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The Physics Teacher
written by Katherine Perkins and Carl E. Wieman
Every physics instructor knows that the most engaged and successful students tend to sit at the front of the class and the weakest students tend to sit at the back. However, it is normally assumed that this is merely an indication of the respective seat location preferences of weaker and stronger students. Here we present evidence suggesting that in fact this may be mixing up the cause and effect. It may be that the seat selection itself contributes to whether the student does well or poorly, rather than the other way around. While a number of studies have looked at the effect of seat location on students, the results are often inconclusive, and few, if any, have studied the effects in college classrooms with randomly assigned seats.1 In this paper, we report on our observations of a large introductory physics course in which we randomly assigned students to particular seat locations at the beginning of the semester. Seat location during the first half of the semester had a noticeable impact on student success in the course, particularly in the top and bottom parts of the grade distribution. Students sitting in the back of the room for the first half of the term were nearly six times as likely to receive an F as students who started in the front of the room. A corresponding but less dramatic reversal was evident in the fractions of students receiving As. These effects were in spite of many unusual efforts to engage students at the back of the class and a front-to-back reversal of seat location halfway through the term. These results suggest there may be inherent detrimental effects of large physics lecture halls that need to be further explored.
The Physics Teacher: Volume 43, Issue 1, Pages 30-33
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education - Applied Research
- Classroom Management
- Learning Environment
Education - Basic Research
- Achievement
- Sample Population
- Student Characteristics
= Ability
= Affect
= Skills
- Lower Undergraduate
- High School
- Reference Material
= Research study
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Formats:
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Access Rights:
Available by subscription
License:
This material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
Rights Holder:
American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT)
DOI:
10.1119/1.1845987
Keywords:
CLASS assessment, learning attitudes, physics attitudes, student attitudes
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created February 11, 2022 by Adrian Madsen
Record Updated:
March 25, 2022 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
April 18, 2005
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Record Link
AIP Format
K. Perkins and C. Wieman, , Phys. Teach. 43 (1), 30 (2005), WWW Document, (https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1845987).
AJP/PRST-PER
K. Perkins and C. Wieman, The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance, Phys. Teach. 43 (1), 30 (2005), <https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1845987>.
APA Format
Perkins, K., & Wieman, C. (2005, April 18). The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance. Phys. Teach., 43(1), 30-33. Retrieved May 27, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1845987
Chicago Format
Perkins, Katherine, and Carl Wieman. "The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance." Phys. Teach. 43, no. 1, (April 18, 2005): 30-33, https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1845987 (accessed 27 May 2024).
MLA Format
Perkins, Katherine, and Carl Wieman. "The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance." Phys. Teach. 43.1 (2005): 30-33. 27 May 2024 <https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1845987>.
BibTeX Export Format
@article{ Author = "Katherine Perkins and Carl Wieman", Title = {The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance}, Journal = {Phys. Teach.}, Volume = {43}, Number = {1}, Pages = {30-33}, Month = {April}, Year = {2005} }
Refer Export Format

%A Katherine Perkins %A Carl Wieman %T The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance %J Phys. Teach. %V 43 %N 1 %D April 18, 2005 %P 30-33 %U https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1845987 %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Journal Article %A Perkins, Katherine %A Wieman, Carl %D April 18, 2005 %T The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance %J Phys. Teach. %V 43 %N 1 %P 30-33 %8 April 18, 2005 %U https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1845987


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