I am sure that growing up at some point in your educational career someone has told you that the front seat is the best seat. Whether it be a teacher, parent, or friends it seems everyone can agree that the front is where you can learn the best. Hearsay and common advice is great but what does research actually say about classroom seating and why should it matter?
In high school, classes were typically between 15-25 students give or take depending on the size of your school. In an environment of this size, you may have had roughly 4-6 rows depending on the classroom. This may make for a seemingly not so bad size that the effects of not sitting in the front may not be so bad. What observational research has come to show is that even in these conditions seating matters!
A study done by a high school teacher in Upstate New York proves that the seat matters! He conducted an experiment by giving a 3 question quiz based on newly learned material and keeping track of where the students sat to tally up the average scores. With each assessment, the teacher moved where students were seated and the results were consistent that students who sat in the back did the worst. Other observations were that students who were also further to the sides of the classrooms didn’t do as well but the effect was much greater with movement from the front to back than side to side.
Some factors playing into these results were students being distracted by their environment or being more likely to talk to peers and lack of participation due to the distance from the teacher. Lastly, the teacher had less control over stopping distractions from happening since students are further away he/she may not see everything going on. To put simply the further you are from the professor the further you are from learning or further from feeling as accountable for the learning. Yes, there are always exceptions to this but in general, this s the trend seen when tested.
So why does this matter if you’re not in high school anymore? At a large university like Penn State, we have lecture halls that can fit as many as 700 students! The effect of seating increases substantially! I’m sure everyone wants to get the most of what they pay for in tuition each and every day. Give yourself the best chance at the most learning possible.
Based on the research findings here are a few tips to find the optimal seating in any classroom as well as ways to bolster your learning even if you don’t get the front and center seat.
Naturally so, get as close to the front and center as possible not only will you naturally feel more accountable to the material being taught. You will also see and hear what is going on much better than anywhere else in the lecture hall. If you need to get to class early to secure front and center then do so it only serves to help you!
To bolster your learning always try to engage by asking questions but if you are a bit shy making eye contact with the professor once in a while can help not only you be more engaged but can help you later when you approach the professor. The last thing you want is to be caught snoozing while in the front. Grab some coffee and raise your hand!
3. Electronics Off & Away
Unless you absolutely need to use technology (laptop, tablet, and cell phone) please put it away throughout the duration of the lecture. There may already be laptops around you with people on facebook, twitter, and everything but what is happening in the class. Do yourself a favor and beat the temptation by using classic pen and paper.
We all have that best friend of ours that no matter what we do we get off topic and often distracted from whats important. Unless the class encourages collaboration, avoid sitting next to chatty friends! Unless you both can agree to keep it to a minimum during the lecture, some time alone or around people who you don’t know or don’t talk to during lecture just helps you further engage.
At the end of the day if you find that you are doing just fine wherever you sit that is understandable and may even be your best bet. Being comfortable in your learning environment is key for anyone. As long as you are honest with yourself about how often you are actually being distracted then you can make the best choice for you.
Hopefully, the research found on top of these few tips can help you make the best choice of seating with preference closer to the front and center of any lecture hall. The research is confirmed but you know yourself best. Keep engaging, keep learning, and keep sitting towards the front and the results will show! Thanks for reading!