Where You Sit in Class is Important

By Dr. Robert Wallace

January 19, 2017 4 min read

TEENS: Are you satisfied with your grades, or are you disappointed that they are not higher? Almost all students enjoy earning excellent grades and are eager to learn how to get this accomplished. If you are among these students, read on:

The competition for grades is intense, and where you sit in class can make a major difference in your grade point average. If you don't like sitting in the front row because you are afraid the teacher might call on you more, you are making a huge mistake. Students who sit in the first row have a definite advantage, according to Dr. Paul Adams, a dean at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

"It's clear that students tend to do much better in class when they sit close to the front (the closer, the better) because they become more engaged in the class," Adams says. "Of course, it's not the sole determinant, but it's in the mix. It's a strategy we suggest because it works."

Students in the front of the class are often more in tune with the teacher, which translates into taking more notes, participating more in class discussions and maintaining better study habits. All this usually translates into a higher grade.

The middle of the classroom is one of the worst places to sit. In a classroom setting, a speaker's eyes tend to go to the front of the room and the back. They don't look at the center of a room as often or with the same amount of attention. Students who are shy, and retiring, timid or have problems paying attention should avoid that area.

"It's a bit like the chicken and the egg," says Dr. Fred Ribich, professor of psychology at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. "Is it the chair or is it the student?"

Generally, the more motivated and interested a student is, the more likely he or she is to sit in the front row, says Ribich. That helps keep them motivated and engaged in the class work.

"When you sit in the back of the classroom, you have a tendency to get distracted and watch other kids instead of the teacher. There's also better eye contact with the teacher when you sit in the front row," says Tina Parks, a junior elementary education major at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

In large college classrooms, some faculty can only name the students in the front and never learn the names of the students in the back, says Dr. James Herrick, chair of the communication department at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. "Sit up front and toward the middle — the so-called 'zone of participation,'" Herrick advises.

"Picking a chair in the front tells an instructor you're interested in the course," says Dr. Thomas Syre, assistant professor of health science at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. "It's simple body language, but it says a lot," Syre notes.

Teachers need to remember that students will avoid the front of the room to keep from being called on, warns Dr. Diane Polachek, associate professor of education at Wilkes University. She recommends teachers vary the class seating, try different teaching methods and move around the classroom to make contact with all the students. "That way all students participate," she says, "regardless of their abilities or where they sit."

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. E-mail him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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