Abstract

Recess provides a key physical activity opportunity for students in school, yet a wide range of recess requirements exist. To design optimal recess policies, the effect of recess on students' educational outcomes must be better understood. Therefore, the purpose of this mixed-method systematic review is to identify and systematically evaluate research on the effects of recess on student educational outcomes, including behavior, cognitive performance and academic achievement. A systematic search of the literature in ERIC (EBSCO), ProQuest Central, PsycINFO, Teacher Reference Center, MEDLINE Complete (EBSCO), and CINAHL Complete was performed through September 2022. Data was extracted from quantitative studies, and reported themes with exemplar quotes were extracted from qualitative studies. The Mixed Method Appraisal Tool (MMAT) was used to assess study quality. The search identified 932 articles, of which 13 were included in the review, including 8 quantitative and 5 qualitative studies. Eleven studies were conducted in the United States, and reported sample size of studies ranged from 12 to 11,624. Studies found mixed effects on student behavior, discipline referrals and academic achievement. Qualitative studies reported multiple benefits of recess including increased focus, improved problem solving and academic achievement. Overall, evidence suggests positive benefits for behavior and either positive or null benefits of recess on academic achievement. However, evidence is limited by non-controlled study designs and diversity in outcome assessments. Additional quantitative evidence is needed to convince policymakers of the specific evidence supporting recess, but also to advise on the optimal recess policies and practices to improve student learning.

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