Welcome to the website of Quintessence, a research team consisting of six students from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), trying to examine the possibility of improving the commonly prevalent lecture environment for students by means of changing the structure of the setting, in which these are held. The aim is to develop methods for a smoother and more comfortable and thought-inspiring lecture, that can be applied independently from the specific lecture subject or lecturer.

On this webpage we hope to keep you apprised of our progress throughout the project phase.

The Team

Daniel Frey, Information Management Officer

I am a student of TUM’s Biochemistry master’s degree programme. Having participated in various university lectures and seminars as a listener as well as a tutor, I always wondered which key factors determine the efficiency of the knowledge transfer between lecturer and audience. Consequently, I am very delighted about the opportunity to participate in this project, as it is likely to provide more detailed insight into this crucial issue.

Simon Gandorfer, IT-Officer

I'm studying physics in the fourth semester. My daily university life often shows that many students feel that they are struggling to follow the lectures and thus can retain only little information. This often results in them either being reluctant to attend lectures or not attending them at all. With our project, I want to help counteracting this and ensure a more productive lecture environment.

Sophia Hasbach, Public Relations Officer

I'm in the 6th semester of my sports science studies and I hope that TUM: Junge Akademie will be a great experience where I get to know new people, learn something outside of my study field and that it gives me the opportunity to grow personally.

Dennis Huber, Team Connections and Communications Officer

I am in the second semester of my master’s studies of chemistry at the Technical University of Munich, specializing on organic and biological chemistry. Being used to a strictly timed schedule with only few breathing spells, I intend to stress the importance of regular and frequent interim breaks for retaining a maximum possible amount of concentration, attentive and retentiveness over the entire day which is in fact key for learning success.

Saskia Hutschenreiter, BOM-Representative

I am a student in the fourth semester of the bachelor program management and technology with a specialization in informatics. Our overall topic "attention and breaks" interests me, because it has a touch point with pretty much everyone, but especially with us as university students. I am excited to see if our break concept will turn out to be effective and if we can positively affect, not only the students of the lectures we will visit, but student's life overall at the TUM.

Jonas Papazoglou-Hennig, Project Leader

I’m a second-year student currently studying mathematics at TUM. In addition to having followed many lectures up to now, I also started to work as a tutor very early on. As a student, I have very often been on the receiving end of sentences such as don’t bother with the lectures, they’re not worth it, just go to the exercises,… My hope is that our project will help to create a better and more productive lecture environment for fellow students and thus make lectures more attractive, since it is my conviction that they are an integral part of the learning process.

Our Supervisors and Tutor

We are extremely grateful for the support TUM: Junge Akademie has given us in the form of two highly experienced supervisors:

  • Dr. Susanne Witzgall, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Head of cx centre for interdisciplinary studies
  • Prof. Dr. Hans Förstl, Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie (TUM)

Their input has been invaluable to the work our team does, providing us with guidance, ideas and warnings of common pitfalls at every important step of the project.

We also greatly appreciate the support from our tutor, Sebastian Kaltenbach, who is accompanying our process very closely and makes sure the project goes along smoothly.

Hypothesis, Goal and Research Question

The first steps of our project, when our team first met in November 2018, consisted of a first phase of preliminary research, in order to figure out how we want to proceed. It culminated in the formulation of our goal and research question, which we want to investigate during this 20-month scholarship.

After as short as 15 minutes of a higher mental strain, humans start to exhibit measurable signs of attention loss and distraction. We found this to be at odds with most of the common lecture formats at TUM, which are generally laid out into 90-minute lecture blocks, with no break in between.

That is why we want to improve the individually perceived attentiveness of TUM-students in university lectures by 2020. As such our project consists of an implementation component, but we are simultaneously investigating a corresponding research question, namely: How could an implementable concept be constructed such as to cause an overall improvement in the individually perceived attentiveness of TUM students during university lectures?

The Project

Our Project has been categorized into four phases, which all highlight different aspects of implementation and research in trying to conceptualize a valid solution in response to our set goal.

The research phase was where we were aiming to bundle all the preliminary research relevant to our research question into a readable, concise and compact piece of documentation. In addition, we performed two case studies at other universities. We have been to the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, where there are breaks of 15 minutes after the first half of each lecture and we have been to the RWTH Aachen, where there is the "Pausenexpress", that a lecturer can book. A coach from the "Pausenexpress" will then come to each lecture in the semester and give a 5-10-minute break of physical activity. Talking to students of both universities showed us, that both methods are received positively and therefore give us a valid reason to test our hypothesis.

Phase 2 we spent on planning our implementation. The general idea was to compare different types of breaks in lectures, 5 minutes in length and with different kinds of stimulations for the participants (e.g. light physical exercises). We also put a great deal of work into designing a system to evaluate the degree of success our solution would have. We decided for an easy but precise questionnaire after each lecture and measurements of light, oxygen-levels and humidity to get some objective data.

In Phase 3 it was finally time to put our ideas into practice and roll out our implementation concept in chosen lectures. Meanwhile, we were collecting data to evaluate the measures we put in place. This will allow us to take our time and interpret the results and, if indeed successful, make a recommendation for future use of our concept in other lectures at TUM.

Finally Phase 4 will be used for tying up loose ends, i.e. creating a final project documentation with all our results, to be published in the TUM: Junge Akademie yearbook 2020.

Structure and Deliverables

As a team we have, in deliberation with our tutor, decided, that a rigid Project Structure Plan is not fully beneficial for a team of our size and the flexibility required in our work. Instead, we solely structure in time (see under “The Project”) and corresponding milestones, especially deliverables. An overview of these is pictured below.

Implementation and Strategy

Our intention is to evaluate the effectivity of lecture breaks and the perceived attention levels of TUM students. We are doing that by comparing the current status quo (no lecture break) to different lengths and types of breaks (normal break vs. physical activity break).

In detail, we did two sessions of three weeks each and three lectures each. In both sessions, there were normal lectures during the first week and that was evaluated by the students. During the second week, we implemented a "normal break" that will take 5 minutes in the first session and 10 minutes in the second one. During the last week, we implemented the physical activity during the break, again for 5 minutes in the first session and 10 minutes in the second one. There was an evaluaion by the students at the end of each lecture.

This strategy is based on the cumulative knowledge gained from the entire research phase of team Quintessence.

The evaluation was carried out through a queationnaire provided at the end of each lecture and that took about 5 minutes to complete. In this questionnaire, students took position to given statements regarding the perception of attention, distraction and distractors, the lecture and lecturer, the break or their openness to the idea of having one plus some personal information.

Current Activities

We are currently assessing and evaluating our collected data from the lectures. We are checking if there was a significant difference between the different types and lengths of breaks. By doing that, we are hoping to be able to make a recommendation to TUM about how to change lecture formats best to improve the individually perceved attentiveness of students.
Moreover, we are currently working on our project and scientific reports for the project book.


If you are interested in our project and/or want to cooporate with us, feel free to contact us for more information.

Link to our Wiki: https://wiki.tum.de/display/jungeakademie/Quintessence