of leisure time use.

4. The course broadens student knowledge about the role of leisure in everyday life, as well as the positive and negative effects of free time use. The TD, which is comprised of intense data collection, rigorous data analysis, and an in-depth capstone reflection paper that synthesizes the class concepts and time use data, effectively heightens self-awareness, promotes self-reflection, inspires change, and facilitates knowledge application.

5. Our study results demonstrate that repeated exposure to concepts about leisure and the semester-long TD process helped students delve deeply into their lived experiences and contemplate how personal choices contribute to college life, highlighting the importance of and the need for leisure education.

What do you think of the authors’ responses? Should students' use of leisure time matter to college educators? Why or why not?