Eye tracking reveals student attention in classroom

Eye tracking was used in this preliminary research study by Kennesaw State University to investigate student gaze patterns during physical science lectures. It discovered that classroom attention is impacted by various factors throughout the duration of the lecture.


A fundamental keystone in education research is to help students learn, whether the research involves labs, problem solving, tools for learning or lectures. Eye trackers can aid in this endeavor by providing an additional piece of data with which researchers can better understand students and the impact of what professors do with the students during lectures. This preliminary research study by Kennesaw State University Associate Professor of Physics Education David Rosengrant demonstrates how eye tracking can be used to investigate students' attention in lectures.

We were able to measure what the students observe during a lecture, how much of their time is dedicated to the material presented in class and, as an instructor, what are the greatest inhibitors to keeping their attention.

David Rosengrant, associate professor of physics education at the Department of Biology and Physics, Kennesaw State University

Eye tracking to study student attention in lectures

The objective of the study was to investigate attention patterns of students in the classroom in order to create a better understanding of what keeps students' focus during a lecture and to generate new insights into effective teaching techniques aimed at keeping students engaged and motivated to learn during lectures. With the use of Tobii Pro Glasses 1, a wearable eye tracker, researchers could investigate the following research questions:

  • What do students focus on during a lecture?
  • What will divert the attention of a student away from being on task?
  • What keeps a student on task during a lecture?

Tools and methods

Eight students, all attending a basic physical science course for pre-service elementary school teachers at Kennesaw State University (KSU), participated in the study.

Each subject wore the Tobii Glasses for the entire lecture. By eliminating the need for subjects to focus on a computer screen or carry around a backpack-sized recording device, the mobile eye tracking solution enabled researchers to study the broader range of research questions.

A student wearing Tobii Pro Glasses 1 and following the lecture.

The eye tracker recorded data for 70 minutes, combining audio and video with a dot representing where students were focusing. This image is a screenshot of output data from the eye tracker showing the instructor going over the answers to an in-class quiz while the subject looks at the diagram.

The subjects did not receive any benefits for participating in the study. Because only a limited number of students volunteered for the experiment, the ability to make certain comparisons was restricted.

Results and conclusions