The other day I gave an assessment in class where I tested whether students would do better on instructions given orally or instructions shown on the board. I read a series of numbers aloud, and then asked them out loud to write down a couple of operations (e.g. add the first two, subtract the second pair, etc.) After ward they followed a similar set of instructions but they had to read the instructions off the board and do the problems by only seeing instructions.
I expected to find that the students would "fail" the oral assignment, and do much better with the visual. To my surprise, they did quite well on both, and actually did slightly worse on the visual. (Not statistically significantly worse however...)
It made me wonder why I feel that my students so often don't follow the instructions I give in class out loud. I suspect that I don't have their full attention as much on a day-to-day basis as I had when the students followed this rather formal assessment. I know that I often see and hear students talking among each other.