Can you predict the grades you receive in a class purely from where you sit in that class? Each day every student makes a decision as he or she enters the classroom on where they will sit for the duration of the class. Personally, I like to sit farther back because I do not like the pressure that a front seat could cause. I don’t think that my seat placement affects me or my grades in any way, however I wonder if on average students perform higher when they sit closer to the front of the classroom. Even though the decision of seat placement to most students is a subconscious choice, can it actually result in the academic success or failure of the student?
Students that sit in the front and middle of a lecture hall are often considered the highest achieving students. According to a scholarly article (Giles, 1982) there is a relationship between the distance from the front of a classroom and grades in that class. The study says that when students sit closer to the front they perform better on average than students that
chose to sit in the back. Giles had the professor assign students to their seats randomly and still students sitting in the front and middle had learning advantages and ultimately better grades. It is important to randomly assign seats in a study that focuses on grades because often more focused and determined students will consciously chose to sit in the front rows of the class causing a confounding variable to affect the result of the study.
Another study done by Steven Kalinski and Mark L. Taper used a single blind randomized trial in order to test the hypothesis of seat placement and grades. Contrary to the first article I presented this study actually found that there was no affect of seat placement on grades. The researchers concluded that confounding variables like size of the lecture hall and number of students in the class are both possible causes of grade variability based on seat placement. The actual results showed a negligible affect because the correlation was not strong enough to support the hypothesis. While many people will say that sitting closest to the professor will improve your grade, according to this study, that is not a legitimate theory.
An important problem with analyzing if seat placement affects grades is that there may be reverse causality. Chris Hakala, a psychology professor and director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Western New England University, makes the important statement that, “its not clear if they sit upfront because they’re good students or if good students just prefer to sit up front.” Reverse causality could lead to a mistake in the conclusion of the hypothesis. Also reverse causality illustrates that correlation does not always mean causation, and it is incorrect to assume causation in this particular case.
Many different variables affect the decision every student faces when entering a classroom. Each of these variables can be attributed with causing a difference of grades. As a result there are too many confounding variables in the study to truly see if there is any connection between seat placement and grades. Personally from reading the many studies and articles on this topic I concluded that as long as a student is comfortable and focused where they sit there is an equal opportunity to achieve an A in any seat.