Do better grades depend on seating in class?

Amanda El Khoury

Most students believe that where they sit helps them stay focused and involved in lectures. John Carlton, graduate student in screenwriting, typically sits in the middle-front of the classroom and believes that sitting there helps him stay focused.

“You know the professors may look in my direction more and I’d be more compelled to speak,” explained Carlton.

Students are not the only ones thinking that seating has an effect on concentration. Dr. David Rosengrant, associate professor of physics education at Kennesaw State University, created a study that is based on student concentration and their class seating.

“Following Student Gaze Patterns in Physical Science Lectures” is trying to discover what students focus on during a lecture, what may distract them, what draws their attention back, and how faculty members can improve teaching to maintain student attention for a longer amount of time,” explained Rosengrant via email.

The study was conducted with eight female students wearing portable eye-tracking glasses, or Tobii Glasses, to keep track of what they were doing during the lecture. The researchers Rosengrant, Doug Hearrington, Kerriann Alvarado and Danielle Keeble were only involved during the preliminary study and watched to see what distracted the students and what had gotten and kept their attention, stated the conference proceedings document.

“As a faculty member in education, I want to make sure I am doing the best job possible to help my students succeed in the classroom, so I decided to really blend my scholarship with my teaching,” stated Rosengrant.

Vicki Allen, assistant director for student involvement at CSUN, explained in an email that in her experience sitting in the front of the classroom helped her stay focused and engaged.

“I think when I sat in the back of the room I got easily distracted,” Allen said.

Dr. Susan Belgrad, elementary education professor at CSUN, explained that she believes grades depend on how the classroom is organized, how the instructor promotes learning and what the students need to stay engaged in the class.

“Your brain is wired to seek novelty after 10 minutes or so. Instructors that understand this will take a break after 10 minutes and they’ll have you turn to the person next to you to say, ‘Hey what is really interesting about this?’ When the instructor does this, they refresh your brain,” Belgrad stated.

Cathy Nicles, graduate student in urban planning, usually sits in the first three rows and believes that sitting there allows her to avoid a myriad of distractions.

“[If] you sit in the back, all of the distractions are in front of you. So Facebook, texting, surfing, fantasy football, so all that stuff is going on. Instead of paying attention to the professor,” explained Nicles.

The results of the study support that seating does have an impact on student performance, according to the conference proceedings document.

“We noticed that students in the front and the middle of the classroom tended to be on task more than students on the extremes because those students in the back of the room have more visible distractors,” stated the conference proceedings document.